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BY: Ifedayo Akinwalere
Communication plays a vital role in the development of any nation. It is without question that any society’s development may depend on some essential factors, but the most crucial of these is a system of communication, which is public relations. Public relations is not just communication or publicity. It entails that an organisation should perform. Public relations entails communication of activities and performance of duties. Public relations as the art and science of analysing trends, predicting  their consequences, counselling organisations leaders and implementing planned programmes of actions which  will serve both the organisation and public interest. Public relations cannot be divorced from democracy; it has positive impact on democracy. Public relations is the communication aimed at winning the goodwill of both the external and internal publics of an organisation. It is an attempt made by an organisation whether commercial or non-commercial, public or private, governmental or non-governmental to win the mutual understanding of its public. This paper therefore, aims at discussing public relations as power and manipulation against democratic governance.

            Theories are of great relevance in every academic endeavour. Asemah (2010) observes that public relations theories generally refer to generalisations that are put forward to explain, describe, prescribe or predict the behaviours of the publics to an organisation. For better understanding of this paper, the Frank Jefkin’s public relations transfer model has been chosen to provide the theoretical framework. The public relations transfer process model was propounded by Frank Jefkins in 1988.  According to Nweke (2001), the model is an antidote against some negative developments in organisations.  According to Jefkins (1988), when the negative situation is converted into positive achievements through knowledge, the result predictably, is the primary objective of public relations practices – understanding.  The model explains how practitioners can use and apply public relations tools and strategies towards changing hostility among an organisation’s target publics to sympathy so as to be in a better position to convert prejudice into acceptance, develop interest when there is apathy and then, be able to communicate effectively to achieve knowledge where there is ignorance.
From the foregoing, it means that organizations, including the government can use the Jefkins’ public relations transfer process model to win the goodwill of the publics so as to reduce crisis level. Through communication, the public relations practitioner can convert the four negative attitudes of the publics into four positive attitudes – ignorance to knowledge, hostility to sympathy, prejudice to acceptance, apathy to interest.


To be systematic, let us examine a few concepts:
  Public Relations
            There are so many definitions of public relations.  But it is agreed that public relations is a profession that uses communication to create and sustain favourable image and reputation among its strategic stakeholders called the publics. Public relations is seen as the planned communication which is aimed at winning the goodwill and the support of both the internal and external publics of an organization.  Edward L. Barneys, cited in Nweke (2001:15) describes public relations as a planned effort to influence opinion through acceptable performance and two-way communication. It is simply the relations with the publics through the performance of social functions that are mutually beneficial to both the organization and its publics and adequately informing all those affected by such developments; it is the systematic way of bringing about mutual understanding between an organization and its publics. The British Institute of Public Relations, cited in Yaroson and Asemah (2007) defines public relations practice as the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish mutual understanding between an organization and its publics.  

Contributing to the numerous definitions of public relations, Nwosu (1996) says that public relations includes winning friends, keeping them and influencing them as well as others.  Through effective public relations, an organization will be able to win public acceptance.  This explains why Danny Moss, cited in Ajala (1993) says that public relations in essence is reputation management, reinforcing reputation, enhancing reputation and combating damage to reputation. To Black (1991), public relations is the art and science of achieving harmony with the environment through mutual understanding based on truth and full information.  This clearly states the need for more actions than words as well as the need for good rapport between the publics and the organization in order to carryout any meaningful programme, which is beneficial to both parties. 

 From the various definitions so far given above, it is clear that public relations is a continuous exercise that enables the organization in this case the government to win the goodwill of the citizenry.



The most popular definition of democracy says “ it is the government of the people by the people and for the people”.  It is a government that is determined by the citizens based on the belief that all citizens have the freedom or liberty to decide the direction of their affairs. Modern democracies according to Lakoff (1996:155) may be thought of as a compound of three variant forms of autonomy, communal and plural. Democracy is a form of rule and decisions that are taken by the majority which must be binding on the minority that finds such decisions against their opinions. Sawant (2000:24) describes democracy as the rule for and by the people. The concept of participatory democracy has the creation of a psychological climate in which there could be more or less spontaneous motivation towards challenges and improvements and the need for a radical social reconstruction leading to real satisfaction and full dignity of man requires democratic citizenship.
The democratic society rests on social consensus with regards to human development which is based on freedom, equality and political participation.  Participation is vital to the process of policy selection, since the consensus or majority alone could form a proper base for social judgment. Democracy is a simple mechanism for choosing and authorising governments or a more self chosen sets of politicians, organised in political parties for the votes which will penlight them to rule until the next election. Ogbagu (1992) sees democracy as a system of government by the whole population usually through elected representatives; and organisation governed on democratic principles favouring social equality, a system in which policy is decided centrally and is binding on all members.

