I think the awarding of licences to fifteen more television and radio stations in Malawi as announced by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority and Minister of Information, Moses Kunkuyu, creates both an opportunity and a professional challenge for PR practitioners.
For years, avenues through which organisations in Malawi convey messages to their mass publics have been limited by the small number of media houses that broadcast or publish news.
If journalists from the few media houses around were not interested in organisations’ news, such institutions were doomed in terms of taking their messages to their publics. It was therefore a big challenge for PR practitioners to help their organisations achieve their goals through communication.
However, with more media houses to appear on the scene, such a challenge is likely to be eased - there will be more mainstream journalists and more outlets for organisations’ messages. An unsuccessful news pitch with one journalist can still arouse the interest of another and compel him/her to cover the issue in the pitch.
On the other hand, the emergence of more media houses creates a performance related challenge for PR practitioners in Malawi.
Looking at the list of recipients of the new broadcasting licences, it is clear that the services of some of the new media houses will be limited to particular geographical regions. A PR practitioner seeking to use the mass media to communicate with his/her organisation’s publics will therefore need to answer a simple question before sending a news pitch to any journalist: Do the publics we would like to reach with this message fall within the geographical region to which this journalist’s media house broadcasts?
The thing is: What interests people in one region may not arouse the same levels of interest in people in other regions. Failure to carefully consider the basic question above will therefore have the potential to court PR disasters. Practitioners will be bothering some journalists with ‘boring’ news pitches. Boring not because the pitches are not newsworthy. Rather, just because the pitches may not be what the journalists assess as news for their audiences.
In news production, frequent pitches carrying issues that journalists find irrelevant to their audiences are a complete turn-off. A PR practitioner does not become effective in media relations by sending a pitch to every journalist around. A strategic practitioner avoids the label 'boring' by pitching news to journalists who are likely to cover a particular organisation or issue because their audiences will find such an issue interesting.
Let organisations as well as PR practitioners celebrate the awarding of the new broadcasting licences but at the same time get themselves prepared to practice well organised PR that will not leave journalists feeling irritated.
For stories on the awarding of the licences, visit: