By Onimisi Alao, Sunday Trust October 31 2015
We are the first press release syndicating organisation in the country and we make our impact by encouraging agencies and organisations to be transparent, honest and timely in putting out vital information. Many organisations find it difficult to come out and interact with the public till they have a crisis and it becomes even more difficult to come out with information. Currently, some of my clients are principal agencies of government: the military, the intelligence agencies, and security agencies. We also process press releases from federal ministries and MDAs. That’s what we have been doing in the last two years.
We generate these releases. Many of the organisations we work with handle very sensitive tasks, such that ordinarily they would not come into the open with what the public needs to know. They are reluctant to make certain information available, but we tell them there is a way to bring out this information and no one will be hurt. We tell them you can’t keep the public in the dark about this. So, it becomes a win-win thing. The agencies are encouraged to provide the information and the media have access to the information and get it to the public. In essence, we provide media coverage and review the impact. We undertake media tracking, online monitoring and strategic communication solution as we review at least 20 print media and 25 online media daily to guide our clients. We provide an average of 100 press releases monthly on behalf of our clients through the PRNigeria platform. We are therefore a media outfit with a difference combining traditional media, integrated marketing communication and best online practice through public relations.
It’s a long story. Before the spread of the social media: face book, twitter and the rest of them, when I was still in public service, we established PRNigeria Online Forum for PR Practitioners. That time, we had almost all the Who is Who in public relations in both public and private sector in the fold – whether you were a director of public affairs or public affairs manager, press secretary, director of press, chief press secretary, director of communication, SA media – such designations. They were in that platform where we discussed issues to do with being a spokesperson: how you can deliver information to the public. Our emphasis was how to increase the skills of members in that forum. That’s how we started. People like Garba Shehu (Senior Special Assistant on Media to President Muhammadu Buhari), Kabiru Dangogo (former Head of Union Bank Public Relations Unit), Shegun Adeniyi (Special Adviser on Communications to President Umaru Yar’adua from 2007 till Yar’adua died in 2010), and former minister of information John Odeh were all in that platform. We were working to establish better ways to do our job. Now after the abrupt end of my service with NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency, as the spokesman), I decided that since the service no longer wanted me, what should I do? I decided that since I know the spokespersons of organisations, I could go full time into the business of helping them deliver information to the mass media. We, PRNigeria, now became a platform whereby information comes to us from PR officers, which we work on and send, on their behalf, to the media houses. Many bits of critical information you get from the media come from PRNigeria. I feel proud to say that we have issued thousands of news releases since we started and none of them has ever been denied. Instead, there have been instances when some organisations which issued press releases and had challenge, ran to us and we sorted things out.
Editors can tell you that we get quite a lot of content to them. I don’t really want to mention names but yesterday (about two weeks ago), we had press releases from the EFCC for instance, we had one from the Police, for instance…
No, no, we’re not taking any job from anybody. We are just assisting them. In the course of our work we are encouraging organisations to be more open, more transparent and more timely with information dissemination. Most of the challenges we face in the country arise because people don’t get information at the right time. If information is given out responsibly and in good time, a lot of misgivings are ironed out and a lot of stresses avoided. In our setup here, we believe there should be nothing like ‘no comment’ in any organisation. A journalist will come to you to clear doubts and you say ‘no comment’. There is nothing like ‘no comment’. What is the issue? That’s what the reporter wants to know. You clarify the issue. Even in the most sensitive of situations, in the highest levels of crisis management, there will be a way you can process information for the understanding of the public via the media. Our own is to make sure the information you are sending is accurate, fair and done responsibly.
We don’t lie back in our office and wait for press statements to be passed through us. As much as we don’t want to say that we influence the release of some information, on several occasions we ginger or trigger organisations to speak. If they are scared, if they are reluctant, we suggest to them, why not take this perspective, why not do it this way? We give them ideas on how to go about it and in the end they issue the release. Now, we are going beyond just issuing press releases for organisations. Sometimes, we speak to them; they give us information and we issue it. It’s a gradual process and very soon, we will start reporting activities and events for our stakeholders.
Economic Confidential is a monthly magazine concentrating on public finance and is the only publication that, in the last eight years, has consistently been publishing the figures of the Federation Account Allocation Committee to all the tiers of government: federal, state, and local government councils. It is the most authoritative publication covering the committee. But it is not structured as a daily news gathering and printing publication.