Opinion

World PR DAY: Redefining the practice and the practitioners

Tope Adaramola

Every July 16 is recognized as World Public Relations Day. The day is often set aside globally to amplify the crucial roles of Public Relations in promoting the pivotal place of the profession as one of the tools for enhancing global social cohesion and unity. It is also aimed at presenting a unified global agenda to make the world understand PR and utilize it better.

Themed “Harnessing Power of Public Relations” this year’s celebration is bringing to the fore the changing global dynamics that has shaped the practice as well as the practitioners.

Being a planned communication aimed at maintaining mutual understanding between an organization and its relevant publics for better perception and image by the publics, Public Relations primarily aims to mould public opinions and sentiments for acceptable image.

This role could not have been better couched than in the words of famous Abraham Lincoln. He averred that “Public sentiments is everything. With public sentiments nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. He who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or decisions possible or impossible to executive”.

Needless to note that PR has never been more exciting in history. Years ago, there was just a handful of things that PR practitioners did: media relations, events and reputation management, crisis communications, internal communications and public affairs.

Although some of these traditional roles and approaches still remain, the new trends, particularly with the Covid-19 pandemic, blighted some of them to the extent that any practitioner that is recalcitrant to change with the trends would be on the part of the dinosaur.

Today, nearly everything organizations do to communicate with the public is considered PR- from Facebook ads, to influencer relations, to content marketing and search engine optimization. It’s a fact that many marketers are beginning to expand their frontiers of practice by expanding their communications skills to remain relevant.

Just as product marketers are learning how to write to create owned content that is interesting and valuable to their audience, so are also search engine specialists learning how to pitch journalists and bloggers to earn the precious link back to their websites. The PR space is replete with these so called social media experts whose duties are to figure out who to sell their message and even earn goodwill for their hirers. Also coming on the heels of these are the Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), all driving world order and posing serious challenges to human minds and perception.

The implication of the massive inroad into the known traditional forte of PR practitioners globally is that there has arisen the impelling need for PR and communications experts to move away from their narrow confines, to a more strategic-centric approach in moudling public opinion and building strong brands.

The PR professionals of today must be more agile to combat the fierce challenges posed by digital technology by focusing more on data analytics, to gain more insights into public sentiments on several channels, especially the social media. They must also be more disposed to give attention to the crave of the public for authenticity of their messages. Transparency and integrity are more vital ingredients in evaluating today’s PR effectiveness. PR professionals must focus on building authentic relationships, promoting genuine storytelling and address public concerns openly.

There is no doubt that the growing relevance of influencers marketing and forging collaborations with influencers to amplify their reach and mould opinions and brands credibility have become quite apposite.

In the area of crisis management, PR must develop required agility to respond to the rapid rate at which news spread in order to promptly monitor online conversations and proactively address issues that could lead to reputational damage.

As a way of making PR more globally relevant, the World PR Day is an avenue to nudge the PR profession and its professionals to make their voices heard by being unrelenting in joining global conversations in setting global agenda and adding value to the various challenges facing their respective countries or domains.

As Issues Management experts, PR professionals are to give more attention to issues such as global economic turbulence, which has not insulated any particular nation, but has occasioned massive erosion of living standards index of humans; presenting potent ideas on the increasing international conflicts and wars- of which Ukraine and Russia are focal- as well as internal wars and combustions in countries such as Sudan, where human casualties are increasing in hundreds.

It is also not out of place for the professionals to make their inputs into bogging issues of migration and mobility, especially from the less developed to developed climes with its attendant negative implications on the individual migrants and sometimes diplomatic glitches amongst countries. This is without forgetting the increasing mitigating and environmental and ecological damage and global change facing human existence.

While the epochal PR Day celebrations is globally focused on one hand, it on the other provides an auspicious avenue to admonish individual practitioners to continually add value to themselves, in order to remain relevant. The dynamics of contemporary PR necessitates that all practitioners must personally and continually imbibe the virtues of adaptability to rapidly changing milieu of their practice.

They must be fast and responsive to public sentiments. Also, practitioners must be data minded, bearing in mind that the days are past when PR practitioners abhor figures and data. Today, the world is data driven and the need to “scientise” PR strategies using data to evaluate campaign initiatives for appreciation of results by clients or management is now the in thing. The PR professional of today must be “intelligent” in all respects. He must not hang on to Intelligent Quotient alone, he needs to operate other variants of quotients to stand out and excel brilliantly in his calling.

Tope Adaramola is a former Chairman of Ogun State Chapter of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations

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