I very much like the way Adedayo Ojo starts his “small” but exceedingly rich book, “Public Relations Thoughts and Deeds” – with a quote said to be attributed to one S.H Simmons, an author and humourist,
“If a young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If the young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is – that’s advertising. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is – that’s public relations”
This quote immediately provides context … and clarity for the reader in a simple, relatable manner and helps the layman understand what he is about to be introduced to. I must note that even as teenage prospective lovers, we all understood the value of getting the friend(s) of the girl you are interested in to put in a good word – in other words, perhaps intuitively we all appreciate the value of “third party endorsement!!!”
I found it even more profound that no less a person than our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ is said to have understood and endorsed this strategic principle – as the account in Matthew 16:13 (KJV) reveals- “When Jesus came into the coasts of Ceasaria Phillipi, he asked his disciples saying, ‘whom do men say I the son of man am’ … In verse 15, Jesus proceeded to a follow-up question, “…But whom say ye that I am?” to which Simon Peter answered “…Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God”
On the basis of the above, it is possible (especially taking into account how Christianity then proceeded by evangelism-which is really witnessing Christ by word of mouth, and thus “third party endorsement”-to spread around the whole world after just three years of Christ’s earthly ministry) to accept the hypothesis offered by a school of thought quoted in the book that “Jesus Christ of Nazareth was the progenitor of Public Relations!”
I easily and happily agreed to do this book review when someone from Caritas PR called me and I re-affirmed my consent when Egbon Adedayo Ojo repeated the call after he returned to the country; and upon receiving the relatively small book, I thought it would be an easy task, given that the book contains just 128 pages, but I was wrong! The book is small, but it is loaded with information, and very rich – virtually every page contains deep insights, important information and fantastic context such that if I was not very careful, I could end up writing a review that would be as long as the book itself. The difficulty of a reviewer with Adedayo Ojo’s “Public Relations Thoughts & Deeds” published by Caritas Communications Ltd, is to decide
… what do you leave out and how do you write a summary and critique of a material already so condensed and filled with value on every page? That is the task I now seek to discharge.
What is Public Relations?
Chapter 1 of the book titled “Originators, Terms and Contentions” provides background, history and definitions of Public Relations. In the beginning, it appears it was a bit unclear what exactly PR was – one of the earliest pioneers in the field Ivy Ledbetter Lee is reported to have said, “I have never been able to find a satisfactory phrase to describe what I try to do” saying at times it was an “art” so personal and intangible that he could find no phrase to describe it accurately.
Thankfully it seems the profession has evolved more clearly and we see multiple “definitions” of PR in this beautiful and elegantly written book,
• Public Relations is about “third party endorsement” defined as “solicited or unsolicited recommendation or testimonial from an entity (usually a customer or user)” other than the manufacturer or seller of a product.
• Relations for the general good (1882) – Dorman Eaton, a Lawyer
• The counsel on public relations: more than a press agent, someone who can create a useful symbolic linkage among the masses. Appropriate messages should be crafted based on careful study of group psychology and disseminated by not merely purveying but actually creating news – Bernays E.L in Crystallising Public Opinion (1923)
• Publicity Direction– The planning phases of the public relations field. Barney E. L (2017)
• The three main elements of public relations are practically as old as society: informing people, persuading people or integrating with people. Of course, the means and methods of accomplishing these ends have changed as society has changed. Barnays E. L also in Crystallising Public Opinion.
• The nature of public relations as a study of social and group behaviour means its interpretation is often not as exact and universal –The author
• The public relations person is that technician who utilises channels of communication to purposefully and scientifically gain public goodwill………..the phrase (engineering of consent) is quite simply the use of an engineering approach–that is action based on thorough knowledge of the situation and on the application of scientific principles and tried practices to the task of getting people to support ideas and programmes. Any person or organisation depends ultimately on public approval, and is therefore faced with the problem of engineering the public’s consent to a programme or goal. Barney
E.C (1947) Essay–The Engineering of Consent.
