The Stockholm Accords – Now What?

The great, the good, the high in the brow and long in the chin have been gathering in Sweden at the World Public Relations Forum where they have  produced a “call to action” for  what they call Public Relations Professionals.

 It is a rallying call for the global PR community to commit to work to some code of practice.  The aim is to “administer its principles on a sustained basis and to affirm them throughout the profession, as well as to management and other relevant stakeholder groups”.

In short, those who have gathered have created a model suggesting that if we coordinate all communication, then we have a sound basis for management, the basis for communicating internally, which gives us the basis for communicating externally which then provides the basis for governance and social responsibility. They also suggest that by doing all of these things correctly, we will achieve organizational sustainability. In short, public relations, through holistic stakeholder management, can ensure that organizations adapt and endure, largely through listening and responding.

Interestingly, the Accords give prominence to internal communication and communication from the inside out and outside in. Surprisingly perhaps, 2 of the 6 Accords are about Internal Communication.

Now I’ve been a longstanding critic of what I have referred to as a plague of short termism within organizations. This recent organization culture phenomenon has, in my view, adversely affected organizations by creating a boom and bust approach to management introduced under the sheep’s clothing of “creating a performance culture”. In my view, short termism is not only suspect in performance terms but undermines relationship management; open and authentic communication and threatens sustainability. I believe the recent financial services crash is a case in point. (Buckingham; Ten Step Recovery plan for Financial Services Brands).

I ‘m likely to support anything which has the vision of sustainability at its core and the song of authenticity in its heart. I applaud any initiative that looks to bring the communication and engagement disciplines closer together to reverse the negative perceptions associating PR with the 90s phenomenon of spin and lack of authenticity. I’m likely to celebrate anything that raises the profile of the power of joined up communication in the interests of developing organizations fit for the medium- to- long- term purpose; it surely must be a good thing.

But from an employee engagement perspective, I’m less than comfortable with the PR industry attempting to define the core tenets of internal communication as if they have just invented the notion. It troubles me that there is also little recognition of the difference between internal and external stakeholders or the need to forge close links between channel management; organization development; behaviour change and culture development.

While the intentions, based on joined up thinking and sustainability, are laudible, the process of generating the Accords has a distinctly high brow and somewhat dusty feel. That’s surprising for something coming from the Scandinavians – begetters of radical social sciences, unisex saunas and Bjork.

The Definitions stemming from the Accords are a deal more professorial than punk. And I have to wonder about the relevance of the Accords to the “here we are now, entertain us” generations of internal customers and employees demanding authentic, engaging communication in tune with the fast paced rhythms and challenges of our age.

But I’m keen to maintain an open mind. Rather than marginalize or even ignore what’s coming out of Stockholm, shouldn’t we be drawing together to develop a multi-disciplinary version? Rather than simply modifying a PR model, I suggest we should cast our arms wider, take in HR; Marketing and key decision makers and embrace the engagement disciplines, potentially placing brand development; organization development; authenticity; culture management  and sustainability at the core of the debate.

So here’s to the Accords.

Now what?


  1. Interesting perspective Ian.
    When you look closely at what’s being suggested here, it’s a constructive start to a longer term debate to get some codes of practice in place for a profession that has been criticised for a lack of transparency. That’s got to be agood thing.
    There were no ‘high-browed chinnies’ that claim to have defined or invented IC – more a group of enthusiatic amateurs that have created a starter for ten. Three cheers to them.
    Cheer #1. You have got to applaud their efforts, especially as they have also reached out to the global community for thought leaders in each of the disciplines to come forward with alternate wording.
    Cheer #2. Internal comms at the PR top table. A small massive development that has for too long been dominated by media relations.
    Cheer #3. The recognition of integration between internal/external comms. The boundaries are blurring, the world is converging. At long last an acknowlegement from the PR industry that the integrity of corporate communications relies on an integrated approach.
    Now what? There is a massive opportunity for the ‘high-browed chinnies’ on the CIPR Advisory Group on Employee Communications and Engagement to lead the charge and contribute to the discussion on a better definition for our heartland. I think your suggestion of an more integrated approach would be a good basis for us to build. All contributions welcome,

    • The more I think about this, my initial pleasure has turned to disappointed that internal communications features separately in two of the six Stockholm Accords. It flies in the face of CIPR Inside’s ‘integrationist’ approach, especially when you look at the other four:

      Governance – empower leadership, manage risk, define values and principles, apply social networking, maintain licence to operate, create an internal listening culture.

      Management – effective decision making, sensitive to the legitimate concerns of stakeholders, listening before making strategic and operational decisions, two-way communication, communicate the value of products/services, issues management.

      Sustainability – triple bottom line, engage key stakeholders in sustainability, promote integrated reporting.

      External Communication – improve their relationships with increasingly influential stakeholders, develop skills to continually nurture stakeholder relations, bring the organization’s “voice” to decisions, assist all functions in delivering effective communication, strengthen brand loyalty.

      The irony in the list of accountabilities listed in these four Accords is that they are closer to employee communications and engagement than those listed in the two Accords that include internal communications in the title. For those that think PR pros are wrong to claim ownership of IC codes of practice I’m thinking the real brass neck would be claiming ownership (which I don’t think they are) of the other four.

      If I could be equally bold, my Seven ‘StAlbans’ (STrainor) Accords would be:

      1. Leadership
        Vision & values

    • illustrating the importance of stakeholders engagement (internal and external) and therefore the value of communications, brand, HR and management across all 7.

  • Kevin Thomson says:

    The Stockholm Accords. What next Ian asks? And I’d like to ask, what now, with Sean’s ‘massive opportunity’? Here we have six accords, the value of which lies not just in the accords themsleves, but (three cheers too) with the aims of giving recognition to our subject on a global scale; looking to raise the professionalism of PR and Communication (from a trade); putting ‘inside and out’ in the same place at the same level.

    We can argue the content; and I propose not to do that here, simply to add to it; but what about the significant value of this accord, in it’s own right.

    My view is that Sean is right. Lead the charge. Who? Ian says make it multi-disciplinary. It does beg the question where is marketing, HR and engagment in all this? Yet, whether we like it or not everyone else is already (as Ian says) ‘placing brand development; organization development; authenticity; culture management and sustainability at the core of the debate’. Do we stand alone, as the accord implies, and simply communicate? Can we collaborate with other disciplines? Of which, more later.

    Yet, starting with PR and communication, for us in this profession, this is a global solution from a global body, with a really cool name (brand) in the title ‘Stockholm’. This gives it/us real credibility. The spirit is there. We can chew on the content at our leisure, as we now have the accords. A big thank you to them all, led by Toni. ‘Good job’ as they say. No, great job.

    With these six accords embedded in any project or proposal as the foundation for integrated communication management, they add weight and credibility to a subject which becomes more of a trade and not a profession each passing day; as more and more tools and channels are added for everyone and anyone to use – inside and out.

    The ‘Stockholm Accord’ gives a stamp of authority to what is behind every piece of communication. Let’s use it, now, as is. For those outside the profession this is our 1SO 9000 for a ‘total quality’ look at what we do. And it becomes the ISO 14000 with all the inherent environmental issues covered.

    Speaking of which, when it comes to standards, there is one subject that I believe is sorely missing. There is a power in a seventh accord – collaboration. This whole global multi-associations, multi-talented Stockholm project revolved around it. It’s right there, on the front cover, without which it would not have happened; collaboration. I quote “These accords are a collaboration between public relations and communication management leaders on every continent.”

