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Threats To Freedom Of Speech To Be Debated

31 March 2008

Mounting Threats To Freedom Of Speech To Be Debated At This Year's Public Relations Conference

The Electoral Finance Act, proposed restrictions on advertising foods, the massive changes taking place in the way we communicate, and their impacts on free speech are the central themes of this year's New Zealand public relations conference.

Public Relations Institute Executive Director Paul Dryden says that the conference theme - the issue of advocacy and freedom of speech - means that this year's meeting is likely to be controversial.

"Communication and the right to advocate, by whatever means, is pivotal to the role of the PR and communications management industry."

He says that the expansion of online portals has opened up huge new communications opportunities and created new pitfalls which have caused everyone in the PR/Communications industry to re-evaluate the way they work.

On the first day of the May 22-23 conference, Matthew Horton, CEO of Horton Media, will deliver the keynote speech. He asks whether new technology will enable New Zealanders to enjoy a new freedom to communicate, inform and debate, or whether our collective apathy will preserve the status quo.

Other highlights include an address by Sydney-based futurist Richard Watson. The author of Future Files, a History of the next 50 Years, Watson predicts future social and business trends and advises businesses and organisations on how to exploit them.

The increasingly important issue of communicating sustainability will be addressed by internationally recognised expert Michael Field from North Shore City Council. From 2009, all State Owned Enterprises will be required to report on sustainability, reflecting a growing trend in the business world.

A number of sessions will be led by those who are using online tools effectively. Leading entrepreneur Rod Drury will share his experiences as New Zealand's first CEO blogger. His blog serves many purposes including selling products around the world, building relationships, government lobbying and recruiting staff.

Hamish McCardle from the New Zealand Police will explain how a web-based approach took the review of the Police Act around the world. Other speakers will describe how they helped recruit a new generation of young blood donors, and how the Manawatu Regional Council used digital communication to reach remote rural communities.

Mr Dryden says that the conference line-up was put together to provide something for everyone involved in the public relations and communications management industry.

There are sessions on government lobbying, the sustainability movement, internal communications, reputation management and behaviour change. Panel discussions will give conference delegates the opportunity to hear and participate in lively, stimulating debate.

A highlight of the conference will be the Friday night Awards dinner, at which the annual Public Relations Institute Awards will be presented, along with the Communicator of the Year Award. A new intake of PRINZ Fellows will also be inducted.


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