Toni Muzi Falconi: The PR community is at a turning point

From a speech given by the chairman of the Global Alliance of PR practitioners at its conference in London

Saturday 28 December 2013 04:20

It is important to acknowledge that in recent years the European public relations community, and specifically its education and research sections, have gone a long way towards the identification and consolidation of a European body of knowledge. Its impact will be strong in the founding of a specific professional identity, similar but distinct from traditional American PR knowledge.

Thousands of students graduating from European universities have this in their minds vividly, quite unlike my generation and the one that followed it. The reason for this is possibly that academics and researchers have been less constrained than professionals by the overwhelmingly American-orientated structure of the European offer system, which is dominated by US multinational agencies and is so influential on corporate public relations professionals.

The European public relations community is at an important turning point: tens of thousands of students coming out of university with PR degrees and requesting a more substantial and less casual working environment; the absence of standards, regulations and rules for the large majority of professionals belonging to a business whose impact on society is recognisably growing; a questionable perceived identity in public opinion strongly supported by a conflictual relationship with journalists that is at least as difficult as the frequent questionable practices of many of our colleagues.

All these variables, and many more, tell us that it is now or never. We must do something about ourselves now, not tomorrow. Now.

As much as it may seem contradictory, irrelevance is possibly the most serious risk we face today as the management of stakeholder relationships is becoming a hot topic in every organisation, and everyone else and his cousin are claiming responsibility for it.

The risk is thus the worst of all for a professional community: perceived irrelevance.

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