Nov 21, 2011

The dwindling practice of PR in Kenya

The Public Relations Society of Kenya (PRSK) marked its fortieth anniversary this year. Despite the professional body having existed for all these years, the practice of PR in Kenya is still not taken as seriously as it should. There is lack of common understanding of the role of PR in both the public and private sector

Most organizations seem to think of PR as a mare media relations function which by the way is just a tool in PR. Some understand the role of PR but they don’t know how to utilize it well. For example organizations that measure PR success in terms of output rather than impact do not understand PR. Unlike marketing, PR cannot be measured quantitatively. There are others who even misguidedly think of PR as sophism, a practice intended to make things look all clean at any cost.

It’s due to this reason that perhaps many organizations would rather have PR as a small office under the marketing department despite its importance. Those practicing under these conditions often do not have any autonomy weather financial or professional.

A recent study commissioned by PRSK shows how the practice of PR in Kenya is held in mediocrity. The study dubbed The Practice of Public Relations in Kenya was conducted by Kentice Tikolo a renowned PR practitioner in June 2011. It shows that while most PR practitioners are well educated, 43% of them do not have industry related qualifications. This means that quite a chunk of practitioners in PR firms practice what they clearly don’t know. This would be outrageous to any professional body that cares and by now it should have raised an alarm to PRSK.

The study further shows that close to 30% of practitioners do not belong to any professional body. They are essentially not guided by any professional ethics. The rest are subscribed to numerous professional bodies among them PRSK. This is not good for the profession and this trend may make it easier for the practice to go to the dogs.

The study also shows that institutions that train PR in Kenya are not well equipped. PR trainers in most institutions have low qualifications yet they are hired to train due to their experience. PRSK in its fortieth year of existence needs to quickly step in and save PR from being undervalued and misconceived.

Not every former journalist can practice PR. The two professions are similar in many ways but not quite the same. If PR has to be taken seriously, PRSK should organize itself as a professional body and make firm decisions. It should review its membership and only accredit credible members. A specialized course for any PR trained person seeking membership will be ideal. At the same time, we should only have one professional body locally, in this case PRSK. This is all a PR student can ask for.

By Duke Mwancha in honor and memory of the late Dr. Peter Oriare, a top PR don in Kenya and member of  PRSK.

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