|The incoming president of Public Relations Association of Uganda (PRAU), Stephen Mwanga shared some of his plans on how he plans to steer the association in two years, Kasozi Nasser Akandwanaho writes his story in The Homeland Newspaper.|
Who is Mwanga?
Mwanga is an experienced communication/public relations practitioner with over 15 years of uninterrupted practice. I studied journalism, public relations, management, and human rights at various levels – bachelor, postgraduate, and master’s levels.
I have been a communication/public relations trainer in universities since 2005. I also do skills and knowledge-based communication/public relations trainings for some institutions.
In your manifesto, you talked about streamlining PR practice. How do you plan to achieve this?
As PRAU’s governing council, we are working hard to have PRAU secure statutory recognition. Statutory recognition means PRAU being recognized by the Government through an Act of Parliament. Our conviction is that the Act will enhance PRAU’s corporate visibility, and its existence.
The Act will also help promote PRAU’s mandate and functions in Uganda. The other position is that the Act should, among other things, have a provision that will give PRAU the legal authority to vet PR training content in all institutions of higher learning offering PR courses. We also plan to have a provision that will give PRAU the legal mandate to certify all PR practitioners in Uganda.
All these efforts will be aimed at building a rich knowledge base for the PR profession in Uganda. We are very optimistic that these, plus other efforts, will effectively facilitate our dream of streamlining PR practice in the country and in a way help manage unethical PR practice too.
How are you going to execute this?
The process to secure statutory recognition has already started. We have identified some members to serve on the statutory recognition committee. The committee will commence its work as soon as its terms of reference are endorsed by the governing council.
How many presidents has PRAU had and what is your membership like?
PRAU was formed in 1975. It has been in existence for 46 years now. According to Article 11 (i) of PRAU’s Constitution, an elected PRAU President can serve two terms, each of two years, of course both terms being subject to an election. While some PRAU Presidents managed to serve the constitutional two terms, some didn’t. Therefore, for now, PRAU has had eight presidents and I am the ninth. The association has close to 400 members.
How are you going to make PRAU known to the public?
PRAU is already known to the public. The current regime is only enhancing its corporate visibility. And how are we doing it? We have structured public engagement activities with our partner organisations, stakeholders and the general public.
How does the public benefit from PRAU?
This is a professional association. Ours is to build a knowledge base for both the practicing public relations professionals and the young people already in training institutions and those yet to join.
PRAU is actively engaged in strengthening the public relations profession in Uganda. We have been and we will continue to do this through public awareness and engagement activities.
These efforts have and continue to build the profiles and reputations of our members and/or the organizations they work for. Additionally PRAU supports PR excellence among its members though it holds them to the highest professional and ethical standards. We offer recommendations to our members, especially at recruitment.
We recognize outstanding PR performers both individually and at the institutional level through what is known as PRAU Excellence Awards. We also offer endorsements to institutions or organizations looking out for quality PR professionals. However, going forward, the association is working to establish itself as a think-tank that can offer PR research and consultancy services to both its stakeholders, partner organizations and the general public.
Of significance is the fact that the association has and will continue working with its stakeholders and partner organizations in supporting health and poverty campaigns; agriculture and road safety campaigns; education campaigns, gender parity campaigns especially the promotion of girl-child education, and so on.
PRAU has and will continue to work with its partner organizations in running some of their corporate social responsibility activities. PRAU is very convinced that such and many of our planned activities have and will continue to help the association touch base with the public.
How will you accomplish the roles in two years?
PRAU has functioning organs – the AGM, the governing council, and working committees. The new strategy is to empower the committees to work better.
Are there any challenges?
First, there seems to be a misconception between public relations and related areas such as advertising and marketing, in the public. You won’t be surprised to find an organization advertising a job position titled, public relations and marketing manager, for example yet these two can’t be fused. They are both wide concepts and each distinctively plays a different role in an organization.
That misconception is one of the challenges we have to collectively deal with as PR professionals in the country. And so, maybe having an independent and well-thought-out PR course tailored in institutions of higher learning will be one of the ways to overcome it.
The other challenge is: some employers are still having difficulties in allowing PR managers into their boardrooms yet they expect them to communicate decisions taken therein.
There is hope that when PRAU finally secures statutory recognition, some of such challenges will be ably managed. However, as we wait for that, PRAU will continue to engage with organizations with the aim of taking PR managers to the boardroom.
Who funds the Association?
PRAU is largely dependent on collections from membership fees paid by members of the association and support from its partner organizations in form of sponsorships.
However, going forward, the new administration is planning to start running short courses that will require some of the participants to part with a small fee.
The governing council is analyzing the possibility of refitting the PRAU website to the point of it starting to host adverts for organizations and stakeholders.
We hope these ventures, among others, will help the association generate some income.
What’s your message to the PR fraternity?
Public relations is a growing profession in Uganda. And so, there is need for a united effort if we have to professionalize it better. Let us put up a cohesive exertion in ensuring its training and practice are streamlined.