A Study of the Role of Public Relations Practitioners in the 2020 Political Election - A Ghanaian Case Study.

Despite the growing acknowledgement of Public Relations (PR) practice within the corporate environment, it has not been integrated and embraced into the political space of Ghana. Various perceptions about the practice has created a barrier to the appreciation of the relevant role PR practitioner's play for various political parties during an election. In 2020 however, amidst the emergence of the corona virus, a general election was held and many PR practitioners were engaged by different political parties to handle the strategic communication aspect of their campaigns. The purpose of this study was to explore the role of Public Relations practitioners in the context of the 2020 election of Ghana. This study explored the role of the PR practitioners of a political party in the 2020 election, the strategies employed as PR practitioners at promoting and protecting the image of the presidential candidate and political party during the 2020 election, as well as the practitioners engagement with the electorate in the 2020 election. The two major political parties in Ghana that participated in the 2020 election were at the center of the study, that is, New Patriotic Party and National Democratic Congress. Thus, the study concentrated on the PR practitioners of these two political parties. Qualitative methodology was used for the study and data were collected through the semi structured interviews of 10 PR practitioners from both National Patriotic Party (NPP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC). The data were coded and analyzed using the thematic approach. Findings from the study revealed that roles of the public relations practitioner were communicating of political party's position on policies, monitoring of political discussion in the media, building of relationship with the voters, persuasion of voters and acting as a guardian of information and communication on issues and candidates. The use of propaganda and persuasive communication were identified from the findings to be some of the strategies employed by the public relations practitioners to protect the image of the political party and candidates. Findings from the study also indicated that the engagement of the public relations practitioners with the electorates focused on vote winning messages. Recommendations include increasing participants by incorporating PR practitioners from other political parties. The major conclusion of the study is that there is a gradual appreciation of the role of Public Relations practice within political parties in Ghana. The implication of this is that interventions and programs are needed to harness the full benefits of public relations practitioners' participation in the democratic electioneering process of Ghana and other developing nations.