General Comments

General Comments (on the wprf website)

Tim Marshall (New Zealand)

2010-03-31 kl 05:49

What’s good
1. The concept of having a single document that clearly explains what PR is about for a) practitioners and b) users of our services.

2. The “call to action” to spread the word.

What’s bad
1. Writing style: It is written in impenetrable jargon and management-speak. Only the committed will take the time to decipher it. I had to go to the glossary to understand terms like value network society – others won’t bother.
Solutions: Simplify. Perhaps write in story form. Illustrate. Use advertising copywriting techniques. Make it cool.

2. The key message/s are not clear. If you gave the Accord to a “progressive manager” and then asked him to tell you what it is about, what are the three to five things you would like to hear?
Solutions: Simplify. Introduce the Accord with a summary of the key messages in fresh, memorable language.

3. Underlying premise: I believe the most progressive approach is to say that PR practitioners represent society and the environment first and their organizations second (see my Principles section below). This is a bold jump that would make waves and be controversial but it is the only way sustainability will actually work. Otherwise we are kidding ourselves. It would also show leadership.

4. Streamline the theme copy: For a start the headings should be symmetrical i.e. about the same length. But even when that is done the headings and content seem to overlap. For example, should not the Co-ordination of Internal and External Communication sit under Management? I need more time than I have right now to provide more constructive criticism.

What I think – the Stockholm Accord should be based on Principles
The Stockholm Accord should be based on a Set of Principles (or Code of Ethics) that all PR professionals sign up to and practice. Indeed the definition of a PR professional (as opposed to an “unprincipled” practitioner) will be that they advance the cause of their organizations within this Set of Principles. This is a fundamentally different mindset from representing the organization first. It is about being an agent of change within organizations.

In my view the principles should incorporate in some form:
• Society’s good ahead of the organization’s
• Humanity’s good ahead of the individual’s
• Tomorrow’s good ahead of today’s
• Equality over disparity
• Conservation over consumption

These are the principles of sustainability in a world with limited resources. As a precedent, I understand Molleda and Ferguson from the “Latin American School of Public Relations” identified a set of four principles which were:
• Ethics and social responsibility
• Employee well-being
• Community well-being
• Government harmony

toni muzi falconi

2010-03-31 kl 07:55

This is what we mostly need, sound and constructive criticisms.
A couple of things which beg discussion:

a) back in 2002 when the global alliance undertook the ‘global ethics protocol’ challenge coordinated by Jean Valin which led to the adoption of the protocol at the first wprf in Rome in june 2003, I had more than once insisted with the working group that ’society’s good ahead of the organization’s’, as you phrase it, needed to be included in the official text of the protocol. The consensus, following an ample discussion, was reached in the version of an ‘appendix’ to the protocol. I am sure you can find the full text on the GA website. This to say that maybe the time has now come for an inversion. It would be useful if you wished to elaborate more so that we might also address this at the ga general assembly in stockholm. I would certainly be with you on this one and I am sure that Jean would also.

b) about the ‘value network’ concept which you define as ‘impenetrable jargon’.
Our profession uses, mostly, words to define concepts and to argue to develop reciprocally advantageous relationships with stakeholders. If we use the same terms we used 20 years ago we would be failing in our task as the changes in society imply also a change in expressing such changes.
The concept of value networks is an expression which immediately, for those in the know of course, defines the substantial changes which have intervened in the strategic planning process of any organization (in these last two months I have heard an artist and two ceo’s of global corporation use it…but literature is full and our references link have various links).
Now, I will definitely agree that most of our interlocutors (ourselves included) have little awareness of these changes and this is where our role comes in.
To be effective as communicators we need, at least, to develop contents which are somewhat but not entirely familiar to our interlocutors.
And this is the challenge for the Stockholm Accords.
I highly appreciate your stern call for making the text ‘cool’, as long as the ‘coolness’ does not imply simplification to the point of banality.
We are striving to introduce new concepts, new terms which help us argue the more valuable support that public relations is today capable of providing to society as well as organizations.
But this does mandates that we innovate rather than just following the ‘feel good inside’ trends.
David Ogilvy when referring decades ago to corporate advertising used to say: ‘it’s like peeing in your pants. Nobody notices but you really feel warm inside…’.
I would hate that this analogy (although of course rendered less masculine….)be used for the Stockholm Accords.
Thank you Tim.

toni muzi falconi

2010-03-31 kl 18:25

By the way Tim,
again on the ’society’s good ahead of the organization’s’ issue, take a good read at this ‘false choice’ post by Richard Edelman here

Is this what you mean?

