MAKING THE MEANING AND THE MESSAGE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS SIMPLE TO ALL: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Many people have often asked me. “Hello Mr. Alimi Banire, what's this profession of your called Public Relations all about?” Whilst I tend to feel bewildered and completely taken aback by a question of this magnitude, I don't waste too much time in “Wonder land” before coming to terms as to what I needed to do in order to thoroughly educate such ones.
Why do I wonder when people ask me about the question of what's this profession of mine called “Public Relations” is all about? I feel that if there is any profession whose immediate impacts and values in the lives of ordinary citizen ought to be vividly perceivable, it's “Public Relations” undoubtedly. I say this without equivocation. My reasons for this are many.
First, there is no known organization in the world that does not require the inputs of Public Relations strategies if any such given organization wants to succeed in business. The values and the roles of Public Relations resources and strategies can be vividly felt right from the Office of the Managing Director “CEO” to the accounts and finance department, moving onto the legal department, the Administration and Human Resource department, to Custom care service, moving onto Marketing and sales department; just to mention but a few. Just as culture is said to be “A total way of life;” that's what Public Relations means. Remember that my aim here is not to be scholastic nor technical in trying to enlighten the unaware and those who are less knowledgeable about this esteemed profession of ours called Public Relations. my aim here is to have me break this issue into bits and pieces that would be easily understandable by the lay man seeking a good knowledge or education about one of the most misconstrued and misunderstood professions in the world i.e. Public Relations.
Let's try to do an experiment or a research at this juncture. If I may ask, do you know the meaning of Public Relations? If yes, kindly pen down your own conceptual definition of this professional discipline called “Public Relations.” This is in order to help determine if this would correlate with that of mine which I shall be highlighting in the course of this article.
One such individual who has carried out a scholastic research here in Nigeria in order to figure out how well Nigerians do understand the professional discipline call Public relations is Dr. Victoria Ajala in one of her books on Public Relations. She said that from the thrust of her research many out of her respondents could not identify Public relations and its practitioners to what “Public Relations” really stands for. According to her some of her respondents felt that Public relations is just a programme of organizing free meals; some others call Public relations practitioners to mean errand boys i.e. those who carry brief cases and accompany big men all around …. Let me stop here owing to the limitation of column space. Yes, may I ask you to kindly go back to your script; “What's your own definition of Public Relations?” Is it any better than those mentioned above?
I must say that I am proud to be a member of one of the most esteemed professions in the world called Public Relations. Public Relations is a scientific and management professional discipline which has the competence and capability to make life and business better for all and sundry. Right from the family setting up to the macro level at the larger society, Public relations is the tool needful in order to get things right.
Let me go into some little details based on the explanations above. You see in life, we set goals for ourselves and consequently we articulate strategies at reaching these goals. Whatever those goals are, doubtless to say that one would require the need of social interaction, goodwill and a solid relationship between one i.e. the individual or corporate entity who has set out to achieve a given target goals and the diverse range of individuals whom you would be expected to encounter along the way in the course of seeking to realize those goals and objectives. You must seek to carry out those goals of yours in life without seeking to infringe on the rights, legitimacy and benefits of another person. This is where I say Public Relations begins from. If you can succeed at doing this, then, may I say that you are about working your way into the realm of Public relations! As you succeed in doing what is right in the eyes of all those you'll be expected to meet along the line in the course of seeking to achieve those goals of yours, then, you begin to earn their trust, confidence and loyalty. If you were required to go through one hundred kilometers before reaching those target goals of yours, with this practice and the application of Public Relations principles and tactics, it won't be long before reaching your destination. Put for short, Public Relations is the short cut to the attainment of set goals and objectives.
