The second Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA) Research Colloquium was held as a hybrid event titled Research Colloquium & Global Ethics Day 2020. This is an annual event initiated by PRISA in 2019 and this year’s Colloquium coincided with Global Ethics Day and held in partnership with.
The event was hosted and moderated by Mr Victor Sibeko, CEO of PRISA. The Hybrid event was attended by delegates from both Little Tuscany Boutique Hotel in Bryanston, Johannesburg in South Africa and via Zoom online meetings and broadcast live on Facebook.
The event had three hundred and thirty (330) participants. The venue was set for strictly ten (10) delegates made up of mostly presenters, twenty nine (29) Online, 291 active participants on Facebook and ten (10) Live Watch parties. In approximately less than 24 hours the event had been watched by over 1131 and had 270 engagements.
The days’ deliberations featured research papers from four local and three international speakers. Ms Cleopatra Gombarume, a Zimbabwean Masters student from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) was the first speaker. Ms Gombarume presented her research findings on “Strategic Public Relations (PR) as the moral compass during a time of ethical crisis”.
She touched on what led to the study, highlighting the need for communication practitioners to act ethically. She gave examples of recent campaigns that have brought the PR Industry in South Africa into disrepute.
Ms Gombarume concluded that practitioners often find themselves entangled with complexity when deciding on a stance and that it is important for executive leadership to set the ethical course.
Bringing the presentation back to the local presenter was research on “Ubuntu as Moral Philosophy for Ethical Public Relations Practice in Communal Contexts: A South African Perspective”. The research findings were presented by Ms Clarissa Muir, a Strategic Communication Lecturer for both undergraduate and post graduate students, at the University of Johannesburg.
She highlighted how each individual must establish his or her own moral base line balanced with the needs and expectations of the company and with accountability for the greater good of society.
She concluded by emphasising the importance of dialogue, consideration of others’ realities and commonality good.
The PRISA Research Colloquium & Ethics Day 2020 partner, Brand South Africa representative and Marketing Manager, Mr Tshepiso Malele, gave a Master Class on Nation Brand alignment. Mr Malele emphasised that Public Relations and Communication management professionals must be aware of the importance of building, implementing and sustaining a unified yet diverse Nation Brand.
Also from Brand South Africa, the Research Manager Ms Shamiso Hlatshwayo and her colleague Zahira Grimwood stood in for Dr. Petrus de Kock. Ms Hlatshwayo explored the topic “Domestic perceptions and the outlook on the Nation Brand.” This research from Brand South Africa won two awards, namely ‘All Over Best Research’ and the ‘Kantar Innovation Award’.
The survey used to inform the research, measured national pride and sentiment at the peak of the lockdown. Monthly surveys allow Brand South Africa to gain immediate insights on the pulse of the nation.
Between April and July, public sentiment towards the Governments restriction to curb COVID -19 was at a low. Surveys conducted in July and August showed some improvement in line with relaxation of restrictions on tobacco and alcohol.
Immediately after the first “morning break PRISA crossed over and established a link with the United Kingdom’s presenter Ms Kerry Sheehan, the Chair of the Global Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Public Relations Panel in London, United Kingdom.
She gave an engaging presentation on “Ethics in Artificial Intelligence Guide”. On her opening she said “It is always about Ethics, even more so with Artificial Intelligence”. Ms. Shehaan’s presentation set the tone for Professor Anne Gregory, Chair of Corporate Communication, University of Huddersfield UK, who followed suit.
Professor Anne Gregory presented a paper on “Big Data Artificial Intelligence and all that is human”. She stressed that gaining trust is vital and that adhering to a Code of Ethical Conduct through membership to a Professional Industry Body such as PRISA or the Global Alliance is important.
The AIinPR Ethics Guide to which she referred, can be downloaded from the CIPR website https://bit.ly/2TeuO28
Since it was Global Ethics day, Prof Anne Gregory also spoke about the challenge that COVID-19 presented to Public Relations and Communication professionals across the world and how ethics of the individual and of corporate companies has been tested.
Prof. Grey stated that AI has sped up and the predicted timelines have been brought forward from 2030 to 2025. She elaborated on how job skills have had to change and adapt to the inclusion of AI, due to the global pandemic.
She further gave an overview of AIinPR in the next 5 years, including how ethics in this realm is essential. She said, “Currently Artificial Intelligence can’t govern itself, we have to govern it through ethics, guidelines and regulations. Someone has to be the ethical watch dog of the organization – that’s our job as public relations professionals.”
Professor Dalien Rene Benecke, PRISA’s Immediate past president and founder of the annual PRISA Research Colloquium presided over the days’ discussions giving her insights and drawing comparison as well as highlights of each research paper presented.
She summarised the days’ proceedings thus, stating that “The Research Colloquium is a platform to showcase the good research done in the South African context and invited other researchers to join PRISA’s future annual colloquiums.”
After an engaging day well spent, Professor Benecke concluded by encouraging PR professionals to document on paper the moral fibre used to create guidelines for future use.
She thanked Ms. Pumeza Ceza, Strategic Relationship Manager – Civil Society, Brand South Africa for the partnership and attendance in person, the presenters and extended an extra special gratitude to Victor Sibeko and his son, Siyabonga Sibeko who rendered technical support skills and live broadcast of the day’s deliberations.