Last Friday, I found myself, at one of the most exotic recreational centres the continent of Africa can boast of. Indeed, it could compete with ease any major tourist or recreational facility on the face of the earth. It is known as the Aqua Safari and located at the south-eastern tip of the map of Ghana, precisely, Big Ada. Anyway, I did not see the Small Ada.
The occasion was the 26th, Annual General Meeting of the Institute of Public Relations, Ghana (IPR). It also coincided with the national PR and Communications Summit. I was there to participate for the first time ever as perhaps the newest registered member as I had registered some few weeks back.
A senior colleague, the Corporate Affairs Director, of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, encouraged me to attend when I was at her office few weeks to the event.
I had not registered with the IPR very late in my practice even though I have practised as a PR professional for more than two decades working for a number of internationaly renowned institutions such as the Shell International, Compass Group, Global Solutions Limited, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) all in the United Kingdom. Back home, I established the Communications Directorate of the Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee on Decentralisation, The Trust Hospital, The Ghana Employers Association and also worked for the British High Commission in Accra as the Communications Manager.
I have also served as the Consultant for The Expo Africa, The Ghana High Commission in London, and engaged in PR and marketing activities in London for a number of African businesses and individuals.
I had personal and cogent reasons for not registering as a member of the IPR Ghana, not necessary because I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in the UK but I thought of benefit I could derived from joining, but at Ada, over the weekend I was proved wrong as I realised it was not only what IPR could offer, but rather and importantly, what I can also offer IPR to grow in professionalism among other important features of a professional body.
Besides everything, the networking was superb. People I have not met for ages were all around and still very affable and corporative, ready to assist and teach what I did not know.
As I engaged my senior brother, the veteran Jeo Hagan while he was in an informal discussion with a very pretty lady, my name was mentioned and the lady enquired, “seriously, are you so so and so.”? I replied in the affirmative. She was so amazed that for the first time she had met me. The simple reason for her excitemet was that she had edited and read my scripts for GBC Radio News Commentary for years as an editor, without seeing me and left there to practise PR in another institution.
This is just one of them, there were a few others who were also in PR practice while I worked as a journalist some 25 years ago in this county.
Some of these were the once providing me with useful insights into the association’s activities and all the nitty-gritties of it. I loved it because I found myself as very new and was ready to learn.
Before then, I had some few sentiments while driving to the venue, which I could not share with anybody because I didn’t want to. Nevertheless, I asked myself, is this where the IPR is holding its conference, I queried, but I knew for sure it was Aqua Safari, but there was no IPR visual presence, by way of identity or better still banners and other paraphernalia displayed anywhere. Absolutely nothing gave the sense of a meet by the PR professionals. So, I enquired from a conspicuous staff who led me to the hall.
I also asked (myself though) who does PR for the IPR? Apparently the IPR doesn’t have an officer in charge of PR and that explained, sadly, why sponsors of the event rather had very heavy presence than the organisers themselves, not too sure of the sponsorship package anyway,
Generally, the meeting was spot on. A member of the association and the current Minister for Information and the Member of Parliament for the Ofoase-Ayiribi, constituency in the Eastern Region. Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah added the needed spice to the glamour at the hall as the Guest Speaker. Unlike others, he was as usual on time and delivered a concise, precise and timely speech.
A speech that offered all the assurances of making IPR Ghana more relevant in national matters than ever. His announcement on the IPR membership on the Ghana Beyond Aid national communications strategy committee was greeted with huge and resounding applause. It was good news because, until quite recently, national matters that need to get to the people accurately and timely have not been the case.
So therefore, Public Relations practitioners are perhaps for once, going to be officially involved in national decision-making processes. This is not just any mean a committee than the committee that is to ensure the judicious use of the abundant national resources as well as harnessing it to be used as a catalyst for the rapid development of the national economic
For him, the IPR including himself, “must deliver new attitudes that are required to fulfil it. That’s why we have invited the IPR to serve on the communication strategy committee of the Ghana Beyond Aid and we are looking forward to the output from your participation.” This is indeed a great opportunity to help the Minister and the government for that matter to vigorously pursue the Ghana rebranding agenda. Self-rebranding, therefore is key to rebranding the nation.
This issue of relevance was not targeted to the IPR as an institution to the nation alone, it also run through a considerable part of the summit as how it is to its members and vice versa. It was sensed during the business meeting that, patronage to previous summits and Annual General Meetings, were not that encouraging.
Clearly the benefits members gain from the association and what perhaps the association benefit from members were key factors, but by and large, people join professional associations for the simple reason of what they would derive as benefits. Of course, not believing in “ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country,” matter.
Indeed, the IPR is growing and growing well, by way of membership. Statistics available at the summit indicated that total membership of the association stands at 399. Over forty new members were sworn into Associate and Accredited membership status. Refresher courses have been organised for some members. It has also rented new premises befitting the status, at least for now. Unfortunate, it is one association known on this planet that has more non-voting members than any that I know.
An issue that sparked off serious agitations at the AGM. One hundred and eighty-five (185) members (about half of the entire membership) termed as “Affiliate Members” were all considered to have had no voting rights. The sentiments therefore were, why were they invited to an AGM? Were they there as just observers, or just to swelled up the numbers?
We know too well that “the main purpose of an AGM is to comply with legal requirements, such as the presentation and approval of the audited accounts, election of directors, and appointment of auditors for the new accounting term” among other businesses.
It took the PR skills of some senior members to calm down nerves for the highly agitated Affiliate Members to agreed to be side-lined. It is hoped that the assurance from leadership would be deemed seriously and look into the matter. This would encourage such side-lined members to continue to hold fast their calling into the noble association. Voting at all levels ensure a good sense of belonging.
Sight must not be lost on the fact that Public Relations are about sending the right messages to the right places and people as well as helping to build brand reputation. IPR Ghana’s brand is key if the public and even members will take the association seriously.
PR practise is chiefly meant to change wrong perceptions and provide brighter image for institutions and it is said that “When used correctly, PR can make or break an institution thus giving it the power to overcome almost any obstacle”
Kudos to the past executives for the wonderful work done. It is trusted that the skills and the capabilities of the incoming President will help build upon what the past executives did to bring IPR where it is now and also help to provide the right image in the eyes of the public and members as well.
Kudos, Mawuko Afadzinu and your team for picking up the mantle to ensure a viable association and also Into Perfect Rebranding of Ghana.
By Nana Sifa Twum