Public Relations (PR) results from a convicted and thoughtful communication process that recognizes that favourable public opinion, attention and support is not achieved by accident. It recognizes a great deal of hard work since success depends on ensuring that nothing happens by chance. This is probably due to the inevitable growing complexity of the world and its communication channel and our Ghanaian society in particular.
Every organization either provides a service or direct sales of products to its publics. This is regardless of whether the organization is state owned or otherwise. This presupposes that every organization has its own defined publics it deals with day to day basis. This is where PR comes in. According to the British Institute of Public Relations (IPR), PR is a deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics.
In 1999 the Institute added another version to the definition which is on reputation – Public Relations is about reputation, the results of what you do, what you say, what others say about you. Public Relations practice is a discipline, which looks after reputation – the aim of earning understanding, support and influence public opinion. Edward Bernays, the grandfather of PR in the USA sees Public Relations practitioner as an applied sociologist who advises clients or employers on social attitudes and action to be taken to win the support of public upon which the viability of the employers and clients depend (Harrison, 2000).
Cutlip, Center and Broom (1985) are of the view that “Public Relations is a management function that establishes and maintains mutual beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on which its success or failure depends” Ruehl defines public relations as “Public Relations is what public relations does” “ PR practice is the art and social science of analyzing trends predicting their consequencies, counseling organizations leaders and implementing planned programmes of action which serve both the organization and the publics interest” (World Assembly of PR, Mexico City, 1978)
Canfield (1952) in different semester inner do, upholds this perception of Public Relations as “a social philosophy of management expressed in policies and practice which are communicated to the public to secure its understanding” Philip Kitchen (1977) in his book Public relations; Principles and Practices came out with a revelation that over 500 Public Relations definitions exist; however a number of common themes abound as follows; – Public Relations is essentially a communication function but the emphasis is on the two- way nature of the communication process. Public Relations is concerned with establishing and maintaining mutual understanding (goodwill) between an organization and its particular group of people (publics). – Public Relation serves as an intelligent function analyzing and interpreting trends and issues in the environment that may have potential consequences for an organization and its stakeholders. Running through these definitions is the fact that, the practice is essentially in promoting mutual understanding, rapport and goodwill between an organization and its publics.
Such a condition, needless to say is indispensable to the success of every establishment including higher education. It must be noted that this condition is premised on a two-way communication system with both inward and outward activities. An organization must be able to communicate its plans and actions to the public and at the same time, the public thinking and attitude must be communicated to the organization in order to evolve acceptable policies.
It is not enough that an organization should have good intentions; it is essential that such intentions be communicated to the publics and translated into concrete acts. It is only by making people know and see concrete deeds that one can build a good public image. The importance of Public Relations practice is underscored by the indispensability of communication in any human setup. However, in spite of this importance in our side of the world Public Relation practice has suffered certain abuses by those who profess to practice it as well as those who are supposed to benefit from its practice.
While management seems not to appreciate the importance and its relevance, the numerous publics do not appear to understand it and the practitioners themselves have for most part been woefully incapable of explaining to both management and the various publics what the practice entails. In short the Public Relations profession, its aims and objectives, guiding principles have largely not been understood and appreciated by the public. 2. 0 HISTORY OF PUBLIC RELATIONS “In truly democratic society everything depends upon the consent of the public” Thomas Jefferson.
Public Relations began when people started communicating and needed to motivate others. The idea of public relations as a profession is relatively young. Public Relations is a twentieth (20th) century phenomenon and Edward Bernays often accredited as the father of Public Relations. He played a major role in defining the industry’s philosophy and methods. The history of Public Relations is mostly confined to the early half of the twentieth century; however there is evidence of practices scattered through history.
A number of American precursors to the Public Relations are found in the form of publicists who specialized in promoting circuses, theatre performances and other public spectacles. In the United States of America where Public Relations’ has its origin, many early Public Relations practices were developed in support of rail roads. Many scholars believed that the first appearance of the term “Public Relations” appeared in 1897 year book of Railway Literature. Later, practitioners were recruited from the rank of journalism.
Some reporters concerned with ethnics criticize former colleagues for using their inside knowledge/understanding of news media to help clients receive fovourable media coverage. 2. 1 THE FIRST NAMES Some historians regard Ivy Lee as the first real practitioner of Public Relations but Edwards Bernays is generally regarded as the profession’s founder. In the United Kingdom, Sir Basil Clarke (1879-1947) was the pioneer Public Relations. The First World War helped stimulate the development of Public Relations as a profession.
