The Melbourne Mandate: A professional beacon for PR

By Jean Valin, APR, FCPRS and Daniel Tisch, APR, FCPRS

The last few years have witnessed a variety of successful global efforts to build consensus amongst public relations professionals and academics on the profession’s role and value to organizations, as well as to society.

The most recent process, the Melbourne Mandate, was co-created by some 1,000 people from 30 countries over the course of a year, and then unanimously adopted in November 2012 by more than 800 delegates at the World Public Relations Forum in Australia.

As leaders of the Melbourne Mandate process, we believe the dialogue must now shift from inside the profession to outside. The key is to use the Melbourne Mandate—and other compelling content on the characteristics of a communicative organization and the role and value of PR—to enable courageous conversations within organizations, between organizations and stakeholders, as well as with professionals from other disciplines.

The Melbourne Mandate journey

First, some background on the Melbourne Mandate. The project was conceived in late 2011 by the chair and the board of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management (GA), which aimed to articulate a new global mandate for public relations.

Why? Our working assumption was that the characteristics of a communicative organization—and the roles, responsibilities and value of PR professionals—were evolving rapidly in a world where audiences and stakeholders have unprecedented communications access and power. Collectively, we believed that fresh answers to these questions could produce a powerful advocacy platform for professionals everywhere.

We also hoped to build on the GA’s 2010 Stockholm Accords, which identified the role and value of PR in governance, management, sustainability and internal and external communication. The Stockholm Accords are now embedded in many respected public relations curricula around the world.

First steps: The process and the themes

First steps included establishing clear process values for this co-creation exercise:

  • we wanted it to be transparent at every stage, even if this meant it was “messy” at times
  • we aimed to hear diverse voices from across the spectrum of practice and academia, and from all over the world; and
  • we recognized that leadership would be needed to frame the debate at the front end, create an abstract and discussion papers in the middle and then tie together the different strands in a coherent document in the end

The process was crowd-sourced, rather than crowd-based. The views of the profession’s elite would be sought, but would not dominate the discussion.

The Mandate first took shape with the results of a global survey of association leaders, followed by a brief that posited three areas of emerging value for public relations and communication management:

  1. Leading the definition of an organization’s character and values.
  2. Building a culture of listening and engagement.
  3. Instilling responsible behaviours in professionals and organizations.
Middle steps: Building the global dialogue

Working groups were formed and leaders assigned with the objective of posting and debating comments and draft text in a blog open to all.

Webinars and conference calls took place to shape the document in two rounds of drafting, with commenting periods in advance of the World Public Relations Forum (WPRF) in Melbourne.

On site at the WPRF, we populated a mobile application that all 800 delegates could use to provide feedback, as well as a plenary session where physical comment cards circulated while the room worked on the draft texts. More than 400 comments and suggestions were received through the app or comment cards.

World PR Forum: The destination

Our small editorial group worked to analyze the feedback overnight, and presented a modified final draft that earned the delegates’ unanimous endorsement on the WPRF’s final day.

Today the Mandate is seen as one of the GA’s top achievements. It has already been translated into French, Spanish, Italian and Indonesian, and other translations are in progress.

More importantly, however, we hope the Melbourne Mandate can be a professional beacon for every public relations/communication professional who aspires to a leadership role in helping his or her organization achieve its objectives—both by using it to lead conversations and to guide one’s own career path.

How can I use it?

A legitimate criticism of these sorts of processes is that they sometimes become ends in themselves: manifestos that add to the profession’s body of knowledge but offer little practical application to professionals in their day-to-day work.

That is why today’s leaders of the Global Alliance are developing tools to answer a critical question: How can I use it?

You will find a starting point in Daniel Tisch’s recent article, Eight ways you can use the Global Alliance’s Melbourne Mandate. The argument is that professionals can use the Mandate as:

  • a point of professional reference
  • a summary of some best practices in modern PR
  • a set of aspirations for their organizations
  • a guide to conversations across disciplines and with managers, executives and boards; and
  • a checklist for their own professional development

Toolkit

The Global Alliance has developed a toolkit that includes:

  1. The Melbourne Mandate’s Integrity Index, a tool designed to measure whether an organization lives up to its stated values in the minds of its internal and external stakeholders—with a view to minding the gap between these inside and outside perceptions.
  2. A series of case studies into ethical and responsible communication.
  3. Examples of multinational companies that have embedded elements of the Mandate in their communication vision and strategy.

