Category: Perspectives

PERSPECTIVES

Who will salvage Nigeria’s image?

Recently at the Annual Conference of the African Public Relations Associations (APRA) held at the magnificent Tinapa Resort,  Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria, the reputation of Nigeria came variously under the spotlight, and the overwhelming opinion – sad it was – was that the image of the country could do with serious attention. One would have thought that after the brilliant papers presented and the attendant robust discussions, a sort of memo would have gone to those managing the reputation of Nigeria, pointing out the flaws and recommending some quick fixes and other longer-term solutions. I am not privy to such a memo – after all, who am I to know – but then, I haven’t seen any changes, except a few for the worse. And now, as I prepare to attend yet another talk shop (I hope not), the Third Stakeholders’ Conference of the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) aptly themed “Communication, Reputation & Foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria”, I am persuaded to offer some free tips – pending the outcome – on how to salvage the reputation of our country especially before the international community and attract the badly needed FDI.

Let me start by asking whether you have flown any of the international airlines from Lagos to Europe and then to the US. I have done so many times and my experience will interest you. I flew British Airways to the UK. First thing I observed was the aircraft wasn’t spanking new. The crew wasn’t exactly courteous. The passengers, mostly Nigerians, were largely unruly. One chap had to be firmly (read rudely) asked to switch off his mobile phone during take-off, as required by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and indeed every other civil aviation authority anywhere in the world. Another guy refused to put his seat in upright position for the same purpose of take-off! And there were several other instances of irresponsible behavior for the 6-hour duration of the flight!

Upon landing in Heathrow, there was a sudden transformation of characters leading to serious behavioral changes. It was apparent people’s comportment went north! People calmly waited for the aircraft to taxi to a stop before using their mobile phones or pulling out their luggage from the overhead lockers. If the aircraft was landing in Nigeria, you would think the pilot has signaled emergency disembarkation as people would make to exit the plane even before it lands. I remember once screaming at a passenger who made a call to “Emeka, we are about to land”, as the aircraft made its final descent into Lagos! I freaked out! Apparently, some other passengers didn’t quite mind judging by their reaction to my reaction. Goodness me!

Back to my BA experience, I boarded the London to Austin, Texas flight and I was happy and unhappy at the same time, and I will explain presently why the double paroxysm of sadness and joy. Look, the aircraft was squeaky clean as in spanking new! A 787! I could still see some nylon covers to show how new the aircraft is. The crew was remarkably courteous and very gregarious. Even as a frequent flyer, I freaked out when an elderly dude in uniform came by, shook hands and introduced himself as the Captain. And I was like, who the hell is flying the plane. He read my face and helpfully volunteered that we are on autopilot and, of course, his co-pilot was in charge-just in case. Phew! Now, you can figure out why I was unhappy even in my happiness, but let me help: Why didn’t they extend the same courtesies and treatment on the Lagos to London route?

The trip back from Texas to London was almost the same experience. World class! Then, London to Lagos! Have you wondered why the gate to Lagos (or Nigeria) from virtually every international destination is always furthermost? I asked, even if I knew why. We, Nigerians, are very noisy. We are very rowdy. We carry so much hand luggage. It is said the luggage that we bring on board is more than we check in. This is certainly an exaggeration but the point is very well made. We talk on top of our voices with scant or no regard for the peace and happiness of others. Like I said earlier you would think a bomb or a snake was discovered on the plane upon arrival just looking at the way people seek to flee the aircraft!

I have told you this story just to illustrate that it is not in our stars but in us that we are underlings (apologies to William Shakespeare). The impressions we create as a people will aggregate into perception and, by extrapolation, reputation. As they say, dress the way you want to be addressed. We have consciously built a reputation of never-do-wells, and that’s the picture of us the world carries. If all the news coming out of Nigeria is positive and when people encounter Nigerians they come away with a negative opinion, then there is confusion. There is a gap, which needs to be managed strategically, deliberately and professionally. This is why countries have Information and Foreign Affairs Ministries-to manage their reputation at home and abroad. In the case of Nigeria, unfortunately, there’s not much good news coming through and our people are not behaving well. To make matters even worse, neither the Ministry of Information nor the Foreign Affairs counterpart seems to be aware of the situation much less doing anything about it. There is so much news about Chibok Girls, drug pushers caught during Hajj or executed in Indonesia; a $60m heist in Advance Fee Fraud; Boko Haram still hitting innocent villages and running away; recovery of looted public funds; Herdsmen attacking innocent host villages; audacious robbery and kidnapping incidents, etc. Meanwhile, the economy is wobbling with the Naira on a freefall and new investors are frightened and old ones are fleeing! The reputation of Nigeria is nothing to write home about right now. Period!

