PRCAN, PR practice and six things an association of professionals should not be seen to be doing


Sensationalists may call it turmoil but those who are more circumspect would rather describe what is happening in the house of Public Relations Practitioners in Nigeria as mere bickering. But as circumspect as they might choose to be, this bickering has the makings of something that could snowball into something more serious if not very carefully handled.

You see, PRCAN is having issues with some PR firms and the issue is not bothering on association leadership or any of the small issues that a gathering of people has to deal with once in every while. PRCAN thinks some PR houses are not supposed to practice because they are not professional enough.

John Ehiguese and his people at PRCAN made a promise to ensure that only PR houses fully registered with PRCAN will be allowed to practice in Nigeria

They have the law behind them at the very least. According to what was provided in the NIPR Decree No. 16 of 1990 which established and gave professional charter status to the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations any company that must offer PR services must be registered with, and inducted as a member of PRCAN.

It appears some PR firms have not been able to do that. It appears there are other reasons. But PRCAN wielded the big stick.

A few things had happened that precipitated this. MTN had had a pitch and XLR8, Marketing Mix, Mediacraft and other more well-known agencies had lost. But DKK Associates, hitherto a creative agency had won.

John Ehiguese, PRCAN President

John Ehiguese, PRCAN President

Then, The Quadrant Company had been fired from the Guinness account and XLR8 was hired. You must realize that these two accounts are some of the biggest in the industry. If you are doing PR in Nigeria and you have not tasted the cakes of Guinness, MTN, Etisalat, British American Tobacco, Nigerian Breweries, Airtel and Coca-cola, you are not see to be playing in the big league.

So it is easy to understand the interest the entire industry has on who wins these two accounts. So when these accounts moved, PRCAN suddenly remembers that some agencies (who are winning these big accounts) are not duly inducted into PRCAN.

It picked a laptop and wrote letters to MTN Nigeria and Guinness, asking them to vacate DKK and XLR8 from the respective accounts.

In the industry, varied opinion has been advanced on the propriety of PRCAN’s letter. Some say it was the right thing to do. Others say it was out-rightly illegal while some others feel it could have been handled differently.

But as the matter continues to generate interest and as the industry waits to see if these agencies would be fired or not, some have drawn certain conclusions and they are stuff bad blood is made of.

  1. How many PRCAN members participated in the MTN account pitch process?

You see, when you get into a game whose rules you know, it comes out smelling like envy, bad-blood and witch-hunt when at the end the game, you begin throwing jibes at the winner. Some people even say it is an outright act of cowardice.

The MTN account is every PR firms dream account. It has a fat retainer. It is a very busy account and you get to have significant multinational interface. Everyone wants it.

PRCAN members cannot deny they did not know these non-PRCAN members like DKK was also in the running. There were pre-pitch briefings where everyone will sit in the same hall and get to know whatsup about the coming challenge. In some cases, this happens more than once.

How can PRCAN convince anybody that they did not sit in these pre-pitch meetings with agencies it clearly knew were not in their register?

Even after the pre-pitch briefings, PRCAN went into the pitch process where some were dropped before going into the finals. PRCAN went this far and waited like everyone else for results.

Complaints and letters for companies to sack agencies they just hired began after decisions had been made. Who will believe PRCAN is not envious of the winner?

Can PRCAN claim to not know that Calixthus Okoruwa’s XLR8, a non-PRCAN member had been managing same MTN and many other accounts for many years now?

CONCLUSION: Do not complain about the rules at the end of a game you lost. Many will not understand

2. This law may just not pass the Cicero test. How right is it?

Marcus Tullius Cicero, had in his book back in 47 B.C., written that “True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrong-doing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its commands or prohibitions upon good men in vain, although neither have any effect on the wicked.”

In reading this portion of the Cicero position on Law, the first question you may ask is, “Is it right for PRCAN to push for a law that protects only the interest of its members? Does belonging to PRCAN make for professionalism on PR practice?

CONCLUSION: When you have a law that is designed to protect a clan rather than advance mankind, it falls short of what makes a good law and as Cicero also suggested, can be disobeyed!

