The Practice of Government Public Relations: A Case Study of Ethiopian Government Communication Affairs Office

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Addis Ababa University


The purpose of this study is to examine whether the PR and communication practices of the Ethiopian GCAO is responsive to the diverse information needs of the public. It attempts to explore the efforts and the overriding challenges the GCAO is facing to reach out and communicate with citizens in concomitant with the constitution’s stipulated rights. Moreover, the study will be conducted based on the two way symmetric public relations model, where public relations departments give equal emphasis to the interest of the public as that of the institutions. In-depth interview and document analysis are tools used to conduct this study. With regard to in-depth interviews, six key informants were selected by the researcher in consultation with the organization being studied. The informants were selected by their assumed critical role to play in the Government Communication Affairs Office. Generally, as a qualitative research, data was gathered in the aforementioned tools and interpretive analysis was made. While collecting, analyzing and interpretation of the data, common procedures were observed. In the in-depth interviews, for example, consensual semi-structured interviews were recorded and additional notes were taken to strengthen them. The recorded interviews in turn were transcribed; thematic areas were translated into English by the researcher and narrated; the data were categorized into themes; and interpretive analysis was made afterwards. As to the document analysis, four useful documents supporting the research were reviewed all of which have to do with government public relations, media and communication practices either directly or indirectly related with GCAO and the country as well. This was purposely done to gain an insight into the environment in which the public relations practices are conducted in government organizations of which one is GCAO of Ethiopia. The findings of this research have revealed two things. Firstly, they ascertained the existence of challenges in the Office which has kept perceptions about government public relations very distorted among the public. Second, despite achievements to transform government public relations, what has largely emerged is a change in formrather than in content as compared with past public relations practices. Factors ranging from lack of transparency, poor understanding of PR role, and non recognition of PR as a management function are challenges identified. Additionally, political, economic and cultural conditions as well and poor information and communication infrastructures coupled with legal structures are other factors hampering the progress of government public relations practices.Therefore, the researcher finally recommended GCAO to work in a professional and responsible manner and, for instance it should focus on education based assignments rather than appointing the well-connected to positions they do not merit. The process of “building a society enriched with information and actively participate in the country’s affairs” as a stated goal cannot be achieved without clearly defined policy and communication strategies as well.



Practice of Government, Public Relations