With only a couple of weeks to go before the Global Alliance’s World Public Relations Forum (WPRF) kicks off, I was reminded of Heather Yaxley’s post around this time last year on relationship advice for PR practitioners. More than 700 delegates from every continent will be meeting in Australia and part of the agenda will include a robust discussion on the Melbourne Mandate, designed to build on the Stockholm Accords agreed to at WPRF 2010.
The reason for the reminder was the reference Heather made to “a vital knowledge acquisition ecosystem,” with professional relationships an important way in which culture and practice is developed and corrected. Such is the appeal then of both the WPRF and the development of the Melbourne Mandate.
At WPRF, the speakers look terrific, wise and wonderful—but for me it’s all about the delegates. I know for certain that I will take home new thinking, different perspectives and challenging insights into current and cultural practice not just from the main events, but from the myriad contributions of those delegates I’ll meet in mid-November. My inner maverick also loves the fact that conversations over teacups often end up being the ones that start the revolutions (as well as the sensible business of building and sustaining essential relationships of course).
As to the Mandate, that’s been an intriguing and challenging journey so far. Initiated earlier this year under the guidance of GA chair Daniel Tisch and past chair Jean Valin, three working groups—each brimming with practitioners and academics from around the world—talked, argued and debated their way through late nights and early mornings to produce some initial drafts on the culture and character of organisations and the responsibility of practitioners to society, organisations, the profession and themselves. I was fortunate enough to serve as co-chair of the responsibility group with Toni Muzi Falconi and have to say that our group members were particularly keen on revolutionising the way in which we are both responsible and accountable to society.
The first amalgamated draft is now available for comment before the WPRF debate. The hope is that those inside—and outside—the profession will add their thoughts and ideas which can then be assimilated into the final draft. This is a classic example of Heather’s far-reaching professional relationships being formed in order to develop culture and practice.
In the Q&A session below, Dan and Jean provide some more details on the Mandate and how they think it will help our professional community.
Guest interview conducted by Catherine Arrow with Dan Tisch and Jean Valin
Catherine Arrow (CA): What is the point of the Melbourne Mandate? Also, once it is finalized by the 2012 World Public Relations Forum (WPRF) delegates, what will practitioners be able to do with it?
Daniel Tisch (DT): The Global Alliance (GA) hopes that public relations professionals around the world will use the principles of the Melbourne Mandate to advocate, demonstrate and enhance the value of public relations and communication to their organizations and communities, as well as to society at large. As is the case with all GA advocacy initiatives, we search for universal principles while respecting the myriad of unique cultural contexts and applications around the world.
Jean Valin (JV): That’s right. We believe the Mandate is a call to action for all professionals to implement as they see fit. For some this means advocating for change within their organization; for others this provides a checklist for bringing their work up to today’s best advice on how to practice. The Mandate’s practical tools—such as the integrity index—could provide avenues for dialogue with managers on the role of PR in a communicative organization.
The latest publication is the first “fully formed” draft for public comment, based on the three groups’ working papers. What new thinking would you consider has been generated and included?
DT: The Global Alliance builds on the framework we established with the Stockholm Accords in 2010, which defined the attributes of the “communicative organization” and the value of PR in governance, management, sustainability and internal and external communication. In Melbourne, we are going deeper into how PR professionals can define organizational character and foster a culture of listening and engagement, while understanding their responsibilities not just to their organizations, but to their profession and to society. We believe the Mandate is unique in bringing together these three things as central roles for public relations.
How do you anticipate this thinking might guide professional practice and academic research in the future?
JV: For academics this is fertile ground to test the traction of trends in public relations in practice. For example, one could imagine a survey instrument to verify the extent to which the statements and suggestions for practitioners have been implemented. For practitioners, it is a checklist or “to do” list for how public relations might evolve within their organizations.
DT: Jean is correct. I’ll add that we are excited about the alignment of thinking between practitioners and academics, because both communities have been involved in the Melbourne Mandate. At this year’s World Public Relations Forum, we’ll have an academic colloquium for the first time—and that cohort will be debating the Melbourne Mandate, just as the practitioners will the very next day.
Is the Mandate something that will translate easily across languages, cultures and different practice models?
JV: We hope so. We certainly aimed to include many cultures in the three working groups that worked on each paper and model. We’re aware that some cultures or individuals may still be practising one-way communication and this may seems quite aspirational. Perhaps readers of PR Conversations will give us some tips or ideas?
CA: What do you think will change as a result of the Mandate?
DT: It’s an evolution, not a revolution. We hope the Melbourne Mandate will inspire professionals to lead interdisciplinary collaboration within their organizations. That’s the only way we can do something as big as defining corporate character, and of course building a culture of listening and engagement can’t rely on the PR department alone. We also hope the Mandate will help shift the internal dialogue about responsibility into the realm of integrated reporting about the way the organization creates sustainable value for both shareholders and stakeholders.
Will there be any guidance for implementation? And whom do you want to respond to the call to action?
JV: I know Dan and the board plan to engage our Global Alliance network in countries around the world. As with the Stockholm Accords, there need to be conversations and in some cases professional development sessions provided to disseminate the work and explain the result. We are excited that the Melbourne Mandate has not just principles, but also practical tools—again, such as the integrity index—that provides a very practical way to implement some of the models.
Will there be a “report back” on its effectiveness at the WPRF 2014, as is happening with the Stockholm Accords at this year’s Forum?
DT: Absolutely. The “Stockholm model” of collaboration is proving to be effective in that delegates to the World Public Relations Forum now expect not just a compelling experience at a conference, but also a legacy for the profession. We hope that future leaders of the GA will continue this cycle of refreshing our advocacy platform and using it to guide their program of activity for subsequent years.
Do you think the Mandate sets out the future direction of public relations and communication management? What would you consider that future to be?
JV: We don’t have a crystal ball and attempts to predict the next big thing that will change our profession are futile. The Melbourne Mandate represents our best advice on the trends that are been implemented in organizations today. Watch for the GA’s release of the Enel-sponsored study on corporate PR excellence. It’s called “Who has seen the future?” and it details how major multinational companies are using social media and increased engagement with stakeholders.
DT: In some ways, the most “communicative organizations” are already using the pillars of the Melbourne Mandate. By making these principles explicit, we hope to inspire more to follow.
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Also see Communication without borders…or marketplace competition about the upcoming World PR Forum.
See the Melbourne Mandate that was approved at the World PR Forum by delegates in Melbourne, Australia, on the final day of the conference (PDF file).
Catherine Arrow is a public relations consultant, educator and writer. Secretary of the Global Alliance, Catherine is a CIPR Fellow and chartered practitioner and a member of PRINZ, where she is deeply involved in professional development design and provision. Alongside her consultancy work, she lectures, speaks and writes about public relations, particularly digital relationships.
This year she was presented with the PRINZ President’s Award for her contribution to the profession. You can find her on Twitter on her thinking-aloud space, PR from the Beach, Google+ or here in the archives!
Daniel Tisch is widely known as an international public relations practitioner, speaker, writer and industry leader. He is chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, the confederation of the world’s major PR associations, a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society and CEO of Argyle Communications, one of Canada’s largest and most acclaimed independent public relations firms.
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.
Jean contributed Who has seen the future of PR? to PR Conversations (about the Enel-sponsored study referenced in this interview). 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.