COVID-19: NIPR Chairpersons Task PR Practitioners on Crisis Communication, Social Media

COVID-19: NIPR Chairpersons Task PR Practitioners on Crisis Communication, Social Media

With the relentless surge of COVID-19 content and fake news, public relations practitioners have been urged to deploy crisis communication strategies and social media engagements in their campaigns.

Chairpersons of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations for Lagos and Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Mr. Olusegun McMedal and Maryam Sanusi respectively, made the calls in separate interviews with the Spokesperson Digest, a professional journal for communicators.

While lauding the efforts of various stakeholders, the two leaders called for more strategic communication responses in fighting the deadly pandemic in country.

McMedal, who is the Chief Reputation Strategist at Upticomm Marketing Company, said it is gratifying seeing Nigeria’s PR experts stepping up and also living up to expectation in the war against the novel virus.

He nevertheless urged them to improve their capacity in digital communication.

He said: “One of the immediate challenges PR professionals face is adapting to the new normal. Offices have moved away from brick and mortal to virtual platforms. Unfortunately, most of the old practitioners are not as savvy in using technology.

“But hope is not lost, this is the best time to unlearn and relearn to remain relevant. The current reality dictates that public relations practitioners must deploy more technological tools for their work including the choice of media channel. Business as usual is no longer good enough. We now live in a world where everything is connected. It is the age of digitization, mobilization, augmentation and disintermediation. The way we work is no longer the same, it requires new skill sets.

On the crisis communication, McMedal pointed out that the role of PR in crisis period is development communication. “It engages stakeholders and policy makers, establishes conducive environments, assesses risks and opportunities and promotes information exchanges to create positive social and economic change through the news media.”

In her contribution, the FCT NIPR Chairperson, Hajia Maryam Sanusi noted that despite the proliferation of fake news about the novel Coronavirus, the purveyors of ‘unbridled’ misinformation and ‘blatant’ falsehood about the disease will not have their way in misleading the general public, if professional are engaged to tackled them.

Sanusi, who is the first woman to lead the FCT NIPR Chapter since its formation, lamented the effect of “unverifiable and fictitious” news about the coronavirus pandemic, which she said if not checked, “it could become more deadlier and harmful than the virus.”

She explained that, “The FCT Chapter of NIPR, as a professional body, is doing its best both at individual and group levels to support the government not only in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but also against the menace of fake news.

“That is why we have produced a public service advocacy jingle to address the rising cases of fake news about the pandemic, which we have disseminated on social media and also sent to various broadcast media houses, to give it a wider coverage.”

She said in this season of social distancing, PR personnel should outline a digital communications plan for engaging the media and other major stakeholders. She added that real-time monitoring system of websites and social media can also be useful to guide in further narratives.

“In fact, with the ongoing campaign against COVID-19 infection and its associated fake news proliferation, the best tools to tackle the trend is through the social media engagement. I am glad to observe that public relations personnel are now supporting their organisations with expertise in social media activities and Crisis communication strategies,” she noted.

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