Gustav Puth (South Africa)

2010-04-01 kl 10:21

Let me first of all say that I am really gratified by the general trend and direction that we seem to heading in! This is a quantum leap away from the tired old paradigm of PR as the tactical donkeys executing strategies originated by the other management functions. I do think that some of Tim’s surmises are valid – we do need to make our premises and principles more palatable to ourselves first, but, as Toni points out, without making it frivolous – goodness knows, we’ve had enough of that and will still have to bear the legacy for some time. However, we simultaneously need to work on getting these premises and principles understood and accepted by CEO’s and the other management functions ASAP. Yes sure, we first need to reach consensus among ourselves, but let’s not forget that this is also a vital repositioning excercise. As far as selling this to and inside organisations is concerned, I’m not particularly convinced of Tim’s societal bias in defining our role. We simply cannot afford this kind of sidedness and need at all costs to adhere to our non-negotiable boundary spanning role. Such noble intents will be futile if it gets to be eroded by alienating us from those that we need to provide counsel to.

toni muzi falconi

2010-04-06 kl 13:48

Gustav,relevant points. While Giampaolo Azzoni writes:

Italian reputed professor Giampaolo Azzoni (University of Pavia) a close, attentive and unorthodox observer of global public relations trends recently wrote:

“In the emerging network society public relations offer themselves as the managerial metadiscipline that seriously influences the lexicon and narrative of organizational action. In other eras this role was held by production, then marketing and more recently finance.
A visible effect of this new role of public relations is their increasing institutionalization amongst organizational decision processes and executive bodies.
Thus an extraordinary opportunity for pr professionals, which however requires a leap in both awareness and competencies to be adequatley exploited.
The Stockholm Accords move clearly in this direction and the discussion which has begun on the Forum blog is very promising.”

Who is next?

toni muzi falconi

2010-04-06 kl 20:29

Shameem Abdul JalilMalaysia

March 31st, 2010 | 4:38 am Toni, JOhn and the team, congratulations is in order for the great collective effort from the Swedish PRA on the Research Findings and the draft of the 2010 Stockholm Accords. The recommendations from these efforts, if implememtned at organisational levels, should certainly strengthen the position of the Professional Communicator as a Leader in organisations. I will be extending the 2010 Stockholm Accords Draft and the Research Findings /Chaos Theory as an Agenda for comments at Malaysia’s ‘IPRM’s Brainstorming Retreat’ on April 17, 2010 at Janda Baik (a malay word meaning ‘The good Widow’), a green lung outskirt of Kuala Lumpur where 30 PR practitioners will gather for a discussion on industrial issues amidst the lovely green and clean, fresh air. More comments for you after IPRM’s Janda Baik Retreat. Care to join? Just fly in, hospitality on us….Best always, Shameem Abdul Jalil

Paul Seaman (UK)

2010-04-09 kl 19:41

The world is changing, but these Accords don’t address the real challenges this throws up. There’s a new balance of world power. The dynamic part of the world has little time for stakeholder doctrines, consensus management and democracy; at least as far as we have traditionally understood the concepts. The new world certainly does not share your enthusiasm for a “value network society” (whatever that is). But the BRIC countries, and China in particular, are leaders in online social networking (they invented social media) and they (BRIC countries) are the world’s leading forces in innovation, R&D, new investment, new technology and they are cash rich buying up US debt. According to Edelman’s trust survey they (BRIC countries) are trusted by their people (even Russian business is more trusted than Germany’s and France’s). We should be asking why and what can we learn from them.

We should be helping our masters fight back by forming new alliances and forging new strategies. We should be pushing back on the stakeholder doctrine that holds back business and betrays its owners and which provokes such distrust and cynicism in society. We should be discussing how our democracies can be re-organised with the necessary public consent to compete in the post Credit Crunch world. We should be helping firms and their bosses prepare for the rough tough world ahead in which the BRIC countries compete as equals and often as leaders. The new world calls for robust, tough and agile change delivered at speed by leaders who are accountable (in this new world the old ways are not sustainable). We should be talking about how we position and sell this new world to the masses, when many of them will be losers, and many more winners. We should be talking about reality checks. PR should be – I think we will be – a great force for good in preparing the public and society for the struggles to come. In short PR needs vision and that’s what these Accords lack.

