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Lessons for Western practitioners from India's public relations community

The World PR Forum and PRAXIS conferences in India highlighted the focus of the Global South on professional development through qualifications, continuous learning, and community to advance public relations as a profession according to Stephen Waddington, Founder and Managing Partner, Wadds Inc and Non-Executive Director.

Photo: Arun Sudhaman (left), CEO and editor in chief, PRovoke Media in conversation with Farzana Baduel (right), CEO, Curzon PR and Shayoni Lynn (middle), CEO, Lynn, at PRAXIS.

The scale, energy and hospitality of the Indian public relations community is incredible.

The World PR Forum and PRAXIS took place in Chennai last week. More than 600 practitioners attended the three-day event.

The World PR Forum is an annual conference organised by the Global Alliance. PRAXIS is India’s largest national public relations conference, now in its tenth year.

Keynote presentations, fireside discussions, and panel sessions covered international public relations issues, including purpose, strategy, behavioural science, and management.

The CIPR was represented by Chartered PR Practitioners Farzana Baduel, CEO, Curzon PR who spoke about horizon scanning, and Shayoni Lynn, CEO, Lynn Global who spoke about behaviour change and misinformation.

Qualifications as a foundation for practice

There were important messages and lessons from each presentation and panel discussion. Still, the real lesson of the conferences was the focus on developing public relations as a profession.

Notably, most contemporary Indian practitioners have a formal qualification in public relations. Indeed, many are qualified at Masters level.

It was great to meet graduates from Newcastle University, where I taught as a Visiting Professor for almost ten years, and Leeds Beckett University, where I’m currently studying for a doctorate.

Continuous learning

The thirst for knowledge and appetite of delegates to learn was insatiable. The conference room was packed for every session. Additional space had to be made available in the conference hall.

Sessions ran from 9am to 7pm for each of the three days. Lunches and dinners provided an opportunity for networking and discussions.

A community of practice

The welcome of the Indian community will be an enduring memory. It’s also notable that students, academics, teachers and practitioners from all backgrounds and ages mixed.

There’s a hardcore of delegates that have attended all ten PRAXIS conferences. They were celebrated on stage during the opening ceremony. It’s indicative of the strength of commitment to the cause.

My keynote session at PRAXIS explored the opportunity for public relations to achieve its potential in management. Less than one in five organisational functions achieve this status.

Qualifications, continuous learning and development, and a community of practice, highlighted by PRAXIS and the World PR Forum, are among the defining characteristics of a profession.

It was a smart move by the Global Alliance to integrate its conference with one of the world’s largest national public relations conferences. Each conference attracted its own delegates, and most people attended both events.

Public relations practice is built on Western concepts and ideas from Europe and the US. However, it’s the Global South that is showing that our future as a profession lies in qualifications, continuous learning, and community.

I’d like to thank PRAXIS for inviting Sarah Waddington CBE and myself to attend and contribute to the conferences. We appreciated the hospitality and welcome of everybody we met.

If you’re ever lucky enough to get the chance to attend either the World PR Forum or PRAXIS, be sure to jump at it.


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