PR Masterclass Should be on Merit for NIPR Membership- Dr. Saudat Abdulbaqi
Dr. Saudat Sallah Abdulbaqi a lecturer and former Head of Mass Communication Department, University of Ilorin, is the acting Chairperson of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Kwara State after the former Chairman, Alhaji Moshood Amuda finished his second term in office. She speaks to the Tomori Uriel of Spokespersons Digest on the activities of her chapter and PR programmes in the university
Can you give us a brief history and activities of the NIPR Chapter in Kwara State?
The Kwara Chapter of NIPR was established in 1984 but formally inaugurated in April 1988 by the then National President of NIPR, late Chief Alex Akinyele, under the Chairmanship of late Oba Michael Asaju. In carrying out its mandates, the Chapter organises in-house training for Public Relation Practitioners in public and private organisations in the state. These trainings have been a continuous process to keep practitioners in tune with best practices within the profession. The chapter partners with the government of Kwara State in advocacies for good governance ensures ethical public relations practices in public and private enterprises as well as pursue the registration of practitioners and Information Officers of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with the Institute in line with the resolution of the 46TH meeting of The National Council on information (NCI) held in Asaba on October 2016.
Do you have any programme for prospective members?
The Chapter runs tutorials for prospective members who do not have Mass Communication, Journalism or Marketing background, preparatory for awards of Diploma and Certificate in Public Relations. The chapter maintains a cordial and mutually beneficial relationship with the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), print and broadcast media outfits as well as corporate organisations within the state. Our membership drive has been yielding a positive dividend, as many practitioners feel proud to identify with us.
As an academic, has your experience helped in leading the NIPR Chapter better?
My academic and professional engagements complement each other. The Institute provides a platform for social and professional connectedness for me and my students. Just as being a lecturer avail me the opportunity of engaging my students, at all levels, and colleagues in the activities of the Institute. I am able to enrich the Institute with the quality knowledge, skills, and experiences of my colleagues from all higher institutions in Kwara State. My students, apart from being principal audiences at our chapter events, help to publicise our activities on their various online platforms and mainstream media outlets. We engage in studied discussions of happenings around us with a view to finding a PR solution to them.
What are the challenges and opportunities of/for the institute?
The major challenge that limits the prospect of the Institute is quackery. Many publicists claim to be PR practitioners without having prerequisite ethical and professional training. There is also the fallacious assumption that every journalist can excel as a PR practitioner, forgetting the fact that, media relations is just an aspect of public relations. As it was from Adam, propaganda is still being greatly confused for public relations, especially in politics. However, kudos should be given to NIPR executives for their concerted efforts to sanitize the profession. The code-bearing certification and recertification policy of the Institute has given distinct identities to members. This, to some extent, will mitigate the activities of imposters in the profession. Another source of the great prospect to the Institute is the institution of Mandatory Continuing Professional Development (MCPD) training programme as a basic requirement for advancing from one status of membership to another. I have observed the willingness of members to sponsor themselves for these programmes in view of the huge benefits that accrue therefrom.
What can you say about the NIPR Masterclass Programme?
Although probably designed to attract members of the executive cadre of industries to the Institute or to improve its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), I feel the Masterclass Programme that admits into membership of the Institute should be performance-based and on merit. If those who do not have the financial wherewithal could be made to go through the rigour of attending tutorials and writing examination to qualify for membership, I think candidates for the Master’s programme should equally be subjected to some forms of evaluation, no matter how mild, before they are inducted as members.
With the unbundling of Mass-Communication, will Unilorin introduce PR Degree Programme?
The University of Ilorin is at an advanced stage for the unbundling of Mass Communication programme and one of the key areas of our focus is the PR Degree Programme. The unbundling of Mass Communication with its attending specialization from scratch will add value to professionalism in the training of students. You should also note that the quality of the PR programme in the Department of Mass Communication, earned its MSc. graduates the recognition of NIPR with automatic admission into the membership of the Institute upon completion of their programme.
Do you think Nigerian institutions are doing enough in preparing quality graduates for the PR industry?
The institutions in which PR is being offered are doing much to produce market-ready graduates. In the University of Ilorin, for instance, students get exposed to PR courses right from the first year of their four years programme as they are taken through the rudiments of PR in: ‘Introduction to Mass Communication ” as a foundation for subsequent PR trainings. Aside from the basic classroom teaching and learning, the students engage in the practical application of knowledge of PR techniques and strategies to solving hypothetic organisational problems.
What are your words of advice to those interested in PR practice?
I advise lecturers and prospective PR practitioners to engage PR as a very practical course/profession. The students should be able to visualise themselves on the field while going through theoretical tutelages. All stakeholders must relate to the course as a living and dynamic profession that responds to dictates of time, need, and environment. They must bear the ultimate goal of ‘mutual benefits between an organization and its diverse publics’ in mind while entering into any PR transaction. Above all, let us be ethical in all that we do, whether in our private or public engagements. Don’t serve others what you would not take.
What is your favourite quote by a PR practitioner?
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently” – Warren Buffet