• PR Practitioners: Trained skilled specialists to advise others on the technique of engineering public consent, a profession providing counsel on public relations.– Barney E.L
• “Manufacturing of Consent” … which when properly deployed is useful and necessary for a cohesive society– Walter Lippman, 1922 in “Public Opinion”
• Public Relations is a distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organisation and its publics; involves the management of problems and issues; helps management to keep informed on and responsive to public opinion;
defines and emphasizes the responsibility to serve the public interest; helps management keep abreast of and effectively utilise change; serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends; and uses research and sound and ethical communication techniques as its principal tools” Rex. F Harlow in “Building a Public Relations Definition” (1976) based on sampling opinion of 65 public relations leaders in the US and collecting 472 definitions from literature between 1906 and 1976 distilled into the above.
• Public Relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics–(2011) Public Relations Society of America
• Public Relations is about reputation– the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public Relations 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 before an organisation and its publics-Chartered Institute of Public Relations, UK.
The essence of all these definitions, suggests the author resides in human relationships sustained through various modes of communication resulting in the need to win acceptance, validation and/or endorsement of one another and creating the imperative of acting in ways to engender favourable opinions.
The author distilled five implications from all these definitions and descriptions:-
1. Public Relations is a management function
2. Public Relations is about publics
3. Public Relations is a strategic function
4. Public Relations is a professional discipline
5. Public Relations must be ethical i.e. bound by the truth.
I would add a sixth point-that public relations is about reputation, though it is possible to argue that point 2 (publics) implies an entity’s reputation with those publics. In page 13, the author contrasts Public Relations with some related disciplines especially advertising and marketing–while advertising directly publicises a product or brand, Public Relations seeks to create a sustainable business environment for the company/products by creating a long term positive disposition to the enterprise. As we learnt right from the beginning from the young man propositioning the object of his desire, while advertising tells the story from the advertiser’s viewpoint, Public Relations seeks another person’s point of view.
Origins, History and Evolution of Public Relations
In Chapter 1, the book also highlights the historical significance of Ivy Ledbetter Lee (1877– 1934) and his “Declaration of Principles” in the evolution of modern Public Relations practice.
In my reading, that declaration provided an ethical and professional foundation for the development of credible and respectable Public Relations practice. It distinguished Public Relations from press (agents) bureau, advertising or news journalism and provided an ethical underpinning for the practice of Public Relations, even though it seems there were earlier firms which carried out the business before Lee’s declaration.
It is in the second chapter titled “From Iwe Iroyin” that the author focuses on evolution of Public Relations practice in Nigeria. Here we read quoting Otubanjo et al (2010) that public relations practice in Nigeria began in 1859 with Iwe Iroyin (Iwe Iroyin fun Awon Ara Egba ati Yoruba) in Abeokuta by the Christian (Church) Missionary Society (CMS) “to inform” parishioners of weekly activities. There are two hilarious but revealing stories on pages 15-17 that illustrate the dismissive or lowly view of Public Relations by business persons in Nigeria in the 1980s and 1990s ……..in the first story our author himself is purportedly employed as
manager in charge of Public Relations but found himself as a de facto errand boy to the chairman; and the second, a potential Group Public Relations Manager hire found that he was to be interviewed not at the corporate headquarters but in the chairman’s mansion; he was delayed for over 3 hours while the chairman remained in bed; the interview consisted entirely of two questions–whether he understood Yoruba, and “what’s this PRO job that you people are making so much noise about?…Is the job not to take my children to school, accompany madam (the wife) to the market and book for a musician to play at my parties?”
Clearly from what I know of some contemporary Public Relations practitioners (and the type of people I see gathered in this room), the profession has come a long way since then!
