The Press Secretary and Corporate Affairs Manager, as the case may be, in a government organisation, is placed under
the office of the Chief Executive like in the Office of Chairman, Honourable Minister, Commissioner, Comptroller-General,
Accountant-General or the Managing Director. He is assigned to protect the ideals and interests of the organisation by presenting
acceptable and favourable news and tactically suppressing unacceptable and erroneous information about the organisation without
injury to the credibility and integrity of the firm.
In banks and other financial institutions, the boards decide the structure of the unit. Some have full-fledged departments
of Corporate Affairs with a General Manager or Executive Director to man it. But the management of such an organisation still
finds it comfortable under the office of the Chief Executive.
The PR method of maintaining credibility and creating continuous awareness of the activities of an organisation is
through the following:
Press releases are also called news releases. They are one of the most acknowledged PR methods of reaching the public
through the news media. They must be written in flawless language and journalistic style. No matter how good a writer is,
once he doesn’t use the media technique appropriately, they hardly get used in the press.
The essence of press releases is to capture the salient news items from the organisation in the absence of the media
who might not be there to cover it or to portray the story from unambiguous angle.
In fact, the press releases is written and issued for many reasons. Some of these include covering unexpected events,
which makes the media coverage difficult, such as unscheduled courtesy calls by prominent individuals and bodies, where important
issues affecting a large populace is mentioned. They are also valuable in public pronouncements on novel political directions
and the organisation’s progress and to pre-empt anticipated actions such as forecasting expected development. It is
important to note that it is more appropriate for the use of press releases for the announcement of promotions and new appointment
of staff and management and also to publicise forthcoming significant ceremonies.
If there is any problem of press releases, it is mostly on the mode of writing, which may be grammatical inaccuracy
or inconsistency in the write up. Added to this is the attempt to advertise issues instead of making them newsworthy, which
will address the public’s innate desire that is significant to their living. The acceptability of good feature news
stories lies in the prominence of the parties involved, proximity to the local community, timeliness in its release or distribution
and its direct impact on the existing issues in the society. The major problem is the failure to distinguish between news
items and adverts while writing press releases.
Some press officers only write press releases to impress their Chief Executives and to build up files in order to justify
their competence, which at the end of the day may end up in the editor’s dustbin.
Other features of newsworthiness are outrageous, strange occurrences, bizarre consequences and eccentric behaviour,
which a good PR man can capitalise upon to get his story used instantly. But this involves adequate knowledge of the techniques
so that the story would not be misleading.
There is a popular way of writing news stories called the inverted pyramid style. It begins with the most important
aspect of the news to the less important. The 5Ws & H (what, why, where, when, who and how) of the story must be clarified.
This gives an editor the discretion to read the story to suit his paper’s editorial policy and house style.
All said, the news release should be devoid of advertising puffery, high-sounding jargons, unnecessary praise singing
and length. It must be known that the editor is not under any obligation to use the story in whole or in part. So, it must
be written in such a way that it appeals to the editor and suits the editorial policy of the media house.
There may be a slight distinction between writing press releases for the print media and scripting for the electronic
media. The distinction is not a big deal, since the producers in broadcasting media are competent in editing materials submitted
to suit their news programmes, but it must be noted that the electronic media always require short, precise, straight-to-the-point
write-ups and easily pronounced words. This is so because of the limited airtime and audio technique requirements of the newscasters.
Sometimes, a press release is better packaged if it is attached with relevant pictures or video recording of the events
to add essence to the news item. There are times when volumes of data and fact may be necessary for incorporation into the
release, but it will be better if the press release serves as the cover and summary on the data. The lengthy document can
only serve as an attachment for the editor’s consideration and preference on the use of whole or an aspect of the data.
It may even be useful for subsequent background information for other stories, features or even editorial comments in the
media. The Nigerian Stock Exchange has succeeded in daily release of activities
on the stock market to the media. Through systematic and analytical presentation, the media find it compelling to use the figures which has the listing of participating companies, quotation, number of
deals, market prices, quantities traded, value of share and price earning ratio.
Information is the vital instrument for keeping the public adequately informed on any issues or matter of concerns
to them. Apart from issuing press releases, the organisation may have a lengthy material of information, which may be of significant
interest to the public and which may use the media to get the message across. A feature article must be well composed in such
a way that the media may be willing to use it. It may serve as an opinion, commentary, rejoinder, profile, news analysis,
etc. It may even have an editorial format but most importantly, it should be well researched and factual. No editor will accept
substandard, inconsistent write-up, with spelling and grammatical mistakes. Most newspaper editors often prefer the write-ups
typed double-spaced for ease of editing.
