Africa works towards self-regulation
The changing face of public relations and communications management was under scrutiny at the recent African Public Relations Association conference. In this issue of GA News, newly-elected APRA President, Peter Mutie, talks about some of the challenges ahead for African PR.
What were the main ideas or themes that emerged from debates around the conference theme of regulation?
The conference dwelt predominantly on the space of Public Relations in the face of growing business regulation. The fact that governments are keenly watching corporate organizations to guard both consumer and investor interests was placed on the table, with delegates exploring the dual topography of opportunities and threats to Public Relations under a more regulated business environment. Case studies involving some of the heavily regulated businesses such as tobacco industry were presented, with delegates exploring the concept of social investment vis-à-vis responsible investment. There was debate centering on whether PR should be regulated by the government or self regulation was the way to go. Self regulation was favoured, with strong recommendations placed on the need to observe code of conduct and keeping strict ethics. It was therefore resolved that APRA will Encourage self regulatory mechanism for Public Relations profession because self regulation requires a greater deal of self discipline and honesty.
What conclusions were drawn during the session that looked at whether the African continent required more or less public relations?
The conference explored the position of PR in Africa and resolved that APRA will promote an environment of ethical responsibility and professionalism with a view to strengthening Public Relations in the continent. In the conference communiqué, it was agreed that APRA will support countries that do not have Public Relations associations/institutes to establish such associations/institutes. APRA will provide technical support to such countries as they establish these professional associations/institutes. As far as the image of the continent is concerned, it was proposed that APRA engages the African Union secretariat, with a view to offering technical assistance on both PR and Communication for the continental body
There was a strong call for practitioner commitment to sustainable development. How this is manifested in African PR practice?
As a strategic advisor to management, the delegates agreed that PR shall promote developments that meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the future generation to meet its needs. As such, delegates agreed to use their space on the decision table by encouraging investments that address the triple bottom line and discourage those that disregard social and environmental concerns for the sake of financial profits.
What impact has the changing and converging communications landscape had in Africa? For example, how are practitioners dealing with and reacting to the challenges and opportunities presented by social media channels?
Social media was seen to be a big plus for PR, but also a serious threat for image demolition. It was therefore observed that PR has to be meticulous in handling and managing social media, whose viral effect can work to both the advantage of the profession, but equally to its detriment.
What are the three main concerns, preoccupations or challenges faced by African practitioners as we move into 2012?
Growing stakeholders demands, especially with regard to information provision. Consumer rights organizations have scaled up demand for information and PR professionals have to provide as much as information as possible.
Globalization has opened up the continents, and therefore PR professionals have to think global while acting local.
Explosion of social media is a concern that is staring at PR in Africa. The viral impacts of social media have threatened both government and corporate PR, and indeed used to catalyse revolution in the continent.
Download the Conference Report
The African Public Relations Association (APRA) is the successor organisation to the Federation of African Public Relations Associations (FAPRA) that was inaugurated in 1975 in Nairobi Kenya. Three decades after, APRA has now been registered in Nigeria in March 2008 with similar aims and objectives. They include but not limited to the following: 1. To be the clearing house for public relations information in Africa; 2. To set standards of public relations practice through its code of ethics.To foster the establishment of national and sub-regional public relations associations so that the profession can flourish in the continent; 3. To promote African Unity and Co-operation especially as consultant body to the African Union and its various agencies; 4. To publish bulletins and journals on public relations in Africa; 5. To affiliate with all other similar international professional bodies.
These aims and objectives are complemented by the Codes of Professional Conduct approved by its Council.
More at www.afapr.org