Calixthus-OKORUWA: He has been accused of paying lip service to joining PRCAN and makes moves when he is going for pitches but slows afterwards

Calixthus-OKORUWA: He has been accused of paying lip service to joining PRCAN and makes moves when he is going for pitches but slows afterwards

3. Is PR like all other professions? If so how many PRCAN members would be in practice?

One of the many reasons given by PRCAN for the steps it has taken against XLR8 and DKK is that in other professions, non-members are not allowed to practice.

This is actually very true. But also not very true in general terms. For you to be a medical doctor, you MUST have studied Medicine and Surgery. For you to be a lawyer, studying Law is compulsory as a first degree. The same goes for Pharmacy, Engineering, Law, among others.

But how do you become a PR professional, Advertising Professional and even an Accountant? You can come from any background, take professional exams, pass and you get into practice! In most of these other professions, the Institute or Council captures its members right from the final exams in the university. TO become a member of Nigerian Bar Association, you have to have gone to Law School.

But PR is not so. If it was so, nearly half (or more) of PRCAN members who did not study Mass Communication or Marketing will not even be in the association. This therefore suggests that merely having an NIPR certification should be enough for anyone to practice.

CONCLUSION: PRCAN should be slow in emphasizing membership lest it be seen as protecting a clan.

  1. Where is even the NIPR?

It comes as weird when one notices how much stronger PRCAN is than the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). PRCAN derives its raison d’etre from NIPR. The law establishing PRCAN is said to be a bye law in the NIPR Charter.

But NIPR is in serious need of salvation while the big “General Overseers” at PRCAN are making money. If the Council of Legal Education in Nigeria is stressed, what is NBA’s reason to exist? If the Council for the Regulation of Engineering Practice in Nigeria is out of sorts, you can be sure the Nigerian Society of Engineers will not work properly. But in PR, the people you find in NIPR are basically press officers in government ministries and those who manage the profession are not in the top echelon of professional practice.

What it means is that for PRCAN, NIPR is a means to an end; a place where you go to get a license to operate but never care about its wellbeing afterwards.

CONCLUSION: Make NIPR attractive and you will see people respecting PRCAN and begging to join

  1. How much of the change in the industry has PRCAN noticed?

At the 42nd Congress of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) held in Oshogbo recently, advertising practitioners were taught of a paradigm shift in the world of marketing and marketing communications. Marketing Director, Airtel Nigeria, Dele Anifowose had told them that brands these days do not want consultants who sit and earn retainers. What he said they want are solutions providers and they are getting tired of having to deal with many agencies, each claiming to be a specialist in one aspect of the overall picture. Brands want a one-stop shop these days and if they can get that from one agency, so be it.

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In other words, brands are increasingly not looking for PR consultants or creative consultants or eventing consultants. They are looking for marketing solutions.

If DKK and XLR8 were hired based on this new school thinking, is it not for PRCAN to go back home, think, retool and reemerge anew, ready for the challenges of the present and the future?

It seems the very fast changes in the PR space are truly lost on PRCAN. Why do we say this?

Well, the current President of PRCAN in a recent interview with Marketing Edge had said that “specialist PR was not yet possible in Nigeria.” In a country where IT PR has been thriving; in a country where Oil and Gas PR has been given people money for years; in a country where young people have been making millions in Celebrity PR; in an ecosystem where Digital PR has become many people’s specialty, this rather comes as a major surprise.

CONCLUSION: Clients know what they want. Let us be ready to give it to them if we want to remain relevant in the market.

Tokunbo Modupe: he'd rather the matter be approached a lot more cautiously for the good o the industry

Tokunbo Modupe: he’d rather the matter be approached a lot more cautiously for the good o the industry

6. How like the Gander and the Gosling is the PRCAN vs DKK/XLR8 issue?

Cicero in the same book, Republic, explained “law” further by saying that “We cannot be freed from its obligations by Senate or People, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws at Rome and at Athens, or different laws now and in the future, but one eternal and unchangeable law…”

Now is time for me to ask some questions. Did PRCAN not know that XLR8 and DKK were pitching for those accounts prior to the pitch? How many other companies has the association written letters, urging/warning them to not hire non-PRCAN agencies in the past? Why did it have to happen around the movement of certain perceivably “very juicy” accounts that PRCAN members pitched and lost?

CONCLUSION: Cicero was right. Law should be eternal and so should be this PRCAN law. We cannot apply it only when we see some gains for ourselves.