FUNCTIONS OF PUBLIC RELATION PRACTICES IN THE ORGANIZATIONS IN NIGERIA



Public relations were brought into existence by the ever increasing complexity of economic, social and political problems. Public relation has to be recognised and accepted as the useful tool of any organised society in conducting a peaceful election. Public relations were used many centuries ago in England, where the King made use of the Lord Chancellors as ‘Keepers of the king’s conscience’. These chancellors surely offered to historical counterpart of today’s public relation practitioners. Although, there are different views on what constitutes the range of Public Relations activities and what terms to use for them. Philip Lashy’s (1973) universe presents these activities such as corporate relations, government relations, media relations and community relations.

Ajala (2001) in her Public Relations in search of professional said that for an organisation to gain favourability, there should be public relation input in all department of the organisation, it is only in such situation that public relations would be a management function encompassing the following such as anticipating, analysing, and interpreting public opinions, attitudes, future trends and issues which might have impacts on any sections of the corporate operating and most importantly establishing and maintaining a two-way communication between the organisation and its various public in order to prevent misunderstanding and conflict.
Also, in principles and practice of public relations, it is observed that those misconceptions of public relation pose a great challenge to public relations practitioners and professional association like the Institute of Public relation (IPR) United Kingdom and Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) to promote a more informed discussion of what the practice involves.
Since the promulgation of Decree No 16 of 1990 on the establishment of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, the commitment to and the search for excellence in Public Relations practice have become obligatory for public relation practitioners in Nigeria.
Generally, it is expected that the result of this research work will be of immense significance of the conduct of the 2011 general election in Nigeria. This research findings is about the working relationship between the internal and external publics i.e. government and the populace (duo of voters and aspirants)

What Public Relations Is Not
One of the greatest problems which public relations practitioners in Nigeria have had to grapple with over the year has been that of credibility stemming from society’s wrong perception of what a public relations person actually does. Worse still is the fact that lots of practitioners themselves do not have a clear idea of what public relations actually is. For this reason, many come into the profession with the wrong motives, intentions and perceptions. Ikechukwu Nwosu (1997) identified some of these misconceptions, thus:
1. Public relations is not about lying and selling falsehood about your product and organisation. It is not about denying every statement that does not favour your organisation. It is not about prevarication. Public relations isabout telling the truth all the time.
2. Public relations is not about bribery. This wrong idea about public relations came to the fore recently when a Nigerian minister of education excused his action of bribing the executive arm of government to increase his ministries budget allocation as public relations. According to him, the bribe was ‘PR’. The truth is that public relations is not bribe giving.
3. Public relations is based on moral principles and as such it is not ‘arranging’ pretty ladies for international visitors to government houses or to chief executives of companies, clients, board members, etc. If there is any profession where morality should be held in high regards, it is in public relations because it enhances public confidence in the profession.
4. Public relations is not magic, enchantment or paranormal. For this reason all its activities are based on scientifically provable and empirical methods. Public relations is based on high performance, quality performance, quality and credibility in terms of products, service, policies and practice.
5. Public relations is not about organising parties and other social events. No doubt, public relations does activities of this nature, but not in the sense of making it its only preoccupation.
6. Public relations is not about employing pretty ladies lacking in morals and principles to woo men into acting against their wishes.
7. Public relations is not about being a yes-boy or a bag carrier for your boss’ madam or relations. Rather it is a dignified and noble profession that attracts self confident, intelligent and self- respecting men and women.

