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The Role of Public Relations in Promoting the Image of a Government Establishment

The Role of Public Relations  in Promoting the Image of a Government Establishment ( A Case Study of Nigeria Television Authority, NTA Abakaliki.)

In the course of carrying out this research exercise, the researcher made use of materials relating to the study. They are magazines, journals, tracts, newspapers, textbooks and other relevant materials in the library.

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2.2. Summary Of Review

       This review is structured into five different parts. The first dwells on the theoretical framework, the second part takes a look at the history of Nigeria Televisions Authority, NTA Abakaliki which was established in the year 2001, the third part focuses on the meaning, nature and evolution of Public Relations in Nigeria, the specific roles, functions and objectives of Public Relations is the topic of the fourth part of the literature review while the fifth part shows how Public Relations can help in promoting the image of Nigeria Television Authority, NTA Abakaliki.

2.3  Theoretical Framework

A theory is a set of inter-related principles used in explaining a phenomenon. According to Dennis Mc Quail (1987:4) cited in Wogu (2008:13), theories are sets of ideas of varying status and origin which may explain or interpret some phenomenon.

Frank Jefkins propounded Public Relations Transfer Process Model in 1985 which explains how an ugly situation can be changed using Public Relations to a good one. Here is the model as presented by Nkwocha (2009:30).

Negative situation             positive situation

Hostility                              sympathy

Prejudice                             Acceptance

Apathy                                Interest

Ignorance                                  knowledge

Nkwocha (Supra) explains the model when he said: Frank Jefkins popular “PR Transfer Process” regards the major tasks of the Public Relations executive as that of working on the publics to change their hostility towards an organization to sympathy for that organization; prejudice to acceptance, apathy to interest and ignorance to knowledge.

Nweke (2001:53) refers to the model as “an antidote against some negative developments in organizations”. Nweke citing Jefkins (1988) asserted that, “when the negative situation is converted into positive achievement through knowledge, the result predictably is the primary objective of Public Relations practices-understanding”.

Because this study aims to change the negative view of NTA Abakaliki by its publics to a positive one, the researcher opted for the Public Relations Transfer Process Model as the most appropriate for the study. Besides, it is on record that the model has worked effectively in negative situations and brought them to normal. For this case, it will do the same thing in this case.

2.4  History Of Nigeria Television Authority, NTA Abakaliki.

       The Nigeria Television Authority, NTA Abakaliki, Channel 43 UHF was established in 2001 with Mr. Azuka Amagbo appropriated the first General Manager. It has only a station in Abakaliki after the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)’s Mega Station along the Abakaliki-Enugu expressway.

The station was supplied with a transmitter of 3.5KW output. The General Manager supervised the building of the station; he was succeeded by Mr. J.C Akubue in August, 2002 when the station had not commenced transmission. It was during the tenure of Mr. J.C. Akubue that the station was technically commissioned on 3rd December, 2003 and since then the station has been transmitting.

When the television station was commissioned on the date above that it started its transmission, it took off with seven staff members including the General Manager. These include:

General Manager                         –      Mr. J.C. Akubue

Head, Department of Engineering  –      O.A. Otu

Technical Officer I                       –      Fred Odeh

Technical Officer II                      –      Festus Ogbu

Utility Assistant                           –      Elizabeth Ogbala

Casual typist                              –      Mary Chukwu

News reporter                             –      Blessing Nwakpuda

The station was transmitting between 4.pm-7.30pm daily. Purely looking on to network programmes especially nationwide and 7.00pm news. In 2004 more staff were transferred to the station.

In 2005, the NTA Abakaliki commenced news transmission three times a week. After the first General Manager, Mr. Omo Janhio, followed by Mr. Afam Egenti who handed over to the present General Manager, Evangelist Samuelson Nwaogu. As of today the station has so many programmes which include:

–      Positive Living

–      You and Your Health

–      Every Woman

–      One House, One Heart

–      Mandate

–      Cultural Tone

–      Ebonyi Anyi

–      Oge Umuaka

–      Kiddies Corner

–      Poverty Reduction Programme etc.