Many of the first professionals get their start with the “Committee on Public Information” (also known as the Creel Committee) which organized publicity on behalf of the USA objectives during the World War II. In describing the origin of the term Public Relations, Bernays commented “when I came back to the United States of America (after the war) I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace. And propaganda get to be a bad word because of the German’s using it.
So what I did was to try to find some other words, so we found the words (counsel of “(Public Relation)” Bernays was the profession’s first theorist based on Sigmund Freud’s theories about the irrational, unconscious motives that shape behaviour. He authorized several books; Criticizing public opinion (1923), Propaganda (1928) and The engineering of consent (1937). Ivy Lee is credited with developing the modern news release (also called press release). He espoused a philosophy consistent with what has been called the “two – way street” to Public Relations.
It is reported that Kings College (Columbia University) sent out an announcement of its 1758 graduation ceremonies the first anywhere in the colonies – several newspapers printed it apparently the first instance of a NEWS RELEASE. 2. 2 PUBLIC RELATIONS IN GHANA The emergence of Public Relations in Ghana according to Gyan (1991) was characterized by scenario in which Public Relations Officers in such departments as administration, marketing, sales and personnel carried out Public Relations functions.
Gyan (1991) further notes that, where the need for Public Relations job offer arises, organizations usually opted for press or information officers usually from the Information Services Department (ISD) of the Ministry of Communication. This had the effect of reducing the Public Relations practice to publicity or press relations thus limiting the scope of the practice in Ghana. Shortly before and after independence, that is between the late 1950’s and early 1960’s the civil service started replacing expatriate principal secretaries with Ghanaians.
Multinationals like UAC, PTC, Shell and BP followed suit by appointing Ghanaian intermediaries between them and their various respective publics. Significantly, virtually all these Ghanaians who were given the Public Relations functions came from journalistic background and were therefore given the opportunity to learn some skills in PR practice. Some of these early PR practitioners took advantage of refresher courses to upgrade themselves and later became accomplished PR practitioners. Notably among them were Mrs. Veronica Addae-Mensah, Mrs.
Regina Agbozo, Moses Dorvlo Herman Alan, Kafui Asem and Carl Reindorf. They joined the PR profession from other fields. The stigma attached to the PR by the unprofessional approach of some untrained practitioners in the past still remains. Thus in his article entitled “Public Relations, African’s biggest problem” Santuah Niagia Affidiweh (1998) asserts that Public Relations in Ghana has been reduced to negotiating for canopies for meetings, organizing press coverage’s or receiving delegates for conferences. He summed up saying “Public Relations in our part of the world is still a serious joke”
However, Public Relations practitioners like honourable Kwadwo Yankah, Kafui Asem, honourable Ekow Spio-Garbah, J. E. Papoe Allotey and Ben Antwi have by their sterling performances in the field of Public Relations proved that PR practice has become recognized as a scientific professional and indispensable management tool in Ghana. In a recent study conducted by Wu, Ming-Yi, Baah-Boakye, Kwame,(2008) on “Profile of Public Relations Practice in Ghana, Practitioners role Most Important Skills” revealed that now most public relations practitioners perform managerial roles and take part in decision-making process.
However, public relations practitioners who perform communication technician role do not have decision-making powers in their respective organizations. This result is different from the results of the Gyan(1991) study. The results of her study suggested that PR practitioners’ positions were very low on the organizational chart. However, they are now performing managerial roles and have decision-making powers in the organizations. Comparing the results with Gyan (1991) study which was conducted 16 years ago, we can see improvement in professional status of PR in Ghana.
Currently, all state institutions have employed the services of qualified PR practitioners and consultancies to help promote and protect their respective images. Thus the practitioner is therefore a policy person and advisor to his or her organization. 3. 0 HIGHER EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION From Colonial Harvard University to today’s online courses, higher education whether public or private has occupied an important place in the social cultural and political spectrums. It signified citizen commitment to next generations’ future as well as avenue to produce knowledge for current use.
Today the long insulated position of higher education like other professions such as law and medicine is undergoing public scrutiny in all parts of its complex operations. Such change from enjoying reverend, unquestioned status to being pushed into high profile arena populated by media, special interest groups, empowered consumers and other vocal entities present new challenges to higher education public relations practitioners. (For example, Students’ reporters/journalists of the Part Time programme often scan the notice boards for news worthier items for publication. )
Because, the historical structure within higher education institutions evolved quietly, often without wide spread public attention, the new demand, by outside groups for accountability might seem like a threat for higher education. For example, it came as surprise to see an article published in the Ghanaian Times Newspaper in 2001, calling on the government to initiate action to investigate the financial impropriety and abuse of power leveled against the Finance Officer and Registrar of University of Education, Winneba. The number of rejoinders that were published after the University had stated its side of the story was overwhelming.
