From the 4th WPRF: “PR needs a culture of responsibility and transparency”

These words might have come from any of our colleagues at the 4th World PR Festival, jointly organised by the Global Alliance and the PR Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA) in Cape Town. But no, they where said by a politician. 

Mrs. Helen Zille, Mayor of Cape Town, addressed an audience of almost 300 people at the opening session of this event that shifted PR world’s attention to Africa. She highlighted a relevant point of what was after to be confirmed as a really different view about PR. She said that “there is no substitute for transparent communication in Public Government” and recommended to the audience that “you should never try to substitute substance with glossy talk”. 

Another politician, Mr. Ebrahim Rasool, Premier of the Western Cape Province, stated that if there is one thing that was revolutionized by Globalisation, it was Communication and that only when you “understand the difference between credibility and non credibility” can you really practice PR.  

Is this a specific case in Africa? Certainly not, but there are indeed some differences between what people have in mind and are concerned about here when they talk about PR.  

Amongst many of our African colleagues you could feel a great joy about hosting this Festival and a great will to show that Public Relations, I dare say for the whole of Africa represented here, are supposed to contribute to equality amongst people who “live and see the other “ rather than to statistical figures. They tend to refer more to terms like ‘humanity’, ‘community’, ‘development and progress’, ‘dialogue’ or  ‘making a difference’, rather than to terms like ‘lifestyle’, ‘consumer groups’, ‘economic growth’, ‘inform’ or ‘revolution’.  

I’m sure this tells us a lot about the different social models at stake here, but what does this tells us about PR?  Can those of you who are out there around the world give us your views?  

João Duarte

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4 Replies to “From the 4th WPRF: “PR needs a culture of responsibility and transparency”

  1. Absolutely – and it isn’t just in government communications; corporates, NGOs, celebrities and individual communicators all need to realise the benefits of being more open and engaging.

  2. Tom: Thanks for your comment. With regard to what you say, another experience revealed by an African Government seems to reinforce this point. I was very impressed by a presentation on how the Tanzanian Government is amongst the first governments of the whole world to have an integrated and strategic approach to the management of its communication based on the use of a technological platform called ComPro (more on this case will appear briefly). BTW: of course I share some of your skepcticism but I really feel that their beliefs and concepts are very different.

    Heather : Totally agree. In fact, a British PR Consultant who was speaking at the 4th WPRF said he would’t mind exchanging British Public Administration by the two policitians who are mentioned in this post. If we agree that a culture of responsibility and transparency has the capability to listen and understand the other as its most basic point, then the idea of the previous post is even more pertinent, don’t you think?

  3. João – thanks for this update from the Festival. I have worked with African students of PR and agree that their enthusiasm for how communications can help improve the life of people and engage them more in society is encouraging.

    We shouldn’t be too cynical about African governments lacking openness and transparency as it is rare to see such qualities in any government. The UK has its own legacy of spin – and the US most definitely isn’t an example of good practice.

    If PR is to play an ethical role in government communications, it has to be encouraging listening and engaging with communities, not simply propaganda or manipulative persuasion. Let’s hope this politician is being genuine and can practice what she preached.

  4. This certainly is a different perspective than I would have thought, based on my U.S.-centric view of politics within various African countries. Transparency, development and progress? If those truly describe the viewpoints and priorities of government officials, I would be very encouraged. Perhaps someone closer to the situation can shed some light. In any case, thank you for this post.

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