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Public Relations Is Priority Not Frivolity: The BRF Example

by on August 12, 2015
 

By Menkiti Onyebuchi Bernie

Public Relations is one of the pivot of modern business which any serious celebrity, corporate body or government must invest in for reasons bothering on its necessary economic gains such as regeneration, branding, facelift, communication, promotion, advertising and sustainability. In other words, this means that to thrive, celebrities, corporate bodies and governments need to sell themselves to the people, propagate business direction and government activities, pass information through deep, constructive and strategic communication, build a contractual bridge among all stakeholders and place assurance on missions of business and governance to customers and the citizenry respectively. It is undoubtedly one of those unseen scene of business or governance that if when neglected could endanger the life of mission and vision of government or business.

A lost mission and vision de-garbs the cycle of purpose particularly in the short and long term dynamics. Public relations is a bunch of many activities ranging from liaison, advertising, marketing, visibility, promotion, campaign, speech writing, communication, protocol engagement, corporate relations, management, event management, media repositioning and if you like propaganda. Hence, it is worth investing in. Therefore, it is no near wrong if a government decides to sell itself, its activities and achievement through a convenient platform, the web. The web being a veritable tool for exposition, promotion and advertising is one of the most ideal ways to reach out to the public in the 21st century. In penultimate week, major news made headline on social media; it was ex-Lagos State Governor Raji Babatunde Fashola’s alleged abuse of office. It was roundly rumoured that he had hosted a word-press website with a whooping 78million naira. As at the time of writing, it is still in the mould of the tag, “alleged”.

In the heat of the alleged abuse questions have been asked about the importance of the said website to governance. Many have also wondered what it was meant to achieve for the Lagos State government under BRF. These perceptions and many others dot the social media landscape. For sake of ignorance, these questions raised can be condoned; because not everyone understands the sacred place of PR (through websites and social media) in the world today. However, what may not be accepted lies in BRF’s choice of title for the website, as well as the alleged inflation of the cost of setting up the website if it turns out to be true. Perhaps, before proceeding I must add once more that the stormy weather gathering on BRF’s cool head is still an allegation until it is proven beyond reasonable doubt by a court of competent jurisdiction based on the valve of “res ipso loquitor”. If extricated from the burgeoning allegation BRF will then recover his once towering but now cascading image.

Public Relations is not frivolity, it is a priority; a top priority for all who want to improve their visibility and public acceptance, and also increase profit. It is image making and strategic accountability. It is brand management and marketing in its totality. Lagos is a brand product, and the activities of its government need PR management for socio-economic and political advancement. In this era of speed capitalism and shrewd competition public relations has become top notch. Therefore, the fact that an allegation was levelled against BRF’s government for inflating a website contract given to a certain Info Access Plus Limited has nothing to do with the questions being asked about the need for the website. The benefit and need for the website is one thing, while the breach of process of contracting is another. I feel that the question should be asked the right way, and should be focused on the veracity of the allegation than the importance of the website. By asking the right questions, the right answers come handy.

Meanwhile, it will be germane to put the perceptions of those who do not understand the reason behind the hosting of the website in the right perspective. Governance today is business and is largely run as such. To make an eventful impact as a governor of a state one must possess a handful of business skills to be able to take care of the business side of governance. Hosting a web is just one of such avenue through which government sell its potentials, activities and image in other to be able to woo investors. In this era of globalisation technology makes it easier for international investors to follow and identify areas of interest, how and when to invest via the web. To fill the gulf of communication, a website and other social media means helps the government to keep its citizenry in the know about its activities. By so doing stability, direction and purpose are maintained warding off contrary claims by the opposition. Based on governments’ showcase of its activities on the web, people can assess, criticise and seek answers for cloudy information. It is indeed a perfect tool. This is what Lagos state government under BRF may have intended to achieve.

Without holding brief for BRF’s government, I think that the intent was modern, laudable and smart. Yet without reservations I stand to say that the choice of a domain name is flawed and questionable. It only supports my usual belief that people in authority in Nigeria and larger part of Africa see themselves in the mould of King Louis XIV status. Just like most pastors today they attach themselves to their offices in a “letat c’est moi” kind of posture. I am surprised that it was reported in some online news platforms that in his defense, BRF reiterated that the website was designed for Lagos state. If he said so, then why was the domain name “tundefashola.com” and not “lagosstate.gov” or any other name reflecting the title “Lagos state government”. His approval for the domain name meant that it was geared towards promoting himself and his activities as the man who held sway as the governor of Lagos state at the time. Logically, it would have meant that he should have paid for the contract from his personal purse, since the website as it stands today has no meaningful value to Lagos state. It is still sketchy if the said 78million naira was meant for just the hosting or if it was for the hosting and management of the website. Though he was said to have said that his government spent 10million naira only and not 78million naira as speculated. Without doubt this is capable of sticking a question mark on BRF’s glowing personality. I remain aloof even as we await the gradual development of this melodrama in a 4D.

About Menkiti Onyebuchi Bernie:

He is a PR expert, social commentator and the Nigeria coordinator of My Footprint (Small World) Project operating in Nigeria and Switzerland. He wrote in from Lagos.

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