Public Relations and Communications


On November 11, 2014, I visited the above bank to make some withdrawals. I had been there at 11am and was told that I couldn’t make the withdrawals because the SYSTEM/SERVER was down. So all other operations were ceased. Most of the cashiers were not behind the counter and the customers, not a large number though, were left stranded in the main banking hall calmly glued to their seats. I needed this money very urgently because I had to travel  the night of that day to attend to an important appointment.
Later I left the banking hall home because I was informed by one of the officials that the system would not be restored until four hours time. One other customer told me she had reported at the bank for some transactions as early as 8:30am and had been told the same story.
When I returned to the bank at around 3pm to verify whether operations have been restored, nothing had changed. The server was still down. This infuriated the customers, to the extend that some of them would murmur, and complain bitterly about the poor services been rendered by the bank. Authorities and officials of the bank were conspicuously silent during this process. As I sat quietly on one of the seats, I told a lady sitting on my right hand side, “authorities here must step out boldly and tell the customers or their clients something rather than sitting down mute on the matter”. I told her authorities here in this bank owe their customers some explanations as to why the system was failing down.  For the purposes of this analysis on PR, these were some of the complains and comments I captured, which came out of the customers when the bank did not resolved whatever challenges confronting them at that point in time;

1.      Today it will be Aluta(chaos, mayhem) here.
2.      Government has taken all our money away for politics and campaign because NIB is a state owned bank or government have some shares in it.
3.      After today, I will close my account
4.      It’s only the state/government owned banks who behave this way, the private banks are well organized. The state banks such as Ghana Commercial Bank(GCB) and Agricultural Development Bank(ADB) are worst culprits.
5.      Ghana Commercial Bank has beaten National Investment Bank to it today.
6.      Won’t they come and explain something to us now?
7.      I have one of Ark FM’s presenter’s mobile number I want to call and inform them about this.
8.      I have brought my money for you to keep that whenever I need it I will come for it. What business have you to tell me your system is down?

When frustration set in, one customer who was provoked stood up furiously and rushed to demand some explanation from one of the officials at his desk. The official only told him “you wait for a while things will be alright”. In all these ordeal, the Bank Manager was seen walking up and down the hall without uttering a word. I spotted him in an instant, checking whether one of the air-conditioners were working. At a point, I wanted to get out of the hall for fear of facing vandalisation that could possibly emanate from some of the customers, some of whose anger had risen to a peak.  
My mind went back to one thing. I told the sister sitting right beside me that, we must be thankful to God the bank is situated in a different environment which is not radical, violent and militant. Else, it could have been another story. Equipment and facilities in the bank's offices could have been vandalised by these seemingly angry customers who were threatening to go on rampage. I wanted to fly out of the banking hall at a point. I felt this was bad customer relations.

I realized the honorable thing was for the officials to have come out to explain issues to the understanding of  the worried and concerned customers. These could have calmed tension rather than keeping mute over very serious matters. Yes, money matters are extremely serious matters. When they thought answers were not forthcoming some of them wanted to react in a rather odd and violent manner which could have spelt disaster for the bank’s image and reputation. I hope the authorities of the bank are taking note. Customers must never be taken for granted.

NB: Readers of the content of this blog are to note that these views do not reflect the opinions of any political party, interest group or individual. It presents an objective and a non-partisan approach in the analysis and presentation of national and international issues as they occur. It details the candid opinion of the author and blogger.

The 8th or 9th January, 2014 Edition of either the Times or Daily Graphic newspaper reported of the Ghana Education Service non-payment of some teachers salaries posted to serve in some communities in Ghana for the past three years. The report suggested that the teachers disturbed by the current trend of event were considering withdrawing their services in the areas in question.
Whatever reasons accounts for the delays in the payment of the salaries, it’s up to the leaders and their conscience.    
But is it not disheartening and disgusting hearing these kinds of stories, particularly at this stage of Ghana’s development when education has become so very critical and crucial to national development , and as the country is trying to consolidate its fledgling democracy, having emerged from an era of coup d’ etats and revolution, to presently  where it stands in the comity of nations.
There’s no denying the fact that education is the bedrock of development of every nation, and a necessary ingredient vital for propelling national development agenda. In view of this, adequate care and attention must be given to it by stakeholders to prevent its total collapse. We do not outrightly condemn leaders and their efforts at promoting quality education. However it’s the concern of many Ghanaians that appropriate measures  are put  in place to make the  system work to wholistically and adequately address concerns in that area.
In relating this to the late Dr. Kwegyir Aggrey’s famous statement on education as regards leaders attitude to it currently, without attempting to ignite any debate on gender imbalances and disparities in education,  I wonder what the problem is with our leaders on the educational front, if this is not a clear case of sabotaging the good intention and efforts of government in promoting quality education.
It’s absolutely unthinkable, to me, how someone’s salary can be hoarded for a period of three years after his/her appointment. Incredible.
 How will they feel if, these people and their children were to find themselves in similar condition? How on earth would they ever sit down totally unconcerned and oblivious to the very fact that some teachers salaries have been delayed for three years? I think it’s  nothing but insensitivity and share wickedness or a lack of fellow feeling that would make anybody behave in such a manner towards his fellow human being.         