Presently, NTA Abakaliki has a total of six departments or units such as News and current affairs headed by a manager, the marketing unit headed by a manager, the accounting department headed by the chief accountant, the administration unit headed by a manager, the programmes department headed by a manager, the engineering service unit headed by the manager. All these units have other subordinate offices under them.

In 2006, His Excellency Dr. Sam Ominyi Egwu donated 504 station wagon to the station. Today the station operates full transmission with staff strength of 121. Udeh (2010:52).

2.5  Meaning, Nature And Evolution Of Public Relations In Nigeria.

       There are basically two schools of thought about the origin of public Relations in the world. While one of the schools believes that Public Relations originated in America, the other school believes that it began in Britain. Okafor (2002:54) argues that the origin of Public Relations dates back to the ancient period:

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Some scholars argue that Public Relations is really an ancient activity, dating back at least to Plato’s Republic. Whether that is a valid claim is not clear but it is true that for many centuries much of the purpose behind public discourse and rhetoric has been for reasons of publicity, that is, expanding the number of people who are aware of some policy, programme or person.

 

In Nigeria, the practice of Public Relations began to emerge slowly in 1940 during the second world war. Of course, it was the colonial masters who initiated the idea and were using it to disseminate war information to the populace. By that time, Public Relations were attached to the Ministry of Information. Nweke (2001:6) said, “Sometime in 1942, the information office metamorphosed into an agency saddled with the responsibility of effectively relating with the Lagos press on daily basis”.

By 1944, the information agency became known as Public Relations office and after the adoption of Richard’s constitution in 1947, the Public Relations department under D.C Fletcher. Through the help of late Sam Epelle regarded as the father of Public Relations in Nigeria and Public Relations Practitioners formed the Public Relations Association of Nigeria (PRAN), a body to professionalize and regulate the practice of Public Relations in Nigeria, this happened in 1963. The formulation of the body precipitated the formulation of Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) in 1972. Nweke (2001:7) submitted that the practice of Public Relations in Nigeria “received a boost during the regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari between 1979 and 1983 as the then Ministry of Information was made a part and parcel and strong ally of the office of the president”. Unlike what happened in the past, Public Relations has progressed a lot as there are many qualified practitioners today in the country as well as journals, books and other relevant materials in the field.

Osuji (1990) cited in Onah (1996:219) sees Public Relations as a distinctive management functions which helps to establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and co-operation between an organization and its publics.

However, Shelburne (2003:3) says that Public Relations is the continuous effort to persuade the mass media to deliver messages that will enhance your organization, company and clients image.

Public Relations according to Fab-Ukozor (2003:205) is using advanced two-way communication approach to meet the needs of an organization and its publics so as to serve both interest. To Black (1989:5), Public Relations practice is an art and science of achieving with the environment through mutual understanding based on truth and full information.

Denny Griswold (1948) cited in Bitner (2005:232) defines Public Relations as “the management function which evaluates Public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or organization with the public interests, plans and executes a programme of action to earn public understanding and acceptance”.

2.6  The Objectives And Functions Of Public Relations

       Public Relations is a serious engagement and it is also an organized business. It does not dwell on fire brigade approach in tackling issues. It is a planned and sustained effort towards cultivating and maintaining goodwill, co-operation, mutual understanding and cordial relationship between an organization and its publics. Giving the fact that it is a planned process, there are many objectives and functions of Public Relations scholarly works of intellectuals lend credence to the above observation as we are going to see Okafor (2002:53) provides the following objectives of public Relations:

  • To build Public confidence, goodwill and trust between an organization and its publics.
  • To attract new business, new clients or customers through a consistent, deliberate, planned sustained effort.
  • To retain employees loyalty.
  • To remain socially responsible by attending ceremonies organized by the host communities, their leaders or community neighbours and contributing to the overall welfare, social and physical development of its area of operation.
  • To retain present clients and old customers, as well as strive to attract new ones.

Nwosu (1990 and 1996) cited by Ogakwu (2009:95) summarizes the functions of Public Relations thus:

The crucial role of Public Relations include the following: corporate and other communications, persuasion, corporate social responsibility, attitude and opinion management, counseling, information management, corporate image and reputation management, community relations, event management or event marketing, employees relations, research and evaluation, financial public relations, planning, publication, International Public Relations (IPR), publicity, corporate advertising, public enlightenment, audiovisual products (e.g. documentary files), issues management, corporate identity, crisis management and many other functions that are related to the list above.

