PR Practice Requires Writing and Speaking Skills- Peter Oyeneye
Mr. Peter Oyeneye is the Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Management Academy Abuja. He joined the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) in 1989 in Jos Plateau State. He launched his first PR book in 1997; was elected into the National Council of NIPR in 2005 before he was conferred with the NIPR Presidential Award in 2008. He is actively involved in PR trainings for graduates and practitioners who want to write the NIPR qualifying examinations and has presented papers within and outside the country. He was instrumental to the introduction of the Mandatory Continuing Professional Development (MCPD) programme when he was the National Training Coordinator of the Institute 2005-2009.
In this interview with Tomori Uriel of the Spokespersons Digest, the Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), emphasizes on the importance of training and mentorship programme for budding PR practitioners.
As a veteran Public Relations practitioner, how is your experience so far in the industry?
PR has a way of refining you, connecting you with many people and gives you a broader view of life. The growth of the PR industry has been steady. There was a time before 1990 when anyone could become a PR practitioner and from 1990, precisely from June 1, 1990, when the Decree which is now known as the NIPR Act of Parliament, Number 16 made PR a Chartered profession and gave the power to NIPR to regulate PR practice and training in Nigeria. This Act makes it illegal for non-members of NIPR to practice PR in Nigeria. The growth and development continued with the hosting of the First Commonwealth PR Conference in Abuja, Nigeria. This conference which drew participants from many Commonwealth countries in Africa and outside Africa projected NIPR positively and put PR practice in Nigeria and Africa on a high pedestal from then on.
What are some of the milestones in the PR sector in Nigeria?
Another milestone was the introduction of the Master of Science Degree in PR at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1992. It was the first PR post-graduate programme in Africa. The information explosion occasioned by the information superhighway, also known as ICT has also helped to accelerate the growth and development of PR. There was a time PR practitioner would write the news release and drive to the media house to submit it. There was a time only the TV stations had video cameras. At a time, we didn’t have a desktop computer, talk less of laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The industry now has many young and ICT savvy practitioners. Women are very prominent in the practice and they are leading some of the NIPR Chapters, leading PR departments in the private and public sectors.
How can Public Relations experts boost the image of Nigeria to the International Community?
I’ve never seen a government’s sincere attempt at using PR to fix the nation’s reputation. All I’ve seen were publicity – jingles, documentaries, etc, but no strategic PR campaign. In other words, all we see is the publicity without good deed. PR is a good deed publicly acknowledged. We must appeal to the government to embrace a reorientation programme. There is a need to change our orientation as a people. Our understanding of value and ethics is twisted. There is a need to fix it. PR practitioners cannot do this on their own. There must be an understanding between the custodian of the national reputation and PR practitioners. The sick must be ready to take the drugs. If the government can get serious with the reputation problem of Nigeria just like the way it is fighting COVID-19, in a few years we will be there.
What are the PR activities that can contribute to the economic prosperity of Nigeria?
Let’s use PR to change the orientation of our people, our workers- accountants, administrative executives, teachers, drivers, market women, artisans, etc. When we have achieved the change and publicised the change we achieved, economic prosperity will come. For instance, our citizens traveling to other countries will be our brand ambassadors and they will achieve an economic breakthrough. Our schools will attract foreign students, our products and services will be demanded outside our borders, etc. This is to say the communication programme designed will be based on reorientation, transformation, and good deed which can’t be waved aside. But with empty deeds, PR cannot help any nation.
What are the available opportunities PR Practitioners can explore?
Sure, PR is taking advantage of several opportunities, especially in the private sector of the economy. The use of ICT, new media, branding. crisis management, PR for crowdfunding, etc are indications that opportunities are being utilised. But there is always a run for improvement. One area we are yet to take the advantage of opportunities offered is the employment of non-members and non-PR practitioners by politicians and public office holders as public relations executives, media advisers, and information managers when the job is that of PR practitioners. We must educate politicians and public office holders on what the NIPR Act says in this respect.
What is your advice to professionals in the industry?
Keep doing PR for PR. The more our clients and employers understand PR the better our rating. We must also educate the members of staff on the importance of PR because our PR assignment will be made easier with their understanding, Practitioners must also join the Institute to fight and chase out impostors who dent our image through unethical practices. The best PR for any organisation, product, or service is what it offers to the customers and other stakeholders. We need to press our managements to deliver, anything less than that will make PR difficult and may even turn the practitioner to a propagandist looking for how to sell a bad product.
What strategies do you recommend for budding professionals as they breakthrough in the industry?
What I will recommend to budding PR professionals are: They must register as members of NIPR so that they can practice within the ambit of the law and not out the law. They should be involved in PR activities where they can come up with great ideas to address social and political issues. They should be ICT savvy and volunteering to acquire experience, build contacts, sharpen skills instead of waiting endlessly for a job. I must add that they should do online training, especially on writing and speaking which are key in PR practice. So they should work continuously on communication skills. Good dress sense is also important and select mentors and structurally learn from them.