This type of stories obviously goes along way to discredit the government in power. Is it not justifiable when polling stations record low voter turn-out during elections with this sort of behavior? People at the helm of affairs including some politicians, and political appointees alike just fail to live up to meet the expectations of the people who entrust them with power and responsibility in order to meet their collective aspirations. And at the end of the day, if majority of these people fail to turn up to vote, they(politicians) come up to blame WHO for not making the system work.
The GES seriously needs to put its house in order. There’s weak institutional monitoring mechanism to supervise and effectively monitor  and coordinate activities in the educational sector. How can some people be denied their pay when they are in the same profession?  This laxity accounts for the reason why we can hear such a story. And absolutely nothing else. So in the long run a very negative, distasteful and poisonous impression is created out there to mean or suggest that there seem not to be a headway in our educational aspirations and objectives. But this is not the case at all. Where will the development of the nation stand and what will it gain and benefit when people lose an interest in the teaching profession? What does this leave the young ones who are coming? It will obviously have dire consequences and implications for the individuals and the state at large. The economic security and leadership potential of individuals, among other things, in that state, you will agree with me, will definitely be threatened, endangered and jeopardized. Unless these leaders expect to rise up one day to find trees and stones all around running the affairs of this nation. Something I’m not even dreaming of and can’t imagine.     
You will agree with me that these stories turn to make the government of the day also very unpopular, in that they show totally lack of interest for the welfare of teachers in the country. In looking  at this issue from a PR perspective, I will first want to take it from the principle of REPUTATION MANAGEMENT.
The  GES must first of all know that as the sole institution in charge of regulating, administering and overseeing the activities of educational institutions in Ghana. It must bear in mind that it has the sole responsibility of projecting a positive image of teachers and the teaching profession in general, particularly,  at this crucial stage of national development. By so doing, teaching will be made attractive to those who want to venture into it.
Already, the teachers’ job is reeling with the perception that they work under poor condition of service and unattractive remuneration, an image and ‘a special slur’ which they themselves are struggling and fighting to repair if not reverse the trend. For which reasons a lot of people don’t want to opt for teaching as a career.

                           THE PR SOLUTION
The GES from where it operates in Accra, must consider restructuring its administrative outlook and procedure by incorporating and mainstreaming PR activities and procedures in its operations to cover the districts, municipal and metropolitan directorates of education. It is a good thing to have a PR Office in its Accra office but this is not enough.  It should cast its net wider and extend its PR activities from Accra to reach the municipal, metropolitan and district directorate of education. How can this be done?
It must impress on the Ministry of Education to enter into some form of partnership and an agreement with the Ghana Institute of Journalism(GIJ) to supply the GES with some number of PR or Communication professionals and practitioners. Depending on the nature and terms of agreement and understanding among the parties and stakeholders involved, these PR officers will be deployed to the various district and municipal directorate of education across the nation. The mode of posting these officers to the district, metropolitan and municipal assemblies may follow the pattern of the National Service Scheme(NSS) only that it will be different in administration as compared to that of the NSS.
As part of their PR duties, these PR Officers will advise and offer counsel to the management of such directorates or authorities there as practitioners about their normal work. They may offer good advise mainly on matters dealing with how to relate with their external publics(including teachers) on issues pertaining to conflict prevention and reduction and management as pertained to sectoral/labour front  as well as labour disputes settlement.
So that when issues about the non-payment of teachers salaries or any other matters which affect the welfare of teachers comes up or before they do, these PR officers at the district and municipal assemblies may raise a red flag about development on the ground by first coordinating, notifying or communicating with its PR Office in Accra well in advance. Or to hint the Accra offices of a looming/possible protest or agitation by teachers, on how to confront or address the situation internally from a PR perspective before it spills over into the media.
In other instances, they may not necessarily have to contact the Accra Office to deal with any matter, if there’s a workable plan or existing framework approved by the Head in Accra already laid down to resolve such outstanding matters.
For example, in addressing the problem of non-payment of salaries due teachers, the PR Office of the GES can develop or design a PAYMENT CLEARANCE FORM which can be signed monthly by all teachers after the collection and payment of their salaries at the district, municipal and metropolitan directorate of education. This forms can be placed at the banks where they go to claim their cash and they are made to sign the form after withdrawing their money. The process calls for some collaboration between the GES and the banks where the teachers take their salaries from. By so doing,  they are able to keep track of those receiving monthly salaries and those who are not. And the issues which may arise this can be dealt with right there before it gets over into  the media.  This process can be well planned and coordinated efficiently by those parties involved.        
When the issues are well controlled and managed from the top(GES Head Office) to the bottom(District Offices), without allowing it to get into the media, I’m of the strong believe and sound opinion that, it will help maintain, protect and even enhanced the good image of the Service at that level, the teaching profession as well as the teachers themselves. This will also check the public from forming any generalized negative opinion about the profession, when the issues can be prevented from getting to the Press in the initial stages. Good reputation is therefore managed right there when this practice is sustained for a long period of time.
It’s then that the teaching profession can continue to become attractive to people. This will also save the government from being discredited and unpopular. It will serve the government great interest. If the sector enjoys good reputation, and give some meaning and credence to its much touted mantra of promoting the teachers’profession and commitment towards providing quality education. So when teachers are posted to serve they will not feel reluctant to refuse accepting postings to communities, especially rural areas on unfounded bases. So much work still remains to be done in terms of reputation management and redeeming the sunken image of the teaching profession. Reputation management is very essential and therefore key in the fight towards redeeming the image crisis characterizing  the profession. A word to a wise is enough.

1 comment:

  1. this is very important. authorities must take note