Sunday, February 6, 2011

Government PR...an introduction (part I)


The public relations in the government is quite different from PR practice in business and non-profit organizations. Government is an organ created by the statute and formed by the public. Public is a large community, complex organism collections of a diverse group of people. They can and do have profound effect on each other. Both the groups affect and are affected by their mutual interest.

The public for the government are wide and complex. It is composed of groups of doctors, lawyers, engineers, professionals, voters, political parties, opposition parties, weaker sections, labor, employees and other cross sections of society. Intimate and mutual knowledge of society’s various components is a major thrust of the government. Public vary, it is dual, complex, interlinked, so publicity and communications should be the activities of the government.

There was a time when government public relations was a neglected field, only a courtesy and received no priority. Until a few years ago, the government tended to take an insignificant role towards PR sector of the government. But governments today are finding that they cannot remain passive and cannot ignore to establish mutual relationship with the public. Government public relations was for years the neglected corner of the public relations profession. In recent years, this highly specialized area sprang into more vital prominence.


The Central and State governments across the country have established public relations departments, or expanded the existing departments to undertake the need for better relations with the public of various groups. At the same time, government departments specializing in public relations have increased. A number of developments, all of social, economic and political, have markedly altered the way and the style of government functioning. The public relations department of the government should strategically act as a liaison between the government and the public.

Governments, both Central and State, have been spending annually crores of rupees on several media to keep the public informed and maintain public relations. But still the PR efforts of many governments in serving the public have often failed in their objective to communicate and give publicity effectively about how their policies and decisions have been formulated and benefited the public.

The events of the past years, clearly indicates wide publicity and communication efforts of the government. Today, we live in an age of complicated social fabric in which religion, employees and various public groups at all levels are exerting much influence on political system, even shaking the system. So, no government can ignore the PR function. Perhaps, no other area of public relations has changed as much in recent years as Government Public Relations. And perhaps no other area is having so profound effect on the practice of PR.

There are three basic ways in which PR is practiced in a country, namely: Press Relations, Community Relations and publicity.

Considering the country in its present nature of enormous size and diversity of culture and traditions, a separate department of information, publicity and communication is necessary to establish good relations between the government and the public by inculcating a feeling of oneness throughout the country. The country, at present is at the threshold of transformation by which the process of economic development and liberalization are brought about, opening new horizons in the area of public communication and relations.  

The last few years witnessed substantial growth in publicity and communication. The importance of informing the public and convincing the public, winning public support in today’s complex socio- economic and political set up cannot be overestimated. There is a lot of information with the government on public affairs which should be revealed and extended to the public. There should be a mechanism by which information must reach them. The public information programme has several segments which need to be considered.

The Public Relations practitioner works in public information and relations department, who represents the Government in front of Public. The vital role of a Public Relations Officer is to interact with the public. Thus, the importance of PR as a link between government and its public is well recognized particularly in democratic countries like India. Today, no matter how small or large, the type of political party is ruling, PR activities in the government are complex and difficult to perform.

The government through its public relations department owes a responsibility to report to the public regularly about the activities, policies and procedures of the government through various media. The public in return, should provide support and cooperation to the government. Only through such frequent interaction and mutual relationship, both the government and public can achieve positive sense of unity.

So, the public information system and PR functions are important to the Central and State Governments including municipal corporations.  Public Relations also is equally essential in political campaigns.

Communications with the internal public of the Governments i.e. governments officials, is yet another dimension of Government Public Relations. The rivalry between branches of the government, between political parties and rivalry between the government and the press are important areas requiring world class public relations professionals. 

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