Who has seen the future of PR? (updated)

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Guest post by Jean Valin, APR, FCPRS

Who has seen the future of PR?

Updated 6/22/2012 For PR Conversations readers, here is an update on this GA project which was generously supported by Enel–the Italian energy company. The study was customized to suit their needs. We conducted in-depth interviews with the heads of communication from Allianz (based in Munich), Philips (based in Amsterdam), Enel (ITaly), Novo Nordisk (Copenhagen and Petrobras (Rio de Janeiro). We also examined case studies at Coca Cola, Pratt and Whitney, Dow Chemicals and Natura.

In accordance with our protocol, the participating companies now are reviewing the profiles that emeerged from our interviews and analysis with a view to release the findings at the World Publoic Relations Forum in Melbourne Nov 18-20 2012. A panel session will take place at the WPRF with participating companies who will discuss the relevance of the findings and share insights on how they have ‘seen the future’ with their innovations and adoption of modern PR practices that start with listening and engaging.
The full reprort will be published by the GA post WPRF.  —
Jean Valin, APR, FCPRS

The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management (GA) is embarking on an ambitious project to determine to what extent the seven core competencies used by accreditation examiners who confer the “APR“ and “ABC” in 16 organizations around the world are of value to multi-national companies. This project is being sponsored by a leading multi-national company (a formal announcement will be made once the sponsorship is finalized). Another key GA project is the advocacy survey to determine current priorities and identify trends.

What is of particular interest to the project co-leaders, John Paluszek, APR—immediate past chair of the GA and senior counsel at Ketchum—and yours truly, is to find companies that have “seen the future” and adopted trends early; alternatively, organizations that adjusted their public relations structures or systems and practices, to cope with an ever-changing environment.

If you have leads on organizations that fit these circumstances, please let us know.

Backgrounder on this project

In 2008, following several years of analysis and two reports, the GA adopted a global standard for personal PR credentials (based on the findings of earlier reports), ones that demonstrated a commonality of competencies verified by the existing accreditation programs.

The seven core competencies identified include:

1.  Research, plan, implement and evaluate communication programs and projects.

2.  Apply public relations/communication theories, models and practices.

3.  Apply public relations/communication strategies to business goals and objectives.

4.  Manage issues and crisis communication.

5.  Uphold professional standards and practise ethical behaviour.

6.  Demonstrate communication skills (i.e., written, oral, presentation and negotiation).

7.  Effectively manage organizational resources (i.e., human, financial and technology).

The initial research was done by Margaret Moscardi of PRISA in South Africa, who documented accreditation schemes and what were the processes and points of comparison.

Subsequently, Pierette Leonard, APR, FCPRS, of CPRS—with the help of a group from those conferring accreditation—pushed the analysis into the “how and the what is being examined?” area.

It was concluded that, indeed:

  • the commonalities between schemes were comparable; and
  • the seven competencies were verifiably present and being examined by all organizations who offered such programs.

Leonard’s group recommended that the GA adopt the competencies as a basic international standard for granting personal credentials in public relations.

The GA also created a community of practice area (restricted access) on its website to foster dialogue and sharing of protected documents used in the examination processes.

The goal of the community of practice area is to ensure that the competencies remain relevant by sharing information.

Further examinations

When a leading multi-national company, interested in ensuring excellence for its worldwide PR and external relations staff, asked how the GA could help in the achievement of this commendable goal, the GA became interested in verifying the relevance of the seven identified competencies, particularly in light of today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business and social environments.

Moreover, the GA thought that if we could identify leading-edge companies willing to participate, this would offer a litmus test to the seven core competencies in the unique context of operating a public relations/external relations (PR/ER) organization in multiple countries. The project is being customized for this anticipated sponsor (see above) of the project.

What it involves

The project involves:

  • a description of the accreditation schemes
  • the seven core competencies
  • a literature review of selected competency research
  • a limited amount of in-depth interviews with companies

It quickly became apparent that identifying the right companies to approach about participation is key to the success of this project.

The GA project group is examining various indexes that confer a certain reputation or status to companies, such as the UN Global Compact, industry award winners and corporate social responsibility commitments and achievements.

What has proven elusive so far—and this is why we are reaching out to readers of PR Conversations—is to find companies that have seen the future and made innovative changes to their organizations, or systems and practices, in order to determine the extent to which the seven core competencies are relevant and applicable.

Hypothesis

Our hypothesis is that the identified competencies may very well remain relevant, but that they may also prove insufficient in today’s global society—particularly for a multi-national company that has to deal with different cultures, plus concepts of open and transparent dialogue with stakeholders.

Sharing the knowledge

The results of this commissioned, customized project will be shared with companies participating in the interviews for a six-month exclusive period, before the GA expands its distribution and publication of findings.

We anticipate it will not be a classic model of research in the academic sense, but one that is being tailored to the practitioner-needs of its sponsor. The GA hopes that by completing this innovative project we will contribute to a potential, subsequent adjustment to the global standard on accreditation. Likely this will be done by altering or adding to the seven competencies that form part of current examination processes.

So who has seen the future of PR?

We all know that managing a comprehensive PR organization in multiple countries is a massive challenge.

An organizational goal to become a significant international player, in part by adopting a solid framework for developing PR and communication management staff and offering training opportunities to reach those goals, is commendable and should be supported.

The GA hopes our project will help in this goal.