That was unprecedented in the history of universities in Ghana. The issue of examination malpractices involving the son of a Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Asenso Okyere took centre stage in the media circles. A court action was instituted by the University of Ghana against the Daily Graphic, Newspaper. This compelled the paper to withdraw an article published by the paper alleging that 30% of student’s population of the University is HIV positive. This is clear demonstration of media scrutiny of higher education, which had hitherto enjoyed uninterfered running of the universities.
The recent proliferation of the press and the electronic media (Radio stations broadcasting in local Ghanaian languages) may pose a serious challenge to the universities in Ghana on the best practices in media relations. Center, Cutlip and Broom (1985) description of closed and open system aptly illustrates higher education transitory state. The traditional close system promise of higher education institutions emphasized bringing internal and external stake holders in line with the organization with little regards for how the interaction of the components parts appeared to work together or conflict, hence the “ivory tower”.
By contrast, the open system promise view external and internal holders interactions as critical to adopting to and flourishing in today’s changing environment something higher education is realising it must do. In the 21st century, emphasis will continue to be on the individual’s responsibility and power of choice for selecting and questioning his or her own health care options, to demanding quality and relevance from higher education institutions.
One, the public perception of higher education must be more responsive to the needs of its constituents including being more accessible to different types of students more aware of and responsive to educational costs more concern with relevance of higher education to the market place. The internal structure of higher education is also chaotic, with many different factions balancing their goals with others while competing for resources and visibility, example, graduate education versus undergraduate education, finite and often diminishing resources versus increasing resources, administration versus faculty on issues such as academic freedom nd governance innovation versus traditional course and informal delivery system. In Ghana, for example, it took the University of Ghana, the oldest University, a considerable length of time and political pressures for it to change from the term system (3 terms) to semester system after all the other Universities in Ghana had adopted the semester system. The structure is often compared with multitude of fiefdoms squabbling under the nose of a king.
As higher education institutions grew and became more fragmented internally, functions became compartmentalized and seemed to operate without the knowledge of what other parts of the institutions were doing. Warner (1996) detailed the other disjointed developments of higher education as a separate office to deal with media relations, publications video services (most recently) website for external audiences. All of these coexist with internal faculty and staff audience resulting in a plethora of seemingly, unrelated and often contradictory external and internal messages.
Now more than ever, higher education institutions not only must become aware of public relations efforts going on in their respective Universities but also must step up and coordinate these efforts within the structures before going out to the external audiences. As Berube (1996) wrote “the most important thing is that we need to re-evaluate our priorities internally, if we are going to understand how we might be valued externally” page 17. Today, good public relations is vital to the successful functioning of any educational institution.
Higher education has been branded as “two expensive” and suffers from the receiving charge that money is wasted and graduates cannot get jobs. Universities face competition for students and dwindling resources it usually has three charges to fulfill that is teaching, service and research. Many are not aware of the last two, it is the job of public relations to create that awareness. 4. 0 THE PUBLIC RELATIONS ROLES Background The University Relations Office for the Kumasi Campus of UEW was set up in 1996 when the then KATTC was integrated into the University.
The main objectives of the office is to provide an efficient, effective and high quality corporate publicity and public relations services to the University of Education, Winneba (Kumasi Campus) including;
• Production of external and internal corporate communication and publicity materials.
• Proactive and responsive media relations activities
• Advise and guidelines to other departments on media, liaison and promotional activities
• Staging of special events and protocol services to University of Education, Winneba guests Also to enhance the image and visibility of the university through the various functions of media relations, publications, advertising, marketing, special events and strategic public relations planning, for the administrative and academic departments in achieving the university goals.
• The practice of PR in an educational setting like the universities is similar to that of other government institutions. It is very important that PR specialists be part of the institutions management team. Many a time institutions don’t include PR in their management team.
