“The difference between leadership and
mere management is communication.”
By Marco V. Herrera
Stockholm, Sweden – The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communications Management recently launched an initiative named the Stockholm Accords. The Accords propose standards to guide the performance of public relations activities worldwide. This initiative was created by a group of 29 communications professionals from various countries, and it was my honor to take part when the Accords were ratified by delegates attending the World Public Relations Festival in Sweden on June 14-15. The Accords now will be promoted worldwide. It was a privilege to have Dr. Karl Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum as the keynote speaker for this important 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. There is a need to understand the value of public relations and strategic communications in preparing organizations for the future, and to demonstrate the value this discipline will have in the development of new social relationships in an increasingly interconnected world. It will be very useful for communications professionals to have reference frameworks for the novel responsibilities to be shouldered in the new world we live in, as well as understanding the new business models that are emerging globaly.
Although these Accords are designed for communicators, it is essential 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: First, the type of organization needed in future, and second, the use and importance of communications management in the new society taking shape.
Today’s organizations are in the process of changing their model, recognizing stakeholders – to whom they owe the company’s very existence – as the main clients of their organizations. These main clients include investors, Boards 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 challenge for directors today is: How to survive in business in an increasingly interconnected society where communities of individuals are taking control of social demands and creating networks that persuade and influence business leaders and government. The only way to accomplish this is through the strategic and tactical use of public relations and strategic communications.
In part, changes in business models and public institutions are occurring because organizations no longer can be perceived of as mere companies or business units. This does not mean they should lose sight of their objectives. Rather, organizations need to do a better job dealing 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. They must listen to society and try to negotiate with stakeholders and target audiences regarding the decisions made that affect the community and target audiences. Stakeholders are the audiences on which the growth and sustainability of companies are founded, and their existence and importance must be duly recognized. For example, there are companies, institutions and organizations that are setting up social boards to listen to the demands expressed by society and, in turn, making transparent decisions internally.
In like manner, “public” organizations (all government bodies and institutions) must undergo the same process and become communicative organizations capable of listening to society and being transparent in the use of public resources; they must listen to demands expressed and inform audiences of decisions that may affect citizens. As proof of this 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.
This is why the Stockholm Accords are important, not only for communicators, but also for company directors and civil servants. This 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.
Editor’s Note: I had the privilege of attending the recent World Public Relations Festival in Stockholm organized by the Swedish Public Relations Association and the Global Alliance. There, some 400 public relations professionals from 29 countries adopted the Stockholm Accords. We were encouraged to communicate these new global standards for our profession to colleagues and other communities when we returned home. Marco V. Herrera was present in Stockholm and his column (translated here) was published by El Financiero, México’s largest financial newspaper. Marco is a member of the Institute’s Commission on Global Public Relations Research and he is President of Grupo Public in México.
President and CEO
The Institute for Public Relations