PUBLIC RELATIONS AND THE DAYS AHEAD
General perception about Public Relations today was largely inspired by the “forewords” of The British Institute of Public Relations (BIPR). The Institute had beautifully scoped PR as “deliberate, planned and sustained efforts to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and its public”. Viewing PR from this angle, it is often suggestive of an activity that is eternally evolving- something that is infinitely on-going.
The concept and practices of PR cannot be encircled in any single document or script, no matter the volume. It is a multifaceted concept. It is like the proverbial elephant that some blind men were trying to explain its features by touching a part of it. They really could not see or describe the whole of it. But from many descriptions of what PR stands for, the expression of BIPR echoes the dynamism embedded in the profession. This is because relationships between humans are the driving forces of the pro-active two-way communication with the sole objective of promoting a brand, person, product or organisation.
It would be myopic, if we were to be looking forward to the days ahead, with no look at the days past. Casting a searching look backwards, a wide look around, a deep look within and a long look ahead is the wisest thing to do in this rational prediction of the days ahead.
Base on this, we should recall that PR is like a nourishing fruit that grew among and out of many thorns, but was never choked to death. Modern PR grew from and out of crisis situations and also out of a necessity to build and sustain mutual trust among institutions or peoples of varied interests.
And in sincerity to its calling, PR has developed and matured building and sustaining mutual trust; then managing and dispelling crisis. No wonder the British Institute of PR says it “is a deliberate planned and sustained effort”.
The past days of PR in Nigeria have been a rough road to glory. The present time is a juncture, the future is a promise. In years gone, the road was rough in asserting the significance and the problem solving character of PR. But today, PR is in its glory of recognition and indispensability at least to a large extent. Meanwhile, the present time is a juncture marking an exit from the mechanical past to a more prompt and digital era. The future is really promising; the revolution brought along by the technologies at our immediate disposal and reach is unimaginably huge. With attendant compliant to technology and professionalism, the height of achievement envisioned is but a matter of time.
But then, certain sensitive factors brought us to where we are currently, more sensitive factors will launch us to the future we vision. Such factors would be more of professional attitude to the dominating technologies- how well we get along with them. In specific terms, we should be shifting our gaze to certain fundamental factors as discussed here.
Foremost, we should emphasize the need to fuse the traditional PR with digital tools, by fully embracing technology to carry out the practices of Public Relations. We cannot brew the best fresh wine using the old cracking cup. PR must be sensitive to the evolving technology and be attentive to trends in the environment.
By character, PR practitioners must practice knowledge based performance and professionalism. This cannot be achieved without training and re-training of practitioners from time to time. A public relations professional is a repository of information. He should know something about everything and everything about something. An effective Public Relations does not live in the same block with mediocrity.
The watchdog obligation of NIPR is a big factor in determining the place of PR among other professions in the days ahead. The active roles of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) in enforcing and advocating the law- making it a difficult for charlatans to thrive is much needed at this time. No one should work as public relations practitioner, whether for organisations or as consultants, except such have been certified by the regulatory Institute. The future of PR in Nigeria lies with the ability of NIPR to properly regulate the activities in the profession and also to champion the development of curriculum on PR that can blend with the current realities in the profession.
Further, the academics is at the centre of what the future will be for PR, since the quality of graduates determines the quality of the profession. There is need for proper moulding of new breeds of graduates that are well read and versatile with the ability to use modern technology as tools in PR practice. Besides, our learning institution have key role in promoting PR through research and journals.
Also, we the need a wakeup alarm for policy makers and captains of industry. Ability and commitment of Corporate and Government Organizations to recognize and understand the role of PR in organization’s stable existence is germane. Managers must understand and task Public Relations Officers with professional challenges rather than relegating them to errand boys and newspaper vendors.
Importantly, learning and training from outside the shores of Nigeria and domesticating such knowledge and training will give PR more light and conformity to international best practices (in PR we think internationally and act locally). This can be achieved through consistent attendance to international conferences.
The future of PR in Nigeria lies on the value that PR practitioners attached to consulting current books and journals in order to sharpen their minds, broaden their horizon and to best contend with realities of today’s changing environment.
How many of us practicing public relations in Nigeria have latest books and tools on public relations and allied professions such as online journalism and advertising? Many practitioners live on the illusion that they know enough. This basically debase the standing doctrine that no human is an island of knowledge.
If we execute the aforementioned and foresights, we can be confident that we are in the future already and it is amazingly a glorious one for this noble profession in Nigeria.
Maiwada, is the Public Relations Officer of Ogun Customs Command.