Documenting the journey of a Cameroonian filmmaker
Recently, I have been proudly telling whoever will listen that I have a First Class degree or the equivalent of a Suma cum laude (American version) in Public Relations and Marketing Communications – now can you guess the response I get after the initial “oh Congratulations darling, wow! Good job etc?” you guessed right –“What is Public Relations again?” After mentally rolling my eyes, I find myself having to give a lecture on PR 101 to majority of the people. This makes me begin to wonder , “As an African girl child, did I chose the right degree? Should I have studied something a bit more commonplace like Marketing, Accountancy, Medicine (which I couldn’t even if I got a full scholarship – you see the sight of blood gives me the hibbijeebies), or even journalism. But then I thought, ok you know what, here is a chance to educate a few of us on what PUBLIC RELATIONS (PR) means and how it can enhance the value of a product….
HISTORY OF PR
Public Relations has existed for centuries now. The Greeks called it sematikos i.e to signify or to mean. The word semantics originated from this word which is defined as how to get people to believe things and do things. Oh yes! Now you could argue that advertising actually does that too but let me break it down to you. By adulthood, most of us know that companies and organisations spend a lot of money on presenting their product in such a way that you think it is better than the competition.
But Public Relations helps build credibility around a product. It instead presents your product to the public as if someone else is endorsing or approving your product. For example; as early as 50 B.C, Julius Caesar wrote the first Public Relations Campaign, “Caesar’s Gallic Wars.” What he did was publicize all his different military successes to convince the Roman people that he would make the best head of state. (Yes he personally wrote it but the publisher endorsed it.) Not too long ago, President Barack Obama used black celebrities to make him seem more approachable to the average African-American to secure their votes.
Let’s break it down even further – how did you feel when a teacher, role model, aunty or uncle speaks well of you to your parent, spouse or friend? Or just reverse it, how did you feel when someone you know spoke well of your parents, teacher, university, employers or child to you? That is the effect that PR aims to get for your product from the customer.
A guy called Ivy Lee considered the father of Public Relations because among other things, he professionalised PR. He based it on the following principles
1. Tell the truth
2. Provide correct facts
3. The PR specialist must have access to the key decision-maker of the desired media.
Therefore PR is based on fact, I just will not get someone to endorse your product if it does not live up to its name. NO WAY!!!
Enough of the history at this point before I begin to bore you to distractions. Let’s get down to it. Remember, PR does not work in isolation – A PR specialist will sit down with the potential client to fully appreciate the client’s goals and vision and together they will build a plan that will fully benefit the client’s goals and visions.
Next time we’ll talk about how an individual, organisation, product and even topic can benefit from PR. Stay tuned!