On day 3 of Spectra, a reputation management-focused online conference, Justin Green, President, Global Alliance, had a message for the industry for the year 2021, and some key insights on how the profession has greater but surmountable challenges as it tries to edge out of the COVID-19 shadow. His address was titled ‘Reflections, Reputation Management and Positivity for 2021’.
Green started by speaking about the role of Global Alliance and how it is a 3,00,000 strong organisation today comprising practitioners and academics across 126 countries. He said, “Global Alliance is a diverse, global and multicultural organisation representing professionals across religions, cultures, societies and races. Recent and welcome changes to our bylaws mean that we are now more inclusive than ever before, working closely together worldwide. As its President, I believe Global Alliance must continue to evolve and be more relevant and progressive. As a member organisation, accountability, transparency and sound corporate governance are vitally important to us.”
Communications and COVID-19
He went on to describe the challenges of dealing with COVID-19 from a communications perspective. He said, “There are very few positives to be taken from such a global public health emergency that has claimed so many lives and turned people’s lives upside down, whether through illness or economic impact. One plus I can talk about is that the crisis has shown us the real heroes in the frontline of our health services, and also the unseen scientists who have worked at tremendous speed to deliver and effective treatments and vaccines.
Green also mentioned how he has been struck repeatedly by how central the industry has been to the response to COVID-19. There has been tremendous communications work done, often at a really fast pace as new information has emerged in keeping people informed on what steps they need to take to stay safe. “While we would all wish for better circumstances to shine in, those working in communications and PR have excelled, leading public information campaigns. The worst of times brought out the best of us, and people rallied to deliver life-saving messages,” he said.
The reputation of the profession
Green also elaborated on the way the industry has used technology during the pandemic, despite the spectre of fake news and misinformation around the world. He elaborated, “It is fortunate that the pandemic came when we have greater access to technology. Critically, an often overlooked aspect is the reputation of our own profession and how we are perceived by our clients, our employers and the wider public that we interact with and influence. That reputation is a consequence of the work that we all do around the world each day.
Further, he said, “Each time that any member of our profession drops below the line and fails to uphold the highest ethical standards, they damage the reputation of the entire profession. People now rightly demand transparency and straight dealing. So any lapses in integrity that come into the public domain will attract huge adverse attention all harm all of us who work in this profession. The reputation of all us collectively also reflects on the societies we operate in. I challenge all leaders to make 2021 the year when we ask ourselves the hard questions: How well do our teams mirror the world around us? Are we diverse and inclusive? Do we provide equal opportunities on the basis of talent, merit and hard work? Do we listen to new voices?”
On how diversity is key to growth
“Diversity and inclusion are not challenges or metrics – they are something to celebrate in our DNA at Global Alliance,” Green said. He added, “The best work is done by teams who are most like the audiences they want to reach. So please think what this means in your world: that the best people can be the best versions of themselves at work. This isn’t about tolerating people from backgrounds different to ours, it’s about seeing that difference as our strength to be respected and built up.
Why the profession must uphold high standards in a ‘fake news’ era
Green minced no words about the scourge of fake news and misinformation that harmed reputations, sometimes irreparably. He said, “Another huge area within reputation management is how we fight misinformation and so-called ‘fake news’, in this age of social media, where everyone is a publisher with the equivalent of a printing press in their pocket in the form of a smartphone. If we consider fake news as another disease that spreads rapidly and harms societies, then I would argue that professional communications upholding high ethical standards are central to the cure. I would ask that we all commit to doing what we can to fight back and take a stand for truth and accuracy.
“It is not only us, our clients and employers who will be worse off if misinformation is allowed to continue its advances unchecked, it is our society that will become polarised.” He added, in closing, “If we partner with reputable media outlets who try and get things right, we can stem the tide.”