Public Relations is the art and science of communication which provides the means of solving conflict and establishing contact and mutual understanding. According to Sam Black “it is the establishing of a two way communication to solve conflict of interest by seeking a common ground.”
Though PR is relatively new as a professional practice, it has made its mark in numerous and meaningful ways, which include designing a favourable image of an organisation; promoting products and services of an organisation; attracting the best personnel for an organisation, formulation of valid and sound guidelines and policies for an organisation.
The nature of Public Relations, is such that it is difficult to explain exactly where it fits. Inability to place PR in its proper place within the organisational frame work has compounded the problems of how to assess the Public Relations practioners.
Thus, Pat Bowman and Nigel Ellis had this to say, “practitioners have had to work out with others in Management on whose work they impinge upon, they have also had to present their needs in such away that they could not be accused of merely seeking status”.
The PR practitioner in any organisation, be it small or big, represents the organisation before the press and the public. He is the official spokesman of his organisation, especially if he is a much trusted and respected member of staff. Then what he says stands a chance to be accepted. If he cannot speak with authority, then what he says will be largely ignored and he will be of little value to the organisation.
It is therefore, to the organisation’s benefit that the status of the practitioner reflects the trust placed in him.
The issue of Status of the Public Relations practitioner has relevance to the corporate image of the organisation.
Firstly, a respectable status of the practitioner is equal to a respectable image of the organisation before the press and public, all other things being equal. It is observed that when the practitioner’s status signifies authority within the organisation, it is an indication that the organisation values public relations and consequently, the execution of Public Relations programmes is an asset which will translate into security good will and impressive image for the organisation.
A well meaning organisation views the issue of image seriously. In an interwoven world, a loss of identity can lead to retrogression and confusion. The corporate image of an organisation depends on its behaviour and financial performance, it marketing and policies, the standard of its Public Relations and design Management.
The pharases “the inward and outward being eye” may sound fanciful but it’s difficult to find a better way of describing one of the most valuable function of Public Relations business. Someone at a senior level in Management team should be keeping a constant watch on the effect of the organisation’s policies on the outside world. Equally important is the necessity to monitor the climate within the organisation.
The Public Relations person is the one who performs this function. In performing this important function, the Public Relations Practitioners is a psychologist, a sociologist, an economist and in fact a politician. This is so because, modern Management is too busy with other issues, that they give little time to the study of the plight of workers and public opinion about the organisation. It is, under this circumstance, that the practitioner performs this onerous tasks.
Management must therefore realise that the Public Relations Officers does not only carry considerable responsibility, but also requires an immense amount of trust which should be manifested in his or her status to boost his ego and ensure efficient performance to the benefit of whole organisation.
Management should also realise that right or wrong, the Public will judge the faith the organisation has in any Officer by his status and since the public relations practitioner is frequently the image maker of the organisation, he deserves a respectable Status that will tell much about the organisation itself.
Of course, the disturbing and agonising problems of Public Relations emanates from the fact that many organisations and Government agencies that engage Public Relations Practitioners as staff are themselves not quite aware of the proper roles of the public relations practitioners.
Little wonder therefore, that some organisations hire non-professionals to fill Public Relations positions with the disastrous effect of making the profession cheap and inconsequential. The engagement of non- professionals into Public Relations Office also makes people (employers) wonder if they need Public Relations personnel in their establishment or their services.
Good enough, Decree 16 of 1999 (now an act of the National Assembly) which established Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) as a regulatory body for the practice of the noble profession has given the much – desired legal status of recognition .
The Decree inter-alia empowers the Institute to formulate policies and programmes, calculated at the sanitizing Public Relations practice hitherto handled by half baked practitioners and in some cases, outright quacks.
As professionals, it has become important to demand that, to survive and progress in the profession at Management or Executive levels, as we have always desired, we must embrace strategy development.
We must not only be good or perceived to be good in our duties but we should be people whose knowledge of the matter at hand is complete, whose judgement are sound and abilities to execute programmes of activity must be total and result – oriented.
PR Practitioners must embrace the fact that they have big roles to play in organisations as mediators or ” bridge builders ” who are expected to modify the behaviour of people and groups by helping them to know and understand each other better.