The basic requirement for a genuine democracy is that people should be empowered to be able to participate objectively and significantly in the governance of the country. Thus, democracy requires that people participate openly in the process of government, with their preferences for public policies to be taken into account by those who govern them.

Democracy is about the people and their power. It can be referred to as a form of government in which state power and authority is derived from the consent of the people; a political system, which enables people to freely choose an effective, honest, transparent and accountable government.

According to Black (2011:122), Public relation is essentially an art of persuasion, and in order to influence people it is obviously helpful to know as much as possible about the way in which people think and the manner in which they react to particular circumstances.
To achieve success, all public relations activity must be based on truth and full information and be carried out on a continuing basis. It is about communicating between the institution and its various publics, getting feedback and respond to feedback in such a way that both the institution and its publics benefit from the outcome.
Public relations philosophy put much emphasis on the need for two-way communication. This is now fair well accepted, but how does one achieve it?

Many form of misunderstanding spring from lack of communication, and one of the first objectives in any public relations programme is to improve existing channels of communication and to establish new ways of setting up a two-way flow of information and understanding.

 Even when there is obvious will to communicate, there may be great difficulty in achieving success, for the mechanisms of communication are very complicated. Many of the difficulties in government activities where services are provided are ascribed to lack of commiunication, and managements are constantly exhorted to give information more readily and more regularly to the publics. Public relations method can do much to achieve this.

Gone are the days when any major issue could be tackled or solved without public support.  Today, if a proposal cannot be presented in a form in which it can gain support of the general public, prospects for its success are indeed dim.  As time goes by the need for adequate two-way communication between the public, companies and the government is becoming more and more important and imminent.

Our product is education and our clients are the students of this institution. They are the most important part of our various publics. When quality they receive quality education, they are going to be the institution’s ambassadors across the globe. Public relations is a link between organisations and their environments.

The role of public Relations is to ensure the institution’s reputation is protected and enhanced, while maximizing opportunities to demonstrate Federal University of Agriculture’s desired leadership position. The role is responsible for corporate affairs, brand integrity, organisational communications and investor relations.
To make a real difference, communicators need to have a seat at the table where decisions are made, and making a difference won’t happen unless you have a deep understanding of all aspects of the business you work in.
These researchers (J. E. Grunig & L. A. Grunig, 1996) maintained that a strategic management approach is consistent with teleological moral philosophy, commonly known as utilitarianism, because of its emphasis on consequences. Both utilitarian philosophy and relationships with publics are seen in terms of their consequences and potential outcomes. 

In utilitarianism the ethical decision is defined as that which maximizes positive consequences and minimizes negative outcomes. In the utilitarian approach to ethics, a weighing of potential decisions and their likely consequences is the ethical analysis used to determine right or wrong. Strategic management also attempts to predict potential consequences of management decisions and thus is a natural fit with utilitarian ethics.

Winning support of your target publics is the prime objective of PR and PR strategies when it comes to issues or causes and ideas.  There are a number of guidelines that can be applied.  But it is useful to understand the target audience in order to design appropriate strategy for any challenge.

Today, not only the public sector companies and public bodies are turning to PR and PR communications, but even the government itself is opting for it more and more.  The government is using PR for its public service activities and for selling its political and economic policies. 

 The government is also using PR across the borders to build the country’s image and to project its foreign and economic policies. This is bound to pick up further in the near future with the liberalization and globalization of our economy. It is important that PR people are prepared to meet the challenges that this change is going to throw up for them.

The objective of public relations is to achieve true dialogue, consent, mutual understanding, and harmony in a complete openness way. Public relation is an integral of good management but can only make its full contribution if practitioners have a comprehensive base of knowledge and resources.

Public relations as a planned communication is needed in democratic governance if the government wants to really survive and stand the text of time. The government, whether at the national, state and local level needs the supports of the general public to survive. No democracy can thrive when the government does not enjoy the goodwill of the people. In democratic government, public relations comes in handy.  The government needs to know the public opinion and on that basis, formulate policies, which will be accepted by the people. Research has shown that information management is a very crucial issue in democracy. Information ought to be made available to both the leaders and the led. There should be information about the needs, aspirations and ambitions of the people. Through this, democracy will be strengthened.

Black, S. (1989). Introduction to Public Relations. Lagos: West African Book Publishers Limited.
Ethical issues Confronting Public Relations Practitioners: Issues confronting PR: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/ethical-issues-confronting-public-relations-practitioners-71138.html.
Grunig, J. E., & Grunig, L. A. (1996, May). Implications of symmetry for a theory of ethics and social responsibility in public relations. Paper presented at the meeting of the International Communication Association, Chicago.