FUNCTION OF PUBLIC RELATION

The work of public relations may be divided into many areas or functions. Fundamentally, publicrelations practitioners perform the following functions:
Writing and editing: Writing is a very vital skill in public relations.
Therefore you must learn not only to appreciate good writing but must also be able to write well. The beauty about writing is that it is a skill that can be learned. Good writers are in high demand in most agencies.
Mass Production: Practitioners of public relations engage in the writing of various messages for the purpose of communicating with both internal and external publics. This is why the skill of writing is vital to public relations. Some of the messages that PR practitioners write are packaged as magazines and other forms of publications, which require editing and production.
Media relations: The mass media in both print and electronic are the channels through which public relations practitioners communicate with the public. This is why PR practitioners need to need to cultivate and maintain good relations with mass media organizations and other personnel, especially editors, reporters and columnists.
Research: Public relations problems are not solved by guess work. PR practitioners carry out formal researchh to obtain information that is vital to planning.
Strategic planning: Public relations practitionerswho operate at the top level participate in the formulation of organisational missions, policies and goals. .
Management and administration: Public relations practitioners engage in management work. Public relations is a distinct management function which helps to maintain mutual lines of communication between an organisation and its publics. PR practitioners manage people, businesses, and events.
Corporate counseling: Public relations practitioners advise management on matters concerning their organizations’ relationships with their various publics.
Organizing special events: The organization of events, such as trade fairs, trade exhibitions, `press conferences, fashion shows, factory tours, special observances (e.g. mothers’ day) AGMs, etc is part of work public relations practitioners do.
Speaking: To represent their organizations, PR practitioners do engage in speaking assignments of different kinds for different publics. For example, your organization may be invited by students who are studying a subject that underlies the work of your organization to give a public
lecture during their career day.
Coaching: PR practitioners also engage in training and coaching top management staff on public speaking and press interviews.
Crisis Communication: A very special type of work that PR practitioners do is helping their organizations to resolve crises whenever they occur. They do this essentially by managing the flow of information between the organization and the public, via the mass media, and by advising management on what to do and how to do it, so that the crisis is not aggravated. To practice preventive public relations,  it’s necessary to plan extensively to avoid crisis, but since crisis must occur, it is your duty to counsel management in crisis situations