    Collaborative communication and technology is here for keeps. Collaborative working is here for keeps. Call it social and enterprise networking or just ‘social business’ it is the ‘now’ communication; but no mention is made of it in the main accords. This is the side-to-side communication in empowered organisations, and not just ‘two way’ as stated in the accords. Collaboration goes way beyond the oft mentioned ‘listening’.

    Is collaboration not the communication on which rests the future within organisations, between partnerships, with suppliers, across the value chain, within communities and countries?

    In the UK we have a new collaborative NHS for 2011, and our own collaborative government pushing for ‘Big Society’. This is a topic that needs its own protocols and accord.

    The great thing about adding collaboration to the Stockholm Accords is the groundwork has been done, with two new global standards; ‘BS11000 Building Collaborative Relationships’ and the Cisco chaired global ‘Collaboration Consortium Framework’. A framework for communication across silos and boundaries.

    And so to the real power of seven accords – with the extra accord of collaboration added to the six. I propose that what’s next is exactly what Sean says; lead the charge, as a profession, and add too, the big players in it. Seven accords become the foundation of a new way of thinking, acting and leading in our industry. What more do we need? We now have the Stockholm Accords, a new BSI Standard, and a new global framework for internal partnering and networking.

    Ian leads off his comments on the Stockholm Accords with “It is a rallying call for the global PR community to commit to work to some code of practice.” All we need to do now is rally. Who’s first up?

  • As I said, I applaud the effort and the motivation.
    I’m not sure I agree that “the integrity of corporate communications relies on an integrated approach”. I believe the integrity of CC depends upon trust, authenticity and the use of appropriate approaches for differing stakeholders – especially when it comes to the internal audience.
    I believe, like you, that we should get our heads together and draft a single page response suggesting, as I said, that the Accords embrace all of the engagement disciplines and possibly setting out some key principles based on our UK experiences across sectors.

    I feel a values based manifesto coming on…………….

    • Ian
      Let me put it another way – can the integrity of CC exist where there is no integration?
      I’m not sure you would get authenticity and trust. I’m not sure you’d close the gap between say and do. I’m pretty sure you’d deal with stakeholders in isolation (and lose integrity) Worth noting that the boundaries between stakeholder groups are blurry i.e. employees can be (and are) consumers,local politicians, shareholders, suppliers, local communities, trade unionists etc.
      I’ve convinced myself that the integrity of CC relies on an integrated approach, have I convinced you yet? If not, look here..

      • You’re displaying some “brass neck” with that response Mr Trainor. ;-). You know full well that I’m a drum banging integrationist, as are most people who’ve managed a frontline, client side P&L and have experienced the frustrations of silo thinking.

        You’ll recall that only last night , in preparation for the Inside Round Table, I reiterated the following about the Accords:

        – they are only well intentioned words unless they have life breathed into them

        – they need to practice what they preach in the manner they are communicated

        – they must recognise and overcome the limitations of PR as much as the potential

        – they need to recognise that the communication and engagement space (an outcome of premier communication) embraces HR/OD/Mktg as well

        Sounds like an argument for an integrated approach to me given that internal communication/employee engagement variously reports through one of the 4 portals of Corp Comms/HR/OD or Marketing (and sometimes the office of the CEO).

        So I’ll joyfully remain in the avant garde, joining up the agendas in the best interests of Brand Development, despite the fact it may be “ahead of the curve” and is a thankless task at times. If the 1,000 or so voices drifting on the wind from Stockholm are suggesting the same – hoorah!

        But as I say in the post – what next? I’m fully in accord !! wth Sam and Kevin on this and intend to take up the Stockholm challenge, whether it originates from PR or not!

  • Thanks for writing Ian. The Accords would have passed me by if it weren’t for this – and it’s inspired some interesting thought.

    I’ve read this post a few times now and its taken me a while to clarify my thoughts. On first reading I felt quite divided and couldn’t work out why, but I think I’ve sussed it now…

    With my internal comms hat on, I think this is a step in the right direction. Potentially paving the way for more integrated communications (less of that employer brand debate), C-level consideration and a share of healthy budgets.

    But with my employee engagement hat on (and this is my very favourite topper) I feel a bit prickly. It seems common sense that internal comms should go hand in hand with PR, just as it seems internal comms and employee engagment should be the closest of bedfellows. So it will follow that PR and employee engagement should be bracketed together too right? Well that’s what makes me uncomfortable.

    For me, employee engagement is not a discipline that fits purely – or even mostly – with PR. It is a cross function discipline which includes elements of HR, Marketing, Branding, Communications (internal and external) and of course Management. It can be the means to an end, or an end in itself. It is part of everyone’s job and it has more in common with a conversation than a communication.

    Perhaps the issue here is my perception of PR as the last thing. The stardust. The broadcast. Looked at through that lens, it has little in common with employee engagement or the evolution of internal comms and I may well have a warped view…

    So then, this is why I feel slightly ruffled by the news out of Stockholm. Not because the great & the good of the PR world shouldn’t be considering internal comms & employee engagement as part of their world. But because if they aim to own it, they’re missing the point.

  • Sam, I absolutely agree with you that it would be wrong for any single function to claim ownership internal comms or employee engagement and I’m glad to say there are no claims that PR aim to own internal comms or employee engagement cited in the Accords, so maybe you don’t need to get too ruffled.
    I do think your perception of PR is an issue.
    In fairness to the non-stardust, non-broadcast PR professionals who practice highly sophisticated stakeholder engagement strategies, they could probably teach most employee communication and engagement “professionals” a thing or two. There is a lot in common between stakeholder dialogue and employee engagement and there a a large number corporate communications functions have been instrumental to the evolution of internal communications.
    Your issue highlights the first step the siloed functions need to take towards the Utopian world of integration – seek first to undertstand the other functions, build on the common ground, share best practice, drop the prejudice.
    But as you share your prejudice I reflect on mine. I’m struggling to see where marketing fits with employee engagement.

  • What an excellent discussion! Kudos to Ian to kicking it off and to Sean and Kevin for weighing in with some…real weight.

    The best thing that could happen to the Stockholm Accords is to propose some real discord–some controversy–some sense that people care and are willing to fight over this stuff. Otherwise, they’ll sit on the shelf with the nice Arthur Page stuff, while at the same time, we’ll be stuck gimping font sizes on some Powerpoint cascade again.

    In terms of where to take the discussion–this is where it gets interesting. Clearly, as great as CIPR inside is, it’s not the whole shooting match by any means. Bloggers, publishers, and other associations need to share ownership, defend, attach and suggest alternatives.

    I for one am game–who’s with me.


    • I appreciate that I’ve expressed some discomfort that this “call to action ” has originated from PR. But over 1000 international professionals have contributed towards the Accords. This fact alone outweighs any single, factional agenda. It also demands serious consideration.

      With regard to your comments about discord Mike, well we’re in the eye of the “perfect” economic storm. There’s very little certainty anywhere other than uncertainty itself. Debate’s fine, but I question the value of any more debate about the need for integration or any more iterations about the need for the business case for engagement.

      I’m happy enough with the cascade merchants, tactical practitioners and Powerpoint jockeys happily plying their trade. There’s plenty of room for people who are content to push messages and there will always be a need. But as we know, “tactical comms does not engagement make”!

