Roy Mitchell’s 40-Year Journey12 years ago
Sunity Maharaj reviews a broad and incisive book by Roy Mitchell (pictured) a greatly admired figure in Caribbean Public Relations.
I have known Roy Mitchell for the better part of 30 years and so I fully appreciate the consummate Public Relations professional that he is.
What I didn’t fully appreciate until I read this book, however, is the complete patriot that he is, although I should confess that I’ve had very good reason to suspect him of being one.
"Public Relations: A 40-Year Journey" is offered to those in the field of public relations and corporate communications as "a broad, incisive and revealing insight into public relations practice...".
But I’ll go a few steps more than that.
It is the documentation of lived history by someone with a passion for this place, a sensitivity about the nature of the challenge in an evolving democracy and a conviction of his own responsibility within the context of his profession.
And for that reason, I would happily encourage everyone to not just read this book, but to introduce it to PR practitioners and non-practitioners alike, including the youth. To anyone in fact for whom the past remains an untold and unknown history, just waiting around the corner of the present to trip you up in the future.
There are consistent themes in the collection of speeches, statements and presentations published here:
• The importance of creating a body of indigenous, culturally relevant literature in which to anchor the practice of the profession of Public Relations in Trinidad and Tobago
• The conviction that Public Relations is a profession worthy of being accredited as such, of graduating into, of being specially trained for and of being elevated to the heart of whatever is the matter.
• That the nature of Public Relations is essential in that it relates to the essence of the mission and belongs at the core of purpose
• That there is deep integrity in the words "public" and "relations" and that together, they express the full scope of professional responsibility.
I may be skating on thin ice here, but in reading through these statements of Roy’s across a span of 40 years, I have come to the conclusion that Roy Mitchell’s confidence as a professional comes not only from his mastery of professional technique – although this would have been indispensable – but from his clarity of purpose.
A purpose which I find to be grounded in a world view that comes only from having asked and answered the most fundamental question, a question that we are all obliged to ask ourselves if we are to bring wholeness to our lives. And that is the question of: Who am I and what am I about in this world?
Which brings me back to where I started in saying that the 40-year journey laid bare in these pages describes the pursuit of a patriot who is, above all else, committed to aligning the private with the public; the personal with the professional.
Over and over, the exhortation to fellow practitioners and professionals in every field, is to see the large canvas first, to understand the big picture and then, very carefully, to develop strategy, identify your point of intervention and only then begin to insert detail.
Inherent here is a mind that grasps not merely the logistics of Public Relations but the algebra and dynamics of communication.
It helps us to understand T&TEC’s decision to sponsor the first school steelband at St Francois Girls; the decision to promote and support the Electrical Association for Women as an autonomous body; it helps, too, to understand Roy Mitchell’s ceaseless campaigning for the professionalisation of some of the key players in the mass information dissemination process- in Journalism, in Advertising, in Public Relations.
This book describes a life in the practice of Public Relations which understands that organizational success is as dependent on the external as it is on the internal environment. Which would confirm that Roy Mitchell was practising corporate social responsibility long, long before it became the buzzword that it is today.
And we should not wonder how this came to be so. Just turn to page 188 and read the excerpt from the Pegasus Philosophy of 1966. There you will get an insight into the mind of a young man witnessing his country’s crossing into the era of political independence and making the personal decision to take responsibility for his life and the life of his country. From there on, in everything written in this book, you see a professional intensely committed to aligning the personal with the professional, with the public.
It is, for us all, the eternal pursuit of harmony. It is what brings us personal peace and fulfillment and ultimately, a sense of a life well-lived.
Roy Mitchell’s quest did not end when he left the corporate world. I encourage you to read his piece on "The 1990 Attempted Coup and its Implications for Public Relations Professional Practice in T&T" as well as the many chapters in Section 2 to get an appreciation of the critical importance of locating professional endeavour in a thorough understanding of the social context.
It will not only save you mistakes and much wasted expenditure but will help you to understand why Roy Mitchell was so respected by journalists as the Public Relations Manager of what was once the most pressured of the public utilities, and why he continues to have such a rich life after a life at the office.
Today, in a world of information that is increasingly too fluid to grasp, information professionals in every sphere can easily lose their footing and drown, unless they are anchored by their own clarity of purpose, understanding of context and aligned objectives.
If you’re not sure where to start, Roy Mitchell’s very thoughtful excursions will offer you a roadmap to begin the journey. If you’re already on the journey, reach out for it. You’ll find companionship and vindication along a road that can often be high risk, but which will ultimately pay even higher dividends.
Sunity Maharaj, Managing Director, Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies.mail the author
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