PUBLIC RELATIONS IN 21 CENTURY
The PR interest in Governance, hence in our new democracy is obvious and pervasive.   Democracy has been memorably defined as the Government of the People, by the people, for the people. PR is critically involved in ensuring that our system of governance approaches each of these ideals.
The concept of Government of the people relates to the ownership of the political system.   Who chooses those who rule?   How are the choices made? To whom is government responsible and accountable?   What controls do the people have over the agencies of government? To what extent can we truly claim to have “servant presidents”, “servant governors” and “obedient servant permanent secretaries”?   It is sadly true that the true answer to each of these questions must be disappointing.  We do not choose our leaders freely and transparently, we do not control them and they are not accountable to us.   How has public relations contributed to this situation and how can public relations help to bring about beneficial change?
The relevance of PR in the process of choosing our leaders and representatives is central.   PR practitioners play critical roles in packaging, presenting and selling the political parties, their programmes and their candidates.   But all we know about the political parties in Nigeria today is that one of them is the largest in Africa.  Who founded each party?  What is its membership and what does it stand for?   Nobody has seen fit to tell us.   So, we may ask:  on what basis have we been choosing our leaders?
Nigeria’s greatest contribution to democratic politics is the entrenchment of TURNISM as the cardinal principle in our electoral selection processes.  The geopolitical zones take turns in the selection of the president, the vice-president, the principal officers of the National Assembly, ministers etc.  The states take turns within their zones, the local governments within their states, and the communities within their LGAs.  Personal merit, knowledge and skills count for little.   Experience is fatal: you and your people have had your turn!  And in order to protect its turn, each segment must support and protect its own person in office, no matter what he/she does or does not do.
It is one thing to be nominated, another to win.   Why do the people vote?   What can they expect or insist on getting in return?   The campaign strategies of the candidates for office are tediously similar.  The emphasis is on glorifying the candidate and excoriating the opponents.   There is little or no discussion of issues.   In so far as programmes are mentioned, it is “me too” all the way.   Every one promises to do much the same things, only bigger or faster or both.   But in any case to “win” you do not need to be voted for.   You can rig or be rigged for, openly, flagrantly and comprehensively.
The concept of Government by the people has to do with responsiveness accountability.   Government is not by the people if those acting supposedly on their behalf keep acting regardless of or even against their wishes and interests, if the people are kept in ignorance of what is happening, and if the people have no practical means of changing their agents or making them change.  The basic question is:  how does the representative relate to the community?   How does the community exercise the rights of ownership?
The concept of Government for the people relates to issues of relevance and
impact.   How does the democratic system ensure that the things being done
address the people’s interest and meet their felt needs?   How do the people
keep in touch with their “servants” and their “servants” with them to ensure that the people are being served properly, with their knowledge and consent. These issues turn on the level, range and intensity of communication between government and the people.  For their part the people must know what to do to identify their needs, evaluate what government id doing to meet their needs and take appropriate action to protect and advance their interests.   The role of civil society organisations is critical in this regard
PUBLIC RELATIONS IN NIGERIA
Now let us turn our attention to the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations itself.   According to your brochure, the fundamental objectives of the NIPR are:
  • To promote and develop the art and science of Public Relations in Nigeria.
  • To establish, prescribe and ensure the observance of high standards of professional and ethical practice.
  • To provide facilities, advice and opportunities for executives to meet and discuss Public Relations problems and case studies, and thereby improve the standards of Public Relations practice in Nigeria.
  • To encourage the acquisition of professional qualifications through the provision of examinations and other facilities.
  • To conduct research, collect and disseminate information on  aspects of Public Relations, and
  • To publish journals, books, practice papers and guidelines
Since its foundation in 1963, the Institute has had a distinguished succession of leaders, including icons from the public, quasi-public and private sectors.  It has built up a tradition of professional competence and public service of which it can be justly proud, and been constructively engaged in the national debate on development.  Your members “operate in every sphere of life in Nigeria including: Commerce and Industry; Government (Federal, State and Local); Community and Social affairs;   International Affairs, Charities and public interests and health care establishments.    Additionally, the Institute relates closely with other professional organisations involved in public relations and related matters.  These include:
    • The Association of Corporate Affairs Managers,
    • The Nigerian Guild of Editors, and
    • The Nigerian Union of Journalists.
Since its foundation in 1963, the Institute has had a distinguished succession of leaders, including icons from the public, quasi-public and private sectors.  It has built up a tradition of professional competence and public service of which it can be justly proud, and been constructively engaged in the national debate on development.  Indeed many members of NIPR are also members of these organisations.
In the context of this lecture, the Challenge for the Institute is how to use its resources, connections and energies to contribute more systematically and effectively to the rebirth, strengthening and sustenance of democratic governance in Nigeria.
The Future of the Public Relation Profession in Nigeria
There are a number of developments currently being witnessed in the Nigerian Public Relation industry. First, there is a growing sentiment that Public Relation consultancies charge exorbitant service fees and that these services fall below agreed performance targets. Such sentiments will soon be a thing of the past as highly skilled practitioners offering competitive and value adding services emerge in the industry.
Second, opportunity for growth in Public Relations services is on the rise. For as long as the government is committed to free market competition, the demand for Public Relations services will continue to grow. Many public utilities such as electricity corporations who have blatant disregard for their image, will actively seek Public Relation services once they are commercialized. This provides a unique opportunity for image consultants to build their client base.
Third, a degree in Public Relation which until recently was disregarded as a prerequisite for getting a job or building a career in Public Relation is gradually becoming relevant. Many corporations, particularly newly emerging consulting firms are beginning to value Public Relations graduates more than ever before. Consequently, there has been a rise in the number of students pursuing Public Relations modules and degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in many Nigerian universities. Also, there is a rise in the number of Nigerians pursuing Public Relations, reputation and identity research at doctoral level at local and foreign universities.
Fourth, as corporate scandals become more widespread, many organizations that might otherwise have been silent responsible operators will seek more effective methods for conveying messages about their corporate social responsibility activities. This condition will provoke a rise in demand for Public Relations services and in effect buffer client base.
Fifth, in spite of the rise in the number of Nigerians completing Public Relations degrees, there is still an acute shortage of highly skilled Public Relations practitioners. Many junior executives quickly get poached by clients either due to poor conditions of service, quests for higher and more challenging image making responsibilities in other better rewarding industries or a combination of both.
Sixth, it is gradually becoming difficult for non-registered Public Relation practitioners to occupy Public Relations positions or service Public Relations accounts. Membership of the two Public Relations regulatory associations (NIPR and PRCAN) is bulging and they are becoming highly influential. They will play a greater role in the regulation and control of Public Relations practices in Nigeria. It is expected (in the near future) that majority of industry turnover in Public Relations consulting services will be controlled by PRCAN members. A few Public Relations firms have already established strategic partnerships with top and high ranking Public Relation firms in Europe and America. The advantages of such alignments are currently manifesting. This trend will continue. More firms will seek global alignments with internationally reputed image making consulting firms to take advantage of such partnership.