      As I say in the post, my interest is beyond the fine words. I only really care about the implementation now given the scale of the issues we all face. Wherever the invitation originates from, integrated approaches to managing brands through holistic engagement has to be the way forward.

      I take on board your comments about CIPR and the fact that there are alternative voices, portals and platforms out there from sole voices in the darkness through to passionate “movements”. What’s the infamous saying about opinions?

      But even a harsh critic like yourself has to agree, Mike, that this is one place where the balance of the names involved at least reflects the professional disciplines represented in the Accords, and more. Yes, PR is in the title, but so what?

      No one is suggesting this group has all the answers. But at least they’re working on them and, after all, the fun’s in the journey as much as the destination. Of course there’s room for debate and disagreement (oddly this is in short supply in current social media platforms in my view).

      But at some point, the actions we take in the market need to be very different from the approaches taken in the past.

      Agreement to an integrationist approach coming from respected members of the engagement disciplines with genuine roots in the various related disciplines can’t be a bad place to start.

  • As Mike says, interesting posting and great discussion.

    The issue seems to be one that has been the subject of a lot of discussion and debate of late: who “owns” “internal/employee” communications (sorry for all the quotation marks but I think the emphasis is needed), particularly in a world – as Ian points out – that for anything other than short-term solutions there is a clear need for a broader skill set than traditional IC, traditional HR or traditional PR can independently bring to the table.

    I might be getting cynical, so forgive me – but “PR” has been trying to crowbar their way into “internal comms” for a while, generally with mixed results, so I agree with Sean’s “enthusiastic amateur” comment.

    One of the sure signs of professional territorialism (e.g. controlling the agenda) is to try to ring-fence Codes of Conduct, Accreditation etc. IoIC has tried to do it from the opposite direction — claiming a very specialised ownership; IABC has sort of tried and to date failed with the ABC Accreditation. I applaud CIPR Inside – and I know Sean, Ian and I sing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to a more collaborative and cross-functional/cross-discipline perspective if we are to truly move things forward.

    The Holy Grail, I suppose, is this: were we able to get the critical mass of these associations to come together and craft this *together* – only then would we really be on to something valuable and, as Ian suggests, genuinely sustainable.

  • Let’s not forget that the Accords are about putting some professional code of conduct in place for comms professionals. It’s not about PR claiming or aiming to own internal comms, or other worthy disciplines like corporate governance or sustainability. That’s the good news for IC pros – IC has finally been acknowledged as a key discipline. Ok the definitions are weak but discipline experts have been asked to come forward and build on the final draft.

    Also, the drafting of the Accords took many inputs from the comms profession and blogging community, most notably IABC members: Annette Martell from Canada, Paulo Nassar from Brazil, and Sean Williams from the US. Whilst I have no doubt their individual inputs were valid I suspect it became the proverbial camel – a horse created by committee!

    Whilst others have unpicked the words and almost taken offence that any body would dare attempt a definitino of internal comms without consulting the likes of Roger D’Aprix, we took the view on our advisory group that we should blog about it and seek views from a wider network, then we would formulate a considered response. We felt this was always going to be a better than sitting around the table scratching our “high brows and long chins” and wordsmithing.

    CIPR is by no means the ‘whole shooting match’ (and nor do we profess to be) but we can provide some big guns to fire the bullets, all we need is some quality ammo! Keep the bullets coming.

  • Phil Turner says:

    We discussed the IC elements of the Stockholm Accords at the latest meeting of the CIPR Advisory Board on Employee Engagement.

    Here are some of the points I heard in the room…

    — Overwhelming view that this is a positive step by the Global Alliance and we welcome the chance to build on the platform that the Stockholm Accords offer.

    — The IC section isn’t as sophisticated as some of the other sections and – not surprisingly – IC crops up in the other sections also.

    — We welcomed the recognition that “the functional walls are down” between internal and external communications and we should work to bring down those walls that divide us from HR, change, project teams, OD etc (and is IC uniquely placed to do this?)

    — We welcomed the recognition that ‘internal’ demographics have changed, we have an increasing number of indirectly employed colleagues

    — Looking at the wording of the IC section, surely the thrust has to be about IC supporting the business / organisation’s goals. Those goals may well be “recruitment, retention, development of common interests…” as stated in the Accords, but equally they may not. So is this definition too specific? It has to come back to how IC can drive business performance and facilitate change.

    — Where is employee engagement? While accepting that is sits across many functions, there surely needs to be some reference to IC’s critical role.

    — “Publics”. Can’t we say colleagues, employees, comrades! What’s the right term?

    Btw this online discussion is helping CIPR to craft a considered response to the Global Alliance and the Stockholm Accords, so, please, keep it coming….

  • Amen. God how I hate the word “Publics”. I sounds like a term a 19th Century snake oil salesman would use.

    • “Publics”

      To quote Accords contributor Sue Wolstenholme, “For my part, I have issues with the use of the word stakeholders and would always prefer to see publics used, which is unique to our profession and expresses much about the core of what we do in building relationships. I expressed that view more than once during the discussions and failed to persuade”


  • When I first saw the Stockholm Accords, my initial reaction was delight that internal communication features so prominently. Internal communication has often been the poor second cousin to media relations within public relations forums. So at last, I thought, learned colleagues had wised up to the value of effective internal communication.

    On second reading, there were some points that really stood out. For example, the recognition of the growing diversification of employee groupings, though some internal categories, such as “suppliers”, are a little puzzling. I’m not a fan of the academic term “publics”, especially in relation to employees, so that bugged me. But this is not the place to go into the minutiae of the wording. It’s the principle that is important. And that is about establishing internal communication more highly on the agenda of successful organisational communication that leads to better organisational sustainability. If the Accords are a starting point that succeeds in securing a far stronger global appreciation of internal communication, then that is indeed a great result. We can, and should, fine tune the tone and language but let’s not lose sight of the new thinking.

    What next? The Accords should be a catalyst for more open debate between communicators with different perspectives. I suspect that when people holding different views do, one day, come together there could be a new “accord” that will lead to new innovations. I would love to see a symposium where communication academics and practitioners from different institutes and organisations meet with marketing, operational and HR colleagues and have an open dialogue. This would not just be an academic discussion. The potential outcome is much higher levels of employee engagement and that is beneficial for employees and for organisational sustainability. Some people may think I’m a dreamer on this, but I hope I’m not the only one!

    • Indeed, Kevin – you’re not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. etc.

      And thanks to you for pointing the Accords out to us over 4 weeks ago, the discussion is building some momentum.

      P.S thanks also for highlghting the groundbreaking research programme published by IABC

    • The re-naming of stakeholders whether internal or external is an irritating red herring in my view Kevin. As I’ve said, like you, it’s great to see the internal market getting so much high profile airtime.

      When I facilitated the bridging of SDL into Interbrand to form Interbrand Inside several years back, it was on the back of the belief that the business case for managing organisation reputation from the inside out was fast becoming apparent. Surely that’s what the Accords are primarily about (but in many more words).

      I can’t say I relish the thought of a symposium or the heavy touch of academia as this is less about “why” and should be more about “how”. The global meltdown of financial markets and consequent damage is enough motivation for anyone’s lifetime. External and internal change agents alike need to acknowledge the lessons, free up budgets by re-evaluating what is “discretionary” vs “essential spend” and get on with the integrationist agenda.

