The very selection of the overall theme ‘The public benefit of public relations’ reveals a strong affiliation with that ‘pr-for-pr’ thread of thought which, if one patiently recalls similar attempts…see the preceeding post on this blog..) has possibly done more harm to our profession’s societal acceptability than all recent social critiques bundled together.
Fortunately the harm from London’s Fifth World Festival was minimal… as attendance (200+ from 33 countries says an official Cipr release) and media coverage were minimal, both carefully and well controlled by a truly superb organization.
The content was all there layed out on a huge buffet, a duly politically correct lip-service handed out with a heavily mayonnaised Russian salad of social responsibility, public diplomacy, diversity, inclusivity, territorial attraction building, social and economic development, support to weaker segments of society, care for the environment…..
Mind you, as I said, extremely well organized….which is yet another confirmation that public relations is excellent in its role of master of ceremonies, but fails when it attempts to get into the elaboration of contents of conceptual substance: even when the issue has to do, as was in this case, with navel gazing analysis.
Let me begin by the best.
The acute and enjoyable Jackie L’Etang with her presentation of the histories of public relations: sagaciously critical of my very revered Jim Grunig; innocently (?) naive in ensuring snap visuals different from their oral illustration; describing our acceptable and unacceptable interpretations and practices; with a strong appeal to the audience’s anti American gut feeling by demonstrating that the British empire came well before the US in spin doctoring its colonial inhabitants.
The World Bank’s Paul Mitchell, who interestingly portrayed his employer as the world’s largest public relations consultancy in assisting nations to improve their reputation, as well as the biggest single investor in public relations today by mandating that all projects be funded only when incorporating a communication program and budget.
A highly inspiring, wide-open path by which professional associations in all countries could have a reason to exist and an objective to pursue….
The highly entertaining as well as deeply conceptual presentation by New Zealand educator Graham Sterne: an ironic, innovative, brilliant and revealing illustration of the Maori public relations model which showed the many commonalities of socio-cultural diversities, as well as the many diversities of professional commonalities…
A paradox, this, which I always encounter with my students towards the end of my Global Relations and Intercultural Communication course I am again to begin next week at NYU’s Masters in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.
Finally, and I am well conscious of the bias, I found excellent the overarching presentation by my compatriot Anna Martina in illustrating the general framework, specific programs and measured results of a daring decade of well thought, planned and executed public relations activities to transform the reality (and thus also the perception) of the city of Torino by using, but only as an attraction, the 2006 Winter Olympics.
This case history, in brilliantly following the paradigm of listening and innovatively involving communities in transforming their own territories, and only then by attracting national and international attention through out-of-the- box programs conceived and executed with both sides of the brain.
The remaining plenary presentations were, in equal number, half or barely acceptable or simply pure trash, while I will not comment parallel workshops sessions: a politically correct attempt to give visibility to more scholars and professionals (including yours truly of course..).
2009 will probably see no festival (Kuala Lumpur cancelled its previous candidature…), while 2010 will be in Stockholm:
by the way, I forgot to mention that both the German (Thorsten Luetzler) and Swedish (Margaretha Sjoberg) presentations in the context of the L’Etang panel, were also very good, but had little (actually, nothing) to do with the overall Festival theme.
For uncomprehensible reasons, it appears (at least to me, as I upload this post) that on the www.globalpr.org website all handouts by presenters are under password.
As I recall, this is the first time since the Global Alliance that festival papers are not accessible to the public on the ga website.
If I am right, this is absolutely shocking, despite the average quality of those documents.
I am not aware (I hope not) that the GA paid anyone to present nor do I understand the logic by which a much too exclusive and expensive festival creates a barrier from its contents for those who could not afford or be able to attend.