BUILDING BRIDGES; Arthur W. Page Society conference, London

In the summer of 2015 I was nominated and elected to become a member of the AW Page Society. AW Page Society is the world’s leading professional association for senior public relations and corporate communication executives and educators who seek to enrich and strengthen their profession.

Members of the AW Page Society consists primarily of chief communication officers (CCO’s) of Fortune 500 corporations and leading non-profit organisations, the CEOs of the worlds foremost public relations agencies, and academics from the top business and communications schools who have distinguished themselves teaching and/or studying corporate communications. The society has strict membership criteria that ensure it remains an exclusive assembly of the very best and brightest of the profession. The AW Page Society has 7 key principles that are used as guidelines in actions and behaviour of its members. These are: (1) Tell the truth; (2) Prove it with action; (3) Listen to stakeholders; (4) Manage for tomorrow; (5) Conduct public relations as if the whole enterprise depends on it; (6) Realize that an enterprise’s true character is expressed by its people; and (7) Remain calm, patient and good-humored.

I did visit the 33rd Annual conference of the Page society in London (UK), which was the first Page conference outside the US. Unlike many academic but also practitioner’s conferences Page Annual was different: not companies or researchers presenting how excellent they were doing (research), but issues that are important, of will become important during the next years for companies and society at large were presented. So we heard about Brexit, of the UNHCR, on cultural differences (high and low context cultures), and other important global issues.

On Sunday we had besides Martin Wolf of the Financial Times on Brexit and an excellent presentation of Erin Meyers of INSEAD on the culture map (her book) and high and low context cultures. Certainly something to keep in mind when providing feedback to students from different cultural backgrounds. As Dutch we aim to be direct and to the point, which might be accepted as uncomfortable in many other countries.

paul-polman

Monday started with an excellent and inspiring presentation by Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, mainly on his thoughts of different ways to present the success of organizations (purpose instead of dollars) and his involvement with the Sustainable Development Goals. On Tuesday we had also a presentation of Richard Curtis, producer of very popular movies like Notting Hill, Four Funerals and a Wedding, and Love Actually, on his role in Comic Relief and as founder of the Make Poverty History also part and producer of the movies of the Sustainable Development Goals (video 2). He claimed that the role of the communicator largely depends on the ability to shape narratives. Richard showed us how narrative can build bridges and move people to take meaningful action in the world.

melissa-flemingBut the best presentation was by Melissa Fleming, high commissioner of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Melissa told a heartbreaking story about Doua Al Zamel, a girl of 19 who was a refugee from Syria who tried to come to Europe with her boyfriend. She was saved, holding an infant, after four days floating in the Mediterranean among the 11 people of the more than 500 refugees on the vessel. She told this story in 2015 at TEDxThessaloniki. This story will be out in a book that will be available in January 2017.

My first Page Annual was about the issues that are important, and showed that big corporations go beyond a CSR report and are doing a lot on social well-being. Page Annual was inspiring as opportunity for networking, but also as inspiration to become involved in making this earth a better place, where global operating organizations are taking their responsibility, with the CCOs as catalysts.

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