In spite of these challenges or better still because of these challenges the reputation of Nigeria requires close attention. The folks responsible for the task must wake up urgently from their slumber, because indeed they are fast asleep! Why it has taken so long to name ambassadors to the various missions abroad is still inexplicable, like most appointment, kept on ice since the inception of this government. These appointments should be made without further ado. I am regrettably unsure the names I saw on the list are people who have the capacity, charisma, connection and flair to represent the country out there. I am not sure, and so they have to convince me and fellow Doubting Thomases. When these folks are being sent on their missions, they must be sent with a mandate to focus on rebuilding the reputation of Nigeria.

By the way, the Minister of Foreign Affairs seems to be overwhelmed or ineffective or both. May be I don’t look hard enough, but I have seen him occasionally smiling for the camera in the company of the president with different colors of pens notoriously affixed to his breast pocket. An otherwise brilliant man, with a diplomatic accent, if you may, he isn’t letting us feel him like we felt his predecessors. Enough said. Then, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, seems to have finally recovered from the election hangover but then lapsed into quietude. From talking like he’s still opposition spokesperson to total silence is not good at all. Again, it took forever to change the heads of the parastatals in the Ministry of Information (MOI), but even now not much has changed in changing the narrative of the country. As far as I am concerned, it seems we are still in election or immediate post-election mode, and that is very unfortunate.

In his book, “Reputation: Realizing Value from the corporate image”, Charles Fombrun posits that with good reputation, products and stock offerings entice more customers & investors-and command higher prices; jobs lure more applicants-and generate more loyalty and productivity from employees; clout with suppliers is greater-and they pay lower prices for purchases and have more stable revenues and risks of crises are fewer-and when crises do occur, survival is with less financial loss. You don’t have to think too hard to realize that all of these can be extrapolated and applied to countries, to Nigeria. And that is where reputational challenge facing us, as a people, and particularly those who are charged with managing Nigeria’s reputation exist.

If we are unable, just yet, to change the people responsible for Information and Foreign Affairs, at least we can begin by changing their understanding of their jobs. They must be challenged to do something quickly. The Federal government should convene a summit on the reputation of the country featuring experts in communication, marketing and international relations. But while they are at it, the government should start changing the story by doing the following.

Firstly, let the government move from arresting looters of public funds to prosecuting and jailing them because the major difference between Nigeria and developed countries like the UK and US is not the absence of criminals, but the existence of the 11th Commandment”: Thou shall not get caught! Punishing offenders or negative reinforcement, according to B. F. Skinner will, in addition to correcting the offender, serve as a deterrent to would-be offenders.

Secondly, the government should commence a nationwide re-orientation campaign to address some of the ills of the society. Charity begins at home. We cannot be a great people, if we are not a good people, and I believe the National Orientation Agency (NOA) is set up to manage this. People who still fall in line only when they are instructed by uniformed personnel are far from becoming responsible. When a state government can put out paid advertisements to celebrate the birthday of a convicted former Governor serving jail term abroad or a community gives a hero’s burial to a convicted drug baron executed by firing squad in a foreign country, then you know we are snookered! So, there is a lot of work to be done on the minds of Nigerians, and the time is yesterday! Thankfully, the Federal Government controls a significant number of the radio and TV stations and can rest assured of the support of the state government and privately owned stations including AIT! Beyond the broadcast media, NOA should host rallies and also use all entry and exit ports to educate people of the need to conduct themselves well and act like ambassadors of the country.

Thirdly, government officials must be held accountable and compelled to conform to the vision of the President as a responsible, disciplined, trustworthy and patriotic person of high integrity. When government officials behave in ways that are not only inconsistent with the perception of the president but contrapuntal to the tenets of change mantra of the administration, then they damage not only the psyche of the people but the reputation of the country. Leaders must walk the talk or made to take a walk.

Fourthly, can we start propagating the good about Nigeria? What’s with the negativity our brothers and sisters in the diaspora are peddling with relish and fiendish glee? Why are our own people de-marketing our own country? Well, perhaps, patriotism has taken flight from us and we are now destroying the image of our own fatherland. Even some of us living at home appear to be more than happy, quite regrettably, to share bad news and cover up the good ones. The media should lead the charge here and make it a duty to devote significant good airtime and space to positive news about Nigeria. My undergraduate project back in 1990 was entitled the “The Image of Nigeria Police in the Media: A Content Analysis”, and one of the key findings actually do come handy and very instructive here. I discovered that by merely stopping the radio announcement of stolen vehicles in Imo State, the Imo State Police Command contributed to the perception of safety about the state even as other states were perceived as unsafe. Perception, again, is reality! Need I say more than say we need a re-orientation in our attitude to our country and “we” means those at home and abroad?

