Culture and Public Relations: a letter from Bled, Slovenia

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As many of our visitors know, Bled is a small and lovely Slovenian town on the shores of a charming lake where, for 16 consecutive years, a trio of committed and intelligent public relations scholars: Dejan Vercic, Danny Moss and Jon White, successfully convene, every first weekend of July, la ‘crème de la crème’ of global public relations thinking to listen to and discuss papers presented by young, old and middle aged students, scholars and professionals… on one specific issue, no matter how broadly it may be interpreted.

Admittedly, not every year -as we say in Italian- la ciambella riesce col buco (i.e. the doughnut comes out with a round hole), but there is little doubt that Bled is the longest standing annual single-issue rendezvous of our global community, and your absence is not only noted by those who are there, but a damn shame.

This year was a blessed one.
As you can easily see here, the interdependent relationships between culture and public relations has been thoroughly addressed from Korea to China, from New Zealand and Australia to Israel, from South Africa, Nigeria, Europe and North America, The only notable exception Latin America.

Although late in the season, the Symposium closed on Saturday night with an unexpected Easter Egg provokation (yes, with the k) presented by Dejan and Jon:
they competently and intelligently improvised a duetto on how pop culture depicts the public relations profession and ironically concluded that if it hadn’t been for the progressive feminization of the profession and its impact (i.e. tv serials like Sex and the City), things would be today much better than they were some years ago.
Jon also referred to K Miller, PR in Film and Fiction, 1930 — 1995, from the Journal of Public Relations Research, 11 (1) 3 – 28 and informed us that a more recent work, currently being published, concludes that portrayal of public relations practitioners has become more positive over time. Practitioners’ work is seen as less mysterious, and “being good at public relations doesn’t necessitate either doing good or being good.” Practitioners are seen as more credible, respected and influential, and PR work as more varied and complex than before 1995.

Finally, allow me to indicate my favourite papers/presentations, although there were many more which were well worth listening to:
Aleš Debeljak, the first keynote -a provocative post-ethnocentric view of civilization. Very controversial and stimulating..
– Transcending boundaries: The public relations practitioner as cultural mediator
Michele Schoenberger-Orgad – a breathtaking, almost journalistic, account on how personalities of professional communicators can make the difference, and not only rely -as we always rationalise- on the value of leadership.
– An Expanded View from the Corner Office – Further Discussions and Research on the Global Navigation of International Corporate Communications Holger Sievert, Stefan Porter– the winners of the 500 euro prize for the best paper given by the Institute for Public Relations, suggesting a multidisciplinary approach to the formation of a global public relations management dashboard and initially drawing on media studies.
– A proof of concept for automated discourse analysis in support of identification of relationship building in blogs.
David Phillips, Bruno Amaral– an amazing breakthrough if it ever goes beyond the beta stage. Watch out for this one….
– Culture Public Relations. A new approach to the profession in a global multicultural environment
Amanda Jane Succi– integrating the two terms of culture and public relations as an interdependent variable of western society
– Political Economy and Public Relations: A Blueprint for Future Research
Sandra C. Duhé, Krishnamurthy Sriramesh – when authors stimulate much lateral and interdisciplinary thinking. Well worth a thorough read.
– An Analysis of the Increasing Impact of Social & Other New Media on Public Relations Practice
Donald K. Wright, Michelle D. Hinson– you can find here some results which were not in the original Institute for PR presentation
Vasa J. Perović – the last keynote. A brilliant young architect who told us about his work without realising that also public relations professionals create spaces. Very interesting.

And now so that there are no excuses for any of us not to prepare papers and show up, next years Symposium is on July2 and 3 and the call for papers on Government Communication is here.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you Toni for sharing these comments about BledCom. The South Africans have been a part of the BledCom-Experience since 2000. Although it may seem as if the challenges for our subject and profession are enhancing every year, the coming-together of likeminded and different practitioners and scholars from all over the world always leaves me with a little more hope. This year’s gathering has been a very fruitful one indeed. It has also been a milestone for BledCom to have had more than one African country’s input this year from Nigeria. What I would like to see in the future, though, is more collaboration of these practitioners and scholars in global PR-projects.

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