You are on page 1of 12

The History of Public Relations in Nigeria


Introduction This paper aims to examine the history of public relations in Nigeria, this will be achieved by moving from the general (Global) to the specific (Nigeria). Through various sub-topics the paper examined the history of public relations with reference to dates and pioneers of public relations in the past. Through the study of history, we will shed light on the roots of modern public relations. Public relations pioneers will also be discussed; this paper will also look at a bigger picture: public relations in Africa. An account of the history of public relations in Nigeria which is the main aim of this paper will surely be discussed. The purpose of this paper now is to show the past of public relations, events surrounding the development of public in Nigeria and the African continent as a whole.

Public Relations: A General Overview Everyone has a different definition of PR because it is always changing and adapting to the world and this is especially evident with the growing power of the media. PR is developing relationships to help communicate about an organization, an issue, a person, or a product. In public relations people are divided into groups depending on how they affect or are affected by an organization, and called ‗publics‘. Some public relations may refer to these groups as target audiences but this term suggests that people are passive rather than interacting with messages and responding to them. To improve our understanding of public relations, we will outline some definitions given by professional organizations. This includes the definition given by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR): ―Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behavior. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics‖. (CIPR, 2010). The PRCA uses the CIPR definition of public relations but also identifies publics: ―Public relations is all about reputation. It‘s the result of what you do, what you say, and what others say about you. It is used to gain trust and understanding between an organization and its various publics—whether that‘s employees, customers, investors, local community—or all of those stakeholder groups.‖ (PRCA, 2010). The PRSA 1982 National Assembly formally adopted a definition of public relations, which remains widely accepted and used today: ―Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other‖. (PRSA 2010). Although, there are many definitions for the term, the Mexican Statement definition given by the World Assembly of Public relations is a widely accepted one as it encompasses the totality of public relations. It defines public relations as art and social science that is concerned with analyzing trends, predicting it‘s consequences, counseling organization leaders and implementing a planned program of action that will benefit the organization and public interest Unlike advertising or marketing, with which it is often confused, professional public relations, is more ―soft sell‖ than ―hard sell.‖ It emphasizes information and

persuasion as opposed to packaging and paid media, diplomacy as opposed to force. Owing to its subtleties, it is occasionally viewed as ―propaganda‖ or, in more current jargon, ―spin,‖ the intentional manipulation of public opinion without regard for what is accurate or true (Bates, 2006). Public relations is most often defined as the management function that seeks to establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between an organization, commercial or non-commercial, and the audiences or "publics" on which the success of these entities depends. These publics may include any of several possible constituencies: customers, investors, employees, suppliers, legislators, competitors, government officials and other ―influentials.‖

- Features of Public Relations A key feature of PR is its use of third parties, that is, credible people who support the organization‘s views but are more influential as they are seen as independent and not part of the organization. An example of this is when, to demonstrate their support, a celebrity attends the launch of a product. PR has grown through exploring how to communicate with people in a way that would motivate them towards an organization‘s particular objectives. PR is increasingly focusing on building relationships. Heath (2001: 6) states that instead of trying to control people, public relations has progressed to where it fosters trust and builds community. In addition, PR practitioners must have strong and creative communication skills, such as writing and presenting, to ensure clear and persuasive expression to appeal to diverse groups. Practitioners must also be able to initiate and manage events which create an opportunity for organizations to talk to their publics and develop a dialogue. All these abilities must use creativity in order to appeal to diverse and specific groups. PR has grown through exploring how to communicate with people in a way that would motivate them towards an organization‘s particular objectives. PR is increasingly focusing on building relationships. Heath (2001: 6) states that instead of trying to control people, public relations has progressed to where it fosters trust and builds community. Public relations is a relationship-building professional activity that adds value to organizations because it increases the willingness of markets,

audiences, and publics to support them rather than to oppose their efforts. (Heath 2001: 8).

Purpose of History of Public Relations History of PR is studied with the aim of helping practitioners to know the past PR concepts and practices which will enable the practitioners to project PR development into the future. The power of a well defined PR program should be able to solve some societal and organizational problems, because PR can be regarded as a powerful instrument for the reconstruction, transformation of industrial, technological, educational, political and socio-economical development. Public Relations: The Pioneers The history of public relations would be incomplete without a quick look at the pioneers involved in its activities in the past. These pioneers have shaped the public relations and initiated emerging trends in the industry. Ivy Ledbetter Lee A former Wall Street reporter, Lee became a public relations counselor with George Parker in 1904, although he didn‘t use the term public relations until more than a decade later. He believed that business had to tell its story honestly, accurately, and openly in order to win public understanding and support. Two of his most famous clients were the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Rockefeller family. Lee was perhaps the most famous of the early public relations practitioners, as is considered the father of modern public relations and with good reason. He helped develop many of the techniques and principles that practitioners follow today. He believed in open communications with the media, and he was candid and frank in his approach to the press (Odedele, 2006) Edward L. Bernays and his associate and wife, Doris Fleischman, were among those who competed with Lee for prominence. Bernays is credited with coining the term public relations counsel in his first book on the subject, Crystallizing Public Opinion, originally published in 1923. In 1928, he published Propaganda, and in 1952, Public Relations (Odedele, 2006) Arthur W. Page: Over the years, the Vail legacy continued, but it wasn‘t until 1927 that it truly became a core value in everything that Ma Bell thought and did. That was the year that the company hired its first vice president of public relations,

