While we all agree that PR is a management function that establishes and maintains two-way, mutual relationships and communication between an organisation and its publics and stakeholders, we often forget that we require emotional intelligence to be able to manage such relationships very well. That is why employers still focus on recruiting people who can only write, speak or have good grades for the position of PR ,without looking at the emotional competence of these prospective employees. Disaster has been the end result, because if one has a PR specialist who cannot attend to the emotional demands of clients, journalists, competitors, regulatory authorities, colleagues among others, there is a great a disaster knocking on the door.
There is nowhere emotional intelligence is most needed in public relations than in the area of crisis management, media relations and community relations. In the area of media relations, it is only emotional competence that will enable one to respond ‘nicely’ when journalist publishes negative stories concerning one’s brand. I have heard some media relations specialists threatening to sue journalists for publishing a negative story against their brands. When I hear such comments, I am baffled, because even lawyers are now realising that there are various alternative mechanisms, outside the law court, to settle cases amicably. So for me, every public relations should do everything to correct journalists respectably when stories are negative. Often time, if one takes time out to call out such journalists, one may be surprised to see that such stories were done in ignorance, not out of malice. According to the PR legend, Jefkins, it is the responsibility of public relations specialists to convert every negative situation, including journalistic ignorance, to positive one through knowledge sharing mechanism.
We should not forget that every PR practitioner is a communication specialist. And that communication is a process of exchanging ideas, feelings and messages through verbal and non-verbal mechanisms. It is not the place of PR practitioners to exchange negative messages or emotions. That is where emotional intelligence comes in. One interesting thing about emotional quotient (EQ) is that it is not inborn; it can be learnt.
Emotional intelligence should be a requirement for community relations specialists managing diverse community of stakeholders. It will be a reckless thing for a community relations practitioner not to learn to relate intelligently with opinion leaders, youth, women and other members of publics whose organisation interacts with. The truth is that public relations is really a people-oriented profession. And people are driven by emotion, whether positive or negative. Having this line of thought, a PR practitioner, Courtney Lukitsch stated in the 2016 May Edition of Adweek that emotional intelligence is imperative for every PR professional. Lukitsch said: “PR professionals are constantly working in groups, whether it is within their own agency or with clients. Having a high EQ is integral in the PR industry in order to succeed. Taking the time to cultivate emotional intelligence within an agency, as well as seeking out new hires with higher EQs, will propel your agency forward.”
Having looked at the relevance of emotional intelligence on effective public relations, I think it is high time, the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), communication teachers and employers begin to emphasise this aspect of human relations in teaching public relations.