      I very much want to see the promotion of what, in Brand Engagement, I call the brand triumvirate – the heads of the external promise making communities(Mktg), internal promise delivering communities(usually HR inc IC) and CEO’s office drawing together to manage reputation holistically.

      If the Accords and debates like this can increase the pace of integrated communication, as I very much hope they can, all the better.

      • I agree on not getting distracted on what you call stakeholders Ian. but you’ve got to admit that “publics” is very distracting and emotive term. Asking us not to talk about it is a bit like me asking you to “shut your eyes and whatever you do don’t think of Unicorns” I’m damn sure a picture of a Unicorn is he first thing that comes into your head…anyway, I won’t get distracted.

        I’m not sure you can get into the “how” at this level,
        These are more about business principles which, I would argue, is more about the ‘what’.

        If you try and define the ‘how’ you will fall into the trap of commissioning groundbeaking research like this that concludes the top four “practices to sustain an engaging work culture” are (in order)
        (1) publish a formal list of values or description of the desired culture
        (2) conduct exit interviews with managers that leave the business
        (3) regularly survey workforce on engagement and work satisfaction
        (4) include material on the organization’s culture in new hire orientation

        Now that is even more distracting than publics. To use the immortal words of Oor Wulliehelp ma boab

        Having said that, if we commissioned research with a mix of commercial or academic partners across multiple disciplines and not just an HR communications consultancy who’s core service is HR surveys and campaign collaterol, we might get different results.

      • I don’t think we should get bogged down in the stakeholder vs publics debate here, and I apologise for mentioning it now.

        I also wouldn’t relish a heavy touch academic involvement either, if that means that it is dogmatic and too divorced from practice.

        I’m trying to become an academic, however I hope that the work I’m involved in (which is about more up to date measurement of internal communication) will be a breath of fresh air for practitioners. As the IABC research shows, it’s certainly time for some new thinking.

        The reason why I believe in some academic rigour in all of this is that, ultimately, it is part of the professionalisation of what we do and that is really important.

  • wow! this is a truly inspiring and exciting discussion.
    My only hope is not only that it may continue to explore the many things the editors have overlooked and the totally unvoluntary ‘proprietary’ innuendos which apparently have been perceived by some discussants.
    Also, I hope that other areas covered by the Accords may be discussed with the same competency and vigor.
    I also take this opportunity to inform you that in a week’s time all potential actors from the entire global public relations and communication management community will be invited to join the Accords digital Hub at the url
    Very much looking forward to meeting you there soon and I am sure that many, many other professionals, scholars, educators and students will benefit from this excellent exchange. Cheers!

  • Bringing unicorns into the debate is an inspired way of proving the point about a communication standard practising what it preaches (one of the points I made originally). Whether inadvertent or not, a sprinkling of mythology and storytelling has brought a dusty debate about terminology to life just like the use of the delete button when faced with a phrase like “critical point of inflection” can work wonders.

    We always seem to default to “non sensory” language, especially when writing by committee. It’s dull and difficult to follow.

    Back to the “publics” point and the coining of terminology. Personally I find it fascinating to hear the coining and seemingly widespread usage of a term we’re less familar or comfortable with in what is fast becoming the Microsoft school of English.

    If the term has negative or no resonance here, I can envisage a situation where we can raise objections and counter arguments from the perspective of our audiences.

    But if a set of Accords, stemming from Scandinavia, built cross culturally suggests that “publics” is becoming or is already an accepted way of describing stakeholders elsewhere, well who am I to argue with the volume of voices? I’ll certainly accept the principle behind the term….I just won’t use it. I take a similar approach to my laptop trying to dictate when and where I’ll use Zs instead of Ss.

    I take your point about this not being the forum for starting to shape the “how” in terms of how the Accords are utlised. Please keep going as involvement is key to engagement which is key to bringing this to life.
    I’m certainly not trying to dissuade folk from continuing to shape the “what” just reflecting a sense of impatience and reinforcing the need for implementation.

  • My, see what happens when you take a few days off?

    First of all, Ian, excellent post and thinking here. Awesome comments, too.

    One hazard of attempting to formulate standards and guidelines is that there will be dissatisfaction — whether word choice or something deeper. For example, our learned CommScrum friends (Sean, Mike, Kevin K) have debated massively the employee engagement universe. Is employee engagement the purpose of internal communication? Yes, but there are others. Here’s the section, with a few comments:

    Seek constant feedback for a mutual understanding of

    * How front-line people comprehend, accept and achieve the organization’s strategy.
    {This is the educational aspect, addressing the belief that understanding is essential to commitment}

    * How – and how well — organizational leaders collaborate and communicate with stakeholders.
    {The managerial communication aspect, providing context for strategy, and providing a means to enhance the educational aspect.}

    * How knowledge and policy are being shared. {A tactical aspect reflecting our expert status on methods of communication, knowledge transfer}

    * How processes and structures are identified, developed and enhanced {We could have been clearer as to which processes and structures we’re taking responsibility for…}

    and, most importantly,

    * How the organization’s reputation depends largely on the actions taken by internal stakeholders.
    {The many inputs to reputation might account for why some think PR shouldn’t “own” it — certainly brand success depends on reputation, and product/service leadership is a management and brand characteristic. But the touchpoints that employees represent are the most powerful in the brand arsenal, no? The customer experience is affected more by employees than media, management or marketing. If the employees aren’t knowledgeable, competent and service-oriented, it’s a big fail.}

    I make an effort to use “PR” as the overall term, rather than corporate communications or marketing, sort of reclaiming it from its negative connotations. It also has the benefit of being quickly understood, and offering me the chance to correct misinterpretations of our profession. “Communications” often is mistaken for telecommunications, and marketing is a subset of communication activities (all marketing is communication, but not all communication is marketing — except for certain adherents of the IMC philosophy).

    The debate over these matters is very healthy indeed — and totally agree with Ian; writing by committee can crush the life out of prose and endanger clarity and wisdom.

    Best regards,

  • BTW, special thanks to @JGombita for sending this to me.

  • Firstly, am I the only one who had to go and look up what an ‘Accord’ is?

    If an Accord is about reaching agreement then I think it is useful to have some consensus on what internal/employee communication is all about. Sometimes it is the debate in reaching the agreement that has the value rather than the agreement itself.

    I think it could help practitioners who are endeavouring to raise the game in their own organisations and encourage others to join the discipline. If you are trying to argue for a strategic approach to internal comms and struggling then it can perhaps help to know that there is global agreement on what your discipline is, so it isnt just you saying it. It also helps to differentiate what you do from what others do.

    I wonder if any other professions feel the need for an Accord?

    In terms of next steps – firstly, does the internal communication community agree with the Accords? There hasnt been much engagement during the development to date, so I would like to see more of that – and that happening within the internal communication practitioner community. This forum is a great start. Then, it needs to be shared so that pracitioners can start to use it.

    • Anne
      Worth noting that at least 10% of the 59 senior professionals cited as contributors are internal communicators.

    • Hello Ann

      Thanks for your comments.

      Of course the aim of this blog is to encourage the debate you mention, to engage with people and to source ideas about ways to share the outcomes with practitioners.

      I, for one, believe that internal communication, which you reference, is at a crossroads given the rise in supply of practitioners in the last decade and particularly the sudden increase in locum roles post economic downturn.

      I’m not convinced that the profession is much more “professional” than it was a decade ago, however, and am yet to be convinced that internal comms yet has the crtical mass needed to carry the influence required within the C suite.

      This is a rare platform for the integrationist agenda. I’m interested to hear how you feel what is in effect, a wordy document, should have wider and more engaging application within the internal comms environment in particular.

  • It is difficult to take a set of Accords seriously which position PRs as “ideological governors of value networks”. Promoting ideologies and encouraging openness are at odds with each other. The authoritarian undertones of the Accords reveals a tendency toward positioning PRs as bossy propagandists. The fact is that most commentators supporting the Accords have failed to read the small print or to assess the Accords’ real spirit. I urge PRs to take a close look at the Stockholm Accords and then to dump them because they could harm our profession’s reputation – big time.

    • I’m interested in why you claim that “promoting ideologies and encouraging openness” are, as you say “at odds with each other” Paul.

      Surely if the values underpinning the ideologies are about authenticity, inclusiveness, transparency and joined up thinking” , as they appear to be here, they surely will encourage openness.

      What makes you think the Accords are just for what you term “PR”s?

      Also be interested in why you believe they can harm what you call “your” profession’s thinking……

  • Ian, Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s only truly (or most) ideological prime minister – openness was not her thing. Ideologists have predetermined views. Propagandists are into ideologies and into governing media process and into governing people’s behaviour, and that’s what the Stockholm Accords are all about (just read the glossary and background explanations).

    Our profession has never been very good at managing its own image. If internal or external communicators were to develop a reputation for being in the “ideological governing” business, open conversation would stop once we joined in any discussion. Moreover, the sinister implications of positioning PRs as “ideological governors of value networks” is likely to meet stiff opposition and provoke ridicule once people are made aware of the thinking behind our profession’s supposed role and intentions on behalf of our paymasters.

    Good PR is not propaganda. The Accords are on the one hand touchy feely and wanting to promote openness, listening and responsiveness, and on the other about positioning us PRs as ideological governors of the media (read also governing people’s thoughts and behaviour). The two sides are not reconcilable.

    Words and their meaning matter. Words have a history – and the notion of PRs governing – or helping others to govern – value networks ideologically, is not, I believe, the authoritarian illiberal reputation that our profession should seek.

    There are even more good reasons for PR professionals to reject the Stockholm Accords, and I’ve explore those on my online review, 21st Century PR issues.

  • Interesting perspectives Paul but no need to drag Thatcher “the milk snatcher” into this. I’m no stranger to a dabble in politics and I have to say, your opening is just wrong.

    I’ve always understood an ideology to be the expression of an ideal state – a vision of being – an expression of goals and aspirations that suggest a way of behaving (or something like that). Isn’t that supposed to be why politicians join parties – because of their ideology? Sure, some may be better at expressing their ideologies than others, but I think it’s fair to say that, whatever your political leaning, Blair had a very clear ideology (New Labour etc) as has Obama for that matter.

    I agree that the PR profession has an image issue – the irony is amusing though! So what’s wrong with a group of people from within the industry, at its borders and stretching its borders, recognising this fact…..and trying to do something about it?

    I’m pleased you feel that words matter. They most certainly do. I wouldn’t waste my time writing books otherwise. But if you accept at least part of my definition of what an ideology is – it’s hard to argue with the notion of people from the industry trying to helpfully address the image issue through words.

    I see nothing damaging or “dumpable”here. I see lots of room for improvement and a compelling need for action.
    But most of all I see nothing sinister here. In fact I wish the notion of ideology or even idealism was even more widespread given the tough times businesses find themselves in.

  • Tim, the true dictionary definition of the word “propaganda” is “to propagate ideas” pure and simple. But we all know it is associated with everything most PRs are opposed to. Take another example. Regardless of the dictionary definition, no US politician who wants to run for the top office wants to be labeled a “liberal”. After the harm the word did to Michael Stanley Dukakis, the Democrats abandoned this otherwise completely healthy word (one they love and otherwise define themselves by) almost completely.

    For PRs, the word “ideology” has massive drawbacks in the public domain. If PRs become known as ideologically-driven people (mere propagandists) out to dominate (govern) value networks and control people’s “behaviour”, then we are going to lose trust among the very people we seeks to influence.

    Once opponents of PR, or our employers, get their heads around the true meaning and implications of the Stockholm Accords, our profession will be ridiculed in the media and in public debate (that is if we back the Accords as an industry).

    BTW: politics is not our business. But even politics today is less ideological than ever before: welcome to the new politics.

  • Firstly, Pete, I mean Paul, I’m Ian and not Tim! Pedantic I know, but those little points tend to count when you work in the communications industry as it unfortunately impacts your core argument if you don’t pay your audience the compliment of identifying them correctly.

    Second point, this forum isn’t exclusively for “PR”s and the Accords are banging an integrationist drum (audience again!).

    Thirdly, were I a “PR” I’m not sure I would be feeling the love or loving the absence of empathy in your didactic approach to the subject. Sure, express an opinion, but are you really representative of the target stakeholder groups to such an extent that you can dictate whether politics is or isn’t “our” business or, indeed, attempt to define the nature of modern politics for the rest of us given you’ve not made anything like a compelling case about ideology based on the challenge to your initial posting.

    All I’m hearing is pessimistic, negative ranting tinged with some groundless assertions and paranoia thrown from a supposed PR high ground which sank into the mire of insincerity with Campbell and Lord Mandy and is desperately crying out for a renaissance.

    My advice would be to embrace the spirit of the Accords, take from them what resonated with you and respect the energy and effort enough to criticise them constructively if, indeed, you do have valid improvement suggestions.

    But hey, what do I know, I’m not a PR professional!

    PS – thanks for defining propoganda for me – but I don’t recall asking you the question!

  • Ian, please accept my apologies for getting your name wrong.

  • I’m not offended Paul, I respect the passion behind your postings. It’s rare to hear a dissenting voice online.

    This isn’t the press box for The Accords, however. It’s an open debate. So don’t let that stop you speaking your mind.

    Personally I’m just keen to get to the root of your heartfelt opposition to the very notion of an Accord for this profession and why you find this attempt by members of the communications professions to take a collective initiative so objectionable.

  • @Tim,Ian,Paul,Pete
    I’d like to bring this conversation back to the key thread.

    More here

    P.S. If anyone is interested in Paul’s rant there’s more of the same on his blog under his post “Stockholm Accords are useless for PR’s future” I think Toni’s rebuttals are clear.

  • Hi
    I’m making these comments with some trepidation as I know next to nothing about PR. I’m chancing my arm because there have been frequent references to employee engagement, a subject of which I am a student. I come to this as a former hands-on entrepreneur, and an organisational behaviour specialist.
    I’d like to share my perception that employees are not stakeholders, or a ‘public’ to whom an organisation needs to broadcast messages. They are the engine of the organisation. It is they who make things happen. Employees are all who work for the organisation, directors, managers included. It seems to me that engagement is about personal relationships between people at all hierarchical levels. It goes way beyond ‘communication’. Shared purpose might be better words for it.
    I’d also like to share my belief that the basic building blocks of engagement are that all interactions between people in the organisation should be based on respect, openness, trust, and autonomy, what I call the ROTA principle.