 

According to Black (1989:22), the practical application of Public Relations practice can be summarized under three main headings: positive steps to achieve goodwill, action to safeguard reputation and internal relationships. Black argued that positive steps to achieve goodwill consists of arousing and maintaining public interest and goodwill in the activities of an organization in order to facilitate the successful expansion and operation of those activities. On the other hand, action to safeguard reputation is concerned with eliminating customs and practices which although are legitimate but have the likelihood of offending public opinion or tampering with the mutual understanding between the organization and its publics. Internal relationship involve using Public Relations techniques internally to motivate the employees of an organization to work for their benefits and the benefits of the organization which they are employed.

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In the words of Nweke (2001:26), the objectives and goals of Public Relations are as follows:

  • To analyze present and future trends and predict their consequences.
  • To counsel and guide management on ways to dealing with opinions as they exist, based on the understanding of human behaviours, towards the formation to sound policies and programmes.
  • To create, foster and retain the goodwill, confidence, loyalty, support, respect and love of the employees and all the external stockholder, government, suppliers, financial institutions and various other corporate bodies.
  • To anticipate, investigate and evaluate public opinion on the operations of the organization.
  • To project corporate identity and sound corporate social responsibility towards winning and retaining the friendship, trust, support and acceptance of organization’s customers.
  • To identify the organization’s policies, programmes and procedures with public interest.
  • To educate the various publics of the organization on the policies, programmes, activities, procedures and problems of the organization.
  • To prevent or resolve conflicts, crisis, misconceptions, prejudices, misunderstanding etc.
  • To use communication in a positive way towards influencing and mobilizing the public opinions and attitudes to the mutual benefits of the organization and its publics.
  • To establish and maintain prestigious, sound, credible and premium image.
  • Above all, to prepare and present the organization as good community neighbour, corporate citizens, social philanthropist, humane and caring organization, environmental friendly organization that thinks of and works for the common good.

2.7  How Public Relations Can Help In Promoting The Image Of The Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, Abakaliki.

       In the field of Public Relations, corporate image is but a fragile commodity that must be jealously guarded to prevent damage. This is why winning public opinion to the side of an institution like government is not an option to choose; but a necessity, essential for continued long term success Alemu (2010:11).

The import of the above observation is that the image of an organization is something that must be handled with care because it is a strategic factor that determines the success or otherwise of the organization. In other words, no organization affords to play with its corporate image because its success or failure is either completely or partially embedded in the type of impression its publics have about the organization.

Highlighting the relevance of Public Relations, Aliede (2005:128) writes:

An indispensable instrument for individual, societal, organizational and governmental favourable acceptance, Public Relations by means of its numerous functions and responsibilities has endeared itself to people and more importantly now acknowledged and appreciated as almost inevitable in all human activities. Hardly can any organization claim optimal attainment of its set objectives like functionality, without the services of Public Relations in one form or the other.

 

Black (1989:4) advises, “The managements of organizations need to understand the attitudes and values of their publics in order to achieve institutional goals”.

Irrespective of the above benefits and importance of Public Relations, Aliede (2005:129) laments thus:

However, notwithstanding the enormity of these inherent benefits from Public Relations, records show that Public Relations and its practitioners are the most misunderstood, misrepresented, miscontrolled and misinterpreted.

 

In any case, the researcher believes that “research” will play a very significant and strategic role in promoting the image and reputations of NTA Abakaliki. This is because through research, the grouse, needs, aspirations and expectations of the public shall be determined and tackled accordingly. Osuala (1987:1) citied in Nwodu (2006:2) defines research as simply the process of arriving at dependable solutions to problems through planned and systematic collection and analysis and interpretation of data. According to him, research is the most important tool for advancing knowledge, for promoting process and for enabling man to relate more effectively to his environment, to accomplish his process and to resolve his conflicts.

Okafor (2002:62-63) orders seven types of Public Relations research such as: public opinion research, image survey or image research, effectiveness survey, individual public relations research, research on the public relations of other companies, research on current influence on public opinion and basic research in human relations. For the purpose of misunderstanding and clarity, each of the research types shall be briefly explained.