WAYS OF PBULIC RELATION PRACTICES TO GREAT PREFORMANCE
1.The Press Agentry / Publicity Model
In this model, the focus of public relations effort is on getting favourable coverage or publicity from the media. It is a one-way communication with propaganda (one-sided argument) as its purpose. The model projects an approach that thrives on falsehood, thus accuracy, ethics and
truth are not seen as essential. According to Guth and Marsh (2000), a study in 1989 had revealed that this was the most practiced model of public relations with P.T. Barnum as one of the prominent figures in the practice of the model. The model can be depicted as shown below:
2. The Public Information Model
This model equally adopts a one-way approach of dissemination of information. However, unlike the press agentry/publicity model, it disseminates truthful and accurate information. It is a model in which the public relations professional acts much like a typical journalist or
news reporter ‘in residence’ in the organisation and the information he or she disseminates is relatively objective. Indeed, the purpose of public information here is the dissemination of truthful information. The model was developed by Ivy Lee, an early expert in public relations. It is depicted below: Guth and Marsh report that the 1989 study showed that this model was the second most practiced, but it ranked last in order of preference among practitioners.
3. The Two–Way Asymmetrical Model
The trust of this model is scientific persuasion. It uses research as a way of influencing vital publics towards the organisation’s point of view. The model also attempts to create mutual understanding between the organisation and its publics. Here, the public relations communicator gets feedbacks from the government and then employs appropriate communication theories to persuade the public to accept the organisation’s point of view. The essence of research here is to reveal how best to persuade the audience or public. According to Guth and Marsh, the 1989 study showed that it was the least practiced of the four models but it ranked first in order of preference among practitioners. It can be shown thus:
4. The Two–Way Symmetrical Model.In this model, public relations communicators make every attempt for each side to understand the other’s point of view. The goal here is to achieve mutual understanding albeit in a deeper and more profound way that puts the two parties in a win-win
situation. It is a useful model for conflict resolution within an organisation and especially between an organisation and its publics. The public relations communicator here is a middleman between the organisation and its publics striving always at achieving mutual understanding rather than an adversarial relationship.
The model is the most preferred by Hunt and Grunig who did the 1989 study. They reported that it was the most practiced model of public relations but ranked second in order of preference among practitioners. Edward Bernays and most communication educators are major supporters of this model. The model is depicted below:
Now which of these models would you adopt for your practice as a public relations practitioner? Wellit depends on a number of factors such as the size of your organisation, the distinctive personality of the organisation, its corporate goals and objectives as well as its history and what it has learnt from it. For instance a university of Kansas study showed that the more experience an organisation has in dealing with crisis, the greater the likelihood that the public relations’ role is closely tied to the organisation’s management. A tabular explanation of the Grunig’s model is presented below: Adapted from Jim R. Macnamara’s ‘A review of the use of evaluative and formative research’.
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