By: Waqar Azeem Jappa
Political Public Relations (PPR) seems to be a new addition in the lexicon of Public Relations but its practice is probably as old as the politics and society itself. When it comes to practicing Public Relations- the science of managing communication between an organization and its publics, nothing has been as misunderstood as Political Public Relations.
Being a student of Communication and a PR practitioner in the public sector organization, frankly speaking, it was misunderstood in the previous regime. It is equally misunderstood in the current regime. At Provincial level, it is largely associated with news and tickers management of any cabinet member or sitting Minister or even Chief Minister for that matter by his PRO. Is that enough to achieve the ultimate goal of mutual understanding between the voter and their elected representative?
In their book, Political Public Relations: Principles and Applications, Jesper Stormback ,professor in Journalism and Political Communication at the University of Gutenberg and Spiro Kiousis, professor in Public Relations at the University of Florida defined Political Public Relations as follows;
“Political public relations is the management process by which an organization or individual actor for political purposes, through purposeful communication and action, seeks to influence and to establish, build, and maintain beneficial relationships and reputations with its key publics to help support its mission and achieve its goals.”
An academic analysis of this definition would reveal to you that Political PR goes far beyond the conventional understanding of the Public Relations if its practitioners in the public sector organizations understand the difference between the two concepts at all! We must not forget that political public relations lies at the crossroads of public relations; political communication, political science, political marketing, public affairs, political management, political campaigning and other related concepts in our part of the World but established fields in the West.
So, what is it that is keeping Public Relations Officers (PROs) , working in public sector organizations both at Federal and Provincial set ups who are solely responsible for image building of a Government Ministry/ department they are attached with through robust networking and communication skills outdone? Empirical evidence suggests following 10 reasons for their lackluster performance;
- Flawed criterion for induction into service and lack of relevant training
- Absence of logistic support such as official vehicle, supporting staff and congenial working environment
- Slow promotions, no reward and appreciation from any quarter
- Magnificent delusions and epic misunderstandings by the cadre officers about the nature of their job
- Lack of exposure , confidence, outdated PR/Communication skills of the officers
- Lack of patronization by the concerned Minister/Department a PRO is attached with
- Absence of any Job Descriptions, periodic evaluations and accountability
- Lack of coordination/vigilance between Headquarters and divisional offices including poor logistic support
- Absence of any budget at departmental level at the disposal of PRO for carrying out PR activities
- Poor handling and understanding of the modern platforms of communication such digital and social media tools by the officers
Given these issues are properly addressed, it is the Government who is going to immensely gain form it. We must not forget that communication is the new fuel of the modern world. Without lobbying and projection of the government’s initiatives and policies for the masses it is working so hard, miscommunication and propaganda can be a potential threat to its legitimacy.
Let the sitting government be more cognizant of the importance of Political PR by equipping the concerned professionals with prerequisites. One also lives in hope that PROs who are entrusted with the supreme responsibility to put up the government’s positive image to the masses must do some soul searching and adopt to the new tools of communication in the given circumstances. Time calls for an instant action.
Writer is an actor by heart, blogger by instinct and a dreamer by default. He has an M.Phil. in media studies from University of the Punjab. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org