Arthur W. Page. A former writer and editor for World’s Work Magazine and other publications, Page made it clear that he would not take the job unless the company met certain conditions. He would not serve as a publicist. He had to be involved in the development of policy. And the company‘s performance would have to be determined by its public reputation (Odedele, 2006) To cement his position, he promulgated five principles of corporate public relations that the company would follow: -To make sure management thoughtfully analyzes its overall relation to the public. -To create a system for informing all employees about the (company‘s) general policies and practices. -To create a system giving contact employees (those having direct dealings with the public the knowledge needed to be reasonable and polite to the public. -To create a system drawing employee and public questions and criticism back up through the organization to management. -To ensure frankness in telling the public about the company‘s actions. (Seitel, 1997). History of Public Relations in Africa PR practice in Africa can be classified into two: ancient and modern. Ancient practice: This was the pre-colonial practice of PR. • How to record and communicate information about religion and government. Thus written scripts were invented that could be used to record this information such as hieroglyphic and papyrus scrolls. • How the scribes worked; writing hieroglyphs, keeping government records and writing letters for kings. • Using of communication tools and media; gong, talking drum, moon-light story telling, folk tales telling, village square gathering, sporting activities. Modern practice: It comprises the colonial and post-colonial practice of the profession, • Press Agentry. • Public Information. • Two-way Asymmetrical. • Two-way Symmetrical (Odedele, 2008). The practice of public relations in Africa can be traced to around 1700 BC in the ancient

Egypt. The ancient Egyptians believed that it was important to record and communicate information about religion and government. Thus, they invented written scripts that could be used to record this information. The scribes in the Egyptian world were the governments and the religious organizations public relations executives, because they kept record and communicate information about religion and government to the masses (Odedele, 2008). There were different means of communication in Africa as earlier mentioned before the advent of the colonial masters; these include using the gong by the town crier to call the attention of the target audience and announcing the message of the ruler, elder consultative forum, age-group forum, moon-light storytelling, folk tales telling, talking drums, village square gathering, sporting activities, etc.

Development of Public Relations in West Africa The development of PR is more noticeable in Nigeria and Ghana being former British colonies, couple with growth of civilization, industrialization and political development in the two countries, although still at low ebb. Both countries have national PR associations and have both hosted FAPRA‘s conference; there are PR firms in the two countries. There is no PR association in the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Togo and other West African countries (Odedele, 2008). Public Relations is developing in Ghana, there is a national professional body. The Institute of Public Relations, Ghana was established in 1972 as the Public Relations Association of Ghana (PRAG) and registered as a professional body in 1972. PRAG was re-organized and a new constitution and code of ethics were adopted on December 6, 1991 which transformed PRAG into Institute of Public Relations, Ghana (IPR).

Nigeria Nigeria gained its independence on October 1, 1960. In 1963 it became a Federal Republic and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with about 140 million people (2006 national census) and the largest concentration of Black people in the world. One in five Africans is a Nigerian. There are about 250 ethnic groups, with three major tribes constituting over 40 percent of the population: the Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba. Other major ethnic/linguistic

