What do Barcelona, Melbourne and Stockholm mean to PRs?

Updated on April 23, 2013

Yesterday on a London trip, I met up with Bruno Amaral and Kelly Pereira. I’ve known Lisbon-based Bruno for some years so it was great to catch up with him on his London visit.

Over a coffee and some great conversation, the names of three cities came into our discussion: Barcelona, Melbourne and Stockholm. Cities well known to almost anyone, who could readily tell you in which countries they’re located. (For the geographically challenged – yes, there are some – they’re in Spain, Australia and Sweden respectively.)

Those three cities’ names are the places where decisions were made during meetings of public relations professionals that could (and should) have far- and wide-reaching effects on the profession and the practice of public relations.

Here are very concise descriptions (along with links to get detailed information):

  • Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles – the public relations industry’s first proposed global standards for measuring public relations.
  • The Melbourne Mandate – a call to action for new areas of value in public relations and communication management.
  • Stockholm Accords – a set of principles on the role of public relations in organizational governance and management, and communication programs for internal and external publics, and on the value of public relations in increasing the organization’s sustainability.

These are important areas for the profession. I know about the Barcelona Principles mainly because people I pay attention to talk about them, notably Katie Paine and Philip Sheldrake. And there’s a wealth of information online if you search for it.

The others? Not much. Is that due to my own ignorance and lack of investigation? Or lack of readily-available information there for the discovery? Or something else?

It seems to me that opportunities are being missed here. Opportunities for educating and helping colleagues understand what these three sets of ideals mean and why they should give a damn.

An impromptu discussion on Twitter last night, in response to my tweet, drew some clear views.

Edelman’s Dave Fleet says “Barcelona Principles in particular are critical. I’ve quoted pieces from that in presentations.”

My podcasting partner Shel Holtz added “Problem is, 99% of those working in PR have never heard of Barcelona Principles. What’s the solution to this problem?”

Canadian PR pro Barry Waite said “We’re teaching Barcelona Principles in Measurement & Metrics – looking at how to embed Melbourne in PR Intro.”

Edelman’s Rob Clark stated “Solution is that organizations involved need to disseminate information with same rigor we’d use for clients,” adding “Draft of Melbourne starts, “The 160k professionals represented…” how many of 160k actually are aware?”

At least Edelman are right on the ball with this (and I’m sure other PR firms are, too).

It’s a clear call to action. Who else will take the initiative?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Cornelius Alexander

    At an interview for a PR designation I said that most people was not discussing the Barcelona Principles. The room temperature dropped several degrees … and I didn’t get the designation. Good to know others agree with me.

    • Neville Hobson

      Thanks Cornelius. Of the three I wrote about in my post, I think the Barcelona Principles is the one that’s more known about. Yet still not enough imo. I do agree with you – people aren’t talking about it enough.

      • Cornelius Alexander

        Thanks Neville. Rob Clark’s point about having to reach the 160K practitioners within GA is well made. Let alone the estimated 1.6m worldwide. As practitioners we know that a mention here or there is a mere drop in the ocean if we are trying to engage with a large audience or affect change. It has to be structured and continuous. Anything else is just a noble gesture.

  2. jeanvalin

    Neville, Thanks for raising these points. I co-edited the Melbourne Mandate with my colleague Dan Tisch. It was a co-creation effort involving over 1000 PRs from around the world including the 800 assembled in Melbourne who helped us fine tune this advocacy platform for the profession. The 160,000 are those members who are affiliated with the Global Alliance (GA)- primarily national PR associations in every part of the world. So far it has been translated in Italian and French and was discussed and debated at least twice in Canada with a third orpportunity coming up and once in a webinar hosted by CIPR in the UK. All sisty six associations who are members of the Alliance wera asked to circulate it to their members, advocate for ther profession using the tenets of the MM and host events locally. Several heavy hitters such as Jim Gruinig, Franceso Lurati, Emilio Galli-Zucaro andTom Watson chimed in during its development. Many bloggers also posted during and after its development.
    The idea is to look at the state of the profession from time to time and agree on where we are and where we should be going. The Stockholm Accords- another GA entreprise from 2010 laid the groundwork for the Melbourne Mandate.
    Sadly, with 160,000 potential interlocutors within the GA family are the only ones we can reach more easily and that- as it has been postulated by Toni Muzi Falconi and Fraser Likely- represent only 10% of PRs in the world.
    Much more needs to be done to spead the workd and continue the conversation. I invite all your readers to join in the conversation either on the GA web site globalalliancepr.org or on their favorite blogs.
    @jeanValin1 on Twitter

    • Neville Hobson

      Many thanks for your comment, Jean, appreciate your adding depth to this topic.

      Your last paragraph really says it all about these three initiatives: more needs to be done to raise awareness and explain meaning and relevance. I know I’m far from alone in encountering practitioners who haven’t heard of any of these things.

      As I see it, part of the problem is that much of the content that there is out there – mainly blog posts by practitioners and others with a keen interest in the topics – tend to be pretty academic-looking. With no intent to malign my friends in academia, the topics really need to be simply explained in order to make them interesting, relevant and understandable to the lay PR reader.

