Public Relations should be studied as a complete discipline essential to showcase the achievements and work undertaken by various institutions. G H Gurkhoo writes on the role of PR in Universities.
Everywhere importance of PR is being increasingly felt. An organization should be in a position to tell the people about their achievements and performances. Good PR means educating, informing and motivating masses about the policies of an organization, its future programmes and constructive approaches. In other words PR means development of cordial, equitable and profitable relations between an organization and the public it serves. It is a continuing process by which the management of an organization endeavours to obtain the goodwill and understanding of its customers and public at large through all means of expression.
In the institutions of higher learning like Universities, Public Relations has a vital role to play. In view of the fast changing development in different fields of education in underdeveloped societies like ours, one can't ignore its importance and this can be fulfilled if there is a regular traffic of Information and consultation between the citadels of knowledge and the users of technology. PR and dissemination of information compliment each other. These are interrelated and cannot be viewed in isolation. The job of PR is tough in the sense that he can not please everybody especially those aspiring for cheap publicity. He shall have to be cautious, vigilant enough to use PR techniques; otherwise he may lose credibility which ultimately could prove detrimental for the image of the client institution and for the PR activities. However he must have control on his utterances, for a loose utterance some times results in a serous problem. His only expectation is that he should always be trusted. Surely a person cannot have a friend better than him. There are many practical obstacles on the path of PR which the PRO may face. For instance in 1983-84 a national seminar under the auspices of the P G Department of Chemistry, University of Kashmir was held in which eminent scholars and scientists from reputed institutes of India participated. The Vice-Chancellor Prof. Wahid-ud-Din Malik who was also an eminent scholar, scientist and a great researcher took keen interest to see to it that the seminar was a success. Though the seminar concluded quite satisfactorily and successfully but it could not get proper treatment in the media owing to sabotage by the aspirants not in the good books of the then Vice-Chancellor. In 1985, with the arrival of new Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Manzoor-ul-Alam's interview regarding future programmes of the University and prospectus of youth appeared in one of the local leading Urdu Daily. The feedback was good. Everyone within and outside the campus appreciated the contents of the interview except one senior Professor who called on the Vice-Chancellor and vehemently criticized the PR unit for the publication of the interview though it was a routine exercise. It was because the said Professor who had acted as the officiating Vice-Chancellor for sometime was not happy with the local press as the news about his officiating Vice-Chancellorship did not come in the media, though after some time he got berth easily in the central cabinet as Union Education Minister. Since the new Vice-Chancellor at the initial stage was not acquainted with the climate and atmosphere of Kashmir, he doubted the integrity of the PRO for a while but one of the senior Dean faculties and Dean Students Welfare stood by the PRO and his associate junior editor of DSW office.
Such can be the problems which the PRO may have to face. Besides I have experienced many other technical problems later in 90's; the difficult period for obvious reasons in the capacity as Coordinator PR Centre, University of Kashmir. Some of the problems are due to lack of coordination, lack of adequate budget and necessary facilities. These can also be the problems on the path of PR. Some persons who are at the helm of affairs in an Institution are not aware of the importance of the PR and usually do not appreciate the need and necessity of maintaining it. They usually avoid co-ordination and are not impartial, instead giving partial viewpoint, and they also give partial picture of the whole scenario. Evaluation of PR is complex and its measurement does not always offer mathematical answers. The PRO can overcome all these obstacles if he has tolerance and intellectual courage.
In J&K we have about half a dozen Universities and dozens of Institutes both professional and non-professional. Some universities and Institutes which have acquired maturity in the sense of development are like mirrors which reflect the scene and have a dual role to perform – to reflect the social scene and give direction to the society. But due to poor facilities of PR and information set-up in these institutions, no body among the people is fully aware about their work and achievements. Some universities no doubt have maintained steady progress over the past several years but the fact is that these activities and achievements are still in camera which need to be fully exposed before a common man. Knowledge of science, technology, management and other disciplines, having direct or indirect bearing on the development of the state is with educated, wealthy and urban sector only. In the fast changing world of today when the scientific and other knowledge has distinct effect on the life of community or individual, it is Imperative for the Institution to educate the people and to help them to make their lives easier and worthwhile.
Education, as we know, is viewed in the modern society as an organized effort of imparting skills, attitudes and activities that make up the blue print of the society. Public Relations Is not only the function of a single functionary known as PRO. It is in fact an attitude of life and it has to be developed by every educated, responsible and respected person who is associated with an institution of public welfare like university. The academicians who are in the unique position should come forward as torchbearers of the society and show their sympathy towards their less fortunate fellow citizens. The Governor of J&K State, Chancellor Universities Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Shri S K Sinha while inaugurating two day seminar on Backyard Poultry forming and women empowerment at SK University said that the universities are not only beneficial for the students but for society as a whole in terms of disseminating knowledge and technology, (Greater Kashmir, 26-10-2007). This is a fact and all this can be possible if our universities and higher educational Institutions have full-fledged, equipped PR and Information Centres with all amenities available under one roof. Where these facilities are available, it is the students, scholars, teachers and public at large that can have easy access to the useful achievements and results of various programmes of these institutions. It would be injustice to ignore the fact that SK University of Science and Technology has made strides in various fields and usually utilizes the services of electronic media having wide coverage to apprise the common man about new ways and devices of farming, promotion of agriculture, horticulture and floriculture. The power inherent in communication through electronic media i.e. radio and TV is evident. It has the capacity to reach out to a large section of masses at any place and anywhere. Their appeal is universal, for everyone can receive messages, literate and illiterate alike. They have the power to inform, to persuade, to educate and to entertain.
The Universities of Kashmir and Jammu, premier institutions of higher learning of the State no doubt have contributed a lot for the development of education and have devoted a great deal of their resources for research activities in various fields. But the results and the achievements of these institutions are confined within the four walls of the respective departments or research centres. These universities, though acquired maturity in the sense of development, but lack complete PR-cum-Information Centre. It is high time that these PR centres be strengthened and ameliorated so that, among other things, it would enable:
a) to project the image of the institution within and outside the institution b) to promote in public mind an interest for science and technology and develop scientific awareness in the masses c) to apprise the people to utilize locally available resources in their environment and to live more harmoniously with nature and society d) to facilitate academicians to utilize services of PR Centre as comfortable forum and as torch bearers. e) To bridge the gap between public and professional experts in respect of scientific knowledge and its application. The universities thus can come close to the society to which these belong.
(The author is Ex-Cultural officer, Kashmir University. He has led student groups to outside state and overseas for debates and other cultural programmes)