A paper delivered on the occasion of the 2022 AGM/Edwin Eja Memorial Lecture, Awards /Foundation laying for the image house & 50th Anniversary of the Nigeria Institute Of Public Relations, Cross River State.
The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) hitherto known as the Public Relations Association of Nigeria (until it was renamed in 1972) was established in 1963. The body attained the status of a Chartered Institute in June 1990 through Decree No. 16 (now an Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria). By virtue of this law, NIPR reserves the power to register members, regulate the practice by monitoring the professional conducts of the members through an established Code of Ethics. NIPR has Chapters in every state of the Federation.
The NIPR (national body) delegates autonomous power to states to operate at their own level. This means that all the 36 states including the FCT operate as a distinct unit under the auspices of the National body. It is expected that each chapter of the institute works independently to make impact and dominate its space while promoting professionalism and excellence, but guided by the established national code of ethics.
Assessing CR-NIPR at 50:
A 50-year-old NIPR chapter is one in her stage of full manifestation…manifestation of all the plusses that come not only with experience but with maturity, hindsight, wisdom, professionalism and excellence distinctively carved in gold.
To the CR-NIPR chapter, clearly, you may not be where you ought to be as a chapter of the institute, but you are not also where you were 50 years ago when these pioneers: Late Obong A. R. Akpan; late Edwin Eja; late Obong O.W Udo, and Mr Fassy Yusuf first nurtured the giant. Please may we rise to observe a minute of silence in honour of these great icons who had passed!
The pace of progress may not be significantly impressive, but looking at some of the milestones the chapter has attained, there are indicators-positive growth signs that there is new energy and a refreshing drive towards impacting our society remarkably.
We cannot wish away the fact that the chapter was acknowledged by the then National President of NIPR IKhas Yakubu in those early days following the formal launch of the chapter in 1977 as one of Nigeria’s earliest and flourishing chapters. Since then the membership of the chapter has grown tremendously over the years attesting to its being attractive and enviable. It even earned a reputation as ‘black gold’ brand of vibrant leadership. Also to be appreciated is the annual Edwin Eja memorial lecture in honour of a professional pioneer and icon late Edwin Eja;. How about the laudable initiative of children’s day with NIPR which is intended to catalyze the actualization of the ‘catch them young vision’ of the chapter. Other notable milestones include the instituting of public relations chairs in the university of Calabar and the University of Cross River for best graduating students award in Public relations, the establishment of student’s wing of NIPR in the campuses of UNICAL and UNICROSS respectively; organizing of a statewide summit on peace and security where position papers and sound perspectives were generated from governmental and non-governmental organizations to enrich the national discourse on National integration peace and security. Don’t forget that the chapter also successfully hosted the aviation conference organized for the management and staff of the federal ministry of aviation and its relevant stakeholders in the industry. All these were pertinent and apt responses to salient issues and concerns in the environment of business, considering how much of a social emergency security concern has become. And today the chapter has a permanent site for its secretariat complex. These are, no doubt laudable strides!
Now, without any intention to compare or undermine the progress we have made, permit me to also refer to some commendable initiatives by other NIPR chapters: On the 26th of October 2022, the Lagos NIPR Launched Digital PR Digest- in collaboration with Upticomm Marketing Company. The professional journal tagged: Digital PR Digest, was unveiled at the opening of the seventh Lagos Digital PR Summit held in Lagos. This was an awesome response to fill a contemporary need for insights and perspectives of value on digital PR, a PR approach that can effectively and measurably boost an organization’s reputation, online presence and ultimately industry standing.
The NIPR, Bauchi State Chapter, also launched a book entitled Community Relations strategy: A Primer for Public Relations of Corporate Players in Developing Nations at its 2022 Annual General Meeting (AGM).
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, NIPR, was named the ‘Overall Best Performing Chapter for 2017.’ In a statement by the Spokesperson of the FCT Chapter, Mr. Stanley Ogadigo, the Chapter emerged the winner after a rigorous process of critical evaluation and ranking of all Chapters’ programmes and activities by the Governing Council of the Institute. He stated that the award came as a result of hard work, the Chapter’s commitment to quality service delivery, and consistency in walking the path of professionalism and excellence. This is an aspect of a wide look around!
While we celebrate these milestone achievements with a deep reflection of how far we have come, it is also not a moment of judgement but that of a deeper collective reflection and resolve. We have come to speak the truth to ourselves, for essentially, PR is based on truth and full information. We have come, not only to intellectualize but also, and most importantly, to explore new and practical dimensions to positioning the institute and the chapter better in the state. We have come to draw on the collective intelligence and expertise of everyone here who cares, and articulate different ways we can assert and distinguish ourselves as a go-to professional body for development-oriented and strategic communications solutions.
But before I go further, I would sincerely like to establish that the chapter has not been jinxed to a standstill. We are here today because the institute here is still responsive to the complex dynamism of its environment. Any system or institution that has lost its capacity to respond to uncertainties and changing trends in its environment of operation is a dying system. CR-NIPR is alive and vibrant!
Besides, PR deals with perception. PR manages perception. Consciously or unconsciously, every institution also takes on the colouration and personality of the collective attributes of the people who make it up. The CRS NIPR chapter cannot be a toddler, except the individuals who drive the organization are themselves perceived as toddlers.
I would rather like to see the CR-NIPR as a giant, slow and steady!
However, at this point, I would like to pause and ask these questions: In the course of our journey in the CRS NIPR chapter over these many years, how scientific did we get? Did we establish any benchmark? Any barometers? Was there a baseline? if there wasn’t any of these, how then can we assess ourselves and measure the progress or successes we have achieved?
