Dear Prau Leaders,
I send you warm greetings and congratulate you on your ‘election’ as the leaders of the Public Relations Association of Uganda (Prau).
Some of you must be having special skills to be voted leaders of an association of professionals in a sector you have no formal qualifications!
I spent a considerable amount of my weekend trying to find out what your qualifications are in relation to your new jobs and for some of you, I found zero. All the results indicated that your only formal qualifications are not in anything PR related.
Could your enemies have fed Google wrong information? Anyway, congratulations and best wishes.
I also found some info that some of you head news sites that sometimes publish fake news. I am very happy that your members found you worthy after some of you indicated in your manifesto that “fake news is a daily reality; everyone is a publisher.” Thank you for being very honest.
Now that you were elected into leadership positions of an association ideally you shouldn’t belong to, I want to give you a few tips. I think you are bold enough to make lasting changes in Prau.
Outsiders can sometimes do a good job as they are not bogged down by certain issues. As you may know, Prau is supposed to be a professional body that is meant to advocate the interests of its members. A profession, to quote the English Dictionary, is “a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.” And that is where you should pay more attention.
One cannot wake up and become a lawyer and the next day they are members of the Uganda Law Society (ULS).
To become a member of ULS, you must have formal qualifications. To join the Uganda Institution of Professional Engineers, it is the same. You don’t just wake up and declare yourself a lawyer like it is with public relations.
I am sure I can do research and argue a case in front of any court in Uganda and I may actually win but I cannot be allowed to do that because I am not a trained lawyer. Even professional librarians wouldn’t allow me to preside over their association. That is why I think you have special skills and bold enough to stand for ‘election’ as Prau leaders.
I beg your indulgence so that I can tell you a little bit about myself. I love building and I spend a lot of my time at construction sites. I believe I can actually come up with a very good architectural plan of a house but that wouldn’t make me an architect and I cannot be admitted to their association.
I can also not be admitted into the engineers’ body. However, with Prau, it is different. Anybody can be a member and gets ‘elected’ to the highest offices.
And because anybody can become a PR ‘professional’ in Uganda, it means that sometimes the industry isn’t considered a serious one and therefore cannot advocate the interests of public relations as a whole.
I heard that your ‘election’ was largely because some of you are very connected and you will help Prau push for a bill in parliament that bans people who are not members of Prau from practicing PR. I have read the said bill and it says nothing about qualifications. Yet you promised to professionalize the industry. If I may ask, how will you do that?
I know Prau members whose claim to fame is decoration and hiring out plastic chairs. If you want to professionalise, maybe you should ask them to rescind their membership. How does decoration and distributing chairs at functions be part of PR? PR, as a profession and indeed Prau, needs to change this by going back to basics.
And the basics start with academic qualifications. If somebody doesn’t have such training, then they shouldn’t be members of a professional association. I am not a lawyer and, therefore, I cannot gain membership to Uganda Law Society however good I might be in arguing cases. If I ever want to be a member of ULS, I would need to go to law school first.
I didn’t hear any of you pushing for this. Is it because some of you don’t have formal PR qualifications? You talked about professionalism in general terms and you were very silent on basics.
It takes only three years or less for anybody interested in PR to get the necessary qualifications from a reputable institution. In fact, people who hire chairs out and are members of Prau go back to school and get MBAs but they never get the right qualifications in an association they want to associate themselves with.
And, therefore, there could be leaders in Prau who may never advance the interests of an association because they are in it to enhance their CVs, not the interests of the profession. There is need to go beyond payment of membership fees for one to be part of a professional body.
And that way Prau will become stronger and advocate the interests of the industry.
The writer is a communication and visibility consultant.