PUBLIC RELATIONS: PROFESSIONALS AND CHARLATANS

Every profession is beleaguered with quacks who parade themselves as bona fide practioners-medicine, law, engineering, journalism, accounting, architecture,and of course,our public relations practice. Just like a medical doctor or lawyer, a true public relations practitioner will easily recognise another as there are indices to measure this practically.

There is the need to separate the qualified practitioners from the so-called charlatans who mask themselves as experts.That's why the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) under the current leadership of Dr Rotimi Oladele now seriously advocates that a law be promulgated to make it criminal for anyone to work as public relations practitioner, whether for organisations or as consultants, if they have not been certified by the regulatory institute.It is the body charged with the regulations of PR practice in Nigeria.

Oftentimes, some or all of these professions find ways of continuously weeding these quacks from their profession since the latter somewhat bring their professions to disrepute. In this context, people who are envious of certain professionals and their profession tend to take the short cut to simulate them. Without education, without certification and without recognition by examining institutions, these fakes forcefully and mischievously find their ways into such profession.It is instructive to state here that their misgivings always reveal themselves during practice or when display of expertise is requisite.

A real professional will take the legally and ethically acceptable route as enshrined in their profession, for instance, reading, passing the required examinations, training and retraining as required for upgrading, consulting superior professionals and journals when in doubt, use of modern technology, attending international conferences as well as assessing results of their activities.A sound PR person knows his/her audience and is armed with techniques of how to communicate with them effectively.

On the other hand, a charlatan, the wannabe, will pretend as weaned professional to break their boundaries and take advantage of the professional, mess up the job. How? A medical doctor who does not have some degree of medical knowledge and experience above her patient has messed up the profession!Ditto for an accountant who cannot reconcile his organisation's statements of account and cash-flow or a lawyer who cannot proactively interpreted laws and rulings to his clients.

We in the practice of public relations lament often the proliferation of these impostors in our profession. Ignorantly, the uninformed assume that anybody with vocal dexterity or verbal diarrhoea, as the case may be, can do the work of public relations because to them, the job of PR is just about being talkative, and being 'smart', appearing on television and radio stations, organizing press conferences and so on.

Public relations is pedestaled on sound knowledge of the subject, positive values of brand/product/organisation,good decision-making, proactive thinking and recommendation, research and ability to learn further, constant review of trends of events in the media and the society at large, and active contribution to the ongoing societal happenings both in the traditional and the New Media.

A charlatan of our noble profession is he who shies away from negative criticisms against his product, brand or anything he represents even when such vituperations are propaganda and outright falsehood.He will say " don't make this people more popular by replying them",although he has no basis for proclaiming that because he lacks ideas and techniques disseminating positive values of what he represents.In many instances, rejoinders give opportunity for people to balance views and preconceived notions of people. Perhaps, what they had was half-truths but now, they can now weigh issues at stake objectively. Public relations does not keep quiet in the face of oppression or when the truth is subverted.When making use of advertising as one of its allies, public relations conspicuously identifies sponsors rather than shielding them in secrecy or political gimmick of a sort.

A PR impostor is he who will say "let us appear" when he should have worked his strategy underground or consult superior professionals to add up to what he assumes he knows, when he should read the current journals/books of seasoned practitioners to juxtapose different views. A PR charlatan is the one who cannot prepare a script in the nick of time suitable for his media selection and targets. He hires the services of any-how charlatan to do that while he cannot even pick holes in the scrap! Then he mischievously hides his head when things go awry.

A PR quack is that person who will not have written any publishable feature story, articulated opinion article or customized news release on any website or in any newspaper. Yet he goes around brandishing somebody else's job as his own, claiming the glory to himself. Such cannot even analyze the trend of any event locally, nationally or globally; he has dearth of information and ideas. He has no orientation of going for further training and retraining on the job. Such is dead professionally.

A qualified PR professional is an all-rounder who has good knowledge of journalism, advertising, broadcasting, brand management, public affairs as well as reputation management. He is a thinker, a strategist, a perfectionist, a workaholic, a listener,a speaker, a believer, an advocate not an apologist, or a pest, not an activist or a push-over, neither a rabble-rouser nor a dummy.He is a bookworm because he reads not only PR books and journals but different subjects of knowledge.While marshalling and articulating his thoughts brilliantly, he bows for superior viewpoints as he learns from cross-fertilization of ideas.

There is only one basic difference between the PR practitioner and the charlatan: the earlier is the grain, the latter is the chaff.

**Katib wrote from Crescent University, Abeokuta via [email protected]/08096629914

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Articles by Idris Katib