POINCIANA – Public relations, said Fernando Valverde, is a field that may not have fully received its due.
“This field goes back from 1920 to now,” he said. “I got involved in it in 1970. Back then, it was more social than business.”
The online dictionary Wikipedia defines public relations as “the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers.” The World Assembly of Public Relations Associations defined it back in 1978 as “the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest.”
The Public Relations Society of America says this remains an active and thriving industry, and the society continues to host special events, including one on Thursday, Dec. 1 titled, “Social Media and New Media Public Relations Boot Camp: Learn Social Media Strategies for Effective Public Relations.”
Another group, which conducts studies on the public relations profession in Puerto Rico, just released a new report that identifies Valverde, a resident of Solivita, as a pioneer in this field in Puerto Rico, someone who helped it significantly mature and expand.
“It’s quite a distinction,” Valverde said. “I am one of what you’d call the founding fathers.”
The report was issued by the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, the confederation of the world’s major public relations and communication organizations and associations. It represents more than 160,000 practitioners and educators around the world.
The confederation issued a report, “PR Country Landscape 201:Puerto Rico,” on the history and current state of the profession in Puerto Rico. Authored by Mari Luz Zapata, it reflects the history of public relations development in Puerto Rico from 1920 until 1981.
Among the senior practitioners highlighted in the study is Valverde, a 32-year veteran in the field, citing him as “a prominent figure in its development in Puerto Rico” whose contributions were “significant” during a crucial period in the practice and profession’s definition and development.
Valverde was born in the Dominican Republic, then moved to the United States when he was three years old. He grew up in this country, though he would later spend 10 years in Puerto Rico, working in this field – and he helped it evolve in some significant ways, including academically.
He would eventually return to the United States, and, now retired, lives at the Solivita development in Poinciana, where he remains an active member of several local civic groups, including the Veterans Club of Solivita and the Poinciana Residents for Smart Change.
Valverde said he sees public relations as both an art and a science, and defines the field as a “management tool of modern communication for developing long range public opinion programs designed to earn the public support from specific stakeholders.”
He added, “The profession has evolved and adapted to answer the cultural and societal needs of our days. Today’s modern parameters of public relations go above and beyond to reach, through research–based strategic communications, the areas of government affairs, corporate governance and issues management as well as support to marketing and branding, crisis communications and management counseling.”
Valverde also played an instrumental role in the process of accreditation of this profession in Puerto Rico.
“Accreditation is a volunteer program,” he said. “You pass a test, a written test and oral test. It’s like taking the bar exam or a medical license test. You do it because you want to improve your standing, and you want to show you have the education and experience needed.”
This process enables professionals in this field to become APR – accredited in public relations, also know as “ Fellows.”
“I assisted in developing the only public relations master degree at the time in the island, and was a part-time professor for over 12 years at Sacred Heart University,” Valverde said, adding that he was also the author of two textbooks on the subject. Today there is a a class room at the university dedicated in his name, where students who are future practitioners meet and work on projects and use the archival reference library.
Puerto Rico is the fifth nation worldwide that mandates a license with ethics compliance, required studies and continued education, for the practice of modern public relations. The other countries are Brazil, Peru, Nigeria and Panama.
“I have been blessed to face many challenges and opportunities in my life through the association with three leading public relations firms and community endeavors,” Valverde said. “During my career, I had the fortune to advise numerous clients, institutions, and community organizations. One of the best life satisfactory experiences has been to mentor outstanding younger professionals and practitioners who have been responsible for change in Puerto Rico’s public relations industry. My memory can list at least 25 successful ‘new pines’ in the industry.”
“PR Country Landscape 201:Puerto Rico” was released in August 2011, and produced by Zapata, a doctoral student in journalism and mass communication of the University of Florida. The complete study can be found at www.PuertoRicoCountyLandscapes2011.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.