Public relations, as a social science, is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organisation and the public on whom its success or failure depends. While the chronicle of the Ghanaian education system proffering relevance to gross memorization and regurgitation of theories rather than practicality holds true in so many institutions and training centres, the Faculty of Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing at the Ghana Institute of Journalism is actively working to change the long-standing narrative. For the fifth year running, the faculty has advocated for the effective use of integrated marketing and communication (IMC) tools among students by annually assigning projects in the field of public relations. This, from the onset, empowers students to set-up and run their own simulated companies - per class basis - to embark on a semester-long marathon. Ultimately, the goal is to attract an assessment score that will complement the mark the end of semester exams may serve up. However, it is the spirit of healthy competition, as well as the knack to adopt an approach to achieving the objectives of a marketing campaign through a well-coordinated use of diverse promotional methods intended to reinforce each other that principally make the undertaking worthwhile.
As defined by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, integrated marketing communications "recognizes the value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines advertising, public relations, personal selling, and sales promotion and combines them to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communication impact." The main theme of the 2018 campaign, “Event management as a tool for effective public relations and marketing practice,” simply resonates with the aforementioned. Over the course of the last nine weeks, Level 200 students of the Ghana Institute of Journalism have saddled on to put together preliminary events that reinforce the competition’s sub-theme for the academic year “The Event Planner”. Under the supervision of Mr. Kenneth Awuku - the public relations lecturer spearheading the activity - four companies namely; Adehye Incorporated, Akyeame Events, SMOKE, and Spektrum Concepts are in contention to acquire the ultimate recognition and the bragging rights come November 26th when the grand finale will be held at the GIJ forecourt.
“As an institution, we are to train future communicators particularly in public relations and journalism. So as part of the mandate, we are to give both theoretical and practical perspective of the things that we are teaching the students,” Mr. Awuku declared.
“As a result, the Faculty of Public Relations decided about four years ago that the introduction of a practical program was required for students to go through at a particular stage in their academic life.”
At this year’s edition, the competing factions are required to organize a wedding - a first of its kind since the inception of the campaign. While the activity is obviously one that students hardly anticipated, the belief is that the essence of the lessons learnt at the end of the session cannot be overemphasized regardless of the oddity in the choice of activity.
For starters, the rhetoric that public relations are basically about damage control is easily thrown out the window should all things about the ongoing campaign be considered. As it is the case, that function is merely a fraction of the scope of PR study and practice. According to Mr. Awuku, the long-term objective of the annual undertaking is “to equip students with the know-how of running affairs related to public relations while grooming them for the job market as well.”
Members of SMOKE and Adehye in their company colours.
That withstanding, the use of simulated companies is also a fine initiative that can be adopted by schools and training institutions who seek to expose its students to the practical world. The traditional mode of teaching takes a huge amount of time to do and while it prepares the student for examinations, it impedes their tendencies to explore - a trait which mostly becomes prevalent when students are given the freedom in a simulated environment. Simulations are characterised by their non-linear nature and by then controlled ambiguity within which students must make decisions. The inventiveness and commitment of the participants usually determine the success of a simulation. In addition, simulations promote the use of critical and evaluative thinking because their ambiguous or open-ended nature encourages students to contemplate the implications of a scenario. The situation feels real and thus leads to more engaging interaction by learners. In our part of the world where a lot of issues demand tangible fixes, there is certainly not a better mode of learning than this.
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