– Margalit Toledano, PRINZ Fellow –
This is the first in a series of blogs from afar as I travel on a PR road (and air) trip to a number of conferences.
PR journey 1
‘Regards from BledCom2012 19th International PR Symposium’
Lake Bled, Slovenia, July 6-7, 2012 www.bledcom.com
I’m writing these lines on my notebook placed on the original desk of the late President Tito, the former leader of communist Yugoslavia. I’m in Villa Bled, a charming small palace built in 1885 by local aristocrats and used later by kings and leaders as a summer retreat before it became a heritage hotel. From the window I see the beautiful landscape of Lake Bled surrounded by mountains and hear a many pealing church bells. The conference hall is covered with a huge Bolshevik propaganda revolution style art mural. It’s a strange setting for the conference topic: “Public relations and communication management: the State of the Profession.” It is the 19th International Public Relations symposium BledCom organized by Prof. Dejan Verčič, a leading PR practitioner and academic who founded and co-directed Pristop – a European communication agency that has sponsored the conference since 1993 and Prof. Sriramesh, affiliated partly with Massey University. Over the years this annual symposium has provided valuable opportunities for discussions about PR from a European perspective, though US and New Zealand academics have often been a part of it. (www.bledcom.com ).T his time two New Zealanders are among the 70 PR academics participating in BledCom2012.
Some new data and ideas from BledCom2012 worth sharing:
A European Communication Monitor project found out that more than 57% of European PR practitioners stated that they had more ethical challenges this year compared to five years ago but only 29% of them used a professional code of ethics to solve moral problems in their daily work. This research on strategic communication in Europe has been conducted annually since 2007 and in 2012 their survey was answered by 2,185 communication professionals from 42 countries in Europe. This online survey of PR professionals across Europe is sent to 30,000 + professionals listed on the database of the European Association of Communication Directors. 43.2% of them said they had less control over their messages in the new complex communication environment. Read more at www.communicationmonitor.eu
A report on the state of the profession in the US was presented by Jerry Swerling, Director of the PR Sequence at USC Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism, Los Angeles. This almost annual study is conducted by USC Strategic Communication and PR centre to identify Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) in the industry and to provide practitioners with Best Practices against which they can benchmark their own organisations. The 620 senior decision makers who responded to the online survey were contacted via four leading US PR associations. They reported that in 2012 budgets for PR activities were up, measurement and evaluation of PR /Comms programmes was up, and social media had become mainstream. More PR practitioners in the US are focusing on internal communication and customer relations. When asked – who owns social media? 50% said that the PR/Comms take responsibility to this function in their organisations.
Many ideas presented in the conference described the current state of PR as a point of transition. Papers suggested that the time was right for a more economics-centred PR and argued for the concept of Integrated Sustainability Reporting which “embeds sustainability into organisational DNA,” as well as international and intercultural issues including concepts of cultural dissonance from the US and scenarios for the future of PR from Britain.
For the first time in BledCom history a parallel day of sessions was organised for local practitioners with a round table on “Building public trust in organisations”. The 40, mainly local, professionals who participated in the corporate track enjoyed some of the academic presentations and the socialising opportunities. Prof David McKie presented on how to end the state of inertia in PR ethics.
Today, the BledCom 2012 symposium is over and we are heading to the International History of PR conference in Bournemouth University next week. It is wonderful to be charging the batteries of knowledge and having an opportunity to think about, and discuss, what we are doing, why, for what reason, and to what effect. It is something every professional in the industry should enjoy and it is refreshing to see young and old practitioners from Poland to Latvia take part in animated discussions over coffee, food, and wine – after all, the original meaning of ‘Symposium’ was to drink together.
Margalit Toledano, PhD, APR, Fellow PRSA, PRiNZ