It must be noted that PR is a profession of conscience. What you sow is what you reap in the arena of public perception. Good deeds are seeds of good public relations. Otherwise why do true PR practitioners bother about having significant deposits in the account of public goodwill? Why do great organizations worry about demonstrating social conscience in the field of business as a mark of good corporate citizenship? In the context of this scenario, we can be guided by conscience and a bit of science in evaluating our performance as a chapter. We can in some way evaluate our achievements based on how much we have been able to accomplish in line with the objectives of the institute.
NIPR’s primary objectives are to advance the standards of the public relations profession and to provide members with professional development opportunities. NIPR advances the public relations profession by making its members accountable through a code of conduct, developing policies, representing its members and raising standards through education and training.
Specifically, some of the objectives of NIPR that excite me are these, and I would like to explore the deeper values of these objectives: To provide facilities, advice and opportunities for executives to meet and discuss Public Relations problems and case studies, and thereby improve the standards of Public Relations practice in Nigeria; build a credible and dynamic professional institution that is responsive to Nigeria’s needs; To conduct research, collect and disseminate information on all aspects of Public Relations; To publish journals, books, practice papers and guidelines. On this occasion, it would have been historic and proof of scientific evidence to have huge display on gallery-PR publications, literatures and knowledge management products for young professionals to learn from.
And if you look at the different aspects of PR ranging from Strategic communications, Media relations, Community relations, Internal communications, Content Development & Management, Crisis communications, Public Affairs, CSR, Online and social media communications etc, you’ll be able to appreciate how expansive and dynamic the space of PR business and practice is, with its concomitant opportunities. It must be noted that these different aspects of PR also present the windows for our investment, opportunities for demonstrating our unique professionalism and expertise, and getting paid for it.
Do we also know that organizations survive or sink based on the quality of their corporate culture? Has the institute been concerned about exploring its interest in corporate culture management as a critical specialization in PR? Is there nothing NIPR can do in helping organizations and institutions to improve its corporate culture…. corporate culture revitalization? Being a professional body, the NIPR is also perceived, and rightly so, as a quasi-academic institution. How about research and knowledge sharing? breaking new grounds and evolving new paradigms. If the universities are not thinking, if the professors are not thinking, the institute that is constantly exposed to human and development-oriented problems and challenges in the field of practice, ought to be thinking because PR is essentially a problem solving endeavour. Why aren’t there new theories and paradigms in PR coming from this part of the globe? Why can’t we be credited with originating new paradigms in the field? What happened to innovations in crisis management? PR is about dealing with and managing uncertainties in the environment of business. The PR environment is in constant flux and requires that every system that wants to survive and succeed stays responsive. Have we been responsive enough to the spinning complexity of our environment, particularly in the critical spheres of business, governance and development? How many organizations in CRS have we influenced their systems in terms of integrating PR thinking into their culture? How many studies have we conducted? How many journals, books, practice papers have we published?
If government is not willing to meaningfully engage and utilize the unique expertise that exists within the professional body, and if there is still deliberate infiltration, engagement of quacks and uncertified personnel to handle sensitive PR duties in both private and government agencies, it means we still have work to do. For we cannot get that level of attention and patronage if we are not able to create value or seen, perceived and appreciated to be doing so in the environment where we operate. PR is the business of translating concerns and challenges into opportunities, and opportunities into ROI and reputational mileage!
When we complain that PR practitioners are being given scanty recognition in organizations, that NIPR certification adds no value to our service and occupation, industry or professional assessment, we tend to indict ourselves. Every true PR practitioner is a bundle of value and solutions… an irreplaceable asset to their organization. Always wanted! Who wouldn’t desire professionalism and excellence? PR practice does not have room for pedestrianism and mediocrity. The world is looking for solutions, not certificates! It is time to stand up and assert ourselves!
Again, PR is built on empathy. Today the world is talking flamboyantly about using Human Centred Design (HCD) approaches to planning and executing development programmes and interventions. PR was conceived long ago based on HCD principles hinged on the essence of empathy. How far have we gone in applying these fundamental tenets of PR in solving human problems, as an institution? How do we systems- engineer PR thinking into governance? How have we contributed to improving the landscape of development in our constituency?
NIPR is a capacity building institution. How has the CRS chapter evolved in the challenge of helping to strengthen systems in the private and public sectors? How many people performing boundary spanning functions in organizations have PR orientation? Have we ever been concerned about PR capacity needs assessment of organizations in CRS? is this a doable study? Is it within the mandate of NIPR?
As we reflect on the foregoing conundrums, we must not forget that PR is an eclectic discipline and stands tall in every space. One of the principles of PR that I love is the fact that it is the implementation of the totality of the principles of general management. what that means is that any organization with a sound and responsive management system is invariably implementing PR principles. Period!
Having come this far, we are now at a point where we have to make critical decisions in the context of emerging new challenges and opportunities. We need to be intentional about it. This the time to reappraise ourselves and the chapter. What are our strengths and weaknesses? What are the threats in the environment, and what opportunities are there to explore and exploit? where did we miss it? And where do we go from here? How do we become greater and more dominant in the arena of business and development? How can we contribute to, and justify our contributions to the attainment of sustainable development goals in CRS? How can we become not just more visible but a ‘go to’ institute for solutions in a wide range of areas in human development and business?
These are the things to deliberate on in our next steps after the conference. I leave you with this! Thank you
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