Wanted: effective public communication

Tuesday December 5 2017


The importance and need for public communication as a cog in the wheel that is nation building cannot be overemphasised.

In Tanzania, we are confronted with the need for change. The business as usual attitude needed to have changed two years ago when Dr John Pombe Magufuli took office as President of the Fifth Phase government.

Magufuli’s message

Clearly, that did not happen. For those not in the know, President Magufuli’s message from the beginning was that the days of “business as usual” had come to an end.

It is a working hypothesis that, among other things, the biggest challenge which the Fifth Phase government faces is that of failing to communicate its messages effectively enough.

In other words: the Magufuli government could do with a more effective, well-coordinated and proactive communication system – especially as regards important messages which the president may want to get across.

It must be stressed over and over again that “messaging” is a most important aspect of communication – and one of the things that make for effective public communication is that it must be sustained. To sustain effective public communication, it must not be a short-term campaign but a long-term goal.

The campaign of the president for the “business unusual” mode requires that the way we have been doing business in Tanzania must change. That calls for communications professionals to incorporate that message in all their communications.

It also calls for intensive research.

There are far too many of our institutions – both public and private sector institutions – that get away with stating half-truths, unverified information and even some untruths through their websites and press releases. These include, for example, statistics about why Tanzania is a “best tourist destination”, has the “best beaches, game parks and weather...”

What is missing from many of these “bests” is the attempt to get all the facts right.

It matters not that politicians have said it. As they say: “If you ‘torture’ the data, they’ll give you what you want!”

It is great that communication professionals have come up with the Public Relations Society of Tanzania (PRST) whose task, among others, will be to regulate the communications profession.

More than others, communication professionals must now produce evidence-based on research. They must end thinking in the box, and become leaders. This includes advising their bosses that, for Tanzania – and, indeed for any other country – to change for the better, strategic communications must be at the centre of all that they do.

Communication professionals need much more than the ability to organise press briefings. They must be able to understand the context within which communication ought to be done.

Industrialisation policy

If we have an industrialisation policy: what is the context within which the industrialisation should be done? In what way can well-researched backgrounders assist in illuminating where Tanzania has come from – and where the country is headed?

Those who are communicators in the education sector must harmonise the gaps and shortcomings of that sector with the education’s long-term goals.

After all, we already know that one of the weakest aspects in the Education sector is poor regulatory frameworks. Among other things, this has resulted in virtually any Tom, Dick and Harry starting up a higher-learning institution as a lucrative business in Tanzania.

Do more

In the event, we expect PRST to do more than regulate. The society must be a cog in the wheel of progress for the communications business.