As you move along in aid of achieving those goals of yours, you would be required to undertake some certain activities e.g. public enlightenment, publicity and advertisement of yourself and/or what you do, connect and relate with government agencies, protect the interest of your business through lobbying activities at both the state and national assemblies respectively, organize corporate formal and informal business and social events, build customer loyalty, patronage and goodwill, relate with the media e.g. electronic, print and the social media (online), build good friendship and relationship with the members of your immediate community e.g. where you have your shop or business outfit set up etc. These are just most if not all of the Public Relations activities you'll have to consider in aid of reaching those set goals and objectives of yours. You also need to determine those who are directly or indirectly concerned about your business objective(s) or goals in life. You will have to place these ones into a checklist and you would have to apply appropriate communication skills and strategies to seek these ones out and to sustain their goodwill. When doing this, please, kindly divorce yourself from the idea or the concept of general public. There is no such thing in Public relations. These individuals would then be categorized using concepts and nomenclatures that can best describe their identity. The aim of doing this is to sort out those individuals who could positively or negatively affect the course of the fulfillment of your set goals and objectives in life. Let me take it from the micro level. From the nuclear family, the individuals who form the public of such unit are: extended family members, the Landlord of the house where the family is staying in, next door neighbours living on the same compound, Proprietor or Proprieties of the school of the kids and wards, teachers of the kids and wards, members of the Church where the family worship, etc. (these are just a few of the individuals as categorized into what we call in Public Relations “Publics” that a nuclear family would be bothered with.) If the nuclear family is to fair well in the fulfillment of its goals and objectives to its members, then it must give consideration to the aforementioned set of publics. The aim here is to seek out what is peculiar and appropriate to each of these set of individuals and to use this to reach out to them. It's impossible in Public Relations sense to be seeking to communicate with everybody or the general public as people tend to call it at the same time. As we do have publics of a nuclear family, every given corporate organisation do also have their own publics specific to the industry that they are operating in. Research would be needed to identify these ones and to deploy the most appropriate Public Relations tactics and techniques into seeking these ones out and to sustain a mutual and cordial relationship with these ones in order that the course of the business activity of the company is not stifled or jeopardised.
Let me quickly touch on something that has become the norm in Nigeria. It's the norm to often here people say; “We are doing PR.” As such you see politicians wooing the electorates with money to buy their votes; you see people offering brown envelopes to journalists in order to obtain favourable mentions for which credibility cannot be substantiated, twisting facts and information giving half truth or distorting the truth altogether. All of these are not PR. Let me put it how the popular comedian Zebrudaya would say it; “If it's not Public Relations, it's cannot be like Public Relations.
Public Relations practitioners work hard to ensure that whosoever they work for get the right value for the services they render. They are helpful to both corporate commercial business organizations and not for profit commercial business organisations and even private individuals on whatsoever level e.g. show biz celebrities and stars one-man private business set up etc. Public Relations practitioners a very helpful and indispensable in the following corporate business establishment set ups: Banks, Telecommunication companies, Hospitals, Military institutions, manufacturing companies, oil companies, Insurance companies etc.
Public Relations is not a disorganized Professional calling as people have tried to paint it. There are specific ethics and codes of conducts guiding the practice of the profession in Nigeria. Doing any of the negative stereotypes of Public Relations such as those mentioned therein is against the ethics and codes of conduct of Public Relations. The more any given institution keeps masquerading the truth, not relating well with its appropriate publics; the more such an organization would be challenged towards attaining its set corporate goals and objectives. Sincerity of purpose, transparency, openness and candour are some of the key ingredients for building effective Public Relations between an individual or organization and his/its publics.
From the foregoing, I would like to believe that you all are gradually grasping the true sense of what Public Relations is all about. As it's typical of any profession, Public Relations is a member of one of the established professions in Nigeria. It would require lots of training and skills to be able to do all of the things mentioned therein. Not everyone can practice Public Relations. You would have to be thoroughly trained and duly qualified and licensed to do so. In Nigeria, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations i.e. NIPR is the statutorily qualified body for the accreditation and license of Public Relations practitioners in Nigeria. They have professional examinations and training suited to qualify any given individual to practice Public Relations in Nigeria.