One tool that we are debuting on PR Conversations is the Melbourne Mandate Professional Development Wheel, a guide to the skills professionals need in order to practise to the full scope of the Mandate.

Why does it matter?

Jose Manuel Velasco, current president of Dircom, the Spanish Association of Communication Directors (which will host the 2014 World Public Relations Forum in Madrid, September 21-23, 2014) believes that public relations has come of age with the Melbourne Mandate.

In a recent GA newsletter, Velasco wrote that we need to work on improving our level of conscience and consciousness about communication—developing and listening more often to our own inner voice:

“Firstly, we must listen to our own inner voice with a view to stepping outside the comfort zone in which we have settled after reaching positions of importance within the organization, although we must continue to defend the strategic value of our function. Our role of assisting the chief executive officer (CEO) on intangible issues and interacting with the leading executives of the organization’s various departments empowers us to go beyond tactical tasks and contribute to refocusing the corporate vision.

Secondly, we must work on the conscience of our co-workers, giving them reasons to contribute to the collective story of the organization through their professional performance. We must provide them with values, role models, background and targets, as well as feedback from stakeholder engagement. Every person must feel that his or her story forms part of the company’s history. The greater a person’s responsibility, the greater the footprint she will leave behind.”

Moving the Mandate forward

We hope that the combination of the Melbourne Mandate’s content, tools and legitimacy will help public relations professionals advance their standing—and that of our global profession.

In a globally connected world with significant and diverse views of our profession, the very idea of a unified global advocacy platform is ambitious.

Judging from the reactions from our international professional community, however, the Melbourne Mandate appears to resonate widely, inspiring many to elevate their standing and that of the profession and find their voice at the management table.

In doing so, the Melbourne Mandate can be a beacon to guide us where we need to be.

The Mandate also helps those who are beginning their careers by mapping out a professional development path. For our profession to truly come of age and for each of us to achieve his or her own potential, we must consider the Melbourne Mandate’s themes—character, listening and responsibility—and make them our own.

We leave you with two questions:

First, are you practising to the full scope of the Melbourne Mandate?

Second, how can you use it to benefit your practice, your organization and your profession?

We will listen and respond to any answers in the comments section.

Readers may also wish to listen to a For Immediate Release #718 interview with Jean Valin and Dan Tisch on the Melbourne Mandate.

This post has been reproduced (with permission) on the Global Alliance and Ferpi sites (in the second instance first it was translated into Italian).

* * *

Daniel Tisch, APR, FCPRS (Global Alliance chair, 2011-2013) and Jean Valin, APR, FCPRS (GA chair, 2004-2006) were the co-chairs and editors of the Melbourne Mandate process. In November 2012 they were interviewed by Catherine Arrow on PR Conversations about, Refreshing the PR advocacy platform through the Melbourne Mandate.

For their work on the Melbourne Mandate both gentlemen received the Canadian Public Relations Society’s Award of Attainment for 2013.

* * *

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. In 2008 he was awarded the President’s Medal from CIPR, in recognition of his GA work. He served as CPRS president in 1996-97. Jean contributed Who has seen the future of PR? to PR Conversations (about the Enel-sponsored study).  In his PRoust Questionnaire answer, Toni Muzi Falconi indicated “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. Contact Jean by email or follow him on Twitter.

Daniel Tisch, APR, FCPRS, 2011-2013 chair of the Global Alliance, is a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society and CEO of Argyle Communications, one of Canada’s largest independent PR firms. He has lectured on public relations at Queen’s University since 1996. Dan led the GA to unprecedented growth, co-chaired the Melbourne Mandate process and the 2012 World Public Relations Forum, launched the GA COMM PRIX Awards and represented the profession with the International Integrated Reporting Council. Follow Dan on Twitter or read his corporate blog, Reputation and Reality.

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24 Responses to “The Melbourne Mandate: A professional beacon for PR”
  1. Jean Valin says:

    Dan and I would welcome your questions and comments.

