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1.1 Background of the Study
Public relations is the task of goodwill creation directed at building harmony between an organization and its environment through mutual understanding based on truth and full information. “It is the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization and its public” (Anyafo, 1999). Public relations is aimed at wining the co-operations of people, it has to evolve and implement programmes of action which will serve both the public interest and its own interest.
Accordingly, the function of public relations is directed towards developing and encouraging attitudes and behaviour, which will nurture the seeds of mutual understanding and assist their strong and healthy growth. Haywood (1984), Offonry (1985) and Nwosu (1996), share the view that public relations encourages pursuance of positive steps to achieve good will, that is, implementation of strategies that could ensure a cordial business and social rapport with the various publics. Public relations encourages the building of corporate reputation, thus, an organization must ensure that it makes its public image acceptable. PR advocates elimination of practices which, through legitimate, may offend public opinion or jeopardize mutual understanding.
The above roles may collectively be referred to as financial public relations activities (FPR). As a specialized arm of public relations management, FPR has the functional responsibility of communication with that public whose policies and activities affect the financial, industrial and commercial direction of business (Monu, 1987: 14).
Public Relations has become an intensifying force within Nigerian’s social, economic and political environments influencing virtually every aspects of life and living standards of the varying strata of Nigerians, as well as, corporate establishments and government establishments/set ups. Public Relations practitioners in well established corporate organizations
now face new challenges and new responses in adjusting to acceptable Public Relations Exercises. For example, in the case of corporate organization; the Public needs to be pre-informed on company’s decisions such as company’s proposal to increase prices of on-going goods, on proposal to carry out price reductions, change of company location, adoption of new practices and procedures in connection with product development factors.
In the case of government organizations, for example, the three arms of governments – Federal, State and Local Government, are now being encircled with Public Relations influences. The ministries, corporations and parastatals are not run without the facets of PR taken into consideration. As was put by Oyekola (1995), “they all need Public Relation Exercises to help project their image, achieve, promote and maintain whatever their goals, objectives, missions and visions might be”.
To further support the above stated assertion, Ugboajah (1990), in Osuji (1990), said “Man does not live in isolation, because no man is an island; we need the understanding and corporation of others to achieve whatever our heart desire is”.
For example, a local government that wishes or wants to project a good image, greatly needs the understanding and corporation of her staff and her publics. The local government also needs the good wishes and support of her staff and general publics in case she wants to reach financial buoyancy, with regards to her revenue base, enhancement.
In the local government area functionaries, PR Department is under Local Government Council and should be within the council’s headquarters. The department participates in all activities of the local government and influences them. The PR Information and Public Enlightenment Sector, educates the people on Local Government Polices, Projects, and Activities. Local government exhibitions, rural tours by the
council’s chairman, press conferences with local press, and designing, printing and circulating of Local Government leaflets are part of the duties of the PRO and his department in the local council. And these are the typical Public Relations tools used in the practices.
Public Relations does not only establish and maintain goodwill, mutual understanding and long lasting relationship between a local government and the publics both internal and external, it plays, also, a vital role in enhancing the growth and development of a local government revenue base. This could be achieve if Public Relations strategies/programmes are carefully, effectively and efficiently used in those areas/channels through which a local government generates her revenues. And these includes: Tenement rates, fees from motor parks, and cyclists (Okada ridders), Trade permit, liquor licencing, advert (Neon signs, steals, woods), which the fees/prices for them differs and these attract heavy sums of money, Town halls, Reception halls, Market stalls, Street naming, Rentals (Chairs, Toeing Vans, Canopies) Transport scheme, Housing scheme, Issuance of death certificates, Merriments, Abattoir, Town planning, provision of consumers corporative society goods, at subsidized rate, and lot more. These are the areas through which a local government could generate her revenue (Chairman, Ezeagu, 2010).
Most local governments in Nigeria do not appreciate the need for Public Relations and it’s programmes, let alone, having it’s department. They therefore, do not make use of PRS and it’s programmes in the course of carrying out their duties/functions. Some say “it is as result of ignorance of what Public Relations and it’s programmes is all about” (Staff of Ezeagu LGA Public Relations Department, 2010). According to the Information Officer of Ezeagu LGA. (2010), “It could be as result of Insufficient funds to carryout Public Relations Activities”. While in his own opinion, the Evaluation Officer, Ezeagu LGA, (2010) said “It is due to lack of interest in
some local governments, based on the fact that they are ignorant of what Public Relations is and how it’s programmes can help achieve whatever aspirations or set objectives they have”.
Such Public Relations programmes could be informative/enlightenment programmes: This is to make the public realize and know the reasons which necessitates the collection of such fees, what such fees are meant to be used for, and the efficacy of the fees paid. This programme is to eradicate ambiguity, suspicions and curiosity.
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