It is the story of a growing industry in a young and rapidly expanding African economy. The story has all the ingredients of a classic thriller. There are wizened old heads with decades of experience and a new wave of sharp, savvy Young Turks collaborating with them to drive their craft into the future. There are new platforms for advancement, new challenges to master, new markets to penetrate and a renewed sense of optimism around a previously stolid and static industry.
*Enter the villain* The villains actually.
They are a group of industry insiders and practitioners described by CEO BHM Group Ayeni Adekunle as “individuals who should be working to develop an industry from which they profit.” Defying the legal and ethical implications of practicing without being registered and licensed by NIPR and PRCAN, the two legally recognized bodies regulating PR practice in Nigeria, these villains are opening the doors to quacks, illegal practitioners and unregistered foreign agencies to take over the industry, destroy its credibility and with it the industry as a whole.
While PRCAN and NIPR insist in the face of concerted and fierce attacks, that the law and due process must be respected, the villains continue practicing illegally without any repercussions. Against this backdrop, the heroes appear.
Dressed in Black, sporting black bandanas, tattoos, piercings and baseball caps, they call themselves “Bandits”. BHM Bandits.
Led by Ayeni Adekunle who ironically only ever seems to appear in white, they storm social media with the hashtag #PRisDead, eliciting several responses ranging from applause to fury. Not content with generating such a huge reaction, they go a step further and hold a memorial service for PR, complete with black outfits, obituaries and a condolence register.
The service is attended by several Marketing Communications industry professionals including CEO X3M Ideas Steve Babaeko, CEO CMC Connect Yomi Badejo Okusanya and Funsho Arogundade of PM News.
In front of the Motlew crew of bowtie suits and bandana earrings, Ayeni steps out and delivers this rousing speech:
“NIPR was established in 1963, and chartered in 1990 by Decree No 16 to regulate the practice of public relations and monitor professional conducts through an established code of ethics and professional conduct regime. The law stipulates standard academic and professional qualifications for admission into the institute. A 22-man governing council elects the president every two years.
PRCAN was established by an NIPR byelaw of 1993. The association was also registered as a not-for-profit organization in 2007. Just like NIPR, PRCAN was set up to promote the professional practice of public relations in Nigeria.
As both organizations work to ensure that individuals and organizations that are not certified do not parade themselves as professionals, there has been a vehement attack on both bodies and their executives, by those – as I said earlier – who should be working to develop an industry from which they profit.
Having followed the discussions around NIPR and PRCAN’s letters to Guinness Nigeria and MTN requesting they do not work with non-accredited agencies, and having followed media reports on the matter, I am convinced the reputation of our entire industry is being dragged in the mire, by this unnecessary campaign. NIPR and PRCAN are not being unrealistic in their stand that having won PR accounts already; the agencies concerned must regularize their papers with the associations. The request, I am assured by PRCAN excos, is not for their contracts to be terminated, but for them to do what is appropriate and sort out relevant memberships. I do not think it is too much to ask from agencies actually working in public relations and representing clients who themselves mostly identify with relevant associations – be it NIPR or APCON or PRCAN.
To do otherwise, and instead embark on a war against NIPR and PRCAN is, to put it mildly, bite the finger that’s feeding you.
We have bigger battles to fight as an industry. It’s time to get together and put in the work required to guarantee our future. If we continue to put personal interests, ego, and sentiments ahead of the industry’s interest, it will remain impossible for us to build the kind of ecosystem that can ensure PR does not die a painful death.”
Take your sides. The battle line is drawn!