Conference shows our public value

Now it's down to business for London's mayor and, whoever has won, it's not going to be easy. Scare big business away and the country suffers.

Mess up on the small details that make living in a city heaven or hell and vital workers will think twice before setting up home with their families.

Being in charge of a global city in these precarious economic times is tough, but it's not just cities that have problems. I recently talked to a consultant who advised a tropical paradise on a PR drive to attract tourists. 

He found that some tourists loved the place but had no plans to return. The reason? They found islanders rude and unfriendly.

The island government had for years encouraged people to be proud of their heritage. Yet what was pride to the islanders came across as rude to visitors. 

As well as a PR campaign, people working in the tourism industry needed to learn that customer service didn't mean losing their dignity.

PR problems can come from anywhere. Think of the Beijing Olympic torch relay, taking its message of protest around the world. But just as issues can come from anywhere, we can all learn from each other, too. 

That's why, in two months' time, the CIPR is hosting the Fifth World Public Relations Conference and Festival in London. It's a fantastic opportunity to learn from the best in the world.

If Beijing is at the front of your thoughts when you think about the 2012 Olympics, why not learn from Turin's positive experiences of hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics? 

Or how about understanding how the 'New' was put back into New Zealand, how they communicated change in South Africa and how global businesses are coping with the environmental challenge?

The conference will show the public benefit of public relations - how PR can make a real difference to people around the world. 

From new media techniques being used to tackle physical and mental health issues in black and minority ethnic communities to promoting equality for the disabled, the conference will tackle key, relevant issues for us all in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.

It's enough to make you proud to be in PR. And when it's over, I'm going back to my global metropolis: Birmingham.

Elisabeth Lewis-Jones is president of the CIPR

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