By: Toluwalope Ayeye
Every Student Union leadership that is voted-in tries to churn out innovations to help them run smoothly. Sometimes, these innovations fail, and other times, they succeed. One of such innovations is targeted at enhancing communication between the different executives and with the students. And since this sphere of responsibility lies with the Public Relations Officer, year in and year out, we see different PROs develop solutions to curb the shortcomings of adequate communication with students.
One way that seems to stand out and is quite popular amongst all PROs across the tiers of leadership within the University is the ‘WhatsApp TV’ model.
The WhatsApp TV initiative has the PRO or Information Minister open up a new WhatsApp account, or in some cases, use an old one, to pass information to students through the WhatsApp status.
According to a report by a global data and business intelligence platform, Statista.com, WhatsApp as a cross-messaging app in June 2023 had approximately 2.78 billion unique active users worldwide. So, the question of the effectiveness of this model employed by the PROs and information ministers cannot really be questioned.
However, despite the advantages of having a WhatsApp TV, sustainability has remained a bone of contention. Take the University of Ibadan Students’ Union WhatsApp TV (UISU TV) as a case study.
The erstwhile PRO, Olalekan Michael Ajibola had created a WhatsApp TV as the Union’s medium for information dissemination, by means which made it a tenable property of the Students’ Union.
The terminal change in leadership and emergence of a new PRO has oddly uncovered a prime ruse, as the former PRO having used his personal contact number to operate the TV did not let go of the personal contact number for the new administration. The outgone P.R.O had made an announcement where he urged Uites with his contact to change the contact name from UISU TV to Oma TV.
He also informed them that there would be a new TV or way for information dissemination through the current PRO.
Like in the case cited above, we tend to see PROs start WhatsApp TV with their phone numbers, and when it is time for a new person to take on the office, they dauntlessly become unwilling to give up the sim card. The refusal, quite understandable, hinged on the possible dangers of losing self-management of a sim registered with one’s personal details, which can be very risky.
With this contention almost normalized, the ultimate need to discourage such an act needs to be strengthened. It should particularly be discouraged on the basis that it distorts the keeping of records as a result of constant change. Also, it strains students who had saved up the contact to yearly altering of names and phone numbers. With this persisting, some students may decide against going through the stress again. This definitely beats the whole essence of initiating and creating the TV in the first place.
One solution on the lips of every person who acknowledges the issue is that the union, faculty, department or hall should get its corporate number, which it would not only use to create a WhatsApp TV but also to carry out various activities. By having a corporate number, it becomes easier to run a WhatsApp account and TV, so there would be no need for any changes, no matter how many PROs or IPMs come to sit.
However, for this solution, there is a catch. The catch is that getting a corporate number is not as easy as getting a personal number. It is harder and takes a longer time to achieve. It is understandable why student leaders or the government, even after thinking in that direction, have not acted towards it.
There is, however, a more straightforward solution to all of this. WhatsApp has a feature that allows users to change their Whatsapp numbers without necessarily changing their sim cards. With this feature, the students still have the number of the TV, so they don’t necessarily have to go through the stress of saving new numbers. However, there might be a problem since the new TV’s number doesn’t have the former contacts of the students. This is where the union, department, faculty or hall’s email comes in. The students’ connections can be saved on the email address, so when the PRO, having access to the mail, logs in on their phone, the contacts are saved automatically. Better still, the contacts of the students can be exported as a document so that whoever is the PRO can easily save the contacts on their phone without a hitch.
In all, the idea of the WhatsApp TV is indeed innovative and very efficient. However, there will always be the question of sustainability and how WhatsApp TV will be kept for years. This question cannot and should not be left unanswered, as doing so would lead to the WhatsApp TV model eventually losing its effectiveness.