Amanda Chapel (USA)

2010-04-12 kl 12:57

Brian Solis, sustainability, stakeholder doctrines… listen to yourselves. You’ve reduced PR to pseudo-intellectual claptrap dipped in good intention, naiveté and empowerment schemes. It rises to the stuff of late night self-improvement commercials on cable. For $16.47 (free shipping with purchases over $25), you can buy “The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web” with a forward by Ashton Kutcher. Good Lord. What saps.

Here: “As our society careens into a challenging and turbulent era, our value systems change. For the first time, trust and transparency trump product quality in our decisions about brands.” Note: All with Edelman leading the band: . HELLO!! What does that tell you?!

Okay, I’ll tell you. People are so confused, bullshit has supplanted reason. And without reason, PR loses its legitimacy. Hell, an honest hooker has greater moral authority.

Wake up.


Gustav Puth (South Africa)

2010-04-12 kl 14:12

Whopee! To a certain extent I agree with Amanda. The worst thing we can do is to impress ourselves with non-sensical verbal gymnastics and mystify what we do to an extent that we are on the moon and the rest of pragmatic organisational beings on good old planet earth. At the same time, Amanda, we should not go into oblivious denial about the new contexts and challenges we simply have to face and help our organisations to deal with. Like it or not, we need to go somewhat beyond the honest hooker!

Paul Seaman (UK)

2010-04-15 kl 14:40

Has Tim Marshall explained above the reasons why some PRs wish to or actually do betray the people who pay for it when he states:

“Underlying premise: I believe the most progressive approach is to say that PR practitioners represent society and the environment first and their organizations second (see my Principles section below). This is a bold jump that would make waves and be controversial but it is the only way sustainability will actually work. Otherwise we are kidding ourselves. It would also show leadership.”

Are the Stockholm Accords about advocating betrayal? Or has Tim misspoke? Who decides what view represents society and what position is sustainable? Are PRs so untrustworthy as not to be accountable to their bosses; or is this all about translucent deception? Trust matters and the question is, if Tim’s view were ever taken seriously, can anybody trust PR?

toni muzi falconi

2010-04-15 kl 17:11

I am very much encouraged that both Paul -’grumping’ from his Zurich lake- and Amanda -’striking’ from his (don’t be fooled by the name..) lake in Chicago- have decided (I am sure, indipendently one from the other..) to weigh in this discussion.

Encouraged because -as I know my interlocutors from many years of ranting at each other with reciprocally satisfactory results- if they decided to weigh in only destructively as their initial individual contribution appear to be, this means that they believe our cooperative and participative effort is sufficiently important to try and kill the baby while it is still in the cradle.

Mind you, these two colleagues are both very senior, highly experienced, and professionally competent consultants with highly diverse backgrounds: strongly material, hard energy and manufacturing related old style pr in the uk and eastern europe one; powerful knowledge and experience in 1.0 marketing pr the second.

Is it only a coincidence that such harsh criticisms comes from solo consultants (Amanda belonged some time ago to a Chicago based agency which is possiblly why he was forced to adopt a false name to moonlight what for a period was the best and most provocative blog in pr, strumpette)?
Maybe it is not a coincidence.

The task for solo consultants to remain informed on developments, and at the same time able to operationally translate those edevlopments for clients, is more and more daunting as currebt timmes accellerate societal change as well as the individual’s age….

Maybe, Paul and Amanda, I rant less than you (I admit however my fair share) because I pass fifty percent of my time in attempting to help students develop a critical mind, and the other fifty percent in doing the same with my now 200 something younger colleagues in the three organizations I work with…

And now, please believe my full sincerity in inviting you to rant again for our effort. There is no way the baby will be killed in the cradle.
So why don’t you weigh in with your powerful knowledge and skills and, having said,as you have, that this first attempt is ‘all crap’, why don’t you suggest a more positive and constructive approach?

For example, Paul has begun to do this with his second comment.

It is clear (to me anyway, I don’t know about Tim who seems to have vanished..) that in our approach the pr manager, in listening to stakeholder and societal expectations, has the role of interpreting and suggesting to organizational leadership (to which h/she is paid by and therefore reports to… the ombudsman role idea is truly crap, I agree) if, when and how to modify operational decisions in order to ensure their sustainability (and therefore effectiveness) in the certainty that the organization must act sustainabily, i.e. survive.

There is no doubt in my mind that tactical and non sustainable decisions hamper an organization’s sustainability.
The organization of course takes full reponsibility in implementing them, but the pr manager needs to ensure that organizational leadership is fully aware.

