The Directorate of Innovation, Research and Development (DRID) of the University of Media, Arts and Communication, (UniMAC-IJ), has held its first public lecture for the New Year, 2024, focusing on the evolution and state of public relations practice in Ghana.

The discussions sought to strengthen relations between academia and industry while providing the opportunity for industry-relevant research and knowledge creation.

The main speaker for the virtual lecture on Friday, January 19, 2024, Mr Mawuko Afadzinu, a long-time industry leader and former lecturer at UniMAC-IJ, spoke on the theme, “Public Relations: Current Trends, Challenges and 21st Century Opportunities.”

Among other things, Mr Mawuko Afadzinu, who is also the President of the Institute of Public Relations Ghana (IPR), and Head of Marketing and Communications at Stanbic Bank, Ghana, spoke about how PR practice has transformed due to digitalization, and the need for practitioners to reinvent themselves and build capacity to stay relevant.

According to him, the true PR professional today needs to have a solid understanding of data analytics to give them a good understanding of audience behaviour, media trends, and message performance.

He said these insights in the data “can then be converted into actionable strategies because once that is done, the data-driven PR would allow you to grow your brand and reputation.”

The bottom line for me when it comes to data, is also the ability it gives you to demonstrate the value you’re generating for your organisation or your stakeholders. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, public relations is about value creation and the equitable circulation of that value within your ecosystem or among your stakeholders. That is what our job is about if you are going to do this in the 21st century and beyond” he noted.

Despite the rapid changes in PR strategies caused by tech trends and new media, the PR professional said the foremost objective of PR, which is to create value will not fade.

“Things will not change no matter which century you live in. Our job is to create value. And our job is to ensure that that value is mutually shared and mutually appreciated. And we do that on the back of a solid reputation and by understanding what’s important to our stakeholders, ensuring a balance between what’s important to us and what’s important to our stakeholders, and taking care of their needs.”

He observed that with the changes in technology and media, it has become more difficult for PR professionals to manage crises as they spread faster than before.

“The other thing is that, because of the change in technology and media, crises have a way of spreading exponentially. When you have a crisis in our current age, you have a digital wildfire.

He, therefore advised that “rapid results can only happen when there’s rapid response. In today’s digital world which will get even more complicated, how you manage and contain situations and crises will become critical.”

He said that in building a crisis-resilient brand in these times, PR professionals would have to improve their online monitoring mechanism tools and proactive communication to build a brand which is resilient to potential crises.

The key to surviving a crisis is to build a very solid bank account of goodwill to ensure a brand is resilient “he noted.

He added that in driving PR strategies in this era, professionals must also be aware of the ascendency of influencers, and the role they play in the implementation of effective strategies. He, however, cautioned that the roles of new media influencers must be scrutinized properly before they are deployed.

He encouraged PR professionals to focus on tech trends such as Artificial Intelligence that are changing the face of PR.

He said until PR professionals build capacity using these tools and technology they would be left behind in the field.

According to Mr Afadzinu, sustainability in PR strategies has become a more critical pillar in this era, where there appears to be less privacy even in the face of the privacy tools that digital media offers.

Social media space has activated a lot of stakeholder engagement. If you are into publication relations, you should have a deep understanding of the growing importance of sustainability. You should be able to demonstrate and validate and have strategic interventions that are valued by your key stakeholders. Sustainability has become a huge pillar in public relations.”

“Those who adapt to new technologies, those who maintain ethical standards, and those who continue to find innovative ways through the storms, are those who are going to make it. A lot of people are going to drop behind. There will be winners, and there will be losers “he concluded.

Students and lecturers who participated in the virtual seminar asked varied questions and made contributions to the lecture.

The Director of Research, Innovation, and Development (DRID) of UniMAC-IJ who hosted the seminar, Dr Godwin Etse Sikanku, commended the guest speaker for an insightful lecture that bridges the gap between theory and fieldwork, the current trends and the future as far as public relations practice is concerned.

He also commended all participants for their participation, questions and contributions.

Dr Etse Sikanku pledged that there would be more such educative seminars on critical issues under the various courses and programmes offered by the school.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.