IMPERATIVES OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Nigerian Tribune March 1, New Nigeria March 27, 2001
MANY definitions have been given regarding
public relations, but unfortunately, as clarification is given on its principle and practices, the public becomes more confused
and wrongly relates it with other marketing communication. Some definitions, particularly from those on related fields, are
mischievously construed in the most incredible phrases that are in themselves a blatant euphemism. Many see public relations
as cheap publicity, hidden persuasion, errand work, protocol, reception in action, etc.
The most acceptable definitions of public relations have always
remained those made by the Institute of Public Relations (UK) and Mexican Statement. According to IPR, PR practice is “the
deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
The other globally accepted definition is the popular Mexican statement issued at an international conference of PR held in
Mexico city in August 1978. It defined PR as “the art or science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences,
counseling organisation leaders and implementing planned program of actions which will serve both the organization and the
public interest.” From the above, it can be seen that PR has theoretical and practical approaches to issues. Its
art and science stand for planning, execution and appraisal of programmes. From a good perspective, public relations could
easily foresee crises, which could be averted. It is the management function where the practitioner relates freely with the
leaders in the organization in giving fruitful advice, which are beneficial to the organisation’s existence. As a subject
in Mass Communication, it has channels and techniques in reaching the target public or audience at any given time.
It is more than just a communication process. It is a scientific
and acceptable norm of relating favourably between an organization and its public on whom its success or failure depends.
The importance of public relations can be noticed from its various users: from profit and non-profit organisations, public
and private institutions and to politicians and rulers who desire to have maximum supports and understanding from their publics.
The public relations officer goes with many names to suit his
disposition, environment and for clear and distinct perception of his role. Since names go in different forms, the practitioner
goes with different designations such as Corporate Affairs, Public affairs, Media Relations, Public Relations, Press Relations
and even Information Officer. In fact, in any given situation, public relations is represented in any organization that believes
in the power of the public where, to some extent, it derives its strength.
There are other professions that, to some extent, have one or
two similar activities which public relations performs. Some of the professions include marketing, advertising, sales and
even journalism. There is a recurring argument that PR is under Marketing in functions and vice-versa. Marketing concentrates
more on the identification of the consumers’ need and wants and satisfying them by providing the product and services
Marketing is centrally the transaction and interaction between
the seller and the buyer for profitable relationship. It can succinctly be put that marketing relies more on its 4Ps which
are interrelated, i.e., product, price, promotion and place. It takes place around the four popular marketing mix. Basically,
there is no much difference between marketing and sales; in fact, the latter is an aspect of the former. What distinguishes
the two is the marketing environment as it is designed to get buyers through wholesale and retails. It may adopt the town-crier
strategy to draw the attention of prospective buyers to its proximity to buy the products.
Over the years, there is a misconception that advertising is the
same as public relations practice and this is far from the truth. While public relations employs all rightful channels to
keep the public adequately informed truthfully and maintain goodwill and beneficial relationship between the organisation
and the public, advertising is the process of buying space and airtime of media services and persuading the public to accept
its products and services.
In advertising, an identified praise-singer blows his trumpet and credits himself as the
best. It does not matter how the public perceives the message. Advertising tries to assert its relevance among the gullible
public. Take the example of all those ads on cigarette smoking, alcoholic drinks and nude fashion which are not only immoral,
but also dangerous to health, as well as naked abuse of morality and righteousness.
As the advertiser uses the instrument of financial power to say
and get his message across, so also does the propagandist employ the instrument of state and political might to hoodwink the
target audience into believing and accepting whatever is dished out. Propaganda is the propagation of indefensible action
through falsehoods and tricks to dissuade the target from any challenge. Bad governments use this type of communication and
exploitative organisations who, for selfish reasons, fail to address the real issue at stake.
To a larger extent, public relations practice, like journalism,
strongly believes in objectivity and style. Even though many journalists have found a place in the public relations environment,
their experience cannot be an automatic licence to hop on the image-making field, if they fail to understand those basic principles
underlying the practice. The best a journalist can do in a PR set-up with his background knowledge in journalism, is in the
aspect of media relations and issuance of press releases which are just very few of the many functions of PR.
Since the public is becoming knowledgeable, wise and sometimes
aggressive on available products and services, public relations supports the activities of other related professions. It creates
goodwill among the public by creating awareness, maintaining credibility, minimizing competition and correcting wrong impressions
about products. In general, PR comes in different stages of product tests, the launch, and trade fair, among others. The claim
that products speak for themselves cannot be tenable in the modern society.
Public relations provides effective communication to create an
enlightened environment for sales to take place. Enquiries and information boxes are provided by serious PR Units to respond
promptly and adequately to public complaints on sales activities. As it supports marketing and sales, so also does it assist
greatly in scripting adverts which may be inevitable in special project adverts like supplements, corporate profile, public
announcement, annual statements of accounts and rejoinders.
From the foregoing, therefore, public relations involves many
awareness campaigns and promotional activities which include events sponsorship, social responsibility, facility visits, community
relations, spokesperson, publication of in-house journal and presentation of corporate gifts and lobbying with reason (government
relations), placing institutional and corporate advertisements, for some obvious reasons in the media.In a nutshell, PR is the protector of the entire organization and what it stands for. It plans all its
activities, aimed at promoting, protecting and projecting the good image of the organization, its personality and services
through the establishment, continuous maintenance of and beneficial relationship with its various publics.