In my career that spans over a couple of years in the media fraternity, I have often asked myself the actual role of public relations officers (PROs). Whether it is in the private sector or public sector, I have concluded that at times, these are the most incompetent and time wasting hurdles in the dissemination of information.
The role basically of public relations is about managing the reputation of their different clientèle. A career in PR involves gaining understanding of and support for clients, as well as trying to influence opinion and behaviour. PR officers use all forms of media and communication to build, maintain and manage the reputation of their employer.
The above is generally what they are supposed to do. But of late I have been noticing a deviation of this noble intention where we as the media often get half-baked press releases that are marred with errors that we often have to fix. It seems public relations officers have in-fact decided to give us the extra work that they are supposed to handle before putting out an official statement.
To make matters worse they feed you with a lot of ‘fluff’, which basically flat-lines your actual aim to bring factual articles to the masses.
Do not get me wrong, most publications or newspapers have a lot of errors, but they often stem from the root, which is the PROs who give you information that needs ‘panelbeating’, but the thing is that you can panel beat it to a certain extent but only so much.
Again, what baffled me at first in the media circles, is that some companies opt to use South African public relations firms rather than those in Namibia. I often asked why, until I realised how difficult it was to actually get any information from in-house public relations officers.
I do understand if they are ‘swarmed’ with other work or they do not understand the issues, a response is often very hard to squeeze out. With PR officers who do not understand their own companies, I started thinking, do we really need PROs, or its much easier to jump the gun and go straight to the horse’s mouth.
Let me not be too hard on PROs since there are some very competent ones out there, and trust me they do go the extra mile to respond whatever it is the journalist needs to know. They even have the politeness to call you and explain to you what is transpiring within their office, and to assure you that you will get a response to your query.
I think those are the very few who actually know what they are doing. If I were the barman in that pub, I would surely shouted ‘kudos to them’, and would have given them a double shot of Bells for their efforts.
Like Gwinavere Johnston, a pacesetter in public relations and founder and CEO of Johnston Wells, said: the the bottom line is that companies must make it a priority to value the needs of all the public and to forge good relationships with them.
The cornerstone of a good relationship is trust, and trust is based on open and honest communication. Effective public relations tells a company’s story in a way that is accurate, honest, and easy to understand, helping to establish a reputation for credibility.
If PROs do not trust those they feed the information to, what is the whole point? Like I said, it is easier to phase them out and simply jump the gun, rather than waste everyone’s time.