Trust: where words and actions meet

Last month I had the pleasure of attending the World Public Relations Forum in Madrid, which brought together hundreds of communication professionals from around the world.

The theme ‘communication with conscience’ set the tone for the two-day forum, which featured a range of keynote speakers including Anne Gregory, Chair of the Global Alliance of Public relations and Communication Management; Anthony Gooch, Director of Public Affairs and Communications at the OECD; Marisa Toro from Google, and Mariano Rajoy, Prime Minister of Spain.

But what does ‘communication with conscience’ mean for public relations practitioners?

We need to do what we say, and say what we do

The actions of our organisations speak much louder than the words we use to communicate.

There is a myth that public relations practitioners just churn out key messages and communication materials. But we don’t – when we do our job well we are true strategic advisors that question whether our organisation is living up to its own communication.

Our role is to manage relationships not just communications

Websites, publicity, fact sheets, brochures, posters – these are just outputs of the work we do in public relations to help organisations manage their relationships with the people most important to them.

While communication tools remain vital to developing and maintaining relationships, we should seek ways to facilitate feedback and dialogue, rather than one-way communication that seeks to deliver the organisation’s view to their stakeholders.

Forum speaker and Global Alliance of Public Relations Chair Anne Gregory stressed the importance of public relations professionals taking leadership to bring stakeholder’s views to the table. Gregory asserted that managing the “social context” of the decisions our organisations make is part of our job.

Authentic communication is essential to build trust

In Australia there’s no doubt that the public is losing trust in government and big business, and this phenomenon is not restricted to down under. Speakers at the World Public Relations Forum highlighted similar problems in countries across the world.

With this in mind, public relations practitioners have a strong role in helping organisations and their leaders have meaningful and authentic conversations with their audiences and stakeholders.

As the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, told forum attendees: “No modern organisation can afford to neglect its communication.”

We can help our organisations understand how to rebuild this trust – through their actions and their words.

By David Micallef