Stockholm Accords definitions
As defined by the Stockholm Accords, the PR leader of a communicative organization plays two fundamental and strategic roles:
- 1. A “political” role in supporting and providing the organization’s leadership with the necessary, timely and relevant information, which allows it to effectively govern value networks, as well as an intelligent, constant and conscious effort to understand and interpret the relevant dynamics of society at large.
- A “contextual” role, which implies the constant delivery of communication skills, competencies and tools to the members of those value networks, so that they may improve the quality their relationships and therefore create more organizational value.
The Accords also detail the concept of “value networks,” in that:
“…a substantial part of the value created by the organization is generated today from fuzzy (non-linear) and immaterial networks that normally disrupt the distinction between internal and external publics. Members of these networks play specific and value-added roles defined by their relationships, rather than by their formal position. The generated value is based on the quality of the relationships that exist between members of each network and on the quality of the relationships which exist between the various networks.”
It’s been approximately 100 days since the Stockholm Accords were approved; this agreement serves as a “briefing” for a two-year program of “public relations for public relations.”
Those interested in finding out more about the process and movements within the global PR community (since being approved in Stockholm at the 2010 World PR Forum) are invited to visit the Accords digital Hub, with its mission of providing updates and ongoing discussions (e.g., internal and external blog posts) about the Accords.
While the Global Alliance maintains and feeds the Hub, many other things are happening elsewhere in the world that impact on the implementation process of the Stockholm Accords. In this post I address two external events that, in my opinion, represent highly significant breakthroughs.
The first pertains to organizational reporting and the second one to the monetary “value” of the brand. On the surface these areas may seem unrelated, but a closer examination suggests some exciting integrations and interactions with the Accords mission to argue with stakeholders the value that effective public relations bring to organizations.
1. Integrated reporting from the IIRC
If you visit Integrated Reporting you may learn about (and browse through) the International Integrated Reporting Committee’s (IIRC) initiative, which was formalized in late July and announced in early August.
The IIRC’s remit is to, “create a globally accepted framework for accounting for sustainability: a framework that brings together financial, environmental, social and governance information in a clear, concise, consistent and comparable format…. The intention is to help with the development of more comprehensive and comprehensible information about an organization’s total performance – prospective as well as retrospective – to meet the needs of the emerging, more sustainable, global economic model.”
Earlier this year, Professor Robert Eccles (Harvard Business School) and Michale Krzus published with Wiley, One Report, integrated reporting for a sustainable strategy. It’s an intelligent and informative book, which lays the groundwork for the transition to multi-channel and ongoing integrated organizational reporting.
This development is influenced by the South African King Report 3 (its author, Mervyn King, a keynote speaker at the Stockholm World PR Forum and one of the leaders driving the IIRC’s initiative, continues to be in deep dialogue with our professional and academic community, particularly in South Africa).
Similarly, the Stockholm Accords refer explicitly to integrated reporting as a challenge/objective for the communicative organization as well as for all “aware” public relations practitioners and scholars. This also explains why the Global Alliance is developing an interactive relationship with the IIRC, both directly and indirectly, through an active role that national public relations associations are beginning to produce.
For example, in Italy FERPI has formed a coalition of national professional and management associations that locally represent IIRC members, in order to proceed in parallel with the global body and ensure that specific applications also be considered in the process when indicating generic principles and standards.
This coalition includes associations of financial directors, accountants, auditors, financial analysts, non-executive directors, public relators, CSR specialists, etc.
2. A monetary evaluation of intangibles related to the brand
Furthermore, it was only last week that the International Standards Organization (ISO) released its first-ever, official global process for a monetary evaluation of intangibles, specifically dedicated to the evaluation of the brand.
The process explicitly states that all stakeholder groups (not limited to just consumers) need to be included in the evaluation process. Many financial, marketing and communication consultancies in the majority of markets have been applying their own processes to assess the monetary value of a brand. In an increasing number of cases, these evaluations – along with those related to other intangible assets – are regularly included in the organizations financial reporting tools. Yet financial markets and analysts, as well as regulatory bodies, need global agreement on how to assess these inputs to the balance sheets.
One may, however, imagine at this stage that the ISO-determined procedures, as well as the process being developed by the IIRC, will inevitably shape the future of organizational reporting.
Input from Scandinavian senior public relations specialists
Interestingly, senior public relations specialists (at least from Scandinavia) actively participated in the definition of the ISO process. (Sweden’s Margaretha Sjoberg, for example, who was one of the very early movers of the Global Alliance and of the Stockholm Accords.). Reportedly, they were instrumental in ensuring that the monetary evaluation engagement process be extended to all stakeholders, rather than limited to consumers. Again, this is in alignment with the Stockholm Accords’ explicit option for the stakeholder governance model.
The two strategic functions of our profession
Moreover, as I noted in a recent comment on PR Conversations, this development is very important for our profession, as many public relations scholars and practitioners around the world have come to agree that the new frontier for the profession implies managing (governing?) an organization’s stakeholder relationships, provided that the “governance/management” aspect relates to the two strategic functions of our profession:
- Listening, gathering, interpreting of stakeholder expectations before decisions are made, in order to enable management to improve the quality of its decisions and accelerate the time of implementation of those decisions [reflective or political function].
- Enabling other managerial functions to improve the quality of relationships with their respective stakeholders, to ensure coherent and more effective practices, acknowledging that effective stakeholder relationships are also a basic function for every manager and that the public (stakeholder?) relations function occupies more a facilitator, consultant and a coherence-seeking space rather, than a direct managerial role, when not referred to those core stakeholder groups that are traditionally the domain of public relations, which may vary in number and nature according to the organization’s culture [contextual or educative function].
Involving the perceptions of an organization’s stakeholder groups
The ISO paper clearly indicates that the monetary evaluation of a brand needs to involve the perceptions of the organization’s stakeholder groups. The implication is that: if the brand under evaluation is the corporate brand, then the public relations function needs to be directly involved in such evaluation (i.e., one of the core managerial functions).
If the brand under evaluation is a product or a service, then the public relations function needs to directly work with the marketing function in the process, and enable the latter function to effectively involve all of the organization’s stakeholders, rather than simply the consumer segment.
Relating this to the Stockholm Accords
In reading the process that led to the Stockholm Accords, this paragraph stands out:
“…there was general agreement that (while) the section devoted to marketing, that participants acknowledged it is going through a radical conceptual overhaul, had not been able to produce significant added value more than what is generally and commonly understood.”
Also, under the “external communication” paragraphs of the final Accords, one finds:
“As the expansion of the network society accelerates, organizations must review and adjust their policies, actions and communicative behaviour to improve their relationships with increasingly influential stakeholders, as well as with society at large.”
The communicative organization develops skills to continually nurture its relationships with customers, investors, communities, governments, active citizen groups, industry alliances, mainstream and digital media and other situational stakeholders.
Public relations and communication management professionals:
- Bring the organization’s “voice” and interests into stakeholder deliberations and decisions.
- Assist all organizational functions in crafting and delivering effective communication, fostering understanding and building and sustaining relationships.
- Contribute to the development and promotion of products, services or processes that strengthen brand loyalty and equity.
- Advocate for stakeholder groups within the organization and sustain an appropriate dialogue in order to maintain social and reputational capital.
This very recent (ISO) development, in my view, opens a thoroughly innovative and powerful potential opportunity to make a case for the value of public relations at the higher (and more strategic) end of the marketing discipline. In no way does this diminish the fundamental contribution that public relations has always given to operational marketing practices.
Agree or disagree?