We learn from the works of Otubanjo B.O, Amujo O.C and Melewar T.C (150 years of Public Relations Practices in Nigeria 1859–2009) referred to by our author that there were five (5) eras in the evolution of Public Relations in Nigeria:
1. Public Enlightenment Era – 1859-late 1930s: Enlightenment through information dissemination.
2. Public Relations Broadcasting Era– late 1930s: The British Colonial Government used the Radio Rediffusion System to relay specific British programmes to Nigerians, launder its image, advance its cause(s) and address dissent.
3. Political Propaganda Era–late 1930s-mid 1940s: Colonial political propaganda to counter Axis Powers (Germany, Japan, Italy) to mould and alter opinions of Nigerians during World War II.
4. Public Information Era–1945 to Early 1960s: public and private sector involvement in information dissemination to change attitudes and influence opinions notably hallmarked by the set up of first private sector PR department in U.A.C
5. The “professionalism” Era: This era saw efforts by government and business organisations like UAC and NRC to build capacity in PR and the emergence of pioneer professionals like Sam Epelle, Kunle Ojora, Kanu Offonry, Theophilus Awobokun, Bob
Ogbuagu, Aduke Alakija, Olu Holloway, Alex Akinyele, Lawrence Scott–Emuakpor and Alex Nwokedi. We also come across names like Dotun Okunbajo, Michael Otedola and importantly Mike Okereke who as NIPR president from 1988 to January 1993 got NIPR chartered in 1990 through NIPR Decree No. 16 of 1990 and enacted the NIPR Code of Professional Conduct Bye Laws in 1992.
The author identifies socio-economic and political waves that contributed to the growth and professionalization of PR practice:
• The banking boom in the late 1980s to early 1990s and 2004 banking consolidation policy
• Telecommunications liberalisation in the 1990s
• The environmental crisis and agitations that plagued the oil and gas sector in the 1990s, especially the Ogoni crises and its lessons for SHELL and other International Oil Companies
• Return to Democracy in 1999
We read about a more recent blossoming of PR consultancies starting with Oloye Dotun Okubanjo and his Publicity Services Nigeria Ltd; OAB (Olabisi Onabanjo, Ebun Adesioye and Banjo), Walton Solomon Associates founded by Mazi Mike Okereke but run by “Professor”
Bankole Akinyemi; Uloma Nwachukwu and Associates; Gab Fagbure and Associates; Bob Ogbuagu and Associates; and Gab Idigo and Associates. We also read about ROD Publicity led
by Akin Ogunmade-Davies (who we knew as youths from King Sunny Ade’s music-“ROD Publicity; Oga ni won je!”) and Clarkson de Majomi.
The author recognises the quartet of Lanre Oginni, Kunle Oyalowo, Olu Johnson and Toye Ogunmorin who formed Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) and others like Sir Oluwole Falodun, Nicholas Iyere-Isibor, Mike Obiajulu Meze, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya and Nnemeka Maduegbuna as agents of the revival and rejuvenation of PRCAN and public relations practice in Nigeria.
Assessment of Contemporary PR Practice in Nigeria
Chapter III titled “Interventions” is a very important part of “Public Relations Thoughts & Deeds” where the author presents the results of a survey of contemporary leaders in Nigerian Public Relations practise around three key questions:-
(i) Are you happy with the state of public relations practise in Nigeria?
(ii) What in your opinion is the reason no Nigerian firm has made it into the ICCO (International Communications Consultancy Organisation) ranking of PR firms? What should Nigerian firms focus on to get into this prestigious ranking?
(iii) What is the impact of the NIPR Act (if any) on specialization in PR in tertiary institutions – universities and polytechnics?
The list of respondents is a “who is who?” in Nigerian PR – John Ehiguese, Nn’emeka
Maduegbuna, Nkechi Alli-Balogun, Muyiwa Akintunde, Tokunbo George-Taylor, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, Mojisola Saka, Akonte Ekine, Ethel Agbeyegbe, Olusegun McMedal, Simon Tumba,
Sola Omole, Kabir Dangogo, Jossy Nkwocha and Mike Okolo. The author also obtained perspectives on the clients’ side from Funke Opeke of Mainone Communications, Bolaji Ogundare of Newcross Exploration and Production and Abiodun Afolabi of Total E&P.
