Why PR remains the weakest link in Nigeria’s IMC mix


Despite the fact that modern Public Relations practice is about 75 years in Nigeria, the profession still suffers a myriad of challenges even as it is widely perceived as the weakest link in the Integrated Marketing Communications Industry.

Public Relations was first introduced into the country in 1944 by the colonial government as the Public Relations office of the government during the Second World War.

Till date, practitioners in the IMC mix still see PR profession as an industry that is yet to gain its full maturity and take its rightful place in the scheme of things just like its peers in advanced countries.

Suffice to say that challenges confronting the practice which includes absence of research, measurement, lack of rebranding, quackery amongst others are reasons why the profession still crawls on its knees in Nigeria.

Hence, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), the regulatory body saddled with the statutory responsibility of sanitising the practice as well as ensuring that the profession is competitive in the global sphere has often been regarded as a toothless bulldog.

The situation is as precarious in the country now as quacks are seen taking most of the PR jobs while most brand owners are even becoming skeptical in hiring PR professionals because they feel the profession cannot add value to their brands.

Industry watchers believe one of the major reasons why Nigeria’s Public Relations profession is suffering and has continued to fall below the standard of recognition by Holmes Report is because the industry is perceived as stunted.

The Holmes Report is a global ranking Public Relations agencies and industry’s leading source of news, trends, events, and career information for PR professionals, based in New York, U.S.A.

Public Relations association was founded as the Public Relations Association of Nigeria (PRAN) by late Dr. Sam Epelle in 1963 and was later renamed as the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) in 1972.

However, the NIPR institute is yet to witness any meaningful changes and has failed to reposition itself as a leader in the IMC mix.

Decrying unethical practices in the profession where agencies are hired on the bases of ‘man-know-man’ and where PR business is no longer gotten on the basis of merit, stakeholders expressed their frustration with the ongoing mediocrity.

They lamented that NIPR as an institute has not positioned itself to fully regulate the practice of Public Relations in the country.

According to them issues of measurement, brand equity building; training of manpower as well as manpower development amongst others are cause for concern.

Speaking about the precarious situation that PR practice has found itself in Nigeria, the Managing Director, Mediacraft Associates, John Ehiguese, said the absence of data to track the growth of Public relations industry was one of the reasons why the country has not been ranked among the world’s top 250 PR firms in the Holmes Report.

Mr. Ehiguese stressed that the quantum of Public Relations businesses in the country can’t be easily measured annually because most PR agencies don’t disclose their fees from clients and the cost of public relations campaigns.

He lamented that absence of data poses a great challenge to practitioners and the industry at large, pointing out that practitioners need to embark on research, in-depth documentation of industry’s research and ethical conduct at all time.

Asked why PR is perceived as the weakest link in the IMC industry, Mr. Ehiguese said: “It is ironical that we who are the ones that are supposed to project the image of others do not ourselves have a strong image. But, there are a lot of factors responsible for that.”

“I think at the heart of it is a relatively weak regulatory environment. PR, unfortunately, in Nigeria has become an all-comers business. The level of quackery is simply unbelievable. I mean there is almost zero regulation; and barriers to entry are extremely low or practically non-existent.”

According to him, elsewhere in the world, PR is highly regarded, noting that in many Fortune-500 companies across the world, the head of public relations occupies a vice presidential position and reports directly to the Managing Director, or President, of the corporation.

“I agree to an extent with you on the ‘weakest link’ tag on PR because we should actually be leading in the IMC mix because we deal more with the core brand values, so we should play a leading role in developing the overall communications strategy. I hope it changes, I hope it gets better. We have done our bit. My generation is phasing out and I hope the younger ones will work harder to grow the PR profession and to make it occupy its pride of place in the IMC mix,” Mr. Ehiguese said.

Meanwhile, Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Lagos State Chapter, Segun McMedal, pointed out that despite the challenges bedeviling the profession and the NIPR as an institute, the body was doing everything possible to reposition itself and the profession in the country.

Mr. McMedal stressed that some of the fall-outs from the Annual General Meeting of NIPR held recently in Abuja showed that the institute was beginning to harness its strategies to lead in the IMC space.

According to him, NIPR contribute a lot in adding value to the practice of PR in the country as well as to brand owners. The NIPR Boss noted that challenges such as lack of data, measurement, quackery amongst others were urgently been address to ensure sanity in the industry.

He pointed out that Public Relations practitioners were beginning to use the AMEG (Association for Measurement and Evaluation in Guidance) principles and two other measuring parameters which is a shift from the add value equivalent that was initially used by practitioners.

Speaking about the role of NIPR, Lagos State Chapter, Mr. McMedal noted that the chapter was doing its best to raise the profession to its greater height amongst other chapters in the country.

He added that programmes and activities were being organised to expose and educate practitioners on contemporary issues in Public Relations. He enumerated some of the programmes of the chapter to include Public Relations digital summit aimed at training PR professionals on how to use digital effectively in carrying out their jobs.

Aside that, Mr. Mcmedal pointed out that the chapter also organises the Lagos PR Week; a weeklong event, NIPR Stakeholders Conference and NIPR LaPRIGA Awards amongst others.

He believes such events provide the right avenues for the chapter to educate and train PR practitioners in the state to be on top of their profession and be competitive in the global Public Relations space.

Unlike NIPR, other associations such as the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Media Independent Practitioners of Nigeria (MIPAN) and Experiential Marketers Association of Nigeria (EXMAN) are seen pulling their weights in the areas of rebranding their professions as well as taking such professions to the pedestal of success in all ramifications.

Recall that AAAN just rebranded its logo and has promised to kick-start its advertising academy to be able to embark on human capital development of its professionals by equipping them with current industry trends for them to excel.



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