groups include the Tiv, Ibibio, Ijaw, Kanuri, Nupe, Gwari, Igala, Jukun, Igbira, Idoma, Fulani, Itsekiri, Edo, Urhobo and the Anang, and there are approximately 374 dialects within these ethnic groups. Nigeria is situated in sub-Saharan West Africa (Nigerian High Commission, 2007). Public Relations in Nigeria: History and Development Public relations started during the colonial era. Through the establishment of the first newspaper in Nigeria which was 'iwe irohin' by the late Reverend Henry Townsend in the year 1859. The 'iwe irohin' was initially used to announce deaths, births, and marriages. It only had few or no advert in it. The British seized the opportunity to use the newspaper has a propaganda instrument. The use of newspaper was used to inform about the evil deeds of the British and enlighten them on what is wrong and right. PR was being used as an instrument to gain the trust of the people. The British colonial administrators in 1944 established the first Public Relations Department. The department was headed by Mr. D.C. Fletcher, as the leader of a group of staff, which included a public relations officer, an assistant public relations officer, a process engraver, a press officer, a publicity artist, an antiquities officer, a photographer, a films officer, a radio officer and a confidential secretary. The function of the department was mainly to carry out ―public enlightenment‖ programs relating to government activities. The colonial administrators targeted selected publics, such as Nigerian soldiers who participated in World War II as part of the British Army. After Nigeria gained its independence in 1960, the public relations department was transferred to the newly created Federal Ministry of Information (FMI) where it continued with information activities for its various publics (Koper, 2010) The next significant changes in the development of pr in Nigeria occurred between the years 1950 and 1960. This period witnessed --- political, social and economical changes in the country including the attainment of independence with all its implications, the discovery of oil and the shift of emphasis from general trading to industrialization. Led by Shell and U.A.C, the companies were compelled to launch planned programmes covering government press and community relations. They also helped to popularize the creation of pr departments in their various companies, and the development of Nigerians to man such positions.

Other contributors to the progress of pr in Nigeria include such as Dennis Buckle, formerly of UAC, and John Stocker, one time regional director of information based in Enugu, Eastern Nigeria. Mass Communication which provides the backbone for effective practice of the profession was introduced as a course in ------ the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the University of Lagos and the Institute of Management Technology, Enugu (Offonry, 1985). - Public Relations Association of Nigeria The first public relations professional body, the Public Relations Association of Nigeria (PRAN), was founded by Dr Samuel Epelle, Director of PR at FMI. Epelle was influential for the development of public relations practice in Nigeria and in 1967; he published the first authoritative book on PR in Nigeria, Essentials of Public Relations. Epelle, as PRAN‘s founder, became its coordinator and chairman and worked to recruit colleagues from other governmental departments and private industries to join him in enlarging PRAN‘s membership (Oyekan, 1993). The establishment of PRAN in 1963 was the first independent step taken by Nigerians to consolidate public relations practice in the country. Association helped to draw together an increasing number of practitioners who over the years had become members, associates of the British institute of public relations, from the mid sixties to the mid-eighties; the association subsequently adopted the more professional name of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. According to Dayo Duyile (Duyile, 2006), the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations was chartered in 1990. However, whilst PRAN was still in its infancy the political instability and subsequent 1966 military coup interfered with the professionalization of public relations. At this point the public relations practice did not have professional standards, educational qualifications, or a developed practitioner ―tool kit.‖ PRAN also had to deal with similar issues relating to public acceptance, nomenclature, and reputation that plagued Western public relations professional associations.

The evolution PR in Nigeria in the private and public sectors has resulted to the establishment of public relations firms; this led to the formation of the Nigerian Public Relations Consultants Association in 1983 (Odedele, 2006).

Nigerian public relations practice was shaped by both political events and crises. The Nigerian civil war, which began shortly after the first military coup, followed by approximately 30 years of military dictatorships (from 1966–1979 and then again from 1984–1999), had an impact upon the development of public relations practice (Koper, 2010) Since this period public relations has continued to grow and gain prominence through the continuous establishment of institutions, organizations and companies. These companies in their quest for prominence require the services of other public relations companies. Also, public relations are now taught across universities in Nigeria, this helps to increases the amount of professionals in the field. Conclusion Public relations through some pioneers and establishment of institutions have been shaped into what we have today. The public relations profession is one that is diverse and beneficial. In this paper we took a brief look at propaganda and public relations as being misunderstood, public relations is not about lies it about honesty and ethics. With no doubt, public relations will continue to mature and gain prominence with the establishment of organizations and education at tertiary institutions.

References Bates, D. (2006). “Mini-Me” History: Public Relations for the Dawn of Civilization. Institute for Public Relations, USA. Chartered Institute of Public Relations (2010). Public Relations. Retrieved from: Duyile D. (2006) Public Relations Practice-African Perspective Heath, R. (2001). ‗Defining the Discipline‘ in R. Heath (ed.) Handbook of Public Relations. London: Sage International Public Relations Association (2010). Retrieved form: Koper E. (2010). The Practice of Public Relations in Nigeria. Nigerian Institute of Public Relations: Nigeria Odedele S. (2008). Public Relations and Communication Management in Africa. Nigerian Institute of Public Relations: Nigeria Offonry, H.K. (1985). Guide to Public Relations Practice in Nigeria, Lagos PRSA Public Relations Defined (2010). Retrieved from: Seitel, Fraser P. (2006). The Practice of Public Relations. 10th ed. Pearson Publishing. Amsterdam