    • Kevin Ruck says:

      Jean and Dan,

      This is an impressive piece of work for the industry.

      I particularly like the emphasis on research, analysis, auditing, behavioural analysis and data management in the professional development framework. This is definitely the pathway to higher levels of professionalism.

      I would, though, like to see more details on how knowledge gained through research and analysis is applied to practice. It is one thing to do the research, it is something else to use it in an appropriate way for communication planning. It is the connection between the two that requires the most careful thought.

      I also like the emphasis on internal stakeholders. My interest is primarily in internal communication, so it is good to see that employees are not ignored or marginalised.

      My observation here is that internal communication is subtly different from external communication. An employee’s identity is often closely tied to the organisation that they work for. This impacts the nature of the relationship between employees and the organisation in different ways to that of external stakeholders and I think this could be explored in more depth in the mandate. That said, I will certainly use the mandate and the professional development framework in the internal communication courses that I run.

      Best wishes.

      Kevin

      • Daniel Tisch says:

        Dear Kevin,

        Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I particularly agree with your points about internal communication. While the phrase ‘personal brand’ is terribly overused, it is true that one’s employer becomes a big part of one’s reputation — something on which I reflect often as an employer.

        It is interesting that in the 2010 Stockholm Accords we identified the alignment of internal and external communication as a key role for public relations — a good decision in retrospect, as the boundaries between the two have dissolved to the point that no effective external campaign can ignore the internal dimension; indeed, the best external campaigns often start from within.

        Thanks again for your support and feedback, and here’s hoping we can work with you on a future Global Alliance project!

        With best wishes,
        Dan

  2. Judy Gombita says:

    I have a question of my own, Jean and Dan: Are you working with (inter)national public relations and communication-based associations, to tie in their professional development offerings with the “Professional Development Wheel,” the newest part of the #MelbourneMandate Toolkit?

    I hope so!

    • Daniel Tisch says:

      Judy — Great question! The answer is yes. While this post on PR Conversations is the first “public” posting of the Melbourne Mandate Professional Development Wheel, we first unveiled it at the Global Alliance’s annual Association Leaders’ Workshop at our AGM in early June. We have shared it with the leaders of the world’s major PR and communication management associations (and GA-affiliated academic institutions) with exactly that in mind. Thanks for your continued leadership in the dialogue on the Melbourne Mandate! — Dan

  3. Steve West says:

    Jean and Dan, thank you for bringing the Melbourne Mandate to life throughout the recent Canadian Public Relations Society conference in Gatineau/Ottawa, Canada. Your presentations, talks and conversations wove this important document into the minds of all those present, and I believe we all benefited greatly from your ongoing passion and commitment to public relations as evidenced in your leadership on it.

    Is the Global Alliance tracking how practitioners report incorporating the mandate is into their organizations? I’m interested in hearing what is next with this important piece of work.

    • Jean Valin says:

      Thank you for the kind words Steve. The short answer is yes.

      We are very interested in tracking who is using the Mandate as a guide or benchmark for their organizations or careers (PD wheel). So let this be an open call for those who are using it to tellus about at the GA. Either Dan or I or the GA Center in Switzwerland would love to hear those testimonials.

      The case studies currently chosen in the tool kit were written prior to the finalization of the MM, yet they incorporate so many elements of it in their management of the function that we felt it to be very relevant for others to use as a case study.

      Ideally organizations will start using it as a benchmark going forward and tell us about it so that our tool kit can be evergreen.

      I know that Dan Tisch has a client who is using the mandate as a guide. Eventually this could be an excellent addition to the tool kit case studies.

  4. Jean and Dan – some interesting and potentially useful developments here.

    Jean – I note that you have commented about using the PD wheel in career development and I will reflect upon that further. As I believe, I’ve stated before, I have views regarding (what I consider to be the narrow) focus of PR on either/both profession and management careers within my PhD studies. I think it will be useful to examine the PD in relation to newer and emerging forms of careers – so may consider a follow up post on that at PR Conversations.

    Anyway, onto a question – are you proposing (or have you already discussed) linking the PD to either the syllabus and learning approach of PR education, or to specific PD programmes within the member organisations of GA?

