For some time now, I have been following conversations about how the Jubilee government is allegedly governing the nation through Public Relations. Apparently, instead of delivering on their promises, the current government has employed the expertise of a number of publicists to do ‘PR’ for government.
Well, before we get political about who is not doing what in Government, let me share with you some definitions of Public Relations. According to the Charted Institute of Public Relations, PR is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics.
The American chapter of PR, PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) defines PR as a profession that helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other. Public Relations broadly apply to organizations as a collective group, not just a business; and publics encompass the variety of different stakeholders.
Simply put, “Public Relations is a truthful and sustained effort with lots of planning and research to enable an individual or an organsation to grow and guard its reputation” Barasa2014
Back to our government of the day; while a lot of what the official government flacks have been doing is somehow planned and researched. Goggling is research, right? What makes me refute the governance by PR claim is the fact that one of the main characteristic of this widely misunderstood profession is being real, complete and without fluff. The crux of Public Relations is ethical behavior.
Telling the truth is at the heart of the profession and so-called spin is incompatible with that. Spin is the enemy of public relations professionals. In other words, candid, truthful, complete communication is of utmost importance.
In my opinion, Jubilee Government is deliberately attempting to persuade people to think and behave in a manner that they desire. This endeavor is not so far from PR, however the difference is that these stabs go over and above relying on facts thus making it Propaganda- a distant cousin of both advertising and Public Relations that has been used world over by governments and military to appeal to the emotion of people and not necessarily their intellect, seeking to mobilize them for specific needs. In reality, propaganda shapes the nebulous into concrete images.
Hitler, a well-known propagandist, had this to share to his stewards during the world war: “If you are going to tell a lie, don’t tell a little one because it will be recognized as a lie. Tell the biggest and most unthinkable lie. Keep on telling it and people will think it must be truth and believe it.” He went further and concluded: “The greater the lie the more effective it is as a weapon.”
But wait, isn’t propaganda a tool of PR? NO, you're conducting PR if what you are "spinning" has a solid basis in facts. If not, it's propaganda, plain and simple.
All said and done, the Jubilee publicists seemed to have nailed the art of creating and inculcating perception of the general public. This was achieved through their calculated messaging and positioning of the Head of State. Remember when The President was captured randomly purchasing peanuts from a hawker? How about when he dinned and wined with all and sundry in a Mombasa Hotel? Those were definitely moments of brilliance. What they did not achieve is making it sustainable and backing it up with actualities on ground.
All went south when they were hit by a perennial Public Relations menace in the form of incoherent communication and lack of a crisis communication kit which is necessary to a communications expert more than how a fire extinguisher is to a city hotel kitchen.
This allowed the previously aligned population to scrutinize the communication that would have otherwise been ingested without questioning due to an already questionable reputation of the original massaging source.
Redemption time is not nigh for the flacks; all they need is a centralized communication hub, sustained & planned messaging and tangible results to report home about. This will leave little image crisis to manage and thus allow for a more proactive and planned PR strategy for the Government.