A short history of IPRA
The concept of establishing an international public relations association first took concrete shape in November 1949 during a meeting in London between two Dutch and four British public relations practitioners. As they discussed their respective activities, the idea emerged of organising public relations professionals into a transnational society with the objective of raising standards of public relations practice in the various countries and improving the quality and efficiency of practitioners.
Participating in the foundation meeting in London were Hans Hermans and Jo Brongers, respectively Chairman and Honorary Secretary of the Dutch Public Relations Club, and four members of the newly formed Institute of Public Relations in Britain: R S Forman (President), Roger Wimbush (Chairman), Tom Fife Clark (Vice-Chairman) and Norman Rogers (Honorary Secretary). As an outcome of this informal talk in London, a group of public relations executives from Britain, the Netherlands, France, Norway and the United States of America subsequently met in Holland in March 1950 under the auspices of the Royal Netherlands International Trade Fair and the Public Relations Society of Holland. Following a review of the needs and challenges entailed in an increasingly international practice of public relations, the participants resolved to set up a provisional committee aimed at promoting exchange of information and co-operation within the profession and eventually establishing an International Public Relations Association (IPRA). During the next five years, regular meetings of this provisional committee were held in England, usually in conjunction with the annual Weekend Conference of the Institute of Public Relations. Participants came mainly from the founding countries mentioned above, but also on occasions from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Italy and Switzerland.
The International Public Relations Association (IPRA) was formally established in London on May 1 1955, with the adoption of a Constitution and the appointment of the first IPRA Council.
Founding Council Members included the following:
Tom Fife Clark, President (Great Britain)
Tim Traverse-Healy, Honorary Secretary (Great Britain)
Roger Wimbush (Great Britain)
Alan Hess (Great Britain)
Etienne Bloch (France)
Jean Choppin de Janvry (France)
René Tavernier (France)
Rein J Vogels (Netherlands)
M Weisglas (Netherlands)
Erling Christopherson (Norway)
Per Johansen (Norway)
Odd Medboe (Norway)
Richard B Hall (United States)
Edward L Lipscomb (United States)
1. MEETINGS WORLD WIDE
Reflecting a continued commitment to providing opportunities for international association in public relations, the IPRA Council and its Board of Directors meet regularly to review the organisation's activities and future operations and to focus the attention of the membership on emerging issues in public relations practice. Council meetings are held normally in conjunction with an IPRA sponsored public relations conference hosted by individual national public relations associations. Every three years IPRA sponsors a World Public Relations Congress, which brings together practitioners from all sectors of the profession to assess the latest standards and techniques of practice and to explore means of increasing co-operation.
2. PUBLIC RELATIONS CODES
As noted above, promotion of higher standards and ethical conduct in the practice of public relations constituted one of the major objectives in the founding of IPRA. This commitment led subsequently to the adoption of various codes of practice aimed at highlighting the ethical, moral and socially responsible aspects of the profession.
An early achievement in this direction was the adoption at the Venice meeting in 1961 of an IPRA Code of Conduct aimed at establishing accepted standards of professional ethics and behaviour in the field of public relations to be adhered to by all members of the Association worldwide. The IPRA Code has served as the inspiration and basis for similar codes of conduct adopted by many national public relations associations.
The ethical outlook and approach incorporated in the code was further enhanced through the adoption of an International Code of Ethics, informally known as the "Code of Athens" from the site of the meeting in 1965 where it was approved by the IPRA Council. The Code of Athens authored by IPRA Emeritus member Lucien Matrat (France), constitutes the Association’s moral charter, its principles having been inspired by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. The Code has been promoted widely and presented formally to numerous Heads of State.
3. INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
IPRA is recognised as an international non-governmental organisation by the United Nations system and has been granted consultative status Category C by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and Category B by UNESCO. The latter entitles IPRA to participate in UNESCO funded programmes.
4. IPRA PRESIDENT’S AWARD
The IPRA President’s Award was established in 1977, with a view toward celebrating "outstanding contributions to better world understanding." Recipients include individuals or institutions which have utilised the tools of mass communication to promote the principles of peace, social justice, cultural understanding or the role of public relations. The prize was first awarded to the Nobel Foundation. Subsequent winners have included the International Red Cross, Band Aid, The World Wide Fund for Nature and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
5. GOLDEN WORLD AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE
In addition to promoting enhanced standards of ethics and social responsibility in public relations practice, IPRA also works to foster greater expertise and achievement at all levels of the profession. The IPRA Golden World Awards initiative, established in 1990, recognises excellence in public relations practice worldwide. Each year judges consider entries in a wide variety of categories. Public Relations programmes submitted for consideration are judged according to the quality of their research, planning, execution and results. More than one award can be given in each category.
There are therefore no winners as such among the programmes submitted for consideration. But recipients of the award can take particular pride in the recognition granted to their entry as meeting international standards of excellence in public relations. Entries are also assessed by a United Nations panel, with a special award being given to the entry which best embraces the aims and ideals of the work of the UN. An overall IPRA Grand Prize for Excellence is presented to the entry judged as most representing the highest standards of public relations practice. Trophies are presented to all award recipients.
Sponsorship for the GWA programme was first provided by Nissan Motor Co. Ltd from 1990 to 1991, then by the NEC Corporation from 1992 to 1999. Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd sponsored the competition from 2000-2004.
As the International Public Relations Association has grown, the complexity of its operations and the wide geographical representations of its membership have necessitated structural adaptations and increased strategic planning. Today IPRA constitutes the most genuinely international grouping of public relations practitioners worldwide, active not only in promoting exchange of information and co-operation in every sector of the profession, but also in building a programme of professional development opportunities and other initiatives aimed at enhancing the role of public relations in management and international affairs.
Special emphasis continues to be laid on education and professional literature, though the scope of this activity has been increasingly expanded to include promotion of the profession in the developing countries and Eastern Europe and in addressing key issues such as the environment or the assessment of quality in public relations practice.
As such, IPRA’s own development over the past five decades has mirrored that of the public relations profession as a whole. From its origins as a close-knit fellowship of public relations pioneers to its current status as the most representative international network of top-level professionals in the field, IPRA has been the focus of an ever-evolving approach to management and social communications.
The issues and personalities that have shaped the growth of the public relations function have played a guiding role in the creation and expansion of IPRA. IPRA today is a reflection of its members over the years, a dynamic professional body that still retains the fellowship of its origins.