Friday, 8th December 2023

#WPRD: ‘Journalism isn’t Public Relations’  

By Martins Oloja
17 July 2022   |   3:03 am
Again, I have seen the hope of a better Nigeria despite the present darkness. I mean in spite of the clear and present danger to the federation that is already on the brink, I see hope.

Omawumi Ogbe

Again, I have seen hope of a better Nigeria despite the present darkness. I mean in spite of the clear and present danger to the federation that is already on the brink, I see hope. O yes hopeless, hold your breath! I have seen what that iconic writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, I quote here regularly calls “hope of a better tomorrow,” which “is the only hope you can give to a weeping child.” What is the source of my hope? I attended this year’s commemoration of the World Public Relations Day (WPRD) at the weekend as a panel member of a fireside colloquium on ‘the future of public relations.’ I was impressed by the intellectual power in young men and women on the six-person panel of discussants. I listened, contributed and learned a great deal too. And so, the quality of the very contextual contributions would impress even professors of communications and indeed public relations practitioners and scholars. It is not about their sophistry and oratory. I mean that I also discovered part of the fundamental reasons the young ones in this place are at the moment shouting and acting enough-is-enough Movement that most members of the old set-up that brought the nation down to the present darkness are jittery about. Yes, I see hope and I would like to share yet another optimism that our young ones who are now socially and politically conscious, our vibrant youth who are still registering for voter cards in the torrential rains all over the place should not be despised – that they woke up too late. I saw a glimmer of hope at Cilantro Restaurant, Musa Yar’Adua Street, Victoria Island where young public relations practitioners bemoaned their profession, declared it as moribund in one breath and in another, noted that despite the negative connotation of public relations practice at the moment, they would continue to use the communication model as a weapon of peace and bridge building for a better Nigeria where even complexity of our diversity and demonised services and products can be better appreciated. This is not a contextual reporting of what they said. I just want to report to our people that we have enough young men and women who can build a body of knowledge and a critical mass to run a better Nigeria that can stand on a podium to say to the world powers again that on behalf of Nigeria and Africa, we declare that Africa has indeed come of age! 

What happened? What is this rigmarole on a voyage of discovery of our vibrant youth all about? 

2022 World PR Day: Practitioners Presented Unified Global Agenda
PUBLIC relations practitioners around the world marked the second edition of the World Public Relations Day (WPRD) at the weekend (on Friday, July 15, 2022). According to the promoters of the event, the WPRD is inspired by a need to present a unified global agenda for a better understanding and utilisation of public relations practice. They explained that ‘WPRD presents a unique platform for public relations and marketing communications practitioners across the globe to unite and stake a claim for the practice.’

They also claimed that ‘as an annual global celebration dedicated to the virtues of truth, honesty and reputation management, WPRD is a global response to reposition public relations as a defining profession of the 21st century.’

This year’s theme: “Trust, Truth and Transparency,” is the second edition, which presents another opportunity for professionals to put forward a unified global agenda and propel one another to answer a call of duty, help stakeholders to communicate more responsibly and be more deliberate about using public relations to help organisations make positive contributions to the environment and society in which they operate.

Set aside as a day dedicated to truth, honesty and reputation management in a way that is beneficial to all people across the globe, July 16 also honours Ivy Lee, one of the pioneers of Public Relations practice who was born on the same date 145 years ago.

It is remarkable that the WPRD was born in Nigeria by a young PR practitioner. So public relations practitioners across the world celebrated the maiden World PR Day last year as created by a young Nigerian, Adekunle Ayeni who then noted that the day was created as an opportunity for public relations practitioners and enthusiasts across the world to unite and stake a claim for the practice. Adekunle Ayeni, chief executive officer and founder of BlackHouse Media (BHM), said ‘the profession is grossly misunderstood and underappreciated.’

He had then noted that ‘the world is doing itself a disservice with the level of regard it bears the profession.’ The BHM boss predicted then that things would begin to change with the newly established annual World PR day.

“PR is more than a terribly misunderstood, poorly appreciated, and thus poorly remunerated practice,” Ayeni said.

“We believe businesses, countries, and people do, not just practitioners, but themselves a huge disservice, if they continue to fail to see PR for what it is and should be: a strategic aspect of business and governance, invaluable in building relationships, preventing crises, achieving business objectives; pushing national interest, and preventing the kind of confusion that could ruin a company or lead nations to war.

