The relationship between Public Relations practitioners and Journalists in the Nigerian media space can at best be described as edgy, mostly tinged with suspicion and mutual distrust.
Since the media industry itself just like any other, is a microcosm of the Nigerian entity, understanding the roles of both the PR person and the Journalist is critical towards understanding the introductory assertion by the writer.
I often get tired of highlighting the uniqueness of the Nigerian business climate, sectors, players and as a whole, the country itself seeing especially how it has gradually become an excuse of sorts for the myriad anomaly associated with everything us.
For the purpose of this discourse, however, it is very pertinent to note that the PR industry is largely an uncharted territory mostly populated by opportunistic players, unsuccessful cross-over practitioners from related fields of endeavour, and sometimes, outright quacks! Interestingly, Journalism is made up of pretty much the same stock and therefore encounter basically the same type of encumbrances in the daily discharge of their duties.
In the light of the above, they are two related species in this same troubled ecosystem, using virtually the same survival strategies to stay alive.
The PR specialist or whatever they call themselves these days is perpetually at the mercy of the ever-circling predator that is the average Nigerian Journo (and I am one too!), in order to get his stories and press releases published, or have his client interviewed across various news platforms.
On the other hand, the Journalist who perpetually plies his trade with the curse of the brown envelope hanging over him like the proverbial Sword of Damocles sees the PR person not as an associate but rather as an adversary, and any encounter is at best a sparring session for him because his base instinct tells him he is about to be exploited by the ‘bad guy’.
What the Journalist, however, fails to realize perhaps, is that the PR practitioner is bound by certain rules of engagement to activate and actualize deliverables without paying for it. Your expertise as a Public Relations Consultant is to use goodwill and relationships to effectively get mileage for the client, regardless of what the limitations are. I do not like to make reference, veiled or direct, to the ever touchy subject of gratification, settlement, ‘eto’, ‘keske’, or the commonest of all the tags; brown envelope, but the truth is that it is actually the main factor in the fractious relationship between the Journalist and his PR practitioner associate. A journalist sadly has a funny sense of entitlement when dealing with the PR guys because, in his mind, “He has been given ‘something’ but certainly he won’t want to give me” and so he becomes highly confrontational.
The PR person too oftentimes sees the Journalist as a lecherous, hungry and greedy professional who is all out for crumbs in order to survive and therefore treats him with disdain and sometimes outright disrespect especially when the envelope is part of the equation.
I can write about this because I am one of the few who practice on both sides of the divide (albeit professionally), and definitely not as a quack. Both sides in the final equation are sadly, not friends but in reality, are stuck with each other!
The BukiHQMedia model is quite interesting. Over the years, it has inspired the confidence of each and every Journalist it has cause to relate with across all levels; Editor, Correspondent, Reporter, even Intern! I doubt if any PR firm enjoys such a rapturous rapport with members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, inspiring confidence, building lasting relationships, and according high levels of respect or deference every step of the way.
For both, none is less or more. If there is mutual respect and understanding, the synergy between Journalists and PR practitioners can forge a sturdy alliance capable of strengthening both practices and positioning them for greater things; only if they agree to work as partners!