Public Relations professionals may walk away

Public Relations303 File photo

Wed, 3 Aug 2022 Source: Patrick Twumasi

Thomas Jefferson in 1973 said, "In matters of style swim with the current; in matters of principle stand like a rock" I ardently associate in principle with this statement concerning the current fate of many Public Relations practitioners.

Public Relations is a noble profession that deserves professionals who desire to step into reputation management, image enhancement, and winning public goodwill for their organisations, societies, and countries. Some institutions offer both academic and professional training for practitioners.

In Ghana, references can be made to the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), Department of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, the African University of College of Communication, University of Education, Winneba, and Cape Coast University. Many potential practitioners apply and competitively obtain admission to read the programme.

These individuals saw or are aware of other professions and their training outlets or institutions, yet they chose to train as Public Relations professionals. It baffles me to see other trained professionals of different backgrounds with varied ethics and principles practicing Public Relations. These individuals activate the levers of the truism in the statement, let those who have failed in their profession not see Public Relations as a safe heaven.

The Lawyer, for instance, is trained for the court of Law. The Public Relations professional is for the court of public opinion. These professionals go to different courts within a varied environment.

The practitioner goes to influence opinion and not gag opinion. By so doing, the Public Relations professional aim at creating, maintaining, and sustaining an organization’s reputation, enhancing its prestige, and presenting a favourable image through owned media, paid media, or earned media. Public Relations is preventive, not remedial, and worse damage control.

Hence, the PR professional learn the ethics and principles of prevention.

Therefore, how will a professional trained with ethics and principles of other professions enter the space of Public relations or the court of public opinion?

Again, Broom, in 2007 defined Public Relations as a strategic management function that establishes and maintains a mutually beneficial relationship between an organisation and its publics on whom its success or failure depends.

The definition indicates what Public Relations is and not. It is a profession that thrives on deliberate acts to bring about the desire for change and transformation. Therefore, the Public Relations practitioner is a liaison officer between the various publics or stakeholders and a company. The practitioner is the manager of accurate, balanced, and credible information to enhance the reputation and image of a company, bearing in mind that corporate reputation is mirrored by corporate image.

However, in recent times, other professionals have found their way into the court of public opinion yet are trained with the ethics and principles of other professions and lack the public relations philosophy of fiduciary rights. These individuals' sense of collegiality is abhorrent. The disposition of these persons leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the public.

Again, in some establishments, Public Relations Practitioners are changed every four years as if their professional practice is subject to a political tenure. Elsewhere, practitioners have stepped aside for Political Communicators turned PRs to act. How can institutional memory be maintained and experience acquired if these professionals are not allowed to practice? The activities of these Political Communicators in institutions expose the Civil Service outlets' public relations strategies to unnecessary political attacks.

They also work to satisfy their paymasters without considering the critical value of the currency of quality relationship building. The regularity of changing Public Relations professionals takes the wind out of the sail of these professionals leaving them less experienced.

I take this opportunity to urge the Institute of Public Relations, Ghana, to raise a potent objection to the current prevailing circumstances. This objection is urgently needed before many professionals' careers go up in flames and emit plum of dark smoke of discouragement to the prospective practitioner.

Institute of Public Relations, Ghana, and well-meaning practitioners should come together now to stem the tide before some professionals walk away from the profession.

Public Relations professionals deserve their rightful place.

Columnist: Patrick Twumasi