This is surely the reason why the King 3 report (see under references in this site) argues that stakeholder relationships fall under the direct governance responsibility of the board of directors (or the elected leadership of public sector and social organizations).

Thank you both for your contribution and really looking forward to reading more from you.

Paul Seaman (UK)

2010-04-16 kl 09:13

Toni, what you call a rant I call an interrogation. But I’m glad you knocked back Tim’s nonsense. The world is changing; and I sketched how in my first comment, which you’ve not addressed. I’ve dealt with corporate governance and stakeholders and accountability on my blog – I look forward to hearing your critique of my take if you are serious about discussion.

As an aside, the word sustainability does not sit easily with progress, change and competition. The word sustainability is a word thrown around with gay abandon and little forethought.

toni muzi falconi

2010-04-28 kl 13:33

some udpates on the discussion:

Amanda Hamilton Attwell (South Africa) , President of the South African Communication Council and Regional Director Africa of IABC, writes: quote

The Stockholm Accords is a thorough and well structured document which, if we as communicators succeed in publisizing it wide enough, will have a profound impact on the status of the communication industry.

The only criticism I have is that you refer to “Public Relations” and not to Communication Management or Communication Specialists.
My concern is that Public Relations, in South Africa in any case, is limiting it to external publics.
In the document you do refer to internal communication, but despite that most people will still regard it as a document only relevant to people dealing with external communication.
My suggestion – Include Communication Management in the name of the document

Well, the endorsement is significant and the suggestion relevant.
We now plan to start gathering together the different comments and preparing a second draft which should be published here a few days before June 14, when the Forum opens.

So please, if any of you wanted to criticise, add, delete the last date to do this is May 15.

Let me also report that yesterday April 27 in Milano Italy, professor Giampaolo Azzoni -Italy- (University of Pavia) and I presented the first three parts of the Accords (governance, management, sustainability) and discussed them with some 80 senior professionals, scholars, business consultants, sociologists and anthropologists (plus a few very active students..).

An inspiring and interactive discussion, to which others will follow in other Italian cities, courtesy of course of Ferpi, the Italian federation of public relations.

Tim Marshall (New Zealand)

2010-04-30 kl 03:24

I’m delighted my post has sparked such vigorous discussion.

Here are my responses to questions and comments.

Toni asked whether my comments are in line with Richard Edelman’s blog post

In the last par of his post Richard says: “It is a false choice to suggest that personal interest must contravene common good. Those of us in PR must take a strong position with our clients to operate with the mindset of business as a positive force in society.”

Yes Toni. I absolutely agree with that statement.

Which leads to Paul Seaman’s comment that I am advocating betrayal of our paymasters. On the contrary, I would argue, as Richard Edelman does, that the long term common good will also be in the best interests of the organisations we serve. The crux of my position is that PR people must advocate society’s best interests to their organisations – for the organisation’s benefit.

In mediaeval Europe kings employed jesters for the very difficult (and sometimes hazardous) role of telling them the truth. The most useful jesters would find ways of communicating unpopular truths or ones that contravened obsequious courtier “group think”. At the risk of being mocked for a ridiculous idea, I would say that arguably the most valuable role today/tomorrow’s PR practitioner can play is that of a modern day jester who has the mandate, the contacts, the courage and the capability to tell organisational heads what is really going on in the world, or at least to test their thinking.

It may surprise Paul Seaman, but I agree with the essence of his blog that PR should help leaders lead rather than bowing to the whims of public opinion. I believe my statements are consistent with this. I like this part of Edmund Burke’s speech to the electors of Bristol in 1774: “Your representative owes you not his industry only but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Paul says sustainability does not sit easily with progress, change and competition. Well, sustainability is a pre-requisite for the others. If by progress you mean ever increasing consumption of limited resources, you’re right, it doesn’t work. If that paradigm doesn’t change soon we’ll all be stuffed. So we have to find ways of progressing within our means.

Not quite sure what Amanda Chapel is saying – but I’m fully in favour of reason.

Tim Marshall

Estelle de Beer (South Africa)

2010-04-30 kl 10:29

Toni, I took note of the comments above.

As I understand it, the Stockholm Accords will be a guiding document (framework) in terms of where we are and where we want to go with the profession. It should therefore contain principles about the status of the profession, that can be applied in any context and can stand the test of time for at least the next few years.