“I was surprised to discover that there’s not a single day dedicated to PR and Communications. No unified global agenda towards making the world understand and utilise PR better. And with July 16, we are changing that.”

This year’s celebration at the weekend was organised by a reputation management company, GLG Communication and supported by The Guardian.

GLG Communications played host to a cocktail reception and fireside conversation. Guests at the event included PR professionals, agency founders, heads of organisations, press members, and other business leaders. Attendees actually connected, networked and anchored high-level conversations and solutions about PR in Nigeria and in global context.

In line with this year’s theme, “Trust, Truth, and Transparency,” the fireside conversation explored new trends in a rapidly changing landscape.  The young speakers who impressed me beyond expectation and raised my hope of a better Nigeria included industry leaders such as Ayeni Adekunle – Founder and CEO, BHM Group; Nkiru Olumide Ojo – Africa Regions Executive Head, Brand and Corporate Communications, Standard Bank Group; Adebola Williams – Group CEO of RED | For Africa; and Bidemi Zakariyau – Founder & CEO, LSF PR. PR Expert and Managing Partner at GLG Communications, Omawumi Ogbe, who artfully moderated the conversation. Yours sincerely as earlier hinted was part of the conversation panel. The event, which also featured a recognition segment to celebrate esteemed PR professionals leveraging public relations to make an impact and promote the profession in Nigeria was moderate. 

The convener of this year’s edition, Omawumi Ogbe said she was motivated to play host this year in that it is an avenue for stakeholders and thought-leaders to expand the frontiers of PR while setting the agenda for the Nigerian PR ecosystem.

“Nigeria is making strides in public relations and communications. The time is ripe to expand our stories, establish ourselves as integral parts of the global landscape, and draw lessons from veterans and young voices in Nigeria’s PR community and the African continent at large,” said Omawumi Ogbe. 

“GLG Communications believes that positive disruption is important in our industry so that others won’t disrupt us negatively,” she said.

“Since we set plans in motion, this initiative has been widely accepted and applauded by the PR and communications industry and other private and public leaders. We’re confident this event will bring a new vista to our industry.” 

Speaking on the need to constantly communicate the importance of the global public relations practice, Ayeni Adekunle, CEO and founder, BHM and Convener, World PR Day, said before the event: “We decided to begin to have tough, largely ignored conversations about PR last year, and we want to show once again how the practice has deeper connotations to how our world functions than it gets credit for.

“It is in our collective interests for the world to continue to understand the role of PR in shaping and inspiring not only businesses or governance across the globe but critical human actions that can make or mar generations to come.”

The keynote speaker who set the tone for the fireworks, Ayuli Jemide, Lead Partner, Detail Commercial Solicitors and Head of NBA Business Law Unit, noted the implications of the negative connotation attached to PR practice that is supposed to inform, persuade and integrate the society. He noted that organisations should open a trust bank account for workers and managers, from which they can withdraw intangible assets any time they do well and into which they can deposit assets according to the proportion of their deeds.

According to the legal practitioner, who has passion for public relations as weapon for ‘bridge building’ in organisational setting, every stakeholder to answer a rhetorical question: where is your trust bank where you work? Some of the take-away and deliverables from the conversation include the following: 
#That it is not useful to the leadership at all levels to headhunt reputation managers/communication officers – all PR practitioners from the newsroom without concomitant training. The reason for this is that journalists recruited from the newsroom can only do a bit of media relations, which is just a part of the public communications skill. 
# Industry leaders and even political leaders should not just embrace ad-hocism in securing professionals for the management of their public relations because management is everything. 

# Trust deficit should not be tolerated in marketing communication and pursuit of truth should be a fundamental objective in managing communication strategy

# All told, PR practitioners were told to embrace relationship building in peace time as waiting for crisis time can be a blight upon relationship between mainstream media editors and PR agents. Wait for more details on the robust contributions of the fireside fireworks soon. In the main, the young practitioners on the panel impressed me a great deal. They raised the bar of my confidence that indeed we have a future that can be driven only by intellectual capital only if we can resolve our main trouble, which the iconic Achebe says is ‘…simply and squarely a failure of leadership.’