Examining critically the socio economic impact of public relations in Nigeria


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According to Wikipedia,Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organization) and the public. Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment This differentiates it from advertising as a form of marketing communications.

Modern public relations (PR) practices first became popular in the United States in the early 1920s with the publication of Edward Bernays’s influential text (Nessmann, 1995) entitled ‘The Crystallization of Public Opinion’. Since then, the practice and management of public relations became a global enterprise (Sriramesh and Verčič, 2002; Culbertson, 1996) that cannot be ignored. Within a short period, public relations gained popularity not only in the United States but also amongst foreign governments (Kunczic, 2003) and multinational firms (Olasky, 1987; Hutton et. al, 2001; Wakefield, 2000; Sriramesh, 1996). Today, public relations are practiced in most countries around the world and more importantly in non-western developing countries (Al-Enad, 1990).

The popularity enjoyed by this discipline throughout the world might have encouraged the introduction of a number of public relations and communication journals devoted to the understanding of this discipline in western countries. An important subject of discourse in these journals is the history of public relations and how this profession developed in the United States (Cutlip, 1999; Pearson, 1990), the United Kingdom (Davis, 2000) and other western countries (Nessmann, 1995, 2000).

A comprehensive review of works published in these journals (i.e. Public Relations Quarterly, Public Relations Review, Journal of Communication Management, and Journal of Public Relations Research etc) indicates that conceptual literature on how public relations practices grew and developed in non-western countries is limited. Majority of works on this subject has been dominated by how this discipline developed in western countries (Hoy, 2007; DeLorme and Fedler, 2004; Pearson, 1990; Nessmann, 1995; L’Etang, 1999; 2002; Grunig, 2001; Miller and Dinan, 2000; Brody, 2005; Ihator, 2004). This paper aims to fill this gap. Specifically, this study makes an attempt to trace the history and development use of public relations in Nigeria during and after the post-colonial era.

The reason for undertaking a study of this nature is to provide insight into the development of public relations in a cultural context that is foreign to western academics. Also, this study was undertaken by the desire to give insights into one of the least studied history of industry evolution. Insights into the history, growth and development of public relations in Nigeria will provide academics, practitioners and researchers with a fuller and robust picture of issues that influenced the development of public relations in African context. This allows academics and researchers to gain a more balanced view of issues and events that impact the development of public relations globally. 

This study is important and valuable for a number of reasons. It provides a true position of how the pursuit of public relations practices started in Nigeria and captures the array of the critical historical events that have been omitted by other works. Importantly, this allows researchers to gain broader insight into the uses, theory, history, development, management and practice of public relations. It serves as an ideal conceptual background for scholars interested in comparative analysis and research material for students writing a thesis or dissertation on the history of public relations.

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