  1. Public opinion research: This type of research is geared towards finding out the opinions of the publics on the policies, programmes and other activities of an organization. Through this type of research, NTA Abakaliki will know what people’s view are about its policies and programmes with a view to knowing which area to amend and the area to be left like it is.
  2. Image research: This studies what makes or motivates people to either negatively or positively attach themselves to organization. Through this research type, the institution under study will know what people think and try to make people have positive impression about her.
  3. Effectiveness survey: This tries to find out how effective the campaign, communication or publication used in passing across public relations messages or an organization is. By adopting this research method, NTA Abakaliki shall know the strengths and weaknesses of her campaign strategies, the result of which will show her what to do next, in terms of packaging another messages to be sent across to the publics.
  4. Individual Public Relations research: This type of Public Relations research is targeted at individual publics like employees, shareholders etc if NTA Abakaliki should adopt this method, what the I.T students and staff and the external publics need shall be ascertained and provided accordingly.
  5. Research on public relations of other companies: This type of research is a fact-finding exercise aimed at comparing the public relations of an organization with that of other organizations. This is geared towards finding out the areas of similarities and differences between the public relations of the organization with a view to determining where the organization carrying out the research needs to improve on its Public Relations. This research method will help NTA Abakaliki to learn new Public Relations techniques; tactics and strategies which if she adopts shall enhance her performance and promote her image before her publics.
  6. Research on current influence on public opinion: This research type centres on the prevailing health, social, political and economic situations of the publics. This implies the behavioristic, demographic and psychographic characteristics of the publics of the organization researched on. The adoption of this research type by NTA Abakaliki will enable her know the time and manner to choose in relating with her publics through the television media, how to package her message to achieve greater effect and by extension improve her image.
  7. Basic research in human relations: This type of research examines the most recent ways of enhancing relationship and interaction among human beings. By adopting this type of research, NTA Abakaliki shall enhance her relationship with her publics and improve her image through mutual co-existence and interaction.
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 2.8  What The Public Relations Unit Of NTA Abakaliki Is Doing To Promote The Image Of The Station.

       The Public Relations unit of NTA Abakaliki is a department of the media house, it is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the cordial relationship and mutual understanding between the station and its publics. Mr. Albert Amadi is the Public Relations Officer of Nigeria Television Authority, NTA Abakaliki and according to him; the following are the efforts of the public relations unit of the station in ensuring the promotion of the good reputation and image of the media establishment:

  • Assisting in distribution of publicity materials.
  • Assisting in gathering information on the organization programmes for promotional purpose.
  • Processing promotional materials on programmes and ensuring their publication.
  • Writing press release on special corporate events.
  • Compiling the authority’s in house telephone directory.
  • Assisting in completion of press review
  • Receiving and conducting guests of the Authority round the NTA Abakaliki premises.
  • Assisting in mapping out strategies of maintaining a good image and reputation for the Authority locally and internationally.
  • Assisting in collecting data for in house publication.
  • Supervising the telex machine operator.
  • Assisting in press cutting
  • Assisting in issuance of identity card.
  • Obtaining ticket and making protocol arrangement for official trip
  • Assisting in organizing press conferences and interviews.
  • Liaising with appropriate directorate on visitation and making all protocol arrangement.
  • Preparing and updating the information on the media establishment.
  • Assisting in writing and collating annual report.
  • Writing refutals against unfavourable press comments about the television house or its staff.
  • Acting as the information storehouse and spokesman of establishment.

A Public Relations officer uses some strategies which are geared towards improving the image and good reputation of the media establishment and endearing itself to the Publics.

These includes: effective communication, periodic seminars and orientation of staff etc.

Communication is strategic to organizational success and survival. In view of this, the Public Relations unit uses effective television communication channel (NTA) through which changes in policies in the station are communicated to all concerned.

Periodic seminars and orientation of staff is another strategy adopted by the Public Relations of the Nigeria Television Authority, NTA Abakaliki to ensure organizational harmony in the media house. Through this strategy, the staff members of the establishment are shown the limits of their rights when discharging their responsibilities, so as to ensure that the staff learns the rules and regulations governing the station, they abide by them and their rights are protected as well.

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