We need a beacon to illuminate our professional way. Photographer: Nardo Villaboy.

Purpose is the new mantra. Perhaps it is the consequence of the deficit of values that society itself appreciates. The dictatorship of immediacy, encouraged by the rush that finds its accommodation in the carpe diem, hinders long-term thinking.

Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 1990 that is seen as a laboratory for experimenting with emerging trends, are claiming  a more equitable and fair society, a well-paid job and a company that has a clear purpose, according to a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum. Young people are concerned, in order of importance, about climate change, which is undoubtedly attributed to the actions of human beings, wars and inequality.

Integrity, honesty and humility are the qualities that they want to see in the leaders of their countries, and of to those who ask them to be result-oriented and project the future of the populations whose policies they manage. They believe that the way to build a freer society is to live without fear, to be able to reside and work anywhere in the world and, above all, to have widespread access to opportunities. They define themselves first as humans, then global and thirdly they cite their nationality. And they believe that individuals play a more important role than governments in making a better world.

Being aware of the importance for organizations, especially companies, to declare and pursue a superior mission that goes beyond their legal and economic obligations, PR professionals have the responsibility to connect the mission and the vision, to introduce the purpose in the corporate narrative and to prove through facts and metrics the results of such collective commitment. There is no doubt that articulating and communicating a purpose is one of the levers to generate the engagement of stakeholders and, consequently, attract talent, create brand loyalty and provide additional reasons to buy a product or service.


Our responsibility?

And if acquiring a commitment is so important, what is the collective purpose of our profession?

There are many reasons to think that Public Relations (Communication) plays an important role in the transformation process triggered by the confluence of telecommunications and information systems. As Peter Drucker said in 2000: «In a few hundred years, when the history of our time is written from a long-term perspective, it is very likely that the most important event that historians observe is not technology, nor Internet, nor electronic commerce, but an unprecedented change in the human condition: for the first time a substantial and growing number of people will manage themselves. And society is not prepared at all for it. »

What are PR professionals doing to ensure that individuals use the communication skills that technology has put in their hands for good? Where does our responsibility arise to prevent such capacity from becoming a weapon of mass destruction of trust? What role does or should PR play in this world in permanent crisis?

«Public Relations has always been involved in the creation of meaning and reflection, relationship management and storytelling. How much have you contributed to the present state of affairs of VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) and what is your role in the near future? » These are questions asked by the organizers of the 25th anniversary of the International Relations Research Symposium. Public -BledCom 2018 to be held in July next year in Slovenia.

Anne Gregory, professor of Corporate Communication at University of Huddersfield (UK) and former chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, wrote in a post: «More recently a D has been added to VUCA. It’s now a VUCAD world, with the D meaning Deceitful. There are now alternative facts, we live in a post-truth age, politicians and other leaders tell lies which both they and the people they are speaking to know are not true«.

Recently the Association of Directors of Communication (Dircom) has held its eighth internal conference in Madrid under the motto «Reinventing the profession«. Beyond the interesting conclusions of the worktables that followed the script of the Yearbook «The seven trends to direct communication», Tthis profession can only reinvent itself with guarantees of transcendence if it clearly defines its purpose and, in addition, it does so from a clear ethical positioning.


Responsibility or ethics? Both

Toni Muzi Falconi,  another former president of the Global Alliance , would prefer to talk about responsibility. It is curious how the substitution of ethics for responsibility does not alter the formulation of such an appeal. Let us be consistent with the ethical responsibility that communication has in a world that is currently characterized by the loss of trust in institutions, a threat to coexistence.

Recently the scandal of the British agency Bell Pottinger has placed us in front of a mirror that reflects our own responsibility. This firm designed and executed a ‘dirty campaign’ that played with racial animosity in South Africa, including creating fake news, to benefit its client Investments Oakbay, a company that is controlled by the controversial and influential Gupta family, with strong ties to the government of President Jacob Zuma. In the wake of the scandal, which has caused the bankruptcy of the firm, Richard Edelman, founder and president of the network of public relations, has made a call to the communication industry to forge a global pact for ethical standards.

The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management has responded to this call with the convening of a summit of the main associative leaders to promote such an agreement and to decise a new global code of ethics for communicators.

«My dream is that communicators become the conscience of organizations, the drivers of ethical approaches. There is a void of responsibility in the management and leadership of ethics, ethical behavior and reference values in companies. Who has the responsibility? «wondered Antonio López, honorary president of Dircom, in his speech of thanks for the Luka Braknovic Award, which was granted by the Communication Faculty of the University of Navarra.

This profession not only has to dream of a better world, but must to contribute to it by managing conversations in which the raw material is the truth and relations are presided over by reciprocity and balance. Perhaps communication has to honor its etymology. The word «communication» derives from the Indo-European voices «ko» and «mein» («to live together» and «to exchange»). Communication is the space in which the community is constituted. The Greeks added to «komein» the meaning «take care», which also refers to one of the basic functions of the community: protect and provide for their own.

PR professionals need a collective purpose, a beacon that guides our performance beyond tasks and objectives. Therefore, I would like to collect the opinions of other professionals who share the idea that our role in the community transcends the role we play in our organizations. This blog and all my channels are open to conversation.


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