By Mohammed Khelef
Dictionary.com describes Public Relations as the art, technique or profession of promoting such goodwill that is exactly what a public relations office (PRO) does. It is the office that specializes in promoting news.
The term Public Relations was first used by the US President Thomas Jefferson during his address to Congress in 1807 (in this use, however, the intended meaning seems to be closer to “policy” than the implication of communications central to the contemporary definition).
One of the earliest definitions of PR was created by Edward Bernays. In his book, History of Public Relations, he says that, “Public Relations is a management function which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures and interest of an organization followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”
Today, Public Relations is defined as a set of management, supervisory, and technical functions that foster an organization’s ability to strategically listen to, appreciate, and respond to those persons whose mutually beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to achieve its missions and values.” (Robert L. Heath, Encyclopedia of Public Relations).
There is a school of public relations that holds that it is about relationship management. Phillips explored this concept in his paper “Towards Relationship Management: Public Relations at the Core of Organizational Development” which lists a range of academics and practitioners who support this view. So it is for the benefit of academics that we have PRO in our universities.
As said in one article about PR in the wikipedia.org, modern Public Relations evaluates a product or individuals public perception through market research. Once data is collected and challenges are identified, solutions are presented in a campaign strategy to meet goals. Techniques may vary from campaign to campaign but some standard tools used are; press releases, press kits, satellite feeds, pod casts, web casts, wire service distribution of information and internet placement. Others include entertainment product placement (television, events, and celebrity), product launches, press conferences, media seminars, producing events, speechwriting, establishing partnerships and more is often required.
According to Don Sheelen: “Examples of the knowledge that may be required in the professional practice of public relations include communication arts, psychology, social psychology, sociology, political science, economics, and the principles of management and ethics. Technical knowledge and skills are required for opinion research, public issues analysis, media relations, direct mail, institutional advertising, publications, film/video productions, special events, speeches, and presentations.”
As further described in wikipedia.org, although public relations professionals are stereotypically seen as corporate servants, the reality is that almost any organization that has a stake in how it is portrayed in the public arena employs at least one PR manager. Large organizations may even have dedicated communications departments. Government agencies, trade associations, and other non-profit organizations commonly carry out PR activities. We have, therefore, every reason to have PRO in our universities.
In the Art of Public Speaking (Lucas: 1995), Public Relations is explained as being an important management function in any organization. An effective communication, or public relations, plan for an organization is developed to communicate to an audience (whether internal or external publics) in such a way the message coincides with organizational goals and seeks to benefit mutual interests whenever possible.
A public relations specialist is an image shaper. Their job is to generate positive publicity for their client and enhance their reputation. The client can be a company, an individual or a government. In our case, the clients are students and other concerned parties.
In the government, PR people are called press secretaries. They keep the public informed about the activity of government agencies, explain policy, and manage political campaigns. Public relations people working for a company may handle consumer relations, or the relationship between parts of the company such as the managers and employees, or different branch offices.
Though the job often involves the dissemination of information, some view this cynically as “spin doctoring.” There is an old saying about PR that ‘Advertisers lie about the product. Public relations people lie about the company.’ Regardless, the successful PR person must be a good communicator-in print, in person and on the phone. They cultivate and maintain contacts with journalists, set up speaking engagements, write executive speeches and annual reports, respond to inquiries and speak directly to the press on behalf of their client. They must keep lines of communication open between the many groups affected by a company’s product and policies: consumers, shareholders, employees, and the managing body. Public relations people also write press releases and may be involved in producing sales or marketing material.
Public Relations is a good career for the generalist. A PR person must keep abreast of current events and be well versed in pop culture to understand what stories will get the publics’ attention. It takes a combination of analysis and creative problem solving to get your client in the public eye. The content of the work is constantly changing and unforeseen challenges arise every day. As one public relations person explained, “In addition to the standard duties, a PR person might have to shepherd an alcoholic and half-mad (but brilliant) author through a twenty-city interview tour or try to put a warm ‘n fuzzy spin on the company’s latest oil-spill.”
Though some colleges offer a degree in public relations, most industry professionals agree it’s unnecessary. Since public relations requires familiarity with a wide variety of topics, a broad education is the best preparation. Any major that teaches you how to read and write intelligently will lay good foundation for a career in public relations. Or, as one PR person put it “if you can write a thesis on Dante, you should be able to write a press release.” Internships are a common way to get some practical experience and break into the field.
Because public relations people work so closely with the media, there is often a great deal of exchange between these fields. Many PR people become journalists to exercise more creativity; a number of journalists turn to public relations for better money. PR people also often go into marketing, particularly at the more senior levels. It is here, where TuDarCO, of all others, need to have not only the PRO, but also the PR as subject in its course.
