What does it really mean to be a Public Relations Officer for an organization? What are the does and don’ts of organizational communication? What does it take to be a Public Relations Officer?
Over 20 journalism students and communications enthusiasts were taken through a Public Relations and communications session by Irene Nakasiita of Red Cross Uganda on Saturday 17th March 2018. During the session Nakasiita discussed what Public Relations and communication is, qualities of a good public Relations officer, the role of the Public Relations officer, the challenges that come with the job, and how to do communications in this day and era.
The session dubbed the Saturday Speaker Series led by the Media Challenge Initiative, is a mentorship program where media personalities from radio, TV and print and communications are invited to speak and mentor trainees and other young media enthusiasts. It is organized two Saturdays a month at the Media Challenge Academy in Kansanga. Former speakers include Solomon Sserwanjja of NBS, Joel Ssenyonyi of NTV, Joyce Bagala of NBS, Ronald Reagan Ocan of PVI, Rukh-Sana Namuyimba of NBS, Raymond Mujuni and many others.
Irene Nakasiita: “You do not need to be a communications graduate to do Public Relations”.
The Media Challenge Initiative, founded in 2016, seeks to combat high youth unemployment through connecting journalism students with media professionals and training students in practical skills. The Saturday Speaker Series program not only gives the trainees an opportunity to network with media professionals but also allows aspiring journalists to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the media.
As she began the session, Nakasiita emphasized that one does not need to be a journalism graduate to do communication. As an Information and Technology graduate, she said all she had to do was place herself closer to the communication field and prove that she could do the job.
Nakasiita asked the trainees and media students to be passionate about communication if it is a field that they want to pursue. She also emphasized were quick thinking, confidence, thirst for knowledge, being present and very importantly, integrity.
“As you do communication work for any organization, it is important to have integrity. Do not spoil your brand by telling lies,” Nakasiita said.
The most challenging part of her job was crisis management, Nakasiita said, because the reputation of the company lies in your hands. That is where quick thinking skills come in, she highlighted.
“During crisis management, one may decide to re-brand, but sometimes your organization is so established and re-branding would mean the company has to change and start from scratch,” she said. “Having a crisis strategy and a team to support you is key.”
In the digital era, there are a lot of available opportunities and channels that can be used to pass on information, and it is important for the communication personnel to use these to their advantage.
“However with digital media, it is important to be fast when responding to wrong allegations. When you take long to respond, it damages the image of the organization even more,” Nakasiita said, while highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of Communication in the digital era.
“Public relations is a very broad concept and covers a range of things, and it is key for all organizations to have a communications expert,” she said.
“In class we are given the theoretical parts of communications but being a part of this Saturday speaker series I got a deeper and clearer understanding of what it actually means to practice Public Relations.” Said Olivia Komugisha, one of the attendees.