#BrandTalkWithLamide: 3 Years After Its Obituary, PR May Still Be Dead
When Ayeni Adekunle and his colleagues at BlackHouse Media, all clad in black and bearing candles sticks, announced the death of PR on Tuesday, October 6, 2015, many, even practitioners had disregarded it, describing it merely as a stunt. Some even went as far as challenging the position, requesting facts and figures to back up the claim while a few others, from afar, described it as crying wolf and a cheap attempt at making headlines.
Needless I say, to these people, the industry is far from dead and even though it may not be in a perfect state of health, it is still serving its purpose as such there is no need to ring an alarm.
Well, it has been three years since the alarm and it seems as though PR may still be dead.
The practice of Public Relations in Nigeria till date is still embroiled in a lot of anomalies which has caused it to continue deteriorating when compared to Advertising and Media Buying, its compatriots in the Marketing Communication industry.
I have throughout my 7 years of practice in the industry with special interest in strategy, crisis, brand and event management, watched with keen interest how events have continued to unfold with most lending credit to Ayeni’s fear. Ayeni in one of the several articles he had written to better explain himself, highlighted issues limiting the growth of the industry and of the myriad he touched on, two often get to me. These two however fundamental they are to the growth or otherwise of the industry, are sadly the least talked about.
Perhaps the most vital of the two is lack of respect for the craft. Ayeni put it succinctly when he wrote ‘PR is rarely in the room when management is planning or when the government is strategizing and when it gets called, it is often for traditional media relations or to ‘manage press events’. This trend has not in any way improved these past years and the reason is not far-fetched; Positioning.
Practitioners may be doing fairly okay, helping to position their clients better but there needs to be a concerted effort to do same for the industry and to successfully deliver on this, care must be put into the level of thoroughness, creativity and innovation that goes into the ideation and execution of PR campaigns. The concepts executed for and on behalf of clients must be capable of arresting the minds of the target audience and achieving set expectations and then, the outcomes reported, backed up with facts and figures.
I tell as many that care to listen, what right now, seems like the death of PR didn’t happen in 2015 nor did it in 2014 or 2013. The decline started years ago, long before Ayeni and his cohort woke up to smell the coffee. When some people, because they have a few bucks and even fewer years of experience in journalism, started to set up shops and calling it a Public Relations Agency; when publishing houses started owing their reporters for several months birthing the brown envelope era; when the federal government, rather than empower NIPR to better regulate the practice, started consulting foreign agencies and appointing misfits to occupy public relations roles.
I couldn’t agree more with Emeka Opara, Vice President Corporate Communications and CSR at Airtel, when he listed identity crisis as one of the biggest problems militating against the growth of PR in Nigeria. He expounded that, perhaps, because the craft is yet to have an impression in the minds of everyone.
Other issues daily stifling the practice of PR include the lack of creativity in the story telling direction and content, which is due largely to the paucity of skills on the part of the practitioners and the era of social media which has set PR on 4 by 40 race amongst others.
While it may be true that PR is not entirely dead, what remains obvious is that the practice is right now breathing its last and if care is not taken to quickly salvage the situation, we just might be gathering sometime soon, still dressed in black and bearing candle sticks, but this time around with tears and wail as we lay PR to rest finally.