By Emuji Magnus
The Public Relations techniques, tools and strategies are germane instrument, designed to plan and build sustained mutual understanding between an organisation, and in this perspective, the government and it’s teeming publics.
To this end, the importance of the Public Relations Officer, especially in the task of bridging the gap between the government and it’s target audiences, the publlics cannot be overemphasized. The implication of this fact, is that the Public Relations Officers usually serve as an intermidiary through which the government’s policies, programmes and achievements and by extension, the actual disposition of the public’s and their perception about government policies are conveyed to the government itself.
Similarly, through the public relations mechanism the governments are abreast with the citizens’ expectations and impressions either positive or negative on what government may claim to have achieved.
The functions of the Public Relations Officer in the government owned establishments are quite enormous, despite the fact that often time, the image makers as they are referred to, are contending with plethora of issuers which ordinarily, would lead to sad commentary about the impact of such officer.
In Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) , the Public Relations Officers, Sony identified as Information Officers promote government policies and programmes. By so doing, they inform, educate and sensitize the publics on governance.
However, emerging fact reveal that the media, universally acknowledged to be an agent of change usually have a great influence on certain decisions and approach adopted by the government towards addressing the burning needs and expectations of the people. This is apparently because the media report what the publics are saying about government at any given opportunity and interval.
To a large extent, the government and the people ought to be on the same page, particularly in the areas of infrastructural and human capital development if the media, precisely the Public Relations Officers are accorded it’s pride of place in the scheme of things and recognized .
Being a management function, the Public Relations Officer, working for government should be allowed to participate in all the meetings Directors and other stakeholders hold with their Commissioners and by extension, the Chief Accounting Officers in the MDAs where they are posted to.
The reason why the Public Relations Officer should be given preferential treatment and permitted henceforth to attend such meetings, apart from the fact that their schedule of activities and more importantly, established fact that it is indeed, a management function , there may be certain key decisions that need to be disseminated to the public.
By their trainings and orientation, a Public Relations Officer who equally, perform the role of the Media Relations Officer in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies is always proactive and their presence in major decision making platform with the stakeholders goes a long way in prempting incidences of negative occurence emanating from the publics such as wrong impressiona, doubts and misrepresentations by the public.
Again, as the Public Relations Officer, it is incumbent on our organization to get us involved in whatever that is happening so that one will in turn inform the people accordingly by creating awareness , especially on the policy direction of the government effectively without distortion of information.
But, the bitter truth is that many of the Directors in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies are not favourably disposed to all PROs attend meetings they probably hold with their Commissioners. They perceive Public Relations Officers as insignificant more so when money comes.
Moreover, a survey conducted recently to evaluate or ascertain why the some Heads of various Departments and Agencies often opt to sideline Public Relations Officers in the scheme of things revealed that most of them do so because of pride, ego and the benefits as well as the remunerations that arw associated with their positions, which they do not want the PROs to tap from no matter how little it might look.
A colleague of mine sometime in the past, shared with me how he went to meet a particular Accounting Officer in the office he was posted to for his primary assignment obviously to discuss official matters and the unfriendly looks of the Directors that greeted him apparently because the Directors though he was invited to attend meeting they were about holding with theie boss. To his greatest surprise, one of the Directors could not hide his feelings and thus, asked if the PRO was called for the meeting. You can imagine the extent at which the PROs are treated.
The aforestated experience could not be said to be perculiar to such a colleague as thousand and one Public Relations Officers with the writer inclusive, have at different times, experienced such unfortunate occurence which one coups consider as antithetical to engendering mutual co-existence and harmonious working relationship among the workforce in the State Civil Service.
While the Public Relations Officer contends with this challenge which is a reoccurring decimal in their day to day activities, more worrisome is the situation where their direct bosses whom they directly report to , shock the PROs when they prefer to deal with members of the press in the cases of official Assignments without the Public Relations Officers having a first hand knowledge of any scheduled activity . Most times, if the PRO decides to make them understand that he or she is the link between the office and the media, and that he should be informed of events so that he invites press, he or she could end up not being heard but painted in negative lights, all because such PRO wanted to do it his job the way it is professionally done.
Thus , this sad narrative underscores the dimension at which fellow journalists shun ethical conduct while discharging their duties of information gathering and dissemination. Moreover, in an interface with some journalists, they claimed that allowing their request for such appointments with their bosses to pass through the Public Relations Officers would definitely amount to unnecessary bureacracy that could delay their appointments with the Heads of the establishments. On a lighter note, very few hinged their premise on the fact that they have the impression that if they channel their appointments through the PROs there is the tendency that at the end, they could be short changed. And these opinion does not reflect the intentions of the information managers in the MDAs.
In Delta State, a great number of the Public Relations Officers (PROs) working in government establishments are professionally disciplined abs poised determined more than ever before, to leave behind a sustainable legacy in the job and so it is baseless and out of place for PROs to be perceived in such a manner. There is need for reorientation of the fellow press men, especially those whose activities are tantamount to supressing the vulnerable information officers in the course of the their official functions .
To achieve effeciency in service delivery, the Public Relations Officers require modern working tools and equipment. Timeliness is acclaimed to be one of the rudiments of information gathering and dissemination. Therefore, a PRO should be well equipped with tools such as digital cameras for shutting photographs and recording of visuals, external hard drives for the photographic and videos Di cumentation, laptop with internet connectivity and printer among others.
Despite few having cameras, majority do not have any of the above listed working tools and this development affects timely discharging of their duties as well as stall information dissemination. It is disheartening to recall that note government establishments do not appropriate any vote for the operation of the Public Relations Officers in their budgetary provision and with this circumstances how would a PRO carry out his or her duties effectively.
In a bid for all segments of the stakeholders in the MDAs to collectively achieve the objective and the mandate of their offices, all hands must be on deck. There is need to build a robust synergy with one another in order to efficieny and effectively realise the common goal of the organization.
It could be recalled that building a stronger Delta vision of our amiable Governor, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa is the responsibility of all and unhealthy discrimination among the workforce in the alter of seniority and positions should not always be placed in the front burners.
Lastly, the Public Relations Officer is not a ‘know it all ‘ , so there is need for them to evolve ways of developing themselves. Times, they say are changing and in a bid to meet the modern trends, one should tailor his or her approach to the PR business along that direction. Also, Public Relations Officers must learn to accomodate one another and shun pull him or her down syndrome . Similarly, traducers among them should desist from peddling falsehood against their colleagues by assassinating their characters in a attempt to gain cheap favour from the stakeholders. Let us embrace things and ideas that would move the forum of Information officers forward for the strength of a people lies in their unity.