By far the most interesting presentation of the Fourth World Public Relations Festival arrived when Ms. Mindi P. Kasiga, Senior Communication Officer from the Office of the President of Tanzania, brilliantly took us through a fascinating five year process of total rehaul of that Government’s communication in its transition from an information to a dialogue based model of public relations practice.
Mindi was assisted by Gherard Butschi, a seasoned and committed Swiss scholar-turned-entrepreneur who has succeeded in implementing his amazing Com.pro executive digital gyzmo and is now ready to move on to other professional assignments.
This project was launched in 2002 by the then President of Tanzania through the appointment of Pete Kallage (just promoted to Ambassador to Canada); an audit by Burson Marsteller; a check by the UNDP to define specific needs for professional staff; and supported by a vision and mission statement of a new communication policy directly inspired by the President himself.
Today, all 26 ministries have communication departments with some 50 full time senior professionals interconnected by Com.pro executive, a software developed by Digital Management (Butschi’s company) which allows each user to coordinate activities horizontally, share information, build competencies, evaluate and measure different phases of operative programs and vertically align their implementation. Furthermore, the system allows each to know what the other is doing and supplies an amazingly rich data base of constantly updated public relations knowledge.
As Mindi Kasiga significantly concluded: we have passed from the need to know to the need to share.
In my view this is one of the most important breakthroughs for our profession in recent years and I am particularly proud to report that the Global Alliance endorsement since this project’s inception has greatly contributed to its success.
A second truly grand professional moment of the Festival arrived with the presentation of the ‘House of Smile’ project: a highly creative corporate responsibility project integrating the efforts of the largest European retail IT distribution network (Media World); the most reputed Italian development ngo CESVI whose Ceo, Giangi Milesi, is a highly respected public relations professional; and the Province of Cape Town.
In short, the CEO of the Italian subsidiary of Media World called his 7.000 employees from 80 shops for a two hour video conference in which Cesvi’s leadership presented for adoption three different development projects which were subsequently voted.
The winner was the project to open a House of Smile designed to shelter, protect and assist women victims of gender violence in Cape Town’s poorest, most populated and congested bidonville Philippi.
Some 300 employees subsequently volunteered to write, sing and play a collective compilation for the upcoming Xmas season. A highly reputed Italian music arranger and organizer was then called in to select 65 employees for auditions and produce the compilation, which was subsequently sold as a cd in all Media World shops by highly enthusiastic employees. The cd immediately reached first place on the national hit parade for compilations and cashed in some 500 thousand dollars over the Xmas shopping period. With this first sum CESVI negotiated and finalized the building and structuring of a House of Smile in the centre of Philippi in Cape Town.
In the meantime Media World’s suppliers and customers were also required to contribute and participate to the fund raising effort and this second drive allowed Cesvi to employ and train five local social and legal experts to assist and support House of Smile guests.
The House was formally inaugurated during the PR Festival, and Media World’s CEO officially committed, also on behalf of his employees, his company’s continued support in the medium term.
A brilliant example of stakeholder relationship management; employee, supplier and customer engagement; highly creative cause related marketing….all enabled by the fortunate mix of two Ceos: an excellent professional public relator the former, an illuminated executive the latter.
From two different perspectives, these two best practices demonstrate what ‘communication for sustainability’ and ‘sustainable communication’ are all about and how, when these two quite different concepts succeed in overlapping, society fully understands and benefits from the true value of public relations.