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South African PR practitioners can learn a lot from international PR professionals

Public relations in South Africa has not reached its full potential when we compare the industry to international standards...
We still encounter a wide array of PR practitioners when we should aim to have PR professionals. Those who consider themselves PR professionals do so on the basis that they have obtained qualifications that make them believe they can now be regarded as the best of the best when it is not so compared to international PR professionals.

© Deyan Georgiev -
Quite frankly, the difference between PR practitioners and professionals lies in one's ability to be an industry leader. In South Africa we have witnessed a large number of young people enrol for PR and communications qualifications, which is largely influenced by the minimum requirements required to enrol for the diploma or degree. Many of these young people do not even know what public relations is about before completing their basic education and they enrol just for the sake of gaining university entry which is quite disastrous for the industry. These young people merely do enough to pass and obtain this qualification with the aim of obtaining a job upon completion of their studies, a job for which they will be ill equipped.

Uninspired and lazy

I have met many PR practitioners who are now in the field working for government and private institutions yet do not want to be where they are due to the fact that PR was a second or third career choice when it should have been their first. You witness their lack of innovation when executing their tasks, you witness how they lazily execute their duties on a day-to-day basis, with a pay cheque serving as their only source of inspiration as opposed to ambitions of being industry thought leaders and movers.

In South Africa, many of our PR practitioners believe the most important feature in PR is event co-ordination. They believe it is about hosting events that will get people talking and hopefully add good recommendations when they embark on the job market. What is sad about event hosting again is the little attention to detail because the belief is that the venue should be in good condition with the program going according to plan and issues of accreditation, branding and logistics are not given enough attention. When I conducted my public relations in-service training at a government department what I noticed was that many public relations officers in that field only had ambitions of ascending to district offices for the better pay there - not the fact that they would obtain more work and have the opportunity to display their PR skills to a wider audience.

We have a problem

We have a problem when our PR practitioners believe PR is only about media relations and they try their utmost to make friends with journalists in order to cover their stories. Media relations is an integral part of public relations but we should not waste too much time being friendly with the media because as we know South African media houses will make you only to break you. Rather put a lot of emphasis on researching best practices when sending out communiqués to media houses, and use great writing skills to make them realise your story should be featured in their platforms.

I am a big fan of PR News, which is a daily intellectual hub that serves the communications and marketing community at corporations, agencies, and nonprofits. The PR News group focuses on honing and growing PR practitioners' skills in social media, crisis management, digital PR, measurement, employee relations, media training, CSR, and writing through its flagship newsletter, webinars, conferences, awards programs, workshops and guidebooks. PR news is what keeps me sane and makes me fall deeper in love with public relations. In South Africa we do not have this useful platform which could be optimised for our environment and the closest we have to such a is the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA), which represents professionals in public relations and communication management throughout the southern African region. I believe we need a strong crop of PR professionals who will work hard to change the organisation from within to turn it into a platform of which every South Africa PR industry personnel will be proud.

About Thabiso Dlamini

29 | Traveller | Social Media | Communication | Environmentalist | Cyclists
Vusi Sindane
Thought I would actually learn what international PR pros do differently but alas, another black guy ranting about how things are falling apart without offering any solutions!
Posted on 19 Aug 2014 14:21
Thabiso Dlamini
My brother I am not a PR expert yet I acknowledge that there is a lot we can learn. This is an article which seeks to highlight the issues affecting public relations in South Africa and one solution I proposed is learning from international PR pros, conduct research my brother if you are to use those solutions. As for stating it is just another black guy, I agree it is just another black guy and we need to change that another black guy.
Posted on 19 Aug 2014 15:07
Letlhogonolo Legabe
I always find it fascinating to read through anything relating to PR since I aspire to be amongst the industry leading experts. However, I find the article being too harsh especially on us newly graduates as you state 'large number of young people enrol for PR and communications qualifications, which is largely influenced by the minimum requirements required to enrol for the diploma or degree'. What about another bunch that is PR driven? Some of us are very passionate about PR, image and reputation, relation/ships, CSI etc. Yes, the PR industry is a bit behind as compared to International but as fellow PR practitioner lets do something about it, innovate ways to improve our standards and surely in few years to come we will be where and how we want to be. What is it that needs to be learned from international PR professionals?.I am open for critique after all I am here to learn.
Posted on 20 Aug 2014 11:47
Thabiso Dlamini
Thank you for the response my brother. I conducted my PR in-service training in a government hospital a year ago and part of my duties included contributing towards the hospital's newsletter which would see me taking pictures and drafting articles. I believe in best practice so quite often I go online and look at what the big guys are doing out there. I would also log onto the department's intranet to see what other hospitals were doing and I tell you my brother it was disastrous, I believe my newsletter was the second best and only one guy who was an exceptional PRO from the most rural part of the province beat me so I looked up to him in certain aspects. I fell inlove with PR at the age of 15 where I told myself I would one day become a PRO so I was shocked when I spoke to some in the field who informed me they only got into PR because they had a problem with another course so having realized that they could have some modules accredited in PR they jumped ship. Some people told me they got into PR having realized there was space in PR intake. Brother I commend people like you because your passion is exactly what we need in order for companies to deem PR and communication as an essential department within the organization. PR is ever changing and upon obtaining your qualification you will realize that what you got to learn in tertiary is the basis as there is a wealth of information that we will learn from organizations such as PR News, PR Newswire, Daily PR, communication thought leaders from developed countries and our very own in South Africa as well. I am also in the process of learning and trust me with a lot of the things I have done I bench marked from companies and PR execs from oversees especially when I was a social media intern. I welcome your contribution because I believe our industry requires us to contribute through articles and these comments as well. We are not only about political leadership as we were taught but we need to be industry leaders as well.
Posted on 21 Aug 2014 12:37
Labuschagne A
Well written article
Posted on 28 Aug 2014 17:49
Morobe Motlhabane
I agree 100% percent with you mate, one other aspect that I've come across is that most qualified journos are now employed in the PR field especially in the public sector. This is a setback for those intellects those specifically directly in the industry/ profession.Don't get me wrong we're slowly doing away with the profession in this manner for Public Relations is a deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish, maintain mutual understanding and bring about goodwill between an organisation's public's both internal and external. Not just another journalism tactics/ skills that part of the bigger picture in this field.
Posted on 3 Sep 2014 11:26
Thabiso Dlamini
I couldn't agree with you more for I too am concerned by the recent developments regarding journalists in PR. I will write about it soon though because I believe it is one of the reasons government fails dismally at communication. It would seem that they are more concerned with getting people who have worked as a journalist under the false pretence that they will get more media coverage.
Posted on 3 Sep 2014 21:47