Research methodology is the way of systematically solving the problem in which various steps that are generally adopted by the researcher in studying the problem along with the logic behind that problem are studied.
The section is going to present the overview on the way the research is going to be conducted including research design, area of the study, sampling and population, methods of data collection, research questions and data analysis of the findings.
The research design which is used in this study is Diagnostic Research. The research aims to discover and testing whether public relation office and its works are applied or not. It is more directly concerned with causal relationships and with implication. The design is chosen because of the nature of the problem, thus through this approach the researcher will get chance to get more information.
Area of the Study
This study aims at stimulating the need of establishing and, or, making use of Public Relation Office in our universities in Tanzania that teach Mass Communication ; and it takes the Tumaini University, Dar es Salaam College (TUDarCO) as the case study.
TUDarCO is chosen as the area of this study due to three reasons: first, being one among the associates of Tumaini University, it is the college that recently has introduced Mass Communication and up to date, the PRO does not seem to be entertained. Second, it is one among the growing universities of Tanzania and its success will say a lot in the academic arena, if ever so happens. Third, TUDarCO is situated in the capital of Tanzania, whereby all national activities are held and hence its services expected to be of maximum level of satisfaction. Existence and, or, non existence of PRO is the venue needs to be explored, and thus the aim of this study.
And in terms of flexibility and easiness, which are important in research handling, the area is easy for the researcher to handle his workings since he is the student of that college. Also it is in Dar es Salaam, where facilities are available to enable the study being carried out with the minimum costs of the budget in terms of finance and time.
The following research questions will be used as a guide in data collection and analysis during the study:
- Is the TuDarCo’s profile, as it is known by the public, caused by non-existence of PRO?
- Is the lack of university’s knowledge or understanding of importance of PRO caused by its non-existence?
- Does the lack of knowledge of work responsibilities of respective department staffs make other staffs to do the PRO responsibilities?
- Does non-existence of PRO bring in and, or, improve performance?
- Does non-existence of PRO contribute to staff’s and students’ satisfactions?
Sampling and Population
Sampling as defined by Kothari (1990) is the entire population by examining only a past of it where the result will present or portray the characteristics of entire population. Population is the group of people or items about which information is being collected. With regards to this study, the population will be the community and the staff of TuDarCo. 50 respondents will be reached by the researcher in different ways. These respondents-to-be will be categorized into two groups; that are the managerial and the non managerial. In managerial, the administration and academic staff will be the points of research while in non managerial the students and special figures from outside the college will be respondents.
Method of data collection
In this study, both primary and secondary data will be used to assess the way staff and community preserve about PRO.
There will be three types of questionnaires: to administrative/academic staffs, to students and to the chosen figures. To puff up the information, which will be gathered through the questionnaires, the study also will use both structure and unstructured interviews.
This study will use both structured and unstructured questionnaires. Most questions in the questionnaires will be upon-ended questions. They will be used to supplement information from interview shortcomings by those respondents who provided information on what they know and observe about PRO.
Interview is considered a useful method of data collection and as the first direct way of obtaining information. It involves personal contacts with the participants who asked to respond to the questions. Focused interview will be employed in this study so as to collect a wide range of information. The researcher will involve presentation of oral-verbal stimuli and reply in terms of oral-verbal responses. This method will be used in order to supplement the information gathered through questions.
The technique is also chosen as it allowed greater freedom to ask supplementary questions to the respondent. The cross checking of questions will be possible because of this kind of method.
Both selective and focused observation will be used. As a source of information, observation will be used in order to crosscheck on the consistency of the information provided as well as the information not available through the use of other sources. This will give a clear idea on how people perceive PRO in the university.
In generally both primary and secondary data will be presented and analyzed by using quantitative method as percentage and tables. Also it will be used qualitative method where elaboration and description of facts needed.
- Gamble, M & T. K., Communication Works (1999), McGraw-Hill College, New York, USA.
- Heath, R. L., Encyclopedia of Public Relations (2001), McMillan & Co. UK
- Lucas, S. E., The Art of Public Speaking (1995), McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York, USA.
- Cruisus, T. M. & Channell, C. E., The Aims of Argument (2003), McGraw-Hill, New York, USA.
- Payne, J., Applications Communication for Personal and Professional Contexts (2001), Clark Publishing, Inc., Chicago, USA.
- Kothari, C. R., Research Methodology: Methods and Techniques (2000), Daryagan, New Delhi, India.
- Gondwe, G., Notes on Public Relations (presented to TUDarCO Mass Communication Students on March 2007), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
- Bernays, E., History of Public Relations (1987), Longman Press, UK