Friday, April 23, 2010

Excerpts - Keynote Address 10th Anniversary UWI St Augustine Communications Studies Programme

Special address at the closing ceremony of “Profiles,” the tenth anniversary celebration of the Communication Studies programme of The University of The West Indies (UWI), St Augustine Campus held on April 16. Full text at this link.

Charting the Course for Communications in the Caribbean

Risk of Communication Technology Diluting Effective Communications
In spite of all the highly sophisticated and technologically advanced media of communications which we have at our disposal we have been drawn away from engaging in dialogue, discussion and debate with the primary groups in our society. The emphasis is increasingly becoming one of mass communication and generalisation. How we demassify and demystify information and communication and bring about multi sectoral information exchange in language we can all understand require our immediate attention before it is too late. Too often do we fail to recognize the primary groups which make up the basic fabric of the total society. I speak about the family, the old fashioned neighborhood, the youth groups, the women’s groups, the professional bodies, the religious bodies, the civic groups, Lions, Rotary, the village councils, the business organisations, the playground filled with children, the legitimate community groups and organisations to name a few. We have alienated a large cross section of our people.

Communication Risks of Government – The Trinidad Parliament Hostage Experience
Today, our young people are exposed to a world where the environment has conditioned their normal expectations to levels of fantasy of unparalleled proportions. On the other hand they confront abysmal levels of hopelessness and despair as they gaze at the reality of the less than encouraging options being offered them in their journey through life.

In the 1970s we witnessed a level of resistance which was led by young, educated and brilliant black young men who saw their future gift wrapped in the movement which at that time gripped the world at large. It was Black Power, morning, afternoon and evening. It was intimidating and many young people sacrificed their lives for the cause.In 1990 it was Abu Bakr. Also well structured and cleverly orchestrated. At the end of it all the Political Directorate pointed to one factor which they claimed was responsible for these unfortunate incidents. In one chorus they laid the blame squarely upon their failure to communicate with the people. In his capacity as Acting Prime Minister at the time, Minister Winston Dookeran was reported to have said as follows: “While pointing out that the National Planning Commission had worked on proposals for improved information and communication, Dookeran said, “A completely new regime must be worked out for communication flows to the population."

Karl Hudson Phillips was no less adamant. This is what he had to say: “The coup attempt was “nothing else but a crude terrorist attack on the democratic framework of the country – unlike 1970, it was not a popular movement’ but he felt that communication would be the tool to counter its effects. “The Government has not been successful in communicating to the population what it has done and what it has been doing,” The Government, he continued, had been able to communicate its achievements to the outside world, but it has been unable to do so locally.”

He continued in saying that “The Government had not only remained “benign” and disinclined to answer criticism, The country was caught in a conviction of misinformation at a highly suggestive and emotional level….“As far as the major players in the political sphere are concerned, the Party has to get its act together, and the way to do this is by listening, putting your ear to the ground, rapping and conversing with people”.

The Prime Minister at the time, A.N.R.Robinson also did not fail to add his quota. He was quoted as saying: “The recent crisis has left me with a heightened sense of the need to communicate with the public.”

When asked by a reporter whether he shared the view that the process of information and communication between Government and the people was at the heart of the problem, he went on to say: “One had to recognise the difficulties of the period through which the country was passing. “We have had to adapt to measures which are more difficult to understand than we have ever had in our history. We have to deal with institutions which have been bug-bears”, he said.

He continued that “There had been tremendous opportunity for destructive propaganda of the worst kind. “In my view that has been the worst thing in the society”, Robinson said. “In all my experience it has not been the man in the street who lets Trinidad and Tobago down. It’s many of those who have been educated sometimes even at public expense.”

He said that these people misused their education, to deliberately mislead people and create mischief in the society. but, He said, “The July 27 incident had shown the need for greater communication.”

Call To Students of Communication: Elevate Your Game, Be More Informed
When you leave the hallowed walls of this prestigious University of the West Indies, you are going to find yourselves working in Organisations and Institutions of varying dimensions. All these organisations whatever their role will have three responsibilities, a financial responsibility, a legal responsibility and a social responsibility. It is in the realm of the social responsibility that you will be expected to make the difference. But in the final analysis, how you harmonise the mission and objectives of the three responsibilities (financial, legal and social) will be your greatest challenge. Yes, you will be called upon to be a generalist in a specialist world.

You have to set your sights on joining the ranks of the Technocrats, elevate your practice so that you can claim the right to sit in the Executive Rooms and the Board Rooms where the important decisions are made which have the greatest impact upon our lives. The engineer focuses on his engineering, and quite rightly so, the accountant on the bottom line and quite rightly so, the Economist on feasibility and viability, the Marketing Manager on distribution and sales and quite understandably so. Your focus has got to be on the harmonisation of all their objectives. Your focus must be on the customer, the people, the society, how the inputs and recommendations of all these specialists are harmonised for the good and welfare of all stakeholders. You will be required to bring to the table the social scientist view point in the decision-making process.

It means your elevating your practice from the level of Communications Technician to Relationships Technocrat. Let us face it. The world today functions in a Relationship Economy. It is an interdependent world. The playing field is leveling. No man is an island. It will never be any more a question of win alone or lose alone. We must all be winners together or suffer the consequences of being all losers unless we pull our heads out of the sand and come to terms with the true meaning and significance of relationships. Yes my dear students. Relationships: That is the High Calling.

Everything hinges around Relationships. It will require you to expand your body of knowledge and learning to include Organisation Structure and behavior, Business Administration, Economics, Political Science, Government Organisation, Public Administration, Management Science, Statistics, Languages, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities, and Personnel Management and this must be built around an understanding and appreciation of the Theory and Practice of Public Relations.

