"The difference between leadership and
mere management is communication."
Stockholm, Sweden – The World Association of Public Relations -Global Alliance- recently launched –within the framework of its annual meeting, held in Stockholm– an initiative by the name of The Stockholm Accords. Said Accords enshrine the reference framework that determines the performance and future of public relations activities worldwide. This initiative was created by a work group comprised of 29 communications professionals from various countries, in which it was my honor to take part. Yesterday these Accords were signed and made public for promotion worldwide. It was a privilege to have Dr. Karl Schwabs as the keynote speaker for this meeting.
This initiative is to become a reference framework for all public relations experts and communicators, not just those representing private enterprise but also the public sector and NGOs. They first need to understand the value of public relations and strategic communications for the development of organizations for the future, and, secondly, the importance that this discipline will have for the development of new social relations in an increasingly interconnected world. For communications professionals it will be highly useful to have reference frameworks for the novel responsibilities to be shouldered in this new world we live in, as well as understanding the new business models that are emerging around the globe.
Although these Accords are designed for communicators, it is of the essence that they be read, consulted and even adopted by company Presidents and CEOs, business leaders, and even politicians holding public office, so they might understand two things: firstly, the type of organization needed in future, and secondly, the use and importance of communications management in this new society that is taking shape.
Today’s organizations are now in the process of changing their organizational model, recognizing stakeholders –to whom they owe the company’s very existence– as the main clients of their organization. These main clients include investors, the Board of Directors, society at large, company executives and employees, service providers, strategic partners, and more. All this should be in keeping with a business governance model, with full transparency and seeking the sustainability of the company, society and the environment. The question for directors today is: how to survive in business as a political organization in an increasingly interconnected society that is taking direct control of social demands and creating networks that persuade and influence business leaders and government? The only way to accomplish this is through the tactical use of public relations and strategic communications in dealing with society.
In part, these changes in the business model for organizations and public institutions are due to the fact that they must no longer be perceived of as mere companies or business units. This does not mean they need lose sight of their objectives; rather, to better deal with a more interconnected world where economic crises are giving rise to increased stress in society, organizations must become more communicative. Communications must cease to be the last link in the business chain and develop into business drivers.
This, in turn, implies that organizations –and particularly so their presidents and CEOs– need to make a complete turnaround from merely informing others of their decisions to start listening to society and trying to negotiate with stakeholders and target audiences in their environment regarding the main decisions made that affect the community and special target audiences. It is worth mentioning that from this standpoint stakeholders are the target audiences on which the company has founded its growth, and thus their existence and importance must be duly recognized. By way of example, there are companies, institutions and organizations that are setting up social boards to listen to the demands expressed by society, in turn making transparent decisions internally.
In like manner, “public” (to be understood as all government bodies and institutions) organizations must undergo the same process and become communicational organizations capable of listening to society and being transparent in the use of public resources; they must listen to demands expressed and inform of any decisions that may affect citizens. As proof that this is a growing need, certain public works that governments launch are not readily accepted by society when the latter perceives the decision-making process as being murky. As proof that this is a growing need, certain public works that governments launch are not readily accepted by society when the latter perceives the decision-making process as being murky. There are even cases in which entire communities grip their machetes and take to the streets.
Hence the importance of the Accords. Not only for communicators, but also for company directors and civil servants; that is why we have once again taken up Winston Churchill’s renowned saying. The problem is not management, rather, the problem lies in leadership; the only difference has always been and will always be the level of communication and its appropriate use. Added to the foregoing, we also have the up and coming third industrial revolution before us: digital social networks.