JEAN VALIN, BA, BA (Hons.) APR, FCPRS
Jean Valin is best-known in Canada for his contribution to global professionalism of public relations. It was Valin who promoted and took part in the initial establishment of the Global Alliance, a confederation of more than 70 major public relations associations around the world, and who was the first Canadian to chair this influential organization representing more than 160,000 members. That may seem strange for a man who spent most of his 30-year communications career as a senior federal civil servant, but it was Valin’s commitment and service to his professional association, to CPRS, that provided the volunteer background to take the leadership role globally. In his own words: "I was passionate from the get-go on the formation of a Global Alliance and on us working together to raise global standards of the profession." Valin co-led the development of a global Code of Ethics which was adopted by Global Alliance in 2003, and helped write the official definition of public relations, adopted by CPRS in 2009.
Jean Valin was born in Ottawa in 1955, and is fluently bilingual (French & English) with some additional proficiency in Spanish. He graduated from the University of Ottawa with a Bachelor of Arts (Concentration in Social Communication) in 1975 and a BA (Hons. Social Communication) in 1984. His early career included working as a researcher and interviewer at Radio Canada, a Music Director at CKCH-CIMF (an Ottawa area radio station), a teacher of English-as-a-second language at Algonquin College, a council assistant, a public information officer at the City of Ottawa (his first PR job), a public relations lecturer at the University of Ottawa, and then as the first information services manager for Gatineau Park, which began his storied career in federal public service and included an assignment as the Director of Public Information Office at the House of Commons.
During his long career as a government executive, he advised senior officials and ministers of the Government of Canada on communications matters, retiring in 2010 at the Director General level. He worked on several high profile national issues such as Canada's gun control program, anti-terrorism and organized crime legislation, same sex marriage legislation, and the launch of Service Canada's branding and first marketing campaign for Canada's one-stop for all government services, as well as transportation policy for air, road, and marine safety and security issues.
He was Director General Communications and Marketing at Transport Canada and Service Canada, Associate Director General Communications at Justice Canada, and Director of Communications for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. He was a Director of Communications at the National Capital Commission and Assistant Vice President at the Farm Credit Corporation. With these roles, he managed complex and sensitive issues with staff ranging from 10 to 110 people and budgets ranging from the $100 thousand to $11 million.
Since his retirement from the federal government, he has been a PR consultant, a mentor and an author. In 2015 he co-edited the first edition of public relations case studies from around the world
, published by Peter Lang Publishing Group.
Valin combined his unique work career with concerted efforts to strengthen CPRS and advance the profession's credentials in society in Canada and internationally. Some of this is shown in both his leadership positions and his awards.
Awards & Benchmarks:
- Project lead on the Global Body of Knowledge (GBOK), Global Alliance 2014
- Co-lead on the development of the Melbourne Mandate, Global Alliance 2012
- Co-lead on facilitating the establishment of global core competencies in accreditation programs, Global Alliance 2008
- Chair of Global Alliance for Public Relations & Communication Management 2004-05
- Lead facilitator in the development of global code of ethics, Global Alliance 2003
- Founding member of Global Alliance 2000-02, and Chair-Elect 2002-04
- National President of CPRS 1996-97
- CPRS-Ottawa President 1990-91
JEAN VALIN's REFLECTIONS
How He Started in Public Relations
- 2014 Philip Novikoff award for lifetime achievements from CPRS (pictured above)
- 2013 CPRS Award of Attainment for the Melbourne Mandate (Global Alliance)
- 2013 PRSA David Ferguson award for advancing PR education in America
- 2012, co-author of an in-depth study on corporate excellence- 'Who has seen the future?' and co-ordinated the development of the 'Melbourne Mandate'- a call to action of new areas of value to public relations and communication management.
- 2010 Award of Achievement from CPRS
- 2008 President's medal from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in the UK.
- 2008 co-author of the official definition of public relations adopted by the CPRS.
- 2004 CPRS Outstanding Achievement Award
- 2001 admitted to CPRS College of Fellows, the youngest member to achieve that status
- 1987 awarded accreditation (APR)
I graduated from the University of Ottawa in the social communications program in 1975 but took a few years and interesting jobs before deciding to complete my honours year of studies in 1983, and to find my way to the public relations field. I started at Radio Canada in broadcasting but lost my first jobs learning how difficult some work environments can be, and how a job can change when an organization radically changes direction in the area you're working in. Even though the organization miscalculated the effect of changing its music format, someone had to go after two bad ratings periods, and I was the music director. This turned out to be a positive career adjustment. My first PR job was in 1979 for the City of Ottawa, where I was the communicator for a massive redevelopment of downtown east, and where I got to experiment in the more loosely framed municipal environment. The creative ideas kept coming, which were implemented, and got me noticed by CPRS. I have had two careers really, one as a volunteer leader in the PR environment, and one in federal government.
Greatest Job Achievement
I am very, very proud of the work I did as Director General Communications at Service Canada. We were in the process of creating a new entity, the front-facing part of government. In the old days, it was called the HRDC office where you went to apply for a pension or to apply for EI. It has had various names over the years, but viewing the experience from the users' viewpoint, we could see the delivery of services was never really designed with the customer in mind, nor was the back end engineered to serve the client, the citizens of the country, in an integrated fashion from a one-government-window perspective. The changes we were implementing meant users could make a one-stop call, click, or visit. That called for a re-branding and an advertising campaign. Today when I walk by a Service Canada service point, I see the branding I managed to get approved with great satisfaction, as obtaining that approval took perseverance and determination. Federal government types will understand what was involved in getting an exemption from the Federal Identity program to get this done.
