As the Internet technology changes and new tools are introduced at an unprecedented rate, they change applications and methods of communication that require more public awareness and how-to-do skills which are usually easily accessible in advanced countries. With this development, yet there is a shortage of scholarly publications on the use of technology for Public Relations practice. Not much has been documented about online public relations in Nigeria as there are not enough, if available, literatures on the use of online technologies with references to Nigeria.
The dearth of documentary evidence makes it imperative to study and determine the level of awareness and perception of online public relations in a developing country in Africa.
While Social Media (SM) is the new global buzz word for communications, the tools surprisingly are not being optimally utilised by the PR practitioners. On the other hand activists and political organisers use them to champion causes by bypassing the image makers. Some of the problems for lacklustre attitudes of PR practitioners towards the Internet, could be borne out of societal frustrations in Nigeria with different facets that include political, socio-cultural, economic and technological factors.
In view of the constraints militating against the spread of knowledge and skills of applying the Internet to public relations activities, practitioners and scholars in Nigeria have a responsibility to rise to the occasion in identifying with other societies that are using the latest tools for effective and efficient communication process.
The practitioners should be empowered with skills and knowledge to gain the benefits of the new ways of doing things, through theory and practice in understanding the phenomena.
It was in view of the above challenges I conducted a research project on “Perceptions of Online Public Relations in Nigeria” in 2010. The research project which would soon be out in booklet form, studies how PR practitioners in Nigeria have responded to the Internet and online technologies. The study which was conducted as a university thesis, employs research methods, including interviews with experts and distributions questionnaires to sample the opinions of various stakeholder groups on the use of new media.
Apart from providing the Literature Review on traditional PR and latest Online PR practice, the study finds out some factors that affect and inhibit full utilisation of new media tools in Nigeria. The factors can be related to some theories and models raised by scholars of Mass Communication and PR.
The research further provides some recommendations for various stakeholders including the government, scholars, PR practitioners and professional bodies on how they can improve their relationship with the publics.