    • Thank you for your input Peter. Anyone who introduces themself as a “student of engagement” has got to be worth listening to. The reality is we all are! Noone can deny employees impact the organisations they operate in and therefore are far more than an “audience” or “public”. If the definition of a stakeholder is anybody with a stake and/or interest in an organisation, I would suggest that employees are not just stakeholders, but the most important stakeholders. I agree with you Peter, effective stakeholder engagement goes way “beyond communications” and is underpinned by the worthy principles you cite.
      Of course, the more sophisticated PROs worked this one out many moons ago. What I find interesting is that the internal communications profession seems to be just catching up – moving from “broadcasting messages” to stakeholder dialogue. Maybe it’s just their turn, and there is more to rota than you first imagined Peter!

  • Kevin Ruck says:

    Employees are definitely a stakeholder group and I would agree with Sean that they are an organisations most important stakeholder group.

    However, I’m not so sure that employee engagement does go way beyond communication, it depends on the definitions of employee engagement and communication.

    Academic research conducted for the CIPD in 2006 concluded that there are three fundamentals for employee engagement:

    1. Opportunities for upward feedback
    2. Being well informed
    3. Thinking that your manager is committed to the organisation.

    Internal communication is certainly all about ensuring that employees are well informed. In more enlightened organizations it is also responsible for providing opportunities for upward feedback. But upward feedback is, to me, not enough. The feedback has to be actioned or at the very least a response given back to employees. All employees ask is for senior managers to hear what they have to say and then do something or explain why it is not possible to do something. This is “employee voice”.

    Interestingly, the research in 2006 also showed that:

    – 49 per cent of employees feel fairly well informed about important organisational issues
    – 29 per cent said they received only a limited amount of information
    – 13 per cent reported they received not much at all

    So, still scope to get the basics about providing information improved.

  • I suppose you are right about definitions Kevin.
    Whether you argue that communications cuts across every aspect of engagement or not, the reality is it goes beyond the traditonal organisational silo of communications.
    Of course it does work at different levels, and I would strongly argue communications goes beyond “providing information”

  • Kevin Ruck says:

    It’s about “informed employee voice”. There’s no point in having opportunities for upward feedback if you are not well enough informed about what is going on. This combined with managers “walking the talk” and showing genuine commitment will make a signficant impact on employee engagement.

    • “informed employee voice” I like that Kevin.
      “walking the talk” a phrase we are all more familiar with.
      Both expressions imply there is a body of knowledge that sits at the top of an organisation that knows what is going on.
      When we do find those elusive engaged employees, the question I have is “Engaged in what?”
      I would like to think they are engaged in the vision and values of the organisation they work for but I wonder how often the vision and values of an organisation are compelling and authentic enough for this to occur.
      In which case what the hell is going on and what talk are managers walking?

  • May I voice a slightly different perspective?

    ‘Holding a stake’ implies a stakeholder is aware and interested in relating with the organization.
    In this case, not all employees can be seen as stakeholders, and those that are … acknowledge themselves (i.e. wether the organization recognizes them or not..). Just like not all journalists, consumers, shareholders, suppliers are stakeholders per se etc..

    Of course, there are many other subjects out there that do not fit this description, but it is a relevant one from a communication perspective, if not for other reasons because the mode is mostly pull and not (at least initially) push..i.e. communication requires lower investment.

    Then there are many other potential stakeholders (employees who coulnd’t care less, irrelevant suppliers, small and/or non attentive shareholders and journalists who are not aware of you and your objectives, as well as communities and public policy makers where you are planning to do things but haven’t yet begun….).
    However, if they were made aware of the organization’s objectives, they migth/could/would be interested in becoming active. Again, whether you like it or not.
    Here the organization needs to carefully figure out when, were, how and whom to address, and therefore practice a (at least initially) push communicative mode.

    If this first distinction is implemented, then the so/called engagement issue is an essential feature. Any relationship normally goes through various phases: acknowledgement, involvement, engagement, marriage, separation and divorce….

    Now that stakeholders have been acknowledged, the communicative organization (see accords), ensures that all self acknowledged active as well as identified potential stakeholders have direct access, with facilitated and incentivated feedback channels, to the organization’s different narratives relevant for them (not only for the organization) which the organization believes does, might, could produce consequences on them and viceversa.
    And this is the post acknowledgement and involvement stage.

    The engagement stage goes much further and involves the creation of dynamic, two way, real and digital spaces in which the participating subjects converse, dialogue, disagree, negotiate in ad hoc, single or multi stakeholder platforms (top down, bottom up, but also and most importantly left-right-left).
    The architect/communicator, listens, understands, interprets stakeholder expectations before decisions are taken, thus allowing management to improve the quality of its decisions… which is today’s single most important management conundrum.(again the accords).

    In my view, also founded on decades of worst and best practices in various situations and cultures, this view of the communicative organizations promises to bypass semantic and definitory issues and to lead to the heart of organizational as well as societal value creation, which is why we are being paid…
    Is it public relations? Is it communication? Is it employee communication? Is is employee engagement?
    What does it matter?

    • Toni

      I’m not sure I follow your argument here.
      Are you saying some employees are not stakeholders because they may be disenfranchised? If so, does that make them “publics”?

      I’m all for bypassing semantics but I do get concerned when I see some of your definitions e.g.
      Any relationship goes through various phases: acknowledgement, involvement, engagement, marriage, separation and divorce”
      “…improve the quality of its decisions… which is today’s single most important management conundrum
      “…lead to the heart of organizational as well as societal value creation, which is why we are being paid…”
      Or maybe these are just more sweeping, general statements than definitions. Does it matter? Well only in that I don’t agree with any of them.

  • Kevin Ruck says:

    Toni, you are right. Employees are not a single homogenous group of people – treating them as such is what we’ve been doing for far too long and it comes from a mass communication school of thought that’s long past its sell-by date. Having said that, I believe that the vast majority of employees do actually care about their organisation, they just express this in different ways. Some employees who are not given enough information or opportunities to voice their views may appear not to care, but that’s a different thing.

    In terms of stages of communication, I prefer not to think in stages as it suggests informing precedes involvement/employee voice. These are actually equally important and go hand in hand in a continuous spiral. The challenge is for organisations to spend as much time (if not more time) on employee voice as they do on information provision.

    The Accords help will here – if they are shared with organisational leaders and they are persuaded of the benefits of this thinking. This is where the connection to employee engagement comes in, as leaders are now switching on to the link between engagement and organisational performance.

  • Kevin, very good point you make.
    The stages I mention are not suggested operational sequences, they are instead different and situational conceptual modes, that however have significant bottom line consequences…
    Thank you for pointing this out…

  • Sean,
    If an employee is aware of holding a stake and has an interest in impacting the organization he works for, then we have an active stakeholder and apply a pull communicative mode as we listen, understand and interpret his expectation in order to improve the quality of our own decisions/actions, whether communicative or not. In a normal organization not all employees are that aware and interested.
    Therefore the organization, if we feel the need to involve such an employee (in this case, a potential stakeholder), we reach out and adopt a push mode in order to attract his/her attention and interest.

    the various stages of a relationship imply that once you have acknowledged an active stakeholder, or attracted the attention of a potential one, we try to involve him/her by giving him/her facilitated access to information so that we may proceed (if we think it is worthwhile of course, on a cost/benefit analysis) to engage that stakeholder.
    If the engagement process does not work, then we might decide to keep him/her involved (rather than lose him/her and induce either separation or even divorce).
    If,instead, the engagement process works, then we dialogue and negotiate so that our decisions also take into consideration his/her expectations.