I'm also very proud of the role I played in Justice files such as same-sex legislation and anti-terrorism legislation.
Greatest Volunteer Achievement
The formation of the Global Alliance, since I was there at conception, is right up there. Beyond the creation of the GA, the recent Melbourne Mandate is a crowning achievement because it was co-created by over 1000 people around the world, including my Canadian colleague Dan Tisch, and adopted by GA members. Earlier on, there was a milestone victory with the adoption of a global code of ethics by all associations who are members of the alliance; I led that work group with other Canadians such as Don Labelle. With Pierrette Leonard I facilitated the establishment of global core competencies in accreditation programs. And I wrote, with Terry Flynn and Fran Gregory, the official definition of public relations that CPRS adopted. I am fortunate to have been placed in these positions and to have been able to work on these things.
Work on the global scene always seems to follow me. Work on GBOK has the potential to serve both professionals and academics by establishing benchmarks for the knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviours or personal attributes one needs to practice public relations anywhere in the world.
When we begin our life's work, and when we're engrossed in the pace and stress of completing tasks and projects, we can hardly anticipate the difficulties we will come up against, but we can learn from them. When I was head of communications for the National Capital Commission, we had a very popular event called Winterlude, a winter festival. And the plan for promoting it in the off-season that year was to promote it in the United States using a combination of paid employees, contract employees, and volunteers touring major venues in our target markets.
One of these venues was the Rose Bowl Parade, and so we sent a team of people down the road in vans with exhibits in the trailer and things like that. Well, there was a tragic road accident; many of our people were killed, and some were crippled for life. I lost very dear friends and colleagues, and it was my responsibility to explain to the media why we had decided to go to the Rose Bowl parade. It sounded like a junket…and the media were quite hard on us because it had been explained to them that it was a combination of employees who were covered by employee benefits and insurance, contractors who had no standing (therefore, we couldn't help), and volunteers with whom we had no way of covering them. And, understandably, the media were quite hard on me when I was explaining we could not cover everyone the same way. That entire experience was very difficult because everyone affected deserved a thoughtful, honest explanation. However, maintaining a strong professional face at a time of deep personal loss is a skill leaders need to demonstrate.
A second difficult but instructive experience was a little more recent; in my career at the Department of Justice, I worked on the controversial gun registry and was the spokesperson for that program. Well, in my second year I think, I started receiving death threats which is not pleasant to deal with. However, most professions have challenges, and public relations practitioners can view hard times as part of the package when they move up in an organization.
Changes in How Public Relations is Practiced
The expectations on today's PR practitioners, the number of skills and competencies we need to acquire, keep piling on and nothing ever falls off. Again, if we take a long-term view, we can look around at professionals in other fields and see they are having the same experience. Of course, we still need to be good at media relations, the old-fashioned type of thing, but more than ever, now we need to be equally adept at social media and engagement. What I have seen throughout my career, is that 15 to 20 years ago when James Grunig was developing his excellence theory, he was talking about the ultimate model of communication, the two-way symmetrical communication model. I think now we are living it. Through my continued research, I have seen companies and organizations who behave in a two-way symmetrical communication with their stakeholders. It has new names now such as stakeholder engagement, concept, shared value, or corporate social responsibility. Various names have been assigned by management theory, but it is really about effective listening, engagement and conduct in a very ethical and authentic way, which are part of the pillars of the Melbourne Mandate. That is why I am so proud of the work I did with people from all over the world on the mandate.
Advice to People Entering the Profession
My first piece of advice is get involved in your chosen professional association so that you feel you belong to a professional family which will give you resources and build your network. I often tell students I am mentoring that when someone hands you a business card, within two weeks find a thoughtful question or comment to engage with this individual so that two weeks later you have connected with the individual. Then, do not be afraid to pick up the phone and ask someone who knows, who has more experience, what to do if you do not know what to do. Based on my experience, I can assure practitioners that they should get involved and stay involved because it comes back to you ten-fold. As a result of actively seeking out colleagues who had experience I could learn from, and offering my time to help, I have a rich international network now.
The Future of Public Relations
We are living now in a two-way symmetrical communication world where everyone walks around with publishing powers in their pockets. If we continue to move in the direction per the Melbourne Mandate, we will be doing a great service to society and, in effect, working in the public interest. Organizations gets their licence to operate from the public, whether they realize it or not, and missteps cost them that licence or erode the trust that they have. So there is every reason to ‘walk the talk' and not just say they are ethical in their practices, but to demonstrate it and to quickly correct and condemn poor judgement and poor choices that may happen in organizations from time to time.
I also see a trend towards professionalization of public relations. It starts with education (hopefully based on GBOK standards), a commitment to life-long learning, obtaining certification and ethical practice. Social media is fueling a move to increased transparency and openness. Organizations that engage authentically and have active listening infrastructure will outperform others. The International Integrated Reporting Council tells us that 70% of an organization's value is now reputational. That is our area of focus and our role.