Because of developments in the global business arena (too many to mention here), we as communication professionals now have a window of opportunity to become more relevant for business and for society. The Stockholm Accords will provide an opportunity to at least be recognised in the boardroom, which is a good start. Without this recognition one will certainly not achieve any of the ideals that Paul Seaman mentioned in his contribution above.

Some of the above comments are situational, especially those made by Paul. The issues that he raised are relevant for today and from a developed country’s perspective. “Stakeholder doctrines” as he calls it, is for example so relevant in South Africa that it has been addressed in detail in one of the most important business documents that companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, need to comply with – the King III Report on Governance for South Africa. (Incidentally, the King III Report opened the door to the boardroom for communication professionals, with its strong focus on the “inclusive approach” to governance. We now “have a seat at the boardroom table” and I trust that authors of communication management (and PR) books and articles will take note of this development. We now own that space in the boardroom – we do not need to fight for it anymore and we should also not let any other profession encroach on our territory.)

Paul’s comments, although important, should be addressed in a separate debate about the environment that we are currently working in and how we should address the issues practitioners and their clients are faced with. But we need a framework for those discussions to take place in, and the Stockholm Accords will provide that.

toni muzi falconi

2010-04-30 kl 21:46

Nigerian pr professional and historian Sunday Odedele writes:

The definition of the PR role in the ‘pyramid of communicative organization’ as illustrated in the accord for organizational survival and success is commendable. Its realization in any organization could be real based on its corporate policy and philosophy and the level of institutionalization of PR in the organization. It also depends on the level of competence of the in-house PR professional(s)/PR consultant(s) employed by the organization.

Neeltje du Plessis (South Africa)

2010-05-18 kl 12:09

A short note to thank all the participants who had the vision and energy to work on this document. I know that this is a short version of a long process.
I would like to see a more extensive document being developed on each of these headings to build a good basic foundation which can be used to guide future leaning opportunities (for communication professionals as well as business managers).
It is in the interest of everyone who values the importance of communication to participate in the process of developing and constantly updating the principles on which our industry relies. We work in a dynamic industry and we should adapt constantly to new changes and challenges.
I believe this initiative is a platform to ‘formalise’ this process. It should never be a document which is finished and becomes another static ‘policy’ document which is never referred to again.

toni muzi falconi

2010-05-18 kl 17:42

Neeltje, I entirely agree with every word. The accompanying materials to the accords text (the second draft will be uploaded in the next few days here, and considers all posted comments) is intended to support the need for a more extensive documentation that can be adapted situationally by all actors who will want to advocate the values we bring to the six indicated areas.
I am sure that whatever document will be eventually approved in Stockholm will need revisions and adaptations according to each single area where it will be implemented and to social, technological and professional dynamics. But his will be up mostly to the single actors. The best we can hope to do is to keep a constant update to all interested parties on how the Accords are being interprted and used. Thank you

Here follow other general comments (unfortunately only in english…)  from sources different from the world pr forum website and retrieved from Google in the period March 1 to June 1, before the third draft was posted (please copy the url and go direct with your browser..)

2010-03-30 kl 1:36 pm

[...] the first draft of the Accords accompanied by references, glossary and other explanations is posted here for each of you to look at, think about, comment, [...]

Comment on the future of Public Relations | World Public Relations Forum

2010-03-31 kl 2:47 pm

[...] The Stockholm Accords [...]

Reflections on the media and the UK Election | 21st-century PR issues › Paul Seaman’s online review

2010-04-22 kl 10:38 am

[...] so both need to be engaged. But it’s largely a myth that there’s a new engaged online networked society that changes the rules of PR and communication in [...]

From Mexico to Stockholm « Bologna 2010

2010-04-30 kl 10:17 am

[...] summer, The World Public Relations Forum meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, aims to formulate and agree The Stockholm Accords, a new statement on the role of public relations in the ‘value network [...]

Stockholm Accords interrogated – part 2 | 21st-century PR issues › Paul Seaman’s online review

2010-05-04 kl 2:01 pm

[...] theme: what exactly do the Stockholm Accords expect to achieve? Here’s what the event’s website says about its objective: “The aim of the Stockholm Accords is to articulate and establish the role [...]

PR people need cat food at the top table « Heather Yaxley – Greenbanana views of public relations and more

2010-05-05 kl 6:08 pm

[...] I’m not convinced that the “adult dialogue” about PR can be found in the Stockholm Accords which have been robustly interrogated by Paul Seaman.  These seek: to articulate and establish [...] 5/6

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