Third Eye

Proposed PR bill will professionalise the practice

Thursday, October 14th, 2021 00:00 |
Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union secretary general Dr Davji Bhimji Atellah. Photo/PD/File

Sylvia Mwichuli  

What would you do if you went to the doctor and realised he isn’t licensed by the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Council (KMPDC)? You would look for another doctor, right?

This is because we believe the council ensures all practicing doctors meet the set threshold.

The same should apply for PR practitioners and that is where the proposed Institute of Public Relations and Communication Management (IPRAC) bill comes in. 

Intensive deliberations, as well as comparative analysis of other jurisdictions like the legal, accounting, audit, procurement, human resource and medicine, emphasized the need for us to establish a robust legal and regulatory framework for the PR profession.

These concerted efforts birthed the Policy on Public Relations and Communication Management as well as the Institute of Public Relations and Communication Management Bill, 2019. 

I know there have been concerns on why the PR profession needs to be regulated.

The answer is simple: order, accountability and standards. Every profession worth its name needs structure and order and the PR’s isn’t any different.

So, what do PR professionals do, or, what is PR you might ask? PR is the strategic planning, execution and evaluation of internal and external communication to enhance mutually beneficial relationships with key stakeholders and manage reputation to meet organisational objectives. 

The work that PR professionals do goes way beyond writing press releases and organising events.

The PR function is an integral part of strategic management. We are the custodians of organisations’ image and reputation—a big and important role that needs professionals. 

Kenya has a vibrant PR and communication management industry but lacks a legal framework to regulate the manner in which professionals conduct the practice.

This, together with the lack of a coherent understanding of the PR and communication management practice, has subjected the industry to manipulation, resulting in negative perceptions that have injured the profession.

It also poses a challenge to implementing Article 35 of the Constitution and the Access to Information Act, 2016.

What the bill proposes is mechanisms to enforce the code of conduct for the practitioners as well as standards for training. 

Despite the fact that the proposed law comes in the wake of efforts to align all legislation to the Constitution, the bill emphasizes the need to establish the IPRAC, the examinations board and the registration and disciplinary statutory committees.

The institute will be expected to regulate and promote the practice of PR and communication management in Kenya, while the exams Board will administer professional tests to individuals wishing to join the profession.

The registration committee is expected to discharge its mandate by ensuring those joining the profession meet minimum entry requirements.

The disciplinary and ethics committee is expected to enforce the code of conduct and act as a tribunal on professional matters. 

The bill proposes the enforcement of a continuous professional development programme, as a mandatory requirement to membership renewal.

This will help cure the unprofessionalism that has since infected the profession; giving experts a platform to operate on the same level of respect with peers in legal and accounting sectors.

We believe the stringent measures will bring sanity to the profession and inject competence and professionalism into the industry.

We aren’t closing the door on anyone. Far from it! What we are saying is, look, these are the entry requirements and procedures for becoming a licensed PR and communication management practitioner.

If you want to practice and don’t have the requisite background training, there are professional courses that are will be offered through a partnership with Kenya Accountants and Secretaries National Examinations Board to ensure appropriate certification.  

 All prospective members will be required to meet requirements as set out in the bill and the registration process will be undertaken by a statutory committee, the registration committee, which will issue practising certificates to eligible members. — The writer is the CEO of Public Relations Society of Kenya  — @prskkenya

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