The world is a theatre of constant change. Nothing is permanent. Many things have changed. The world has finally become a global village. The communication revolution has changed business relationships and the way organisations are managed. Political agitation has become a common place even in the Middle East. Activities of inefficient and incompetent managements and governments cannot be covered easily again. Probe panels’ sessions can be monitored on live TV broadcast. We can go on and on.
Would you have believed?
Would you have believed if you were told the following would happen some years back?
1. That the typewriter would be thrown away.
2. That you won’t need to visit a post office to post a letter.
3. That your letter would be delivered to hundreds of people within minutes.
4. That you could do presentations without getting to the venue of the programme.
5. That you could transfer money and buy items on your phone.
6. That JAMB would release UTME results in a few days.
7. That someday, about 250 Nigerians would gather at an event and there would be over 400 phone lines with them.
Dear readers, let me announce to you that more changes are coming and oganisations and corporate executives who refuse to change will be changed. These changes however have their benefits, new opportunities and challenges for the business world. So as PR practitioners, we must be adequately prepared to seize the opportunities and manage the challenges in the best interest of our clients and employers.
The Mexican Statement is still relevant despite the sweeping changes
I make bold to say the PR definition known as the Mexican Statement is still very relevant in today’s practice despite the changes we are daily experiencing. I see the definition as a complete job description for PR practitioners.
The Mexican Statement
Public relations practice is the art and social science of analysing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organisation’s leaders and implementing planned programmes of action which will serve both the organisation’s and the public interest.
Skills and qualities needed by PR practitioners
Robert Minton Taylor (2012), a Senior Associate Lecturer with Leeds Metropolitan University corroborates my assertion about the relevance of the Mexican Statement in today’s practice when he reveals the list of skills and qualities needed by those considering working in public relations according a survey by Cranfield School of Management and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, London (CIPR). The skills and qualities required according to the survey are:
• analyse management needs
• counsel management
• identify causes of problems, analyse future trends and predict their consequences
• research into public opinion, attitudes and expectations and advise on necessary action
• plan, organise and co-ordinate tasks
• monitor and follow up
• set goals and objectives
• motivate and influence others
• communicate effectively with individuals and groups in meetings and through presentations
• write and edit press releases and reports
• work effectively with journalists
• identify major social issues affecting organisations and to resolve conflict
work with others
• establish financial controls.
A curious look at the list of skills and qualities identified by the survey shows that most of them are part of the Mexican Statement. I will therefore advise those who want to be successful in PR practice to take the list seriously.
Latest definition of Public Relations (March, 2012)
In order to keep abreast of developments in the PR field, let’s consider one of the latest definitions of PR. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) formally introduced this definition on the first day of March 2012. The definition says:
Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.
Analysis of the definition by PRSA
“ Simple and straightforward, this definition focuses on the basic concept of public relations- as a communication process, one that is strategic in nature and emphasizing mutually beneficial relationships.
Process is preferable to management function, which can evoke ideas of control and top-down, one-way communications.
Relationships relates to public relations’ role in helping to bring together organizations and individuals with their key stakeholders.
Publics is preferable to stakeholders, as the former relates to the very public nature of public relations, whereas stakeholders has connotations of publicly-traded companies.”
Managing corporate communication in view of these changes
Corporate Communication involves the management of all internal and external communications with the publics of an organisation with the aim of building and sustaining a cordial relationship with them.
This assignment is such a sensitive PR activity because a slight error can lead to a major reputation damage or an unsuccessful communication campaign in which large sums of money would have been wasted. Corporate communication programmes are usually targeted at various publics that may include but not limited to the following:
3. Community members
4. Suppliers of services, e.g. electricity, water, waste disposal,etc.
5. Suppliers of materials, e.g. raw materials and parts
8. Labour unions
9. Opinion leaders
10. Ministries and government agencies relevant to the organisation
11. Financial market (banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions)
12. Media practitioners and organisations.
Managing this long list of publics effectively, no doubt, calls for upgraded and sharpened PR skills in order to avoid costly errors. This is why PR practitioners must square up to the challenges of the practice environment by arming themselves effectively for the demands of the job. Supporting this view, Ralph Akinfeleye (2011), quoted Warren Buffet as saying:
……If at the end of today’s work, you as my public relations manager loses Ten Million dollars (10 million) of the company’s money, I will understand, ….But if on the other hand, you lose an INCH of the company’s reputation, I will be furious, I will be mad at you, I will be ruthless and I will fire you.
The skills PR practitioners must upgrade and sharpen to square up to the challenges of today’s operational environment
Dear colleagues, the panacea for the ever-changing and dynamic environment in which we practise is to keep upgrading our skills and keep adjusting to the challenges posed by the realities of our time. The skills to upgrade will include
1. Writing skills
2. Editing skills
3. Speaking skills
4. Listening skills
5. Interpersonal skills
6. Observation skills
7. Research skills
8. Organisational skills.
Others are skills in
– Creativity and innovation
– New media management
– Internet communication
– Web management
– Corporate communication
– Crisis management, etc.
Strategies for improving the skills
Anyone who wants to leave a mark in our practice must employ some of the following strategies to improve his or her skills:
1. Acquire good and current books on PR, Management, English language, etc
2. Download relevant materials from the internet
3. You must have a reading time
4. You must have a creative thinking time
5. Select a mentor and also serve as a mentor to some upcoming practitioners
6. Attend training programmes
7. Subscribe to professional journals
8. Visit great organisations to copy great ideas
9. Asking questions and be observant
Change is a permanent feature of our existence. Public relations practitioners must acquire the skills and techniques to manage change and benefit from change. The communication revolution has changed business relationships and the way organisations are managed. Political agitation has become a common place even in the Middle East. Activities of inefficient and incompetent managements and governments cannot be covered easily again. I therefore challenge you to keep sharpening and upgrading your skills. And above all, Practise PR, Enjoy PR, Celebrate PR, Talk PR, Walk PR, Make people like PR.
Peter Oyeneye, Fnipr Is Ceo, Advanced Management Academy, Abuja
Phone: 0803 703 5242 & 0808 260 8168 Email: [email protected]