'92 IPRA President Tracks Global Public Relations

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The practice of public relations in Asia, Australia and North America presents a greater growth opportunity than similar activities in the European Community, James C. Pritchitt said recently. In a January speech, the Australian consultant, who is 1992 president of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA), challenged U.S. counselors to lead the way in developing public relations in the newly emerging democracies throughout the world.

"Developed countries must recognize their responsibility to develop public relations in the new democracies of the world," Pritchitt advised practitioners during a visit to New York City. The trip marked his maiden voyage to the United States as IPRA's chief executive following his installation as the organization's president in London on Jan. 6.

"America, as the cradle of public relations, has a special responsibility to help its development, both domestically and internationally," Pritchitt told an international audience at the United Nations on Jan. 10. "Increased use and better understanding of public relations among American enterprises has a flow-on effect to other countries. It's terrific to note the work being done by PRSA with the Russian public relations association and it would be great to see this extended to other countries." He sees PRSA and IPRA cooperating in the development and promotion of public relations worldwide.

In the process of setting up public relations operations in other countries over the years, American companies have been largely "responsible for the international expansion of public relations," Pritchitt noted. But "worldwide development of public relations is very patchy," he observed. "There are no hard and fast rules." Eastern Europe and Asia - areas where "freedom of information has been suppressed"-are ripe for public relations development, he noted.

Oddly enough, some developing countries are "quite sophisticated," the IPRA president said. The Nigerian public relations association, for example, gets a government grant. Practitioners in that country are licensed, Pritchitt reported. "It's a mistake to think of Africa as unsophisticated in public relations," he added. Uganda recently won a U.N. award for its public relations efforts against the spread of AIDS.

"Worldwide, there is a great thirst for public relations knowledge," the Australian counselor told Public Relations Journal in a private interview at the New York City offices of Lobsenz-Stevens Inc. He views IPRA, with more than 1,000 members in 65 countries, as the leading organization to foster public relations growth around the world.

In some countries, though, the practice of public relations is not so widely accepted as in others. "You have to take the national character into account, the size of the country and its media pool," Pritchitt advised. Somewhat surprisingly, the U.S. population "may be more suspicious of public relations" than citizens of many other countries, he noted.

IPRA can focus attention on global issues, such as the environment, Pritchitt said. In fact, an IPRA task force has already developed global guidelines on the subject and will publish a Gold Paper on it this year. …