In summary, the practitioners identify lack of reliable data, intelligence and case studies, inconsistent quality/standards, low human capital, weak industry governance and low entry barriers, and poor ethics and compliance amongst others as challenges militating against development of public relations practice in Nigeria and suggest creation of an independent body collecting data; increased documentation of campaign case studies, enhanced training, stronger input by NIPR in curriculum of higher institutions, separation of industry regulation from trade association; data-driven PR practice; and mergers, collaboration, partnership etc. to improve industry performance. Most respondents agree the profession has recorded some advances, but there is still a long way to go, and in some mitigation it is fair to accept that PR practice cannot be isolated from the relative descent towards corruption and mediocrity into which our whole country has descended.
The commentators on the clients’ side value their brand, reputation and relationships, but are not quite impressed with the level of initiative shown by the media in “the discovery of material”. If only for the quality and value of this critique of PR practice offered by its own leaders in chapter III, everyone in the profession, and other professionals, and persons involved in all aspects of corporate and public communication should read the book!
Personal and Corporate “Biographies”-Adedayo Ojo and Caritas
Part Two of “Public Relations Thoughts and Deeds” focuses as you may expect on “Deeds” – the personal career story of Adedayo Ojo and the corporate “deeds” of the Caritas “Group” which comprises Caritas Communications Ltd, Caritas PR Ltd and Caritas Digital Media Ltd. This part comprises chapter IV (which is focused on the author’s life in PR), chapter V (on Caritas birth, business and development), chapter VI (How Caritas does its work which presents case studies on Caritas’s work) and chapter VII (in which client testimonials are presented).
We meet IVY Ledbetter Lee and E.L Barnays who are regarded as “Fathers of Modern Public Relations,” again and we find out that both of them began their careers as journalists. Like them, we learn that the author was also a journalist who graduated in English at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile-Ife in 1981 and sought to become a TV broadcaster, but was rejected for his “horrible” voice. He joined the faculty of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism; became an op-ed contributor at National Concord and eventually got
a full-time job as sub-editor at Concord, combining that with part-time teaching at NIJ. He volunteered to teach PR at NIJ when the substantive teacher became unavailable and thus began his sojourn in PR. He joined Financial Merchant Bank, where as we learnt earlier his chairman thought his role as “PRO” was to buy him drinks and cigars; our author’s real professional PR career would soon begin in 1991 at Mobil Producing Nigeria as Public Affairs Coordinator where he rose through stints in Lagos, Abuja and Houston, retiring as Nigeria Government and Business Relations Manager in March 2006. He served briefly as VP for
Corporate Affairs at Transnational Corporation Nigeria Plc from July 2006 to January 2009 before setting up Caritas.