Before I come to the end of this article, it's important for me to quickly give you a brief checklist of what Public Relations can do for you as an individual and as a corporate business entity. (This though should not however be taken as an exhaustive checklist of what Public Relations can do for you as an individual or a corporate business entity. There are still lots more. Owing to the limitation of column space, it's been very important to keep the issues brief, short and simple therein.) I shall also attempt hoping that I shall not be constrained by the limitation of column space to also give to you a brief checklist of what Public Relations can't do for you; or put much more better, what you should never attempt to use the professional management discipline of Public Relations for. In this direction, here are the following things Public Relations can do for you:
• Public Relations can help contribute to the thrust of your business's bottom line. In other words, Public Relations if and well applied can contribute as a catalyst to the avenues of profitability for any business concern.
• Public Relations can help gain, maintain, sustain and develop customer loyalty, trust, confidence and patronage.
• Public Relations can help retain and acquire quality employees or workforce.
• Public Relations can help gain, maintain, sustain and develop investor/shareholders' loyalty, trust, confidence and legitimacy.
• Public Relations can help a political party gain, maintain, sustain and develop political loyalty, trust, confidence and legitimacy from the electorates.
• Public Relations can help any government administration suffering from the crisis of legitimacy, poor image, reputation and credibility crisis regain, maintain, sustain and develop political loyalty, trust, confidence and legitimacy of the followership/electorates.
• Public Relations can help place, turn and develop an individual or a corporate business organization into a trusted, reputable and respectable brand name.
• Public Relations can help engender goodwill and mutual relationship between an individual or a corporate business organization and the members of his immediate community.
• Public Relations can help gain, maintain, sustain and develop favourable media representation without compromise of distortion of facts; falsification of information; or the payment of a price or monetary inducement of journalists to curry favourable mentions in the media which are far off from the truth.
Public Relations is not: propaganda; not the issuance of brown envelopes to Journalists to curry favourable mentions in the media which are far off from the original truth; it's not the issuance of rice sugar and money to electorates to buy their votes; it's not a denial of the truth even where and when the whole world seem to be against you; it's not a consideration of only the needs and interest of your own self or organization at the expense of the different stakeholder groups or publics of your organization; etc.
As I am gradually coming to the end of this article, it's now very important for me to now give a good definition of what Public Relations is. “Public Relations is the art and science of analyzing trends; predicting their consequences; and counselling organizational leadership; and implementing planned programmes of action that would be in the interest of both the organization and its publics.” I'd like to conclude by also mentioning yet another very good definition of Public Relations: “Public Relations is the deliberate and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual relationship between an organization and its publics.” What this means is that be you a private individual or a corporate business establishment you can't but need the services of a trained and qualified Public relations practitioner. Start getting things right! Start doing things the right way with the right results!! Choose sound and effective Public Relations practice in all that you do!
A little bit about me: I am a young blind gentleman from Lagos State of Nigeria. I hold a Masters degree in Public Relations from the Bournemouth University in the U.K, a Bachelors of Science degree in Political Science from the now Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, in Ekiti State, south-west Nigeria, Professional Certificate in Public Relations from the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Chartered Professional Diploma in Public Relations from the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations i.e. NIPR, Professional Certificate in Advertising and Brand Management from the Orange Academy in Lagos. I also hold the professional memberships of the following professional bodies both at home and abroad: Associate member, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Associate member, Nigerian Institute of Management (Chartered) and last but not the least, Member, Chartered Institute of Public Relations of the U.K. I am a proven and tested problem solver and game changer bringing to bear all of the array of my professional and academic qualifications to bear in the discharge of any assigned task(s) and responsibilities overtime. To cap it all, I must confess that my disability has never stood in my way. I am happily married to Aramide Omoniyi Banire whom I would like to humbly describe here as the most charitable and beautiful lady in the universe from Oyo state of Nigeria and we are blessed with children.
BY: ALIMI BANIRE “B.Sc, MAPR, MCIPR, ANIPR, AMNIM.”