Sarah Kagingo, the President of Public Relations Association of Uganda (PRAU), has said the PRAU leadership is focused on ensuring PR professionals in Uganda earn their place in the boardroom.
She was Friday speaking at the first “PR Masterclass” on ‘Media Relations – Case of the Brown Envelope’, organised by PRAU and held at Makerere University College of Engineering, Design, Art & Technology (CEDAT).
According to Kagingo, some CEOs imagine the role of PR professionals is to get their bosses onto headers of major publications and issue press releases.
“Our leadership is focused on ensuring that PR contributes to strategic thought leadership in Uganda. I urge you all to do more, beyond the brands you manage and organisations you offer PR services,” she noted.
She added: “We’ve got a duty to tell African stories from our perspective. When Africa is portrayed as all doom and gloom, all sectors are affected.”
Kagingo thanked her colleagues of the Governing Council for efforts to grow the PR profession that will earn PR practitioners a place in the boardroom.
“When Dennis [Juuko] penned an article describing PR practitioners as chair lifters, it was a challenge to us to change mindsets about PR in Uganda,” she pointed out.
Kagingo noted that some organisations’ PR departments have one staff, saying the PRO is also the photographer and fixer of pull up banners.
Why the brown envelope syndrome?
Juuko, a Communication and visibility consultant with more than 15 years of experience who was also the guest speaker, said the issue of the brown envelope is encompassed in much bigger issues regarding the economy.
He said while media houses get money from sales and advertisers, some don’t bother with issues that affect journalists.
To him, what journalists receive from the public are “transactional costs” because humanitarianism in journalism doesn’t exist.
He said even the meagre salaries they are paid don’t come on time.
“Who owns the media house and what kind of stories to publish, product reviews and editorial policies in place…when is it a brown envelope and when is it not and when should we give it?” were the issues Juuko raised.
A graduate of Makerere and Rhodes Universities, Juuko has taught journalism in two East African universities and writes a weekly blog titled “Out to Lunch”.
An advisor to the Katikkiro of Buganda Kingdom, Juuko says journalism is very expensive and the public too can contribute citing the guardian that asks for subscriptions.
“We need to focus on events that are news worthy. Identify the stories and good story angles. If you have a good story, journalists will cover it,” he advised PR practitioners.
He also encouraged media owners to invest in journalism so that journalists stay in the newsroom.
PR guru and director at SKPR Sheila Kangwagye blamed the brown envelope syndrome on editors who act like gods and don’t want to interact with PR people.
“To be honest, some of the editors are god-like. This creates the Brown Envelope syndrome as we are then left to create a relationship with reporters whichever way. What system can we both (PR & media) put in practice?” she wondered.