Caritas Communications and its affiliates, as we learn in chapter V works in oil and gas, telecommunications, conglomerates, power, agriculture and financial services. Caritas meaning “Charity” in Latin illustrates the firm’s intent to “utilise the principles of charity to wit, a genuine willingness and commitment to help the other party” and the company’s vision was “to be a reference point for professional services and offer flawless reputation solutions and services to clients”. By 2019, Caritas would have been in business for 10 years and now seeks to reinvent its business. The author declares that Caritas has achieved growth in revenue, return on investments, profits and efficiency in seven of its nine years in operations and has retained 90 percent of its employees and clients. The professional practice at Caritas is anchored on the following focus areas:
• Developing Policy and Advocacy
• Providing Issues Management Advice
• Enhancing Crisis Response Capabilities
• CSR/Sustainability/Corporate Citizenship Solutions
• Event Management
• Digital and Social media
• Media Relations and Training
• Internal Communication, and
You will recall that one of the critical challenges identified by the Public Relations professionals we met in chapter III was the absence of case studies to demonstrate methodology and impact of Public Relations campaigns – that is precisely what the author provides in chapter VI in relation to Caritas role. He presents eight (core) principles/methodologies underpinning Caritas work and illustrates such principles with relevant case studies as follows:
S/N PRINCIPLE CLIENT INCIDENT IMPACT
1. Being Proactive Total E&P Nig. Ltd Water and Gas • 95%Positive reports
Leaks in OML 58 • Mitigated negative
0n 3/4/12 reports
• Caritas engaged on
2. Rolling Back a. Mobil Producing Clients Office • Negative reports
Discontent Nigeria shut by contained and public
protesting sympathy gathered
workers in • Controlled narrative and
Dec.2016 secured positive
b. Radisson Blue • reportage
Anchorage On 26/1/15 Informed reports on
emerged due to
of 450 workers
3. Filling the void Mainone On 18/6/17, • Empathy in media and
submarine management of
cable system narrative
had a fault
causing 14 day
4. Distinct Brand BOI/UNDP Access to Project desirous • Created distinct and
Identity Energy Project of robust memorable identity for
strategic the brand provided
communication roadmap for
plan, brand communication and
identity and stakeholder
brand manual engagement
5. Securing Buy-In Qua Iboe Power Plant Ltd Handle • Secured stakeholder
stakeholder understanding and
engagement, support and
relations and community awareness
communication for project
6. Repositioning Exxon Mobil Nigeria Strengthen • Reaffirmed reputation,
relationships ensured message
with reception, improved
stakeholders company voice share
and improve and alignment and
reputation increased employee
awareness on issues.
7 Perception Seven Energy Media • Changed narrative and
Change campaign in enhanced perception
8. Product Launch Schneider Electric Media Publicity • 100% media
plan for launch attendance and
of solar solution positive media reports.
Like Jesus Christ, the last chapter of this interesting book asks, “who do they say we are?” and presents testimonials from a few representatives of Caritas’ clients in response. The respondents include Hamilton Esi, Head Corporate Communications at Lekoil; Tayo Ashiru, Head of Marketing at Mainone; and Amadou Wadda, Director Development at Black Rhino which along with Dangote Group and NNPC jointly own Qua Iboe Power Plant Ltd.
All these respondents affirm the dexterity of Caritas in “getting the news out,” to “articulate and amplify our message”, and “speak to the right audience with the right message” and all express their satisfaction with services provided by the client. One client says unequivocally, “they have been fantastic” and all are glad to recommend Caritas to other companies.
Public Relations Thoughts and Deeds is a very valuable book for practitioners and students in the area of Public Relations and Communications generally, but it also provides valuable insight for other professionals, managers and business persons who seek an understanding of what PR really is, and how it can be deployed in a strategic manner to help achieve corporate and business objectives.
The historical insight into the evolution of PR both globally and domestically is enlightening and yet concise and easily readable; and the definitions and descriptions of public relations offered in the book are rich and illuminating. The first part of the book, titled “Thoughts and Words” which contain three (3) chapters dealing with these historical, definitional and conceptual aspects as well as interventions and assessments by industry leaders is a treasure trove for anyone seeking insight into the subject.
Part 2 is of course more biographical and may be regarded as subtle (and effective) marketing based on telling your story and getting other credible persons to tell your story as well. In short the book ends the way it starts – with the value of third party endorsements!
The book is well laid out and printed to a high quality and published in paperback version with ISBN N0. 978-978-962-533-8 with a foreword written by respected banker and current chairman of Access Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mrs Mosun Belo-Olusoga. While the book does not pretend to be an academic treatise, it will be useful even for academics and researchers in the field of Public Relations.
I commend Mr Adebayo Ojo and Caritas for this engaging and valuable publication and enjoin everyone to grab a copy. It would be quite useful as well if interested persons choose to distribute copies to students of Mass Communication and PR in our tertiary and professional institutions.
Thank you for listening
November 21, 2018