AMIDST great pomp and ceremony at the Serena Hotel Kampala, the Public Relations Association of Uganda (PRAU) recently celebrated the â€˜coming of ageâ€™ of the public relations (PR) industry in Uganda. However, the events of the past 12 months alone reve
AMIDST great pomp and ceremony at the Serena Hotel Kampala, the Public Relations Association of Uganda (PRAU) recently celebrated the â€˜coming of ageâ€™ of the public relations (PR) industry in Uganda. Excellence awards were given to its members. However, the events of the past 12 months alone reveal that there is nothing excellent about the PR industry.
In a country where the leadership is being attacked by the media on a daily basis, the role of the public relations industry is crucial. At a time when sections of the media are negatively portraying Ugandan brands and key personalities, one would imagine that the PR industry would be at their best. The irony is that the industry has slept through the greatest opportunities of our time.
A few of these opportunities are still fresh in our memories. Dr Kiyingiâ€™s wife was slain in a gruesome murder.
A media frenzy ensued but the PR people were unmoved. Subsequently, the media convicted, the court acquitted but a reputation was shattered beyond recovery.
Perhaps the most affected group as a result of this slumber has been the church. A few things went unexplained at the church of Pastor William Muwanguzi â€˜Kiweedeâ€™. Overwhelmed by the frenzy, Muwanguzi liquidated the church, was sighted at the Congo border, and that was it.
Another example is that of Pastor Jackson Ssenyonga who was asked a few questions overseas regarding child molestation allegations. Our press picked up the story and went for the kill. With no efforts at damage control, in the end the heroic pastor was turned into a villain.
Very often no one goes to trial, the case just dies in its tracks. But the headlines run for weeks.
A name built over many years is ruined in a flash, reputations are shattered, a faith is questioned and in the end, the nation is divided. With no word from the â€˜accusedâ€™ public figure, the story makers ride higher with this free press jamboree and tear their victim to shreds. And this is when the public relations industry needs to intervene. Because of the vacuum, the country has been plunged into mass hysteria.
Such desperation calls for the emergence of a homegrown PR industry to step in and promote people whose images are being tarnished. I am not saying that we should stifle the press.
Public relations should be able to stand up and speak for our icons in the face of an unprecedented media onslaught. Otherwise, there shall come a day when our children shall have no role models worth talking about in Uganda.
The writer is a Kampala based commercial attorney
Is there public relations in Uganda?