Fifthly, so long as elections remain inconclusive; looters of the economy are allowed to roam freely; men and women of doubtful integrity are seen in around the corridors of power; herdsmen attack and waste entire communities without affirmative actions but mere rhetoric from government and leaders; people build mansions and live extravagant from inexplicable sources and nothing happens; the courts still offer no semblance of justice but a caricature instead and young men and women are still apprehended with drugs and involved in 419, Nigeria will still be seen in negative light.

Lastly, but by no means the final word on this, where are the professionals? Where are the PR practitioners of Nigeria? Why are they not visible? Why are they not talking? Why are they not writing? Why are journalists, not PR professionals, still being considered for clearly public relations or communications assignments? Why are journalists only driving the Federal Government’s communications agenda? Why is the government losing the narrative to the opposition and anti-change elements? Perhaps, the PR Stakeholders converging in Lagos tomorrow will chart a new and effective course albeit belatedly.

Emeka Oparah, Director, Corporate Communications & CSR, Airtel Nigeria, writes from Lagos.

PERSPECTIVES2

Facebook just took away the last reason to watch TV

BUSINESS INSIDER

(Lavish Reynolds, who broadcast the aftermath of the police shooting of Philando Castile.Facebook)  Just recently , police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, United State of America (USA)  shot and killed a man named Philando Castile during a traffic stop. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, was riding in the car at the time.

She opened the Facebook app on her phone and broadcast the aftermath of the shooting using the new Facebook Live feature. (Warning: content is graphic.) Anybody who tuned in was able to watch the graphic image of Castile bleeding.

The next day, protests against police violence erupted around the country. During one of those protests, in Dallas, a gunman shot a dozen police officers. So far,five have died. This time, a Facebook user named Michael Kevin Bautista broadcast the action live. (Warning: content is graphic.)

In 24 hours , each video had been watched more than 5.4 million times.  By way of comparison, the most popular nightly news broadcast last week, ABC World News Tonight on June 27, reached 8.5 million viewers.

When Facebook introduced Live in April, it wasn’t quite clear what people would use it for. Among other things, BuzzFeed broadcast people adding rubber bands to a watermelon exploding, and more than 3 million people watched it live. It’s now had more than 10 million people watch it.

Now it’s clear what Facebook Live is for.

It’s replacing the last stronghold of television: live events.

TV is under assault by cord-cutting, where people watch their favorite shows online and dispense with a cable subscription altogether.

Last September, TV ratings started to see a catastrophic year-over-year decline, and Nielsen ratings show a slow but steady decline in the amount of TV watched by nearly all demographic groups over the last five years.

A recent Nielsen poll of more than 30,000 people around the world also found that 20% to 25% of viewers under the age of 49 plan to cut the cord in coming years.

Sure, people might stop watching the latest network drama in favor of a Netflix or Amazon exclusive, but nothing would ever replace TV for live sports and breaking news.

But over the last year, we’ve started to see the first hints that live sports won’t be a TV exclusive forever. Twitter plans to broadcast Thursday-night NFL games next season, and Facebook was also in on the bidding.

Live sports is better on TV than when shot by somebody on their smartphone. There’s too much value in the expert camera work, the instant replays, and even (sometimes) the commentary. So any tech company that wants to replace the networks is going to have to win a bidding war.

The same isn’t true for live news. Sometimes, a good news broadcast can help viewers make sense of what they’re seeing. But the decisions about what to broadcast and how to show it are influenced by a lot of people along the way, from reporters to producers. That leaves TV news open to accusations of bias and poor news judgment.

Plus, a lot of TV news is boring. A lot of time the broadcasters seem to be struggling to fill the airtime, endlessly replaying the same video clips over and over again, talking to fill space. It’s not particularly interesting or immediate. It feels instantly out of date.

Compare that with millions of people with smartphones, filming and broadcasting big events as they happen.

Twitter is definitely in the live-video game with Periscope, and both are following Snapchat Stories.

But Facebook has the audience. Nobody has to download the Facebook app and figure out how to use it — over a billion people already have it.

When a big event happens, anybody on Facebook can tune in to see exactly what’s going on, unfiltered, directly from a bystander’s point of view. Why run to the nearest TV?