You will find that at times you may have to disagree without being disagreeable. To raise and face objections without being objectionable and to discharge your professional responsibilities free and fair and free from fear, without fear nor favour. That is where the measure of your professionalism will be most tested.

It is in this realm that you will find that in spite of the phenomenal advances in communications science and technology, mutual understanding, peace and harmony remain an elusive dream.

How you convert the noise around you into a harmonious and soothing melody will be your major challenge.

There will be times when the going gets tough and you may have to withdraw for a while and seek supernatural intervention. When that occurs think not of the bigness of your problem, think of the bigness of your God. The Bible is clear: When those times come upon you, reflect on the passage: Be still and know that I am God.

What is the highest ideal of Public Relations?
– 1978 Mexican Statement
Analysing social, economic, political and cultural trends, predicting their consequences, counseling the leadership, and conceptualising, planning and implementing strategies which will serve the mutual interest of all stakeholders.
This is what the Caribbean People expect from us and that is what we are committed to deliver. I have difficulty in understanding therefore how with this heavy burden of responsibility placed on our shoulders in this era of enlightenment Public Relations Practitioners can allow others less informed to water down the profession. Relationships remain the high calling. I call upon my fellow practitioners, to get real and do not allow your profession to be threatened or undermined by forces which are not equipped to set the pace and tone of its mission. They dare not do it in engineering; they dare not do it in medical practice, nor in finance, nor accountancy.

I continue to question the justification of what appears to be a trend towards rebranding the profession, shifting the focus from its original and noble moorings - the building of harmonious relationships - to that of placing the emphasis on communications, as essential and indispensable to the achievement of the mission that this activity may be; in other words, placing emphasis on the means, rather than on the end.

I know that this has become a very contentious issue among enlightened professional public relations practitioners and the debate is still in progress. But until I am proven otherwise, I insist that Relationships remain the high calling. And that is where you the students of communication science must be encouraged to set your sights. In other words majoring in communications studies is a highly commendable milestone, and yet another stepping stone on a journey which must take you to the pinnacle of the professional practice: the programme of studies which would lead to the Degree in Professional Public Relations Practice. It is on the pillar of Relationships that the earth over which we were given dominion was created. They tread on holy ground, those who attempt to shake that foundation.

Like it or not, our survival as a people hangs on the quality of relationships which we have with one another. Sharing and exchanging information with one another are essential to the maintenance of harmonious relationships among our people. Interpersonal Communications is the backbone upon which this may be best achieved. It is no less applicable to us here in the Caribbean than it is in any other region of the world. Because, in the final analysis, those who communicate in pursuance of the noble ideals of harmonious relationships, will lead.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Searching For....The Essence of Jamaica


Photographer: Mark Thompson

Searching For………The Essence of Jamaica

What is the single essential feature that makes Jamaica unique?

So far it has yet to be named, but JTI/Jampro is committed to identifying it and allowing it to support a new era of investment, production and development.

Public relations practitioners got a first hand update on this recently when country branding expert, David Lightle, shared case studies of countries that successfully rebranded using a unique nation identifier that the whole country supported. Mr Lightle, a consultant to JTI/Jampro, was addressing the annual general meeting of the Public Relations Society of Jamaica (PRSJ) in Kingston on March 30.

Mr Lightle noted that, in his experience, successful branding came after government made infrastructure and policy commitments that supported industry. He also stressed that the rebranding efforts must always be towards reducing poverty by growing economically.

“We know from the East Asian model that you cannot overcome poverty unless you have the minimum 10% growth rate every year for ten years…if you are wobbling at 1-2% GNP (Gross National Product) growth rate, you need to do something different.”

Giving his case study examples from country rebranding in Taiwan, New Zealand and Colombia, he noted that finding a unique common essence of a country was essential. He outlined his methodology called the Drop Formula System, which he said was a process of interviews and focus groups that revealed useful insights about the people of a nation, no matter how diverse they are.

Acknowledging the importance of public relations, Mr Lightle said that the branding will not be successful if the people of a country do not stand behind it. “It is better to have a unified image competing out there…domestic communications is essential in any country branding effort. You have to have domestic buy-in before you present your brand to the world,” he said.

Using the example of Colombia, Mr Lightle said that being inclusive was integral to the success of their brand identification process noting that the Opposition was at the table from the beginning. After six months of investigation, passion was identified as Colombia’s unique brand identifier. The Colombian government communicated the brand message to its people for 18 months before it was launched globally. The logo has been accepted by the productive sector and it is currently used on many product packages and has been adapted in slogans such as “growing with passion” for coffee growers and horticulturists, “serviced with passion” for Avianca, the flagship airline and “made with passion” for the fashion industry. Now in its fifth year, passion has helped the country to eliminate its narco state and banana republic image and successfully position it as business friendly and attractive to international investment.

In 2010, during a global recession, Colombia is experiencing more than 5% annual growth and, according to a March 25, 2010 article on, has “Pulled out if its first recession in a decade in the 4th quarter.” The infrastructural support provided, according to is “attributed to an increase in domestic security resulting in greater foreign investment; prudent monetary policy; and export growth.”
2010 Executive

Public Relations practitioners from the public sector, private consultants, educators and PR students attended the meeting where Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, Director for Information and Training, Delmares White, was elected President of a seven-member Executive. The other members are: First Vice President, communications consultant, Christopher Benjamin; Vice President Finance, director of communications and customer service, National Works Agency, Stephen Shaw; Vice President Recruitment and Membership, PR Manager, Students’ Loan Bureau, Analisa Downes; Vice President, Special Events, MIND Marketing Manager, Shawnette Henry; General Secretary, PR Manager, Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Cheryl Smith and Assistant General Secretary, communications consultant and radio and TV producer, Deborah Hickling.