    A winter 2008 HBS poll of more than 2000 ceos, a few months into the recession, indicated that ‘improving the quality of the organization’s decisions’ was believed to be the most relevant management dilemma.
    By listening to stakeholder expectations before taking relevant decisions, management not only improves their quality because they consider stakeholder expectancies, but also accelerates their implementation time because a)those, whose expectancies have been considered, will support that decision, but also because b) those whose expectancies have not been considered will have clearly expressed their needs, so you are aware of what to expect and can plan to deal with them.

    I believe that when we shave in the morning (I am male) we need sometime to look at ourselves in the mirror and wonder if we are being paid to create value for our client/employee or only because our role is ‘nice to have’.

    I hope to have somehow clarified and thank you for asking.

    • Toni,

      One reason why employees don’t care (or are not “active”) is that they are not well informed enough about what is going on or asked for their views on the organisation.

      I’m not convinced that we can apply situational theory to employees in quite the same way that is used for external stakeholder groups, who, it is argued, tend to form around issues or problems. The notion of an “active” employee stakeholder does not really work for me, largely because of the points about why some employees appear not to care that we’ve discussed.

      I think we need a new approach that recognises the different context of internal communication and the very specific needs, concerns and interests of different groups of employees.

  • Thanks for the clarification Toni, especially on the fact we are not exchanging views with a bearded lady 🙂
    So, you points are
    (1) Asserts the view ‘Horses for courses’ depending on level of interest of each stakeholder. I agree with that, but let us not forget level of impact. Arguably, every disinterested employee has a larger level of impact than a disinterested external (potential)stakeholder. Why? because they are more likely and able to destroy your brand. Hence the opinion that employees are the most important stakeholders (potential or otherwise) I would also argue that the ‘horse for this discourse’ is less about pushing the message (deaf ears and all that) and more about listening. Why would someone who draws a salary from an organisation (that they must have been at least a wee bit interested to join in the first place) not care? You need to find out why – not push more comms down their throat.
    (2) Defines the role of communicators as “facilitators of access to information” and “decision makers on who to engage with”. Probably applies to some communist state but doesnt reflect the reality of a “communicative orgnaisation” (Accords)
    (3) I agree on the importance of decison-making in organisations, especially when it comes to decision making on who to engage with. Glad you reiterate my point on listening first.
    (4) Not many could (or should) dispute that creating organisation value is why they get paid Toni, but how many PRs can claim they get paid to create societal value?

  • sean,
    as employees become more and more an organization’s public relations tool
    -I do not approve, by the way, of this growing trend and fear that this is the underlying reason why internal relations increasingly report to communication.. but this is yet another issue-
    it is not easy to find good reasons to separate the two, as you suggest.
    At least not any easier than separating journalists from investors, or suppliers from public policy makers.
    Of course these are all vastly different stakeholders, with specific needs and expectations…. but an organization needs to apply at the same time a holistic stakeholder governance model (generic principles) as well as specific adaptations to your stakeholder group (specific applications).
    The two are totally interdependent and one is not superior to the others.

    I agree with what you say, but I would not insist on employees being the most important stakeholders. Sometimes they are and sometimes they are not.
    As Kevin would disagree.., it is situational.

    Societal value is often, not always, created through responsible public, private and social sector organizational actions which are increasingly being driven by public relations professionals.

  • Kevin Thomson says:

    First – Even I am confused. I quote Toni “Kevin,
    I agree with what you say, but I would not insist on employees being the most important stakeholders. Sometimes they are and sometimes they are not.
    As Kevin would disagree.., it is situational.

    Three Kevin’s ‘weighing in’ to quote Mike Klein. Please can we have KMT (me) KR and KK if that works for the other Kevin’s and everyone else!?

    Secondly – From KR “The Accords will help here – if they are shared with organisational leaders and they are persuaded of the benefits of this thinking. This is where the connection to employee engagement comes in, as leaders are now switching on to the link between engagement and organisational performance.”

    My first lesson in communication was answer these questions – Did they like it? Did it work? For us as a profession the debate is great around the Accords themsleves – do we like them, what would we change etc. For the rest of the world (especially leaders) I think they want to know will this approach work? I agree that like KR says, most leaders have got it intellectually i.e. motivation = performance; or engagement = results; or involvement = better customer service; or collaboration = more with less; or enthusiasm = innovation. The question is does ‘communication’ really deliver these ‘drivers’ or ( do they really just think) it simply gets people to the first rung of ‘understanding’. Do we first need to get the benefits of communication over before we start on integration, or is this the chance to put ‘inside’ and ‘out’ together in a really compelling way, aligned with sustainability, the might of a ‘Global Alliance’ etc.

    Here we have it from Toni ‘a holistic stakeholder governance model (generic principles) as well as specific adaptations to your stakeholder group (specific applications)’.

    It seems to me that the Stockholm Accords will best be targeted at leaders as a ‘total’ package. The intent of the Accords is to integrate, and therfore maximise the opportunity. A great PR, brand and marketing opportunity.

    What next asks Sean? Is it more ‘who’s next?’. Is it inward to the profession (yes a a way to integrate and debate etc), or, more importantly is it outward to the C-Suite?

    This way, leaders could now see that we, the communication profession (and maybe marketing, branding and HR too) absolutely stand behind an integrated approach. The great thing then is that there is then a real ROI case for integrated budgets to help deliver organisational triple bottom line goals i.e. more with less.

    Sum up: great name/brand; The Stockholm Accords. Great opportunity. Who’s next? Has anyone got a PR plan to get this over to the leaders who will most benefit from adopting an integrated appraoch that delivers vision, values and value – through people, inside and out???

    Kevin (KMT)

  • Acoording to Toni, the following blog post captures the essence of the Accords
    well done Mike!

    • ….and thus, an interesting stream of debate concludes with a link to a blog where the content is largely “scraped” from this source! Why this couldn’t be posted here to add to the rich texture and flow, I don’t know!

      Having been away for a week I see lots of passion but the “Now What?” question still hangs heavy in the air!

      It also lends itself to another:

      Q: “Is the current IC and even wider comms community so obsessed with generating content and tactical comunication that they don’t really care about wider strategic issues which are largely beyond their sphere of influence”?

      If the answer to the above is predominantly “yes” – then who are the Accords speaking to?

      If “no” – then where’s the input from the in house practitioners?

  • I scrapeth not, dear Ian.

    While my original thoughts on my blog may appear duplicative, they are in fact original, reflecting the diminished time I spend in blogland these days due to a country move and a temporary lack of reliable connectivity.

    That much being said, I take particular interest in the “Seaman vs. Stockholm” angle here.

    What that angle represents is a debate over whether the “tried and true” definition of “public relations” is that the communicator should serve the employing business and take direction from its traditionally-defined leadership…or whether the communicator is in fact a co-owner, leader and equal in advancing the business and creating its value.

    It’s a legitimate debate, and Paul Seaman deserves much credit in raising the issue and forcing a conscious discussion.

    The reality lives somewhere in the middle. Most practitioners and employers/clients are not ready for the world that is given recognition by the Stockholm Accords. Just as many trans-mediterranean navigators continued their careers after Columbus’ navigation of the Atlantic, so too will many traditionally-minded communicators, “PRs” and clients conduct their affairs with reasonable success.

    But those of us who recognize that we are full partners and co-creators in the value chain–a recognition illuminated and validated by Stockholm–will face a challenge far more exciting and potentially far more value-additive, the journey of integrating communication and intent alongside resource management and financial management into an integrated engine of organizational excellence and growth.

