GUEST BLOG: If I were to evaluate the litany of names associated with Public Relations

Georgina Asare Fiagbenu, IPR Ghana PR Discovery of the Year

When a baby is born, a name is given by the parents.  In Ghana, the name usually reflects when the baby was born and who gave birth to them. It also reflects the religion and tribe he belongs to. After the naming ceremony, the name given is expected to stay with the person till thy kingdom come.

That is not the same with many people. As time goes on, some people change their names and this is often done to reflect their new identify or the image they have built for themselves.

The new names may be self-acquired or imposed or inflicted on the bearers. Sometimes people are given nicknames which they have no clue of. It is also common for people to give up religious names for traditional or local names whilst others also take on new names when they take on a new religion. Some original names are sometimes traded for names like Aliiiolo, Prof, Bola Ray, DJ Black, Captain Planet, Opana and several others.

It is also very common to see people who have about five or six names for different reasons with each of them highlighting a different meaning.  It is easy to find someone who has a name that is not familiar with his/her family.

Not only do humans struggle with names and identity but some professions also face similar identity crisis. One them is the Public Relations (PR) profession.

So last Friday evening, November 4, 2016, as we gathered at La Palm Royal Beach Hotel for the Institute of Public Relations Annual Excellence Awards and Presidential Ball, I begun to think carefully about the names given to Public Relations (PR) professionals. This thinking was triggered by the acceptance remarks made by the Chairperson of the event. This was not the first time I was having this thought.  Finding an appropriate universal name for the PR profession remains a challenge in PR practice.  But the concern is not new. Way back in Communications school more than a decade ago it was discussed and the impressions people have about the name also been well documented.

Since Public relations started it has suffered an identity crisis from the time of its formation till date. Isn’t it quite ironic that the profession which is charged with the building of positive identities would suffer an identity crisis?

So far I have never seen any profession that has so many names. As we all know a doctor is a doctor but of course we have physicians, surgeons, medical practitioners etc. But the name “doctor” seem to be a universal generic name.  A nurse is also a nurse and pilots are pilots and so are accountants, Lawyers and musicians. Their names are simply cut for them and there is no doubt about who they are and what they do.

PR officers have been given several names and the list is endless. I can bet that it is the only profession in the world with so many names and identities. The myriad of names in a way reflects the evolution of the practice.

The profession can boast of the following names: Public Relations, Public Affairs, Corporate Affairs, Corporate Communications, External Communications, External Affairs. In the government and political circles names like Press Secretary, Government Spokespersons office, Government Affairs, Propaganda secretary are used to describe PR people. Names like Publicity, Promotions, Protocol, Publications, and Fundraising departments are also quite popular. Some other names are also given to reflect the functions the role player covers. Some are called Media relations, Community relations, etc. In the Western world the term Publicists and Lobbyists are also existent. Recent emerging names include Corporate Relations, Consumer Relations, Consumer Affairs and Reputation Management.

Some of the names sound very corporate, whilst others sound fanciful but it doesn’t take away the fact that there is a lot of perspective and dimensions of the practice. It may appear confusing and murky but it doesn’t take away the fact that Public Relations is an important and strategic role that seeks to influence the bottom-line.

The strategic role includes being analytical, critical thinking, understanding trends and interpreting facts and figures. It requires a good understanding of the industry and business that you are in and it requires the ability to build good relations. Indeed a good practitioner must be a well-rounded person who adds value to everything. Without public relations a big gap will be created in Corporates, Public Institutions and many other fields of endeavor.

I have realized that a lot of people go into Public relations without a good understanding of what the role entails. Just like an octopus, the profession has various tentacles but it still doesn’t change who we are and what we do. We must keep our focus on the key tenets of the profession and work towards working to contribute to the deliverable of measurable inputs and results that helps to influence the bottom line.

As I continued to think through this issue I heard my name being mentioned by the MC and I quickly had to move to the podium. I had been adjudged the PR Discovery of the year and I had to go and collect my plaque. I am really excited about this award.

The night turned out well.  MTN won three awards, followed by Vodafone who won two. Other companies who won are Stanbic Bank, Global Media Alliance and a few others.

In all, it was a beautiful night. The program started late.  Regardless, it turned out to be an enjoyable night. The event was attended by many of the IPR gurus. The MCs were at their best. One of them was my friend Esi Hammond, PR Manager for Bank of Ghana who looked splendid in her beautiful green gown. The décor was really well done and the food was good.   The music was excellent. My personal “Discovery of the Night” was the Fire service band. They were fantastic.  They did a fabulous rendition of some popular songs and they made the night very enjoyable. I commend the Planning committee and the entire executives of IPR.  I am already looking forward to the next IPR event.

The writer is Georgina Asare Fiagbenu, Senior Manager Corporate Communications at MTN Ghana



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