      But that’s purely a personal observation.

      It also seems to me that these are topics that are perfect ones for professional associations to take a lead with. They need much more than blog posts, white papers and other content that sits on websites waiting to be discovered.

      • Jean Valin (@JeanValin1)

        Thank you Neville,
        We constructed the Melbourne Mandate with specific statements about the role of PRs to give clear action points for practice. We also asked that associations take the lead by adopting a document that they helped to conctruct, advocate its use in curricula and use the arguments presented in speaking out on behalf of the profession. You are correct, much more needs to be done by associations and all practitioners- the 90% who are not affiliated with any PR body- so that this profession is taken more seriously.

  3. Daniel Tisch

    Neville, thanks for raising awareness and facilitating dialogue around the Melbourne Mandate, Stockholm Accords and Barcelona Principles, three of the major global consensus documents in our profession in recent years.

    Jean has outlined the process we used for Melbourne, which is critical because that’s what gave the product legitimacy. Legitimacy doesn’t just come from having people in 30 countries involved; it also flows from having both the practitioner and academic communities at our virtual ‘table’ and then present in the room in Melbourne.

    Where I agree with you is that these documents need to be made relevant to the day-to-day work of public relations professionals — a subject I tried to address in a blog post on the GA site after Melbourne: http://www.globalalliancepr.org/website/news/world-public-relations-forum-melbourne%E2%80%99s-mandate-pr

    This quest for relevance led us to include not just high-minded statements of principle, but also introduced practical tools (e.g., the ‘Integrity Index’) that professionals can use every day. Some of these tools were included in the original Melbourne Mandate; others will be developed as follow-up work by the Global Alliance and its partners.

    We are also generating awareness and dialogue by working in partnership with Global Alliance member organizations (the world’s national and international PR/communication management associations). So far this year, my colleagues and I have held seminars or webinars in Canada, the U.K. and Australia, and we have pending presentations in the U.S., Spain, Colombia, Finland, South Africa and other places. With hope we can continue the momentum.

    Thanks again for addressing this topic on your blog.

    Daniel Tisch, Chair, Global Alliance

  4. Craig McGill

    There’s still too much wishy-washyness around these phrases. Equally, there needs to be more enforcement around people having metrics for clients. If the industry can’t agree – and enforce – the metrics then we’ll be spinning around in circles for decades to come.

  5. Kelly Pereira

    One of the things you mentioned is actually related to one of the topics in The Melbourne Mandate: the responsibility of the PR professional towards the profession. In my understanding, this means that as a professional, we all should be involved in these discussions, putting our effort into moving the profession forward, but unfortunately, a lot of the times this doesn’t happen. I acknowledge that these are important developments for the PR discipline but I think that what might be missing is more practical information and tools for us to develop our work and prove our value. I very much appreciate the idea of using the same system as, for example, lawyers: they need 25 hours of CPD every year in order to continuously practice the profession. Why should a PR professional or any other professional be any different?

    • Cornelius Alexander

      Hi Kerry,

      Great post.

      Two points I’d like to respond to.
      There is a need for greater engagement. I feel that PR practitioners are split between two groups; those who have the time to play a part in improving the industry and those who are unable to find the time to get involved. My concern is that a small active minority is shaping the industry and plotting its future.

      It’s important that everyone is engaged in this conversation as the industry is missing out on a great deal of practical experience and the issue is to attract those who see themselves as too busy to take part because any change that does not have the buy-in of the majority will quickly stumble and fail

      For the PR to become a profession it needs the support of the majority.

      Re CPD: There is a developing discussion within the CIPR regarding CPD itself. How to make the 60 hours of CPD a CIPR member has to undertake challenging, more meaningful and related to real professional progression. Not just reading a book but what practical benefits did the person get from the book and how was he/she able to use it in their everyday work? Not just being part of a committee but what came out of ctte work which is to the benefit of other PR professionals? Basically CPD should help you improve and by extension should help the profession improve as a whole. CPD should support each practitioner and not just be a tool for recording hours on a webinar.

      • kellypereira

        Hi Cornelius,
        Many thanks for the reply!
        I do agree with everything that you’ve said. I already new about the intention within CIPR and I think that will really make a difference but, yes, it has to be structured and beneficial. I guess it is not easy to get a consensus within the professional body but again is part of being a professional to have time to grow.
        Again, establishing something as CPD would probably involve more professionals in the discussions and bring in more practical knowledge as you said.

        • Cornelius Alexander

          Thank you and I should apologise for calling you Kerry not Kelly!!!

          CIPR’s CPD has been running for approx ten years now so anything which improves it and makes it more meaningful is always welcome.

  6. Neville Hobson

    Thanks, everyone, for commenting to this post. I appreciate the time you have taken to do that. I’ll be discussing the overall topic and some of the comments in the next episode 701 of The Hobson and Holtz Report podcast that I co host, to be published on April 29.

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