World PR Day was celebrated globally in the month of July. Nigeria is not exempt from the celebration of the discipline that is so profound in the other aspect of creation—relationship.
So it was an exciting moment to share the joy of the celebrations with professional colleagues at the monthly meeting of the Lagos Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).
Public Relations is dynamic, and the practice has become a way of life for many practitioners with decades of experience. Like I love to say, PR practice is not mechanical but situational, relatable, and domiciled in the formal and informal actions of people backed with intentional connection to those concerned. With practical experience in other climes, public relations is a noble profession.
Public relations in Nigeria is evolving. It has greatly advanced from where it used to be when I joined the practice almost three decades ago. Technology is a great enabler that has influenced how jobs get done, with resources now more readily available.
The media runs of those days had given way to the use of emails, phones, and other technology tools and apps. The expectations and demands of clients and other consumers of PR products and services, as well as other stakeholders, have chiefly impacted the practice.
The uncertainty of the socio-political and economic environment did not excuse PR practice, as it affects other practices and businesses. And more importantly, the old is giving way to the new in terms of perspective and understanding.
Unlike what occurs in an advanced economy and structured environment, specialization is still lacking in PR practice in Nigeria. A number of fairly successful agencies still shy away from making their billing and successful case studies available for public use. Many still prefer to go solo rather than embrace collaboration and integration.
PR practice and practitioners are yet to agree on adequate and commensurate compensation for their work; hence, undercurrent dealings are still prevalent. Business ethics are being largely compromised to gain patronage and competitive advantage.
There is the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), an institute with the responsibility to guide the practice of the profession. While the body embarked on the laudable exercise of ratifying its members years ago, much is being expected by the leadership of this noble profession to raise its profile.
The Institute will do well to be intentional in attaining a credible and respectable roll call among contemporary professional bodies and institutes after over six decades of existence.
What is the perception of Public Relations practice in Nigeria? One would expect that the profession should have a top-notch reputation rating; unfortunately, that is not the case. “PR needs PR”.
Efforts have been made to change the narrative with affirmative PR’ and the like, but they have yet to yield a bountiful result. Bribery and untoward practices can still be attributed to Public Relations.
The recent statement or comment credited to a Ministerial nominee who may have oversight functions over the practice remains a concern for prime practitioners and major stakeholders. Many do not understand the practice. ‘Wetin Public Relations dey do sef?!’ Massive enlightenment and engagement are needed.
Many professions of which I’m aware have a sustainable succession plan and are intentional about grooming the next generation of practitioners through mentorship. Brilliant and intelligent youngsters are not seen as competition or a threat to popularity. Senior practitioners can take a cue from professional bodies that are succeeding at grooming junior colleagues and intentionally build them for a successful career.
The not-so-brilliant should also be provided with the necessary support. The practice has much to gain from deliberate mentoring of the next generation of practitioners.
The quality of a training has a large impact on its relevance and continuous desire for it. The role of training in the dynamic space of Public Relations practice cannot be overemphasized. Practical training to connect the classroom with the work environment is lacking, and this should be a concern that needs to be addressed by the custodian of Public Relations at all levels.
The Lagos Chapter of NIPR is doing well with the monthly clinic, to which I was privileged to have contributed immensely.
Lastly, and more importantly, the threat to the profession is real and growing by the day! Many of the hitherto friends in the media who are helping to provide media support—a fraction of what Public Relations entails—now claim to be PR practitioners and are being patronized on a low budget.
The hostile business environment and shrinking economy are affecting the public relations budget. A good number of small businesses are shedding services due to prioritization. And now, technology tools are now available to do the work of writing, which was the forte of the practice. But for those who know their onions, AI and the like will be an enabler; otherwise, the threat is real!
- Eniola Mayowa is the COO of Stepcraft Nigeria, a Fellow of NIPR, and a marketing communication practitioner
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