The Practice and Challenges of Public Relations in Ethiopian Federal Government Offices

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Addis Ababa University


Public relation s, in it s modern se nse, is bel ieved to have been started in Ethiop ia in 1960 's. Unfortunate ly, a ll the reg im es th at assumed power durin g those time s impl emented public relations fully depriving its profess ion a l nature and und e rminin g its roles. Government public relations were made to serve seem in g ly trivial tasks, such as looking after traveling process of their bos ses and organiz in g meetings. In very rare circumstances, where efforts were made to exercise practices that mi g ht approximately to the re a l practice of public relation s, the driving force behind was primarily serving the interest of the ruling class. Though so me efforts are being made rec ently so as to reform the PR practice in the co untry, the earl ier trend of practicing public relations is more or less, is sti ll in existence. In the contemporary world, the task of the governmenl to inform the public is not a matter of choice; r ath er, it is somethin g related to the concept of good governance and a must be delivered task. Especiall y in d evel oping countries like Ethiopia the task of the government to inform the public is highly attached to peace, development and democratization. From this perceptive, examining the practice of government public relations would be a study worth taking. Though public relations, a system whereby the government informs its public, has an important role to play , it is evident that public relations in the federal government offices doe s not see m to li ve up to expectation. Different stakeholders including public relations practiti oners, se riou sly complain about the problems in the practice of public relations in the government offices. Addressing th e problem requires co ndu cting a syste mati c stud y in the a rea, and to date there is paucity of academ ic re sea rch conducted in thi s context.This study therefore, aims at filling the gap. To this end, it focuses on exam ining the practices and challenges of public relations in the Federal Government Offices. A two-way symmetry of public relations theoretical framework was used to inform the study. What is more both quantitative and qualitative methods were employed in the study. Under the qualitative method, data gathering tools such as document analysis and in-depth interview were used, whereas under the quantitative method a survey questionnaire was administered to respondents selected purposely. About 92 or around 77% of the respondents returned the questionnaire. In-depth interview with 12 purposely selected public relations practitioners and government communication affairs office leaders was also conducted. The analysis of the data clearly demonstrates that though some achievements have been made through a recently initiated effort to transform government public relations, what has largely emerged is a change in form rather than in content. The practice is still shacked with some serious problems such as limiting the practice to trivial activities like organizing meetings, looking after traveling process of officials and writing minutes that impede public relations to move forward and contribute to mutual intelligibility between the government and the public. Based on the findings, a few relevant recommendations that would contribute to improving the practice of PR in the government offices were made.



Public Relations, Ethiopian Federal Government Offices