Ideally the PR should attend top-level management meetings involving the Vice Chancellor and other Administrators to ensure what we call “Learning the Whys and the Wherefores of decision made and lending counsel”
• University and College PR are generally carried out through the public information bureaus. The responsibilities consist of producing and distribution of news releases photographs and special events. The major roles of public relations are basically to analyze, create, projects, influence, sustain, educate and building relationships. The public relations practitioner may operate at the level of manager (sit at management table e. . Deputy Registrar at KNUST) or Technician (implementing). There are many different functions or activities engaged by the public relations practitioner to be able to perform all these roles – whether, in organizational functions such as media relations, and publicity or societal functions such as social responsibility and community relations, the functions are the driving forces behind the way public relations is practiced in institutions. For the purpose of this presentation I would like to discuss the following;
• Media Relations
• Event Management
• Reputation building Community Relations
• Employee Relations
• Internal and external communications
• Protocol and passages 4. 1 Media Relations Media relations is one of the key functions of public relations. It is an important aspect of public relations since the media are important tools for effective public relations. Again the media, being the channel through which information is disseminated to the organization’s publics, are themselves a major public of the organization. Media relations is an organization function that is conducted through the media through channels such as, television, newspapers, magazines, and radio.
An effective media relations often depends on designing and implementing a well though-out plan. The responsibilities of the PR specialist in such fields include writing and distributing news releases, feature articles and rejoinders to the press and compiling press list, publishing of newsletters, handling and maintaining media information, service, arranging press, radio and television interview for management. Also preparing marketing plans and strategic promotional and marketing efforts are other activities undertaken by the PR.
A classic example of good media relations practice was documented in 1999 when Barclays Bank was donating some items to UEW-K and KNUST, the media team decided to have the presentation done on our campus to give us more publicity due to the good relationship that we had established with them. The type of media to use depends on accessibility and affordability in addition to what is their target audience. At times the University has little or no control over the messages in the media, it is the reporter and writers that decide what will be published depending on the angle they choose. 4. Publicity/Publication Publicity is a public relations function to ensure that the University has a strong public image. It can help the public to understand the University and its products and services. From promotional activities to marketing campaigns, publicity is the tool that public relations use to get the word about the University to the public. Negative publicity can cost organizations millions of Ghana cedis and forced out of the market. The public relations section has embarked on a deliberate campaign to prevent negative publicity through coordinated activities with the students and the edia in Kumasi. The creation of the notice board to display pictures of events and programmes are means of disseminating information to the University community through “News in Pictures”. Production and distribution of newsletters, leaflets, brochures and magazines are some of the activities undertaken to publicize the University. Articles are sometimes written and sent to the media to publish thereby keeping the Universities in the public mind through constant positive publicity. 4. 3 Community Relations
The relationship that an organization has with its community can be vital to the success of that organsation. Institutions can interact with the community in numerous ways, from participating in community activities, to putting on events through donations. Successful organizations understand that their relations with the surrounding community is important. Community goodwill must be maintained through proactive public relations programmes in cities and towns where Universities are located. Due to this reason, it makes sense for Universities to participate in neighborhood programmes.
The PR department should also serve as liaison between the university and the community and work closely with other social partners in the locality. For instance, University of Education, Winneba –Kumasi Campus has constantly maintained healthy relationships with the Manhyia Palace and other sub-chiefs in the catchment areas, like Atwima Agogo, Asuoyboah, Tanaso and Apatrapa. The naming of one of the two halls Atwima after the district is a vivid example. Occasionally, students, church and other members of the community are allowed to make use of university’s facilities to promote good neighbourliness.
The community would be prepared and defend you in times of any problem or difficulty. The introduction of the admission to students from less endowed schools by Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) is clear indication of the university’s corporate social responsibility to the communities. There is currently a proposal before management for consideration on UEW’s contribution to the Best Teacher Awards scheme instituted by the Ghana Education Service (GES) by the University Relations Office.
UEW-K is one of the first institutions to pay a courtesy call on the Ashanti Regional Minister when he assumed office recently. 4. 4 Employee Relations Internal motivation is vital factor which attacks the bottom line by building morale, enhancing productivity and creating team spirit. Public relations provides an early warning system by avoiding interruptions which may occur when single surprise issue or unplanned for social/political changes arise. Public relations practitioners interact more with the internal and external audiences than only one else in the organisation.
Public relations helps institutions to manage change and ensure smooth transition in the system. Example, whenever, there is change is management, the public relations office informs the staff and students of the change and its implications. Through seminars and workshops the staff and students are given in death knowledge about the University, what it stands for, its structures and policies. 4. 5 Communication Expert The Public Relations Office deals with the management of both internal and external communication.