It’s glorifying to note that even the major requirement on the Nigerian Stock Exchange is the quarterly submission
of financial reports. Same with budget proposals, which must be accurate and logical for approval. This, like editorial comments,
is to build confidence in the finance community who may develop interest and desire to invest in the system.
A feature article from the public sector always seeks to highlight government’s new policies and programmes and
how the public is requested to support such with understanding. It may also serve as a further clarification on unclear issues
of the day.
In the private sector, the public relations officer is to give a vivid highlight for the benefit of investors. By so
doing, he rewrites the annual ritual of financial statements, which is mandatory for all serious financial institutions. Since a financial statement gives a breakdown of investors’ returns on investments
at the end of the financial year, which is usually the compilation of quarterly results, it is one of the best materials for
feature publications in the media.
While scripting annual financial reports for features, it is desirable that what the investor may look for should be
put forward. Analysis may be made on profitability or loss account over the specific period. The balance sheet part of the
annual report is also useful when mentioned, in assessing the viability of the organisation. This should comprise its assets
and liability, likewise its reserve. Other aspects like returns on investments (ROI) is necessary to indicate the strength
of the firm to withstand unfavourable climates in subsequent years. Names too also matter in the write-up. Respectable members
of the board or management who are accomplished in their professional callings may be mentioned. Good names, like good products,
attract investors’ attention.
Even though not all articles are published due to editorial conveniences of the media houses, the material, with enough
fund, can be published in a booklet and pamphlet forms for distribution during Annual General Meeting (AGM) or other related
events and to the finance community. It may even be placed as an advert. The process, worth the task if the desire is to educate
and inform the public on the operations of the firm. Like in the banking and insurance sectors, the Ministries of Finance
at federal and state levels, do publish annual budget breakdowns in booklet forms after copies are distributed to the press
and also buy pages of selected newspapers and air time in the electronic media for full coverage.
The officer daily browses through and reviews newspapers. Relevant news
or feature items as related to the functions of the ministry are cut into clips. Such
clips that have direct or indirect bearing on the organisation are submitted to the chief executive in a file with a covering
‘memo’ briefly summarising the contents of the message in each story cut.
The chief executive studies the review to keep him fully informed about public perception and how his organisation
This assignment is also undertaken by most of the corporate affairs managers of banks and other related financial institutions
to study the performance and activities of their competitors in the market and get informed on a daily exchange rate, stock
market index, equity prices, treasury bill rates and other financial reports, on business pages.
Press briefing, as the name implies, is the melting point where the organisation invites media correspondents for the
purpose of providing them with necessary information. The briefing is to intimate journalists, in a conducive environment,
on new developments. Questions may be entertained from the media and they may be given materials on the issues at stake. Press
briefing, however, should not be abused in the place of press release or press reception. It may by the most desirable and
Though press briefings and press conferences have similar features, the latter are more encompassing and broader in
scope. When a press conference is called, not only the media are invited, the stakeholders too may participate as members
of the audience. While press briefing can be undertaken as often as possible with the PRO as spokesman, a press conference
is mostly intended to attract the media executives to meet with the Chie Executive of the organisation. There may also be
side attractions like entertainment, dinner and exhibitions. It is interesting to note that Bureau for Public Enterprises
(BPE) under the leadership of Mr. Nasir El-Rufai, organises a weekly media briefing which sometimes is addressed by the Chief
Executive or the Corporate Affairs manager. The Bureau’s media technique has kept the public well informed on its activities
especially on the privatisation and commercialisation of public institutions.
Press Briefings and Press Conferences are better ways of communicating face-to-face, and they allow room for penetrating
questions from the media. The Chief Executive of the organisation or anybody delegated to speak on the occasion, should be
well composed and well trained on interview techniques, especially in the art of answering questions from the press. A prepared
speech may be delivered, but there must be a room for questions, unless it is stated otherwise in the invitation. Even though,
the forum is designated to be in the form of a questions-and-answers session, that should not rule out suggestions and recommendations
from the audience. The spokesperson should be calm in the face of any hostile and confrontational enquiries from the press
during such sessions.
Most banks and Insurance firms consider a briefing before their special events like product launch, Annual General
Meetings and recall of products. A press briefing can come before the real press conference, which is most likely to be acceptable
to most of the Business Editors.
Other forms of get-togethers between the organisation and the press are through such societal engagements where entertainment
is provided. It facilitates opportunity for information and interaction in both formal and informal ways, like a press reception.
This can come in the pattern of special parties which are at present tagged Press Breakfast, Launch and Dinner, to enable
the organisation interacts freely with the media. This may be appropriate when introducing a new chief executives, board members,
top management staff or visitors to the media. It may also be organised after a successful outing and achievements recorded
by the organisation.
While preparing for press briefings, there is the need to make sure that the period and timing do not coincide with
other important engagement. The venue too should be suitable and accessible for the invited journalists to locate.