Theory and Practice of Public Relations in the Governmental Organizations of Palestine: The Fashioning of the National Image in A non-Sovereign State

Ahmed Ibrahim Ahmed Hammad
Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki- Greece
November, 2005


This study discuses the practice of public relations in Palestine. It looks at the major problems it encounters such as misconceptions, confusion in tasks and prerogatives, lack of professional manpower, and the absence of a culture of democracy, transparency and development.
The research was guided by five questions and six hypotheses which seemed to search out for answers. We have used the questions in developing measuring instrument for collecting data reported in this study.
Findings of the study show that the study covered these institutions were: Ministries’ (19); Foundations (18); Municipalities (15); Authorities (10) and Governorates (16) based in the West Bank and Gaza. The survey took place during September and October 2002.
This study sketches out the practice of public relations in the Palestinian governmental organizations through personal interview method of gathering data. Findings of the 78 case study found that there is a misconception of public relations that has led to a wide gap between top management and the department of public relations. Most of PR departments suffer from insufficient and unqualified personnel, lack of budget and logistic support. Concerning tasks and prerogatives assigned to PR departments, findings suggest that they were confined to executive and protocol roles and limited use and conducting of research and planning.
The results show that for status of public relations, it seems that public relations department is the second most important information source when Palestinian audiences are targeted.
Public relations in Palestine remains a male-dominated field, with male superiority not only in numbers, but also in career levels and, consequently, in position. The findings show that characteristics of Palestinian PR managers and employees were to a certain extent similar to Arab public relations in government organizations and some European countries as Slovenia; Bulgaria and Greece. The findings of this research point out that objectives and goals undertaken by public relations departments were primarily aimed at the external public.
Public relations is still looked at as a tool for the organization to foster its image through public information and publicity. Planning and research are badly limited in governmental organizations. In spite of these drawbacks, public relations is the profession of the future in Palestine and more generally in the Arab World. Public relations are needed to meet the challenges of democracy, development, civil society.
In addition, the researcher found that the most popular model was press a gentry/publicity, followed by public information and the two-way symmetrical model. The two- way asymmetrical model lagged far behind-in large part because of the limitation of conducting public relations research by Palestinian practitioners.
On the other hand, the study identified a considerable number of programs and activities that were conducted in formal and non-formal ways to achieve the goals and objectives of the organization. Most of these efforts were limited to a number of organizations, and loosely connected. In addition, the results gave some insights into the constraints and opportunities relating to the practicing of public relations in Palestinian organizations.
Despite of these drawbacks, the public relations profession remains the profession of the future in Palestine, due to the fact that the organization, the society and the citizen need it very badly.
Finally, some recommendations and proposals for improving public relations practice in Palestine, and areas for further research, are presented.
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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.