I have had the experience of working with a comprehensive competency framework in the Canadian public service. I am aware that Anne Gregory, PhD, CIPR Fellow has worked on a similar framework for the UK government. New Zealand also has done some work in this area.

Yet none of these frameworks—at least to my knowledge—build on the seven core competencies, although elements of most are present. We are aware that trend analysis research, such as the most recent European Monitor, look at movements in skills sets or functions that are gaining importance. Other “gap analysis” studies look at the perception gaps between practitioners and managers.

The uniqueness of the GA project is to validate the competencies within a multi-national setting and to identify companies that are leading edge. Let me conclude by asking, again, do you have knowledge of companies who have “seen the future of PR?”

GA project leaders John Paluszek and I would be grateful for any leads you may wish to indicate in the comments section of this PR Conversations guest post or privately to my email address. Thank you.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Jean Valin, APR, FCPRS, founded Valin Strategic Communications after 30 years in the Canadian federal government. He is a founding member and past chair of the Global Alliance of Public Relations and Communication Management. Contact him by email or follow him on Twitter.

Editor’s note: In his PRoust Questionnaire answer, Toni Muzi Falconi indicated that “a PR hero is a successful and concerned professional or educator who donates personal resources to the strengthening of our body of knowledge.” One of his PR heroes was Jean Valin.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I feel obligated to point out that the seventh core competency applies to organizations, rather than to individuals, and that PRSA awards the APR only to individuals. Moreover, PRSA prohibits (or used to) using the APR as a firmwide designation, restricting its use to individual practitioners within a firm.

    • @Bill Huey. I am not here to defend the core competencies but should point out that the seventh competency does indeed apply to individuals who manage people and/or money. Most practitioners do manage money (account practices if you are a consultant) or peolple ( freelancers/suppliers etc)whether they are consultants or work in organisations. It certainly can vary in depth and breadth but I do think there is a good reason why it is part of APR exams.

  2. Jean,

    I know some of the things I will mention can be simply interpreted as part of either of the seven competencies you indicate. Yet I wonder if this is enough, given their relevance.

    Let me begin (not in order of importance):

    1. As the physical environment requires fundamental competencies specific to pr professionals, so does the digital environment. The logic of programming is a competency that will allow pr professionals to immediately be aware when they are being programmed;

    2. The communication-with paradigm implies that communication is at least 50% listening. Then comes informing. The listening competency odes not imply opening one’s ears but requires a method and a specific ad hoc process.

    3. Stakeholder mapping implies competencies in identifying fuzzy value networks and the driving forces of these networks as well as the evaluation of the quality of relationships and this has become a central feature of contemporary public relations

    4. The generic principles and specific applications paradigm should be thoroughly detailed as a specific competency in today’s global environment

    5. Another competency is in the ability to identify, aggregate, select and interpret selective multi-source and multi-dicisplinary data to support the organizational decision making process before it takes decisions in order to improve the quality of the decisions and accelerate their time of implementation.

    Of course I take it for granted that you will also carefully consider the indications deriving from the Stockholm Accords.

    I will not go into details, but I believe you and John should also consider these variables.

  3. @Toni, You will find no arguments from me on the need to keep examinations current. That is in large part the motivation for this project which is meant to build on existing processes to keep the examination current.

    I am aware that from time to time the authorities that construct the questions for the accreditation examination reach out to employers and senior practitioners to validate their approach. As you may know questions for the examinations vary from year to year and as you point out many of the points you make above are indeed interpreted into the body of the questions or become ‘specific applications’ of the seven competencies for any given year. I am one of the practitioners that CPRS reaches out to get my feedback and construct good solid and relevant questions.

    So I have confidence that organisations offer relevant questions to address today’s needs.

    Yet, we can’t stand still.

    The complexity of our profession is that we continually add new demands for skill sets, yet also demand that core competencies remain strong. And, as we all realize, change continues to accelerate and compound until form time to time is consolidates in new multi-faceted strategies and tactics that address many of the new elements.

    We live in exponential times.

    The interesting element of this new GA project is that it is set against the backdrop of big business, with major PR shops that operate world-wide yet need to be relevant locally with focused business strategies. We may indeed find that those who operate on a large corporate scale have needs that are different than if one was operating only in one country.

    It will be equally fascinating to examine companies that are seen to be innovative, risk-takers and have solid reputations. What is the secret of their corporate culture? Is it the vision and leadership of their PR VP? Is it the system they have in place? Is it a philosophy of listening more than you speak? Or are there new specific skills that such organisations demand from their staff due to their unique operating environment? Is the road to success to empower PR staff or command and control them in a modern environment? Or both?

    We look forward to your suggestions of which companies we should consider and the reasons for it.

  4. For PRC readers, here is an update on this GA project which was generously supported by Enel- the Italian energy company. The study was customized to suit their needs. We conducted in-depth interviews with the heads of communication from Allianz (based in Munich), Philips (based in Amsterdam), Enel (ITaly), Novo Nordisk (Copenhagen and Petrobras (Rio de Janeiro). We also examined case studies at Coca Cola, Pratt and Whitney, Dow chemicals and Natura.

    In accordance with our protocol, the participating companies now are reviewing the profiles that emeerged from our interviews and analysis with a view to release the findings at the World Publoic Relations Forum in Melbourne Nov 18-20 2012. A panel session will take place at the WPRF with participating companies who will discuss the relevance of the findings and share insights on how they have ‘seen the future’ with their innovations and adoption of modern PR practices that start with listening and engaging.
    The full reprort will be published by the GA post WPRF.

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