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Public Relations Identity And Alliance Branding

By Queen Nwabueze

June 18, 2018.

The identity of Public Relations in Nigeria is simply and squarely, conservative. A number of issues have continued to mount avoidable pressure on our dear PR.

Public Relations is yet to assume the Management function of the omnipotent Mexican Statement.

The Mexican statement clearly identified the job description of PR: “the art and social science of analysing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organsational leaders and implementing programmes of action which will serve both organisation’s and public’s interest.”

But, all these stipulates are practiced in the breach in Nigeria. In my former place of engagement, for instance, we had an office as ‘insignificant’ as office of the secretary in the Board, but the supposed office meant to “counsel organisational leaders” and draw water from the moon to perpetually quench the thirst of the organisation and its publics is not even in the faces of Management Staff let alone in the Board.

So, at what point, does this counselor meet with the leaders to present the findings of trends analysis, highlighting the consequences so as to go back and squirt publics-resonating programmes?

PR has never ceased to gnash its teeth as that overworked and frail errand boy. I am yet to see an appendage or an addendum in the Mexican Statement that says Public Relations is expected to be on standby to photograph all organisations’ events, run out to get all flyers and printed materials and arrange all the seats to get the event hall ready and even wait to take orders from guests – all what are obtainable in organisations today.

Another knock? To think that quackery still holds sway in the public relations sector is worthy of shrugs.

Organisations, individuals and government have continued to employ journalists as corporate communications managers.

The popular case of the Information Ministry of the current administration comes to mind. For instance, Femi Adeshina was never a PR man neither was Lai Mohammed, hence, the communications charlatanism and avoidable errors rife in the system.

Organisations and government have continued to mistake journalism for Public relations. Interestingly, PR continues to prove to them that while PR is Journalism, Journalism is not PR.

Sadly, surveys have shown that low awareness and lack of knowledge about public relations characterise people’s opinions about the profession.

A swathe of the Nigerian population have negative perceptions about PR which unfortunately include the reality that an organisation or government still cannot fathom out why it should hire a PR consultant since a journalist can take it to the media, thereby, bequeathing to PR a mere media relations job.

Globally, PR actually calls the shots. It is a full-fledged unit responsible in managing communications, reputation and perceptions, not mere journalism, not an organisation ‘boy boy.

Another big, is online public relations. Abroad, PR has continued to jubilate as new technologies are being churned out because they make the PR outings easy.

But in this part of the divide, PR feels threatened – practitioners actually think that the new media are rather sounding the death knell of the practice. Beautiful IT tools like Google Adwords/Adsense, Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn Sponsored Ads as well as other social media handles and apps and softwares which are capable of making a message go viral in a matter of minutes are not being utilised by practitioners. They do not even know what they are.

Many practitioners still consider being in the social media a waste of time.  They are not interested.

They still believe in the powerless power of making their CEOs appear in the front pages of the newspapers and other moribund traditional media and end up most, if not, all the time, communicating to no one. Yes, communicating to no one because of the reality that the target audience of communication now lives online.

Other malpractices include the “brown envelop” scourge. It has graduated to the point that journalists could threaten not only to publish a story but also blackmail the organisation if not paid. Abroad, no journalist or editor is trained to reject a good story.

PR pitches for stories and once adjudged standard and ethically-written, stories are published. Over there, a journalist could have worked with a PR man over the years yet they have not met face-to-face. Journalists do not even know you as the PR man.

They know your story and once adjudged well-written, the story goes to press. Therefore, the age-long saying that PR is prayed for and not paid for is not only mythical and fallacious but a braggadocio in the Nigerian practice.

Not forgetting that abroad, corporate communications is a full department of its own so gets budget annually for its running. Over here, not a handful of organisations give the corporate comms. department any allocation. There is no clear-cut budget for the corporate communications office. Rather, allocation is per campaign which must go through some stringent, bureaucratic scrutiny before getting a go-ahead.

With all these breaches amiss, one wonders if PR is truly a profession? Holy yes! Public Relations is a full-fledged profession in Nigeria.

My brand is PR and so many other eggheads, this profession puts food on their table, daily. That PR just like every other profession line is bedeviled with challenges does not change nothing.

Ridiculous is that the challenges, PR faces are actually surmountable ones only if practitioners could change their psyche and narrative using the power of the media. Because of the agenda-setting function of the mass media, it is widely acclaimed that positive media perceptions often translates to positive public perceptions.

The agenda setting concept confirms that the media wield the magic wand to make or mar brands. In today’s market, a successful brand including public relations, requires a constant drumbeat of publicity to keep its name before the public.

But PR has refused to do so, concretising the good old saying of author Stanley Baran when he argued: “PR has bad PR.”  What we have in practice is the case of charity not beginning from home – the image cooks not being able to cook image worthy of relish for themselves. Take a poll of ten persons about PR and Advertising awareness level and you shall discover that most, if not all respondents will nod, they know Ad but PR, they know not.

Therefore, I dare say the challenges are two-pronged: practitioners-related and organisational-related. Note that if practitioners-related challenges are fixed, the organisational-related ones will fall in perfect lines.

What do we call a business or marketing model where operators in an industry come together to promote the industry itself and not the individual brands because it will result to the interesting case of everyone being well-fed?

Permission to call it Alliance Branding, here. Yes! Alliance Branding, that is what the PR sector needs now that conventional marketing of focusing only on your own brand appears selfish, ridiculous and stingy, so won’t sell.

The observation is that PRCAN members are aggressively promoting their individual agencies trying to cover the mileage meant and is enough for everyone.

This cannot work as the hitherto illiterate buyers (publics and/or clients) now see the efforts not as PR’s but Ad’s so deliberately refused to be ‘bought.’

Therefore, the management of “live and let live” remains the only way, PRCAN members can cut through the clutter that they seek.

Just the other day, Sesema PR came up with very fantastic but selfishly-prepared idea called, “the Corporate Communications Awards (CCAS): Celebrating Outstanding Achievements in Corporate Communications.” Apparently, the agency wanted to wrestle the age long Baran’s valid postulation: “Public Relations has bad Public Relations.”

But it went about it the very selfish way, not wanting to share the glory with anybody. When I got the IV, many questions raced through my mind: “…but how come I couldn’t see any publicity for such beautiful idea? What criteria were applied in choosing the nominees? The Judges? Who will win? On what grounds? Why is this not in collaboration with the industry chiefs – NIPR and PRCAN, at least?”

Oh well, I went for the event only to see one ‘insignificant’ agency enjoying themselves in the name of being an award body for corporate communications in Nigeria. They succeeded in mutilating the intelligence of everyone, present, they must have thought. You needed to hear how they claimed to have arrived at the nominees and the winners.

I maintain that PR would have a larger market share if they adopt the Alliance Branding marketing strategy and dump the sorry trend of ‘me, myself and I.’  Truth is, you cannot become the preferred by stifling others because the hypodermic needle has long gone dead dull.



One comment

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