Thanks for the Most Amazing Year!

12 years, 9 months ago

(Comments)


Now that his presidential year is drawing to a close, Robert W. Grupp looks back at the highlights of his tenure and outlines some of the challenges ahead for IPRA and public relations at large as he prepares to hand on the baton to his successor, Maria Ge



I have been involved in IPRA for more than 20 years, but now that I have served as your 2008 President, I have renewed understanding and respect for our organization. What a privilege and an honor it has been!

IPRA remains the leading association for personal membership by senior public relations practitioners across the world. I am frequently reminded that the IPRA brand has substantial equity – more than we realize actually. We have a distinctive mission to advance international practice by individuals, promote ethical conduct, build the profession where it is still young, and create bridges of understanding among diverse cultures.

And like most other organizations, the value we take from IPRA tends to be commensurate with our level of participation. The good news is there are IPRA members in every region of the world who are fully engaged in the life of our association, and many more that support the IPRA mission, even though the press of daily business might not allow active involvement.

Nowhere has participation in IPRA been more rewarding for me than at the 2008 Public Relations World Congress in Beijing. Few conferences in China can host an opening plenary session like ours, in the Great Hall of the People, and fewer still attract China’s Foreign Minister and the Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress!

Our expectations were high, and we were not disappointed.

• We found little debate about globalization; that is yesterday’s discussion. This World Congress illustrated that we are rather tightly interconnected in today’s world. The challenge now is to manage our interdependence – and public relations can do that.
• We acknowledged these turbulent economic times, and we were reminded that opportunities as well as great leaders are born in turbulent times. The World Congress challenged us to rise to the level of leadership.
• We heard many examples of how dialogue is the new communications. We rededicated ourselves to encouraging open, honest, authentic dialogue among our client companies and stakeholders.
• And we realized how essential it is to be a master of all the new media and technology.
• This World Congress reminded us of the momentum of change occurring in China; change that is proactive. China is energized by opportunity, and forward-looking. We have seen this and heard this from the colleagues we met.
• When I met Foreign Minister Mr. Yang Jiechi in the Great Hall, I told him, on your behalf, that we were honored by his presence. He said, “Robert, it is you – the public relations professionals from China and from around the world who honor us by assembling in this World Congress.”

What a grand celebration of global public relations we had in Beijing, with 500 delegates from 40 countries.

There are many other accomplishments in IPRA this year:

• Lima, Peru, was chosen as the site of the IPRA 2010 Public Relations World Congress, hosted by the Universidad San Martin de Porres. This is our opportunity to reunite IPRA members and colleagues from across Latin America.
• The Golden World Awards recognized 28 category winners chosen from among 117 finalists out of 404 entries from 52 countries – record participation in a competition that has come to be called the “PR Oscars.”
• The IPRA Summit drew 150 senior practitioners to London and the content was outstanding.
• IPRA’s highest honor – the President’s Award – was presented to long-time IPRA member John D. Graham, Chairman of Fleishman-Hillard International Communications.
• New analytical research in IPRA Gold Paper 17 explores the role of public relations in managing relationships in the overlapping space traditionally occupied by foreign policy and business. The paper is available in English and Chinese.
• IPRA was represented by Pender McCarter at the 61st Annual UN Department of Public Information/NGO Conference “Reaffirming Human Rights: The Universal Declaration at 60” in Paris. The IPRA Code of Athens is based on the “Universal Declaration.”
• The Board endorsed a new initiative to document the professional competency of international public relations practitioners. The instruments to be used are being assembled and tested with the goal of launching with entry-level practitioners in 2009.
• A new IPRA Directory – the most sought-after membership benefit – was published.
• The process for electing IPRA Presidents was updated, made more transparent and rolled out successfully. Maria Gergova of Bulgaria becomes IPRA President in January 2009; Elizabeth Goenawan Ananto, Ph.D., of Indonesia in 2010; and Richard Linning of the UK in 2011.
• The IPRA Gulf Chapter, under the leadership of Faisal Al-Zahrani, turned in the greatest membership growth among regions globally.
• The Board updated the ambitious 5-year Strategic Plan and made it available to members and guests worldwide onwww.ipra.org

As successful as ’08 has been for IPRA, the growth of our Association will depend on our collective ability to remain relevant and valuable to our individual members.

While acknowledging major advances in building the association’s reputation and finances, the Board has recognized that IPRA is facing unprecedented global competition for membership, for the attention and participation of members and for the time of volunteer leaders.
As a result, the Board has undertaken an in-depth review of IPRA governance and structure with an eye to meeting challenges immediately ahead. Recommendations on future structure were discussed by the Board in Beijing, and changes are planned for 2009. I urge all members to tune into the upcoming communication and discussion about these improvements.

Finally, as I write my final Frontline column as IPRA President, I must underscore the importance of communication itself. It is my firm belief that we cannot over-communicate with one another. Communication in all of its modern forms – using all the latest technologies (that we use with our clients!) – must be used by IPRA as well.

I have long believed that the relationship between the association and its members will rise or fall on the frequency, relevancy, and value of information and ideas shared. My efforts to communicate with you this year have been based on this premise.

Now, as I contemplate the close of my presidential year and prepare to pass the baton to my friend Maria Gergova, I say “thank you” – to the Board, the Council, members at-large, to Jim Holt and the Secretariat staff – for your friendship and support.

Serving IPRA as President has been one of the most amazing and personally rewarding experiences in my entire career in international public relations.


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The Author

Robert W. Grupp

Robert W. Grupp is President at Grupp Global Partners LLC, a management consultancy with a strategic focus on corporate communications and international public relations. Grupp also is Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Florida where he teaches Global Strategic Communications in the Master's Degree Program in the College of Journalism and Communications.

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