The Permanent Secretary, Edo State Ministry of Communication and Orientation, Barr. Solomon Imohiosen, has emphasised that public relations is a critical factor in crisis management.

He stated this during the 2023 Annual Forum of the State Information Chapel, one out of the 15 chapels of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Edo State Council, which held at the John Odigie Oyegun Public Service Academy in Benin City.

Imohiosen, who was chairman of the occasion, also said Information/Media Officers are the visible arm of government and part of the building blocks of providing a positive image for the government and also play a critical role in building public trust through reportage. He urged the communicators to present facts and reports in unambiguous and clear languages, and free from speculations.

The theme of the forum, ‘Public relations; an important tool for crisis management’, according to the organizers, is aimed at enlightening Information/Media/Public Relations Officers as well as media practitioners about their role in crisis management while fostering a healthy relationship between the media and the various stakeholders of the society.

Delivering a lecture on the ‘Place of public relations in crises management’ at the event, the guest speaker and Head, Mass Communication Department, University of Benin, Dr. Daniel Ekharaefo, noted that Public Relations Officers play a vital role in crisis management as they act as the first port of call of information whenever there is a crisis.

He noted that effective crisis management involves several key elements which include preparedness, rapid response, clear and consistent messaging, stakeholder engagement, media relations, monitoring and adaptation as well as post-crisis evaluation.

Dr. Ekharaefo therefore, urged media officers to utilize the knowledge gained from the forum to enhance their media relation skills.

Similarly, the Director General of the John Odigie Oyegun Public Service Academy, Ms. Precious Imuwahen Ajoonu, also a guest speaker at the event, stated that media officers ought to develop a crisis management plan as a mitigating strategy before crises emerge.

Ajoonu said that poor public relations can be detrimental to the success of government’s plans and most times have financial implications for firms in the private sector. She emphasised the need for Public Relations Officers to be proactive, transparent, and adaptive in their approach to managing crisis.

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The Chairman of NUJ, Edo State Council, Comrade Festus Alenkhe, stressed the need for Public Relations Officers and journalists in the state to always upgrade their skills and knowledge in the field of journalism. He noted that journalism is a noble profession and that practitioners should exercise restraint while ensuring that their reports are verified before publication to guard against fake news.

In their separate remarks, two retired Permanent Secretaries in the Ministry of Communication and Orientation, Mr Lucky Wasa and Mr. Peter Aibueku, who were among the distinguished guests, commended the leadership of the State Information Chapel for their foresight in organizing the forum, just as they pledged their support towards the advancement of the Chapel.

In his goodwill message, the Managing Director, of Edo State Investment Promotion Office, Mr. Kelvin Uwaibi, enjoined Information Officers to leverage technology and channels of communications, particularly social media platforms, and effective feedback mechanisms to engage their audience or stakeholders.

Earlier in her speech, the Chairman of the State Information Chapel, Mrs. Nekpen Maureen Nwine, said that the event was aimed at “exposing us to the rudiments of public relations and its effects in managing crises that may arise either at our scheduled assignments or our spheres of influences”.

“At one time or the other during the course of our service years, we might have to deal with crises which become so as a result of unresolved issues, and as Information Officers, one would be expected to handle such seamlessly, hence the theme of this year’s forum” she noted.

Mrs. Nwine thanked all the dignitaries present and implored the Information Officers as well as all journalists present to make the most of the event by way of making contributions and asking questions.

The event also featured interactive, mind games, brain teasers, and comedy sessions.

Other dignitaries and participants at the event included Mrs. Birgitta Okodugha, Permanent Secretary, Information Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), Mrs. Omosede Wilson Imogan, Director Publication and Documentation, Ministry of Communication and Orientation, Mr. Odion Daniel, Director of Communication, Ministry of Communication and Orientation, Mrs. Rose Imonikhe, Director, Orientation Department, Ministry of Communication and Orientation, members of the State Executive Council as well as representatives from all the Chapels of NUJ, Edo State Council.