  5. Jean Valin says:

    Heather,

    Thank you for the comments and question. I think you will find the work that our colleague Cathy Arrow did with the PD wheel is faithful to the essence of the MM which is to represent new areas of value foe the public relations profession.

    Do have a look and tell us what you think in relation to your PhD work. I, for one, would not view the skills described and the analysis and grouping of those skills to be narrow. Rather the wheel can serve as a development guide for anyone at any stage of his or her carrer. It is quite possible that some colleagues will only master or choose to continue in one aspect of the profession; others may gravitate to the more managerial areas or indeed all of them particularly if one is working in a small consulting.

    During the PR Association leaders workshop in June we did suggest that the Mandate tools and the document itself be used to validate and refresh PD offerings as well as serve as a guide for reviewing accreditation processes such as those leading to an APR or chartered status. In addition Anne Gregory made the point that many academic institutions have already used the mandate as a benchmark for their curriculum offerings.

    We believe the Mandate is indeed a beacon for the profession. It is up to all of us to embrace it, critique it, improve it over time and above all reflect on how we can use it to our benefit.

    Personally I see it as a platform that embraces current trends while leaving room for future trends.

    All three pillars should have lasting power: listening, being involved in shaping character and values of the organisations we work for–which is as most would agree where beautiful things can happen and ethics.

    Without a strong corporate culture as I saw in ‘Who has seen the future?”, organisations are less effective and have a tougher time effecting changes. My point here is that all three pillars will be around for long time in our profession. That should give the Mandate a good run in shaping our work.

  6. Jean – thanks for your response. Just to clarify, my ‘narrow’ comment was in reference to the conceptualisation of careers in PR as profession and/or management not the PDwheel itself so will be interested to consider if the wheel marries with modern ideas of careers which are less likely to be the hierarchical ladder notions of last century. On the face of it a wheel is more likely to do so than a matrix or steps approach.

  7. Jean Valin says:

    Heather, I completely agree. Modern careers- and I believe this applies to most fields- don’t evolve the same way any more. Some do follow a linear hierachy, others are far more ecclectic and diverse which I think is a great thing for our profession bringing us the potential for new point sof view gathered in many areas of work be it in PR or other disciplines. My only wish is that people take the time to fully understand what we do and get a grip on key concepts of practice such as the Mandate before jumping in to PR as a career. I also saw some of my mentees following paths within PR that are non hierarchical.
    I encourage that!

  8. Hi Jean, Dan and Judy

    I followed the Melbourne Mandate when it was first published and this is a great update, so I commend you for the hard work that has clearly gone into it and for leading the development of such an important agenda. I will caveat my comments by saying that I am not a PR professional but a Chartered Accountant, but I have been working with PR pro’s for 3 years so hopefully a different perspective is still valuable.

    For all the great work and intent, I think you touch on the key challenge in your post – to make sure it offers “practical application to professionals in their day-to-day work.” There are clearly some global PR firms who will have the resources to apply the Mandate across their businesses, but the PR industry is highly fragmented and I wonder how easy it is for the thousands of small, independent practitioners to use it practically. Your “how I can use it” section addresses this, but how do you gauge traction beyond the bigger firms?

    In some ways in the accountancy world it is easier to get traction across the industry as accounting rules have basis in statute and have to be complied with. This is not the case in PR, but it does sound like you have the buy-in of many global member organisations. Having said that, I scanned the CIPR UK site and even did a search on ‘Melbourne Mandate’ with not a single mention or result. I can’t access the members area, so maybe it is covered in there?

    Anyway, well done for the progress to date and I wish you luck in the global roll-out.

    • toni muzi falconi says:

      Hugh,

      The issue you raise is topical.

      As you might be aware, the Melbourne Mandate (2012) is an important follow up effort on the Stockholm Accords (2010) and explicitly subsumes these.
      In Italy the national professional association made an extensive effort of advocating the Accords (I hope it will do the same for the Mandate..) amongst not only its own members and other pr professionals that are not members, but also outreached with specific, planned and ongoing programs to other major stakeholders like the business community, the student and faculty community, the media community.

