Stockholm Accords: an update. If you are not in Stockholm my friends, tough luck…

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Before this blog changes format, look and prime authors (I will now continue to post occasionally, but only as a contributor and no longer as coordinator), I would like to report on the very intense and (so far) highly rewarding experience of the Stockholm Accords process that has involved me directly in these last few months, and which will presumably occupy more of my time when the Accords will begin to be implemented, following their approval by the global professional community in Stockholm on the 16th of June.

I have already posted on the Accords here but I would like to recap and update you on where we have arrived.

Since I entered the profession, some 50 years ago, I have heard (and used myself) the ‘cobblers children’ argument hundreds of times from the most respected and senior professionals and scholars:
why are public relator’s around the world so devastatingly incapable of doing public relations for their own profession rather than only for their client/employers ?

The Global Alliance, with its now eight years of existence and persistence with now 76 participating associations, is the only organization I can think of which could be perceived as an acceptable and sufficiently credible candidate to undertake such a project.
It is an umbrella organization of organizations, and does not have individual members.
Amongst its non national members are also other international organizations such as, for example, IPRA and IABC.
Also, the GA has strong partnerships with other important institutions such as Euprera and the IPR, and has recently incorporated CERP.

John Paluszek, as many are aware, is the current Chair of this organization and I have been privileged enough to act as one of his counsellors.
The organization has now a permanent headquarter at the University of Lugano where both Nina Volles and Jennifer Hayes are doing an admirable job in keeping it all together (not an easy task..) and moving it forward.
The Swedish public relations association, one of the original 16 founding members of the GA, is the Association which counts the highest number of members in proportion to its country’s population, and has invested significantly in developing and contributing to the incredible leap forward of the global public relations body of knowledge in these recent years.
And Stockholm is the venue for the sixth World Public Relations Forum (previous ones were held in Rome (2003), Trieste (2005), Brasilia (2006), Cape Town (2007) and London (2008).

All these elements conjured to suggest at least a stab at accomplishing what many of us have had in mind for many years, and what was surely one of the founding motivations of the GA, although the founders (I was one of them) never dared to explicit this, for fear of ridicule….

It was not, believe me, a difficult task to convince John that it was either now or never, and I was also told that he didn’t have such a hard time in convincing the GA Board of the same.

We are therefore about to embark, the first global profession to do this, on a global advocacy program for our own trade.

We improvised a process based on five basic guidelines:

-total transparency of mission, vision and strategy of the process and its short term objectives and mid term goals.
All accessible to any student, professional, scholar, educator anywhere in the world;

-a few fundamental rationalizations inspired by some of the more recent concepts of our global body of knowledge such as: the network society; the communicative organizations; the value network; the authentic organization; the stakeholder governance model; the generic principles/specific applications and the global stakeholder relationship governance paradigms; the business case…. only to name the first that come to mind.

-a fully open and collaborative process which allows anyone from anywhere to offer input and or criticism.

-a particular attention to considering, beside the global picture, the diverse stages of development of the profession in different regions of the globe.

-the integration, in whatever platform would eventually emerge, of an evaluation and measurement process.

The horizontal ‘fil rouge’ of the deliverable was to identify the areas where contemporary public relations brings more value to the organization, argue why this is so and illustrate how public relations contributes value..

We placed all these elements (and others) into a shaker, added a bit of vodka, ice and a good dose of optimism (some may prefer the term foolishness) and we took off!

The first phase (Dec 2009) was to identify organizational areas where we believed that, by applying the above mentioned conceptual developments, public relations can offer more value, and draft an initial and very hesitant text.

The second phase (Jan 2010) was to select and identify more than one hundred global leaders of the profession in practice (organizations and consultancies), research and education to participate in a first online synchronous two hour video conference (Feb 2010). Some 48 accepted representing 16 countries.
We then asked six volunteers to work online coordinating as many working groups to refine the results of the first discussion and sent the result to all the original invitees.

We then invited all for a second round of a two hour online synchronous video conference to discuss the format and the contents of the reviewed text (March 2010).
52 of them participated from 18 countries.

At this point we posted the third draft on the Forum website (March 2010) where a vital and very demanding debate attracted some 36 comments and criticisms from 25 participants representing 22 countries.

Now (May 2010) we have just completed a fourth draft which is about to be posted on the Forum website that which will go for further discussion to the Forum where some 350 individuals from 24 countries will participate in very interactive sessions.

This draft will be once more reviewed during the Forum and the final final text will be approved before the end of the Forum on the afternoon of June 16.

After that, the Accords will be implemented around the world by associations, professionals, managers, educators and students and their implementation will be monitored and accessible on the GA website for two years.

Is this too far fetched? Is this too complicated?
Possibly, but so far it seems to have worked pretty well.
Time consuming, if you like, but well worth it.

Of course to keep the process moving we have (and I take full responsibility….), had to sacrifice a few fundamental (ideological?) objections that were voiced during the process by some of our critics to who we are all (and I in particular) greatly indebted… as their criticisms, arguments and suggestions have led in parallel to actual changes in the text, as much as to convince us even more of the merit of the process and of the choices we made.

For example, we decided that the option for the stakeholder model of governance of the organization could not, as some indeed requested, be abandoned.
Similarly, and against the advice of others, we decided not to abandon the communicative organization, the network society and the value network concepts.
Again we did not think, as some suggested, that the sustainability option was in contradiction with the communicative organization: to the contrary sustainability in no way implies conservativism and it does stimulate risk taking….

Surely these points are all highly debatable but, quite frankly, we believe that the draft which is about to be posted on the forum website will demonstrate that these decisions were valid and founded on solid arguments.

And finally, we all agree that the language could have been better (jargon some call it, management speak said others and plain crap from the more down to earth) but the English language today has many variations around the globe and no custodians… by the way, doesn’t this remind you of public relations?

This is the good and the bad of a global language and of a global profession, and thank god that they exist and that we can at least try to understand one another….

1 COMMENT

  1. As the World Public Relations Forum begins to debate the second draft of the Stockholm Accords, two recent and unprecedented (?) events that strongly reinforce the stakeholder model organization.

    On the mini side, the Italian content producer VITA (a cooperative formed by some 25 of the more reputed non profit organizations) received on Friday a formal approval from the financial market authorities to list on the Italian market a 3 ml. Euro IPO explicitly stating to investors that it will never distribute dividends.

    On the maxi side the London market on Friday gave a 6.5% boost to BP share value, and the financial press attributed this rise to the rumour that on Moday the Company will decide to at least temporarily withhold distribution of dividends.

    Can someone think of a precedent for either of the two totally unrelated instances?

    These to me are indicators that the consolidated concept of value is under severe review, and that responsible shareholders are the first to attribute to the responsible Boards the situational decision on whose stakeholder group to favour when, as almost always nowadays, they are in conflict.
    Therefore… the Stockholm Accords.

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