PERSPECTIVES

Is three a crowd ? Should PR people sit in on media interviews?

They say three’s a crowd and sometimes it feels like the phrase was intended for PR and comms professionals who sit in on media interviews.

The journalist doesn’t really want you there and if you interfere directly in the interview it can go disastrously wrong.

It can feel like a no-win situation but that does not mean it should be avoided.

Sitting in on an interview can be vital to the success of an interview, particularly if you have an inexperienced and nervous spokesperson who needs a reassuring presence in the room while they speak to the media.

At the end of the interview you are ideally placed to praise them for what went well and highlight any areas that may need improvement.

Certainly in a crisis environment I would expect the PR person to be present during interviews.

This is not about hand-holding, as you should be using an experienced spokesperson, but it is likely there will be numerous requests for interviews and being present will enable you to manage conflicting demands and have an accurate record of who has been spoken to and what has been said.

It will also enable you to have a greater understanding of what journalists are looking for, the questions they are asking and the angle they are likely to take.

But if you have an experienced spokesperson, who has had recent media training, and the interview subject is not controversial, do you really need to be there?

Letting them carry out the interview on their own could create an impression of greater transparency. It could also allow the spokesperson to build positive relationships with reporters, helping raise their profile as an industry leader or expert and leading to the journalist wanting to interview them again.

If you do choose not to sit in on these interviews, make sure you have a mechanism in place to record what was said and how the interview went.

Increasingly I notice more and more interviews are being carried out by telephone as reporters battle against a range of time constraints.

This often means they are conducted on speakerphone so the PR person can listen.

But this really impacts on the sound quality and if the reporter can’t clearly hear what your spokesperson is saying there is more chance of them being misquoted.

Most modern office and mobile phones allow for an observer to ‘barge’ into a call so that they can earwig on the conversation while the spokesperson can use the hand-held receiver.

If you do this, make sure the reporter is aware you are listening to the call.

Ultimately, the decision on whether there is room at the interview table for PR pros comes down to gut instinct and judgement on the experience of the spokesperson, the subject matter and the journalist who will be carrying out the interview.

But don’t feel you automatically have to sit in on every interview your spokesperson carries out.

Adam Fisher is content editor at MediaFirst

PERSPECTIVE

TWITTER IS DEAD. LONG LIVE SNAPCHAT!

 

Twitter is dead. Long live Snapchat!

Steven Bartlett

When Twitter was launched in 2006, text on the net was the next Big Thing. Its quick and instantaneous 140-character limit enabled fast-track access to a wide variety of information

Twitter tapped into the way the modern generation likes to consume media; that is, if we can’t comprehend what it is within a few seconds, it’s likely we won’t read any further to reach discovery.

But 10 years on, things are a lot more visual.

Most millennials would rather watch a video about any given subject than read about it.

As an industry leader, Facebook’s research has proven that we prefer this kind of content, adapting accordingly by displaying algorithmically prioritised videos within timelines.

But Facebook isn’t the commander of video content. Snapchat taps into the same philosophy as Twitter, remaining entirely visual.

Snapchat beams micro-snippets of video from our personal friends and admired celebrities into the palm of our hands.

These intimate and informal snapshots provide us with a real insight and ‘behind the scenes’ content, and when it comes to marketing it’s an ultra-powerful tool, allowing brands to reach a mass audience on a granular level.

Snapchat has given brands the opportunity to engage in authentic and real-time conversations with consumers, moving away from traditional and formal advertising.

Twitter’s timeline has largely stayed the same, and its slow decline may be an indication that its modern audience prefers to consume information in new ways to which Twitter hasn’t adapted.

And as it’s just been announced that Snapchat has overtaken Twitter in daily usage, soaring ahead with 150 million people each day snapping their lives, Twitter should probably get a move on.

Steven Bartlett is co-founder of Social Chain

 

 

PERSPECTIVES1

THE NEED FOR A PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATION FRAMEWORK & ARCHITECTURE

INTRODUCTION

In the week of 9th May 2016, the attention of Nigerians and indeed the world was drawn to a major diplomatic indiscretion by the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron. While chit chatting with the Queen, in company of the Arch Bishop of Canterbury and two other British Officials, unaware that he was being filmed, conveyed to the Queen confirmation of attendance of the London Anti- Corruption Summit by the Presidents of two of the world’s most “fantastically corrupt countries”. He went on to describe these countries as Nigeria and Afghanistan.