      All awareness studies of the specific and value added contents of the accords amongst these groups have doubled since the effort began.

      A specific case has to do with the tourism industry, where many of our colleagues operate.

      A pre-post test of awareness of some of the major accords elements tripled.

      So associations can certainly promote the consequences and the value propositions (not the names…of course) that the GA documents contain, It would give them something to do really useful for their members and the overall professional community.

      Having said this, I wish to commend the authors of this post and express my gratitude to Catherine for the truly great and innovative professional development wheel that I immediately used in my NYU courses to show the impact of the Mandate on the profession.

      A great tool and thank you my friends.

    • Daniel Tisch says:

      Dear Hugh,

      Thank you for your wise words. I smiled when reading your comments about the accountancy world, because I have been working with many accountants as part of the International Integrated Reporting Council working group (www.theiirc.org) that is pioneering a new model for corporate reporting. I am struck by how difficult it can be to achieve consensus among accountants (beyond the IIRC table, that is) around standards that are not rooted in statute and regulation!

      To answer your question, we are gradually making headway by raising awareness with GA member associations; Anne Gregory and I did a CIPR webinar on the Melbourne Mandate, and I have also done seminars or webinars for many large associations, including PRSA and IABC in the USA, the national associations in Australia, Canada, Finland and Spain, and at international conferences in Europe, Africa, North America and Latin America. As we continue to strive to make the MM practical and relevant with these new tools, we hope awareness and use will continue to rise; we will no doubt track this in a future GA survey, and I hope we might get data from our member associations, too.

      The other opportunity is to introduce this thinking to corporations. One of my firm’s clients – a large multinational with a particularly visionary leader – has really bought into it, not just within the communications department, but as a framework that can influence the business itself. We also hope to advance the Mandate with some of the large companies involved in the GA’s study on excellence in corporate communications (www.corporate-excellence.globalalliancepr.org). These are small steps — but you know the adage about how every journey begins.

      Thanks again!
      Dan

  9. Jean Valin says:

    @Hugh, Thank you for your interest and certainly we welcome other perspectives from other professions. Frankly the only way we will improve our relevance if if other professions value what we do. My thoughts on rollout parallel Toni’s in that associations who are members of the GA have a responsibility now that we have translated their concerns of a year and a half ago (survey) into what is a global platform for advocacy. The Mandate has already been translated into French, Italian Spanish and Indonesian. That is a good start. I believe Portuguese is next.

    There have also been webinars organised by CIPR in the UK, CPRS in Canada, and PRIA in Australia as well as PRINZ in new Zealand.

    We would love to systematically track who is putting the Mandate to good use and plan to continue to remind GA members and other practitioners to send us their feedback and implementation plans. The Integrity index–created as part of this exercise–is a practical measurement tool. Part of the tool is public and part is copyrighted to its authors which is where we can track back who is using it.

    @Kevin, Thank you for the kind words and for the important points you raise. Yes the link between research and planning is not always clear. The essence of strategy begins at that nexus where a good strategist is able to draw and analysis of research, formulate strategy that will link to objectives and make it clear in articulating the plan as well as in explaining why it is important.

    I also agree with you that internal communications is different than external because internal audiences have a vested interest that is most often more clear and deeper than most external audiences. It is not sufficient to see them as ambassadors, but also as eyes and ears which is why I love the emphasis on listening in the Mandate. For me everything begins with listening.

    Thank you for the questions and comments. Dan may have more to say on these latest comments in PRC.

    Keep them coming.

  10. Judy Gombita says:

    Readers may also wish to listen to a recent For Immediate Release (#718) interview with Jean Valin and Dan Tisch about the Melbourne Mandate.

    (I found it interesting how at the front end “public relations” was identified by one of the interviewers as “press releases/relations.” Hopefully the definition and bailiwick of public relations was better understood by the end of the interview regarding the Melbourne Mandate.).

  11. [...] Great initiative. It can help the newcomer in PR world.[...]

  12. Judy Gombita says:

    This post has now been reproduced (with permission) on the Global Alliance and Ferpi (Italy’s PR association) sites (in the second instance it was first translated into Italian).

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