    In essence, the journey is one that goes from rooting for your team to be in the Champions League to actually being on the pitch, connecting on key passes as the goal tally mounts.

    Mike Klein
    Copenhagen, not far from Stockholm

    • Welcome back…it was worth waiting for your reply Mikey boy, if only for that penultimate paragraph……..a “value-additive” journey and “integrated engine”…
      I can see you miss those days in political speech writing!

      I think I hear what you’re saying about being “partners and co-creators” and imagine you’re experiencing this at the sharp end on the locum trail right now. I just hope the experience of playing the game doesn’t involve you being forced into the part of the ball rather than the striker more often than not as I know it can be tough out there as a flag flyer for professional internal comms!

      But you haven’t answered my “so what next” question yet!

  • Kevin Thomson says:

    It’s Friday night and up comes a post a new post. Thanks Mike for the debate. However. With a glass of wine to hand I could not but help respond. On re-reading, I sincerely hope it makes as much sense to everyone as I think it makes to me!

    Mike wrote (not scrapingly) – ‘What that angle represents is a debate over whether the “tried and true” definition of “public relations” is that the communicator should serve the employing business and take direction from its traditionally-defined leadership…or whether the communicator is in fact a co-owner, leader and equal in advancing the business and creating its value.’

    Forgive my simplistic take on this, but isn’t the ‘communicator’ now everyone? – the customer, the community, the blogger, the Twitter fanatic, the Facebook fan, the employee not as ‘servant’ but as someone just temporarily here in employment, for a while (year or two tops); as pension holder and therefore investor (especially in the US with the 401k). So there is no way that they (individually or collectively) will ‘serve the employing business’ without the respect and authentic behaviours observed, and being deserved. So we now have a society where (at last through technology) the dog wags the tail.

    The Stockholm Accords simply, collaboratively, collectively, intuitively and insightfully put the ‘communicator’ and communication – inside and out as (not first but) ‘equal amongst equals’. The key here is not who ‘owns’ it but is it integrated? If not, watch out those who still want to debate who ‘owns’ it, you’ve lost the argument already.

    In fact my latest take is that the professional is somewhat behind, trying to catch up – and what I call ‘communication exhaustion’ – with all the blogs, micro-blogs, mind boggling news, views and screw you’s, is catching people wondering how to keep up, never mind ‘own’ it.

    And then I ask (from my marketing background) why in all of this debate on communication does it all seem so PR related. Where is the ‘accord’ that brings the people and other communication disciplines together like marketing, branding, advertising and HR too i.e. all those responsible for all those brands like the ’employer’ brand, or is it ’employee’ brand, or employment brand, and the ‘customer’ brand, ‘community’ brand; the business and financial brand?

    Why is it that the marketers, not comms are not included in who ‘owns’ communication when they are just as responsible for what is said, the way it is said and to whom it is said? Why are the Stockholm Accords so PR focussed?

    Is it just because it was (only) the PR/Comms profession at the Stockholm table?

    Why the debate about ‘ownership’ when the real issue is integration. The real lever is to get engagement inside and out, and the real return is from an ROI on all communication and marketing added together, inside, outside and alongside ie. through partners, suppliers, affiliates and of course customers, community etc.

    Hardly a mention of marketing, advertising, promotion etc. Are these not communication?

    The (communication) horse has bolted. No use trying to shut the gate with debates about who owns the horse. The debate is can we jump back on and enjoy the wild ride?

    Kevin Thomson

    Henley on Thames – Once invaded at Danesfield by those from Copenhagen – near Stockholm.

  • Allow me once again to ‘but into’ this discussion with some ‘inside’ information on the process of the Accords, and with a note on the issue of who owns what and why the Accords appear to be so pr oriented…

    The original six themes indeed included one on marketing, as clearly indicated in the process description of the new accords digital hub here

    All participants to the first bout of the two phase synchronous video conference agreed that marketing should have a distinct area.

    It is not a secret that, as most other, the marketing discipline is currently undergoing a major conceptual overhaul and has historically had an incest relationship with pr.

    However, when we broke up in six separate working groups to draft the first collaborative version of the Accords, the text which came back substantially overlapped with the external communication one…and this not so much because the latter integrated most of the arguments coming from the marketing group but exactly the other way around… i.e. the marketing group assumed most of the external (can I use the term corporate?) communication arguments.

    Interesting, no?

    In parallel, the internal and external communication working groups both claimed the need to add yet another area -the alignment of the two- as a separate one.

    And this for an aspirational reason: we all agreed that alignment was the way forward, but we also recognized that it was important to still keep the two separate (organizational reasons prevailing) while nevertheless expressing the need for alignment (which -mind you- does not imply who owns whom..).

    One may also interpret the Accords from the perspective of organizational and societal value of public relations (by ‘interfering’ in sustainability, governance and management issues) and of the operational value of pubic relations (claiming a ground on issues such as internal communication, external communication and alignment of the latter two).

    If one takes this perspective while reading through the accords, it is easy to notice that the core concept of the quality and the effectiveness of any organization’s stakeholder and societal relationships emerges as the basic ‘reason why’ it exists.

    In short, if we had decided to focus only on the operational side of our professional practice, the Accords would have (as the quality of this and other discussions going on elsewhere demonstrates) fully justified the effort.

    Yet, it is -in my own personal view- in the first part of the Accords (the organizational and societal value of stakeholder relationships) where the challenge of abandoning proprietary stereotypes and even lip service ‘homages’ to so-called ‘public relations and communication management professionals’, really emerges.

    This puts major pressure on both organizational board and top management levels to consider the value of stakeholder relationship systems as the principal value of a communicative organization.

    Stakeholder relationships, or relationships with influential publics…call it what you wish… but this is the challenge.

  • What next? asks Ian.
    Passionate practitioners need to build on the Accords and, in doing so, resist the tempation of pulling them apart. Somewhere in this dromedary is the thoroughbred that the committee intended to design, but it’s going to take a bit of work to get over the hump. Maybe the profession needs to start by getting over itself?
    Noone will take the communications profession seriously when it uses expressions like publics, communicative organization, societal value.

    • I think we should recognise the limitations of PR in achieving the aims of the Accords and they should reach beyond the communications profession. The value of stakeholder communications and engagement comes from the relationships that employees build with stakeholders inside and outside the organisation. Just as organizational safety cannot (and should not) be managed by safety professionals, stakeholder relations cannot (and should not) be exclusively managed by communications professionals.
      Communicating the value of a revised set of Accords to a wider community will help clarify the specific role of key functions, including communications, in delivering them. In doing so, the key role of communicators is defined – we should effecitively communicate the (revised) Accords, we should not own them.
      Coming back to the old chestnut of semantics – would you seriously use some of the language in the existing Accords when communicating with your stakeholders (publics)? I hope not.

  • I’m not sure I can get too excited about the semantics Sean. It’s interesting to see how the language is adapted as a result of cross cultural communication. I’m more interested in the principles, common framework, compelling business case; unifying passion and actually taking action.
    It’s just as fascinating to see how different cultures are now treating the outputs from Stockholm. While debates still rage about the words and risks the antipodean comms community have picked up the ball and are running with it with roadshows etc.
    We’re in a climate of global austerity. I know that C suite debates are raging about “doing more for less”, “sweating existing assets” etc. It strikes me that this is yet another catalyst for an integrated approach to reputation management from the inside out and outside in. How this is translated cross culturally will be fascinating.

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