PRWatch ICCO Global Summit: ‘There is no future for PR if it is all about commoditisation’

ICCO Global Summit: ‘There is no future for PR if it is all about commoditisation’

Author | Sumita Patra | Friday, Oct 06,2006 7:32 AM

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ICCO Global Summit: ‘There is no future for PR if it is all about commoditisation’

Several bigwigs from the PR world have descended on the Capital for the fifth ICCO Global Summit, which began on October 4, 2006. The second day of the Summit saw PR luminaries like ICCO President, John Saunders; Harold Burson, Founding Chairman, Burson-Marsteller, Louis Capozzi, Chairman, Publicis PR and Corporate Communication Group addressing the gathering.

Opening the second day’s session, Saunders spoke on ‘Forget Best Practices, Think Next Practices’. He said, “There are a lot of people who are devoting their time to things happening around them. We wanted to dig deeper and give something that is potentially much more stimulating for everyone.”

According to Saunders, the biggest issue confronting the PR industry was the ability to attract and retain excellent people in this profession. He said, “While we compete with each other every day, there is no future for PR if it is all about commoditisation. We need to attract people who can influence, have knowledge and vast experience of politics and the media.”

Octogenarian Harold Burson, Founding Chairman, Burson-Marsteller, enthralled the audience by his speech on ‘Our Role in the New World’. He highlighted the significance of institutionalising public relations and also stressed the need for education, which must play a substantial role in the industry.

Burson compared the role of public relations to other government-licensed professions such as medicine, accountancy, architecture and law. He said, “Public relations will likely not gain the professional status it wants and deserves unless it embraces licensing.”

According to Burson, the objective of public relations was to leverage public opinion to motivate a target audience to a specific course of action. He felt that public relations should be regarded as an ‘applied science’ and its educational curriculum should lay stress on psychology, sociology and cultural anthropology.

“This new curriculum must also recognise that today’s public relations professional must possess a knowledge base beyond public relations. Our clients and employers look to us for information applicable to their business or specific problem or issue. If one is to succeed, he or she must be able to speak the language of the business at hand,” he said.

During his speech, Burson also underlined the importance of positioning public relations to its primary audience – its own people. “We must make them more knowledgeable about the discipline to which they have committed themselves and we must never stop learning, adding to our body of experience by keeping abreast of new strategies, new tactics and the ever changing environments in which we do business,” he said.

An unusual speaker was Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Founder, Isha Foundation, who spoke on ‘Inner Peace’ and underlined the significance of managing one’s inner system and also highlighted the importance of staying happy.

This was followed by a session on ‘Best Practices to Next Practices’. Chaired by Louis Capozzi, Chairman, Publicis PR and Corporate Communication Group, the session had Yann Risz, COO & Founding Partner, The Next Practice, as the main speaker.

Risz put forth his point by giving examples of companies like ICICI, ITC-echoupal initiative and Hindustan Lever’s Project Shakti. He brought forth the emerging trend of taking up societal issues as core business factors.

Enumerating the Next Practice opportunities for PR agencies, Risz, said, “There should be a capacity to quickly group issues at hand-understand best to next practices to deal with communication breakdowns, there should be a network to reach out to relevant rolodex of influencers on each side. There should be an ability to understand and speak civil society and corporate languages, opportunity for building a stronger foundation for real and perceived authenticity and ability to unlock new markets through better communication and better support for collaboration.”

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