It is responsible for promotion of the mission and vision of the University and also manages and improves the flow of information within the University and between the University and the publics that it serves. Public relations professionals have a role to play in helping management to keep in touch with their various publics because the role of public relations within an organization has become that of spokesperson to management, they actively solicit both employee and consumer opinions and make management aware of the effects of various decision on clients and employees.
That is in line with the two-way systemic public relations model by (Grung and Hunt). It is important to realize that public relations is vital not only in helping to secure the universities funding, but also in recruitment of staff and students. We have to make sure that we build that basic awareness of what the University (UEW) is all about. We have to keep in mind that university is a learning community that needs different constituents to join in to make it strong.
We are facing heavy competition for those constituents to join other communities. For example, when the part-time programme started, the University Relations Office went round institutions and organizations to inform them of the introduction of the programme by distributing brochures and other leaflets to sensitize them. The challenge for the future will be to continue to become more effective in getting stories out to the media and the public without taking the lecturers’ energy away from teaching or research.
The institution of e media encounter and meet the press series are some of the programmes planned to promote research findings and papers presented at conferences and in international journals. Example the Department of Technology Education’s research into the use of oil palm for furniture was given much publicity. Recently, the office wrote a circular calling on the University community to furnish the University Relations Office of such information for upward publication to the University community. Public relations helps to overcome management isolation, something that can affect every organization sooner or later.
An inescapable PR role is opening the eyes and ears of management to what is really happening out there (intelligence gathering function). The 1999 students’ demonstration on the Kumasi Campus, students’ reaction to the University’s delay in releasing results on time and the breakdown of the University of Education, Winneba Online Student Information System (UEWOSIS). The office quickly gathered enough and relevant information and advised management on what steps to take to avert agitations and confrontations. 5. 0 ACHIEVEMENTS
The University Relations Office of the University has chalked a considerable success in the areas of media relations, communication event management and protocol services. The office in collaboration with the students, staff and management has been able to establish and maintain a very good rapport with the media. This has resulted in the projection of image of the University in media circles. There hasn’t been any negative publicity in the media on the University. Thus the University enjoys good reputation. The university is always in the news projecting its activities, core values and programmes.
In the area of publication and publicity, we have contributed a number of articles in the University Newsletter, produced attractive brochures for our part-time and MSc in Marketing and e-Commerce programmes. The brochure covering the Kumasi Campus of the UEW published in 2005 is another classic example. The office frequently issues News Releases to inform the University Community on the events and programmes taking place in the university. We have successfully organized and staged a number of high profile events, like congregation, matriculation, media encounter, congregation lectures, workshops, seminars and orientation programmes etc.
Good organizational skills of event management have contributed to the successful organisation of events sometimes at a very short notice. Our concerned for the image and reputation of the University motivated us to make sure that we coordinate all the activities to ensure incident free events. We have exhibited excellent customer relationships among the numerous clients, guests, visitors that do business with the university (both local and foreign). We have provided good protocol services to our guests and warm front desk/reception has always been accorded our visitors. We received commendations for our good works both written and verbal from the numerous guests; example was a letter from Mrs. Quashie-Sam, former Registrar of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, (KNUST). We launched a successful campaign to make the UEW-K become a household name or to inform the Kumasi public of the new status of the Kumasi Campus of the University. There have been tremendous results. UEW-K is now known to most institutions and organizations as well as general public including taxi and trotro drivers.
In the areas of policy direction we have written and contributed a number of proposals in the form of memoranda to ensure that we move in the right direction. The introduction of radio lecture and innovative programmes on the Mynd FM has contributed to the projection of very enviable image of the institution. 6. 0 CHALLENGES In spite of the success chalked, the section faces a number of challenges. The greatest challenge is that the University Relations Officer is on 24 hour call without much incentive like allowances.
The problem has compounded with the absence of the Principal and Registrar on campus. He is the first point of call and in the event of any crisis he should be prepared to manage it. Limited office space is another serious challenge. There is no privacy to our guests who come to discuss confidential matters. Means of transport is sometimes difficult to come by but thanks to the Deputy Registrar who readily releases his pick up to us for our numerous assignments. The absence of qualified staff with journalism background to handle news and article production is another setback.
The delay in procurement of certain vital logistics and in release of funds for programmes is a source of worry.
7. 0 RECOMMENDATIONS We wish to recommend that the Office be upgraded to that of a department to enable it operates fully and efficiently. Acquisition of means of transport for the unit would help us function effectively. Also the provision of new strategically located and spacious office will help interaction with staff, students and guests more professional and diligently.