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CAS2011 Proves to be a Winning Formula

May 27, 2011

The inaugural Corporate Affairs Summit has concluded with high praise from delegates.

The main theme that emerged from the two day conference was ‘transparency’.

In the opening address by Consulate General for the US, Niels Marquardt, spoke candidly about issues of Open Government, the Wikileaks scandal and the lessons learned during that incident. Mr. Marquardt reinforced the need for Governments to be more transparent however cautioned that, as with business, the need to protect sensitive information, intellectual property and business plans is vital. The key is finding the balance between security and transparency, something that’s often perceived differently between the generations.

The addresses by former QANTAS CEO and now Tourism Australia Chairman Geoff Dixon and the Chairman of Investec Bank, Coca-Cola Amatil, ASK and Director of Westfield Group, Singapore Airlines and Ingeus, David Gonski AC were inspiring.

Mr. Dixon provided some key insights into the importance of public affairs executives.  Some of his more memorial pearls of wisdom were;

  • “Good communications is vital to any business – bad investments you can recover quickly, bad PR can destroy a company or at least take years to recover from.”
  • “Good news travels slowly but bad news is almost instant.”
  • “Having a public affairs operator involved in strategy discussions is vital to assess whether an idea is a good one or bad one.”
  • “Public Affairs executives should always be the custodians of transparency, accountability and ethics.”
  • “Try not to have any secrets because it’ll always get out. Far better for you to leak it yourself than have some do it for you and then try to recover.”

His underlying message was, however, that of all the employees in a corporation, a good Corporate Communications person is the best placed to take the helm of CEO.

Mr. Gonski echoed these sentiments going as far as saying that “if boards (of Directors) do not embrace the need to include corporate affairs in strategy the entire concept of the board as we know it will disappear”. He also reinforced the need for transparency noting that “public companies rarely fail because of greed but because of a lack of openness”, citing the Barings Bank disaster as an example and arguing that Nick Leeson was more interested in hiding his mistakes than he was in outright gain.

As you might expect Social Media played a big part in the discussions. While the way to implement social media strategy varied, the need to include it as part of strategic planning was without question.

The Roundtable format also proved to be popular with most proving to be enlightening and entertaining, prompting lots of questions from the delegates. The session we were involved with “Thriving in a Networked World: New Tools and Tried and Tested Rules for Media Relations” allowed us to express the need for an online newsroom as an integral tool to help connect communicators with both traditional and new media. All panelists agreed that a clear and consistent message is vital during any PR activity – something an online newsroom can play a vital role in disseminating.

Across all areas up for discussion, from social media to crisis management to investor and government relations, the concept of “it’s no longer a monologue, it’s a dialogue” was demonstrated to be the most important understanding in a Corporate Communicators arsenal.

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