Naturally, Nigerians reacted with great indignation at what was considered an insult upon our nationhood.

In the attempt at a weak apology and seeming explanation of the context of the Prime Minister’s comment, the British Government commented as follows:

“Both President Buhari of Nigeria and President Gahni of Afghanistan have acknowledged the scale of the corruption challenge they face in their countries…

In a collection of essays… President Buhari writes that corruption became “a way of life” in his country under “supposedly accountable democratic governments”.

What the British were telling us was that their Prime Minister was simply repeating  obvious facts that had been presented in the public space by our President.

A cartoon in BusinessDay on Friday, 13th May on the subject says it all.

The cartoonist depicts a bedroom scene where Mrs. Cameron chides her husband for his undiplomatic utterances about corruption in Nigeria.

David Cameron responds: “Calm down Samantha, you should hear some of the terrible things they call themselves”.

And the cartoonist is right.

There is nothing Nigerians enjoy more, both the lowly and the highly placed, than to denigrate their nation, even in the midst of foreign audiences, laying before them all our dirty linen.

Speaking on the President’s penchant to demarket the country of which he is Chief Marketing Officer, Segun Adeniyi in his back page piece in Thisday of Thursday, 12th May 2016, commented thus “…it is neither helping us as a nation, nor advancing his own cause to continue to harp on the negatives in Nigeria without speaking on the goodness of the last majority of people. The president has to find a way of balancing his rhetoric by remembering and applauding-whenever he must speak- the vast majority of honest Nigerians, both at home and in the Diaspora, and many who had served honourably in various governments, and are making positive contributions not only to our country, but to the world.”

“A few bad examples (whether at home or abroad) cannot represent, and must not be allowed to taint 180 million Nigerians”.

It is indeed a sad place to be, that Nigerians who are old enough to have seen, and been a part of this country in its better days, and some of whom had been contributory to the country’s sinking to the current sorry state, should be some of the loudest in bad mouthing and rubbishing the nation.

It is also worrisome that in a country where the teaching of history has lost relevance, and where young Nigerians, especially children of the elite, know more about Otto Van Bismarck, Winston Churchill, George Washington than Herbert Macaulay, Margaret Ekpo or Samuel Ajayi Crowther, word of mouth narratives have become so negative.

When I review developments in our nation over the past year, I become convinced that our strategic communications issues go beyond the need for government to connect with, and sell policies and programmes to, the people.

There is a serious and urgent need to educate and reorientate all those who may aspire to leadership positions in our country that communication is a most potent tool that can be used to inspire a people to greatness, or turn them to objects of global ridicule.

I do not for instance remember any occasion where President Mandela, at a time South Africa had become known as the rape and mugging capital of the world, told any international audience what heartless and violent rapists South African men were.

As marketing communicators, you would obviously feel scandalised if the marketing director of a brewery consistently tells whoever cares to listen how bitter the beer he sells is, how overpriced it is and how it is no better than other beers, you would be even more shocked if he proceeds to warn you that you could become an alcoholic if you start drinking beer, and how better off you would be saving money for your family’s upkeep and investments than buying beer.

It may sound extreme, but that is what our chief marketing officers do to our country sometimes, not because they do not love their country, it is just that they do not understand the full implications of their utterances as it impacts the image of their country.

THE NEED TO REFRAME MINDSETS

Every business management programme incorporates a marketing module where participants are taught marketing and brand management. Facilitators stress the importance of effective brand management such that savvy CEOs are constantly keeping their eyes on the health of their brands.

While Marketing Directors have direct day to day responsibility for the health of the brands their companies market, the CEO is the overall brand custodian keeping a keen eye on the corporate master brand, while giving the Marketing Director all the support needed to keep the product brands attractive to the targeted consumers.

Corporations understand the power of branding and the value of brands to their business and therefore do everything necessary to build and sustain the equity of their brands. It is a key element of their training as managers, both on the job and in business school programmes.

Brand building is a highly disciplined and focused process and it takes a lot of understanding and skill to build the desired relationships with consumers.

Highly effective brand management will result in building brand relationships with consumers that can deliver loyalty beyond reason.

In the same way that marketers have been adept at building super brands, nations have embarked on strategic programmes to build strong brand persona for their countries, resulting in outstanding love for country, heightened national pride and willingness to pay the ultimate price in protection of values their country holds dear.

To get to this level, we must reframe the mindsets of Nigerians, starting from the kindergarten level. All Nigerians, especially our leaders and the media, must be made to understand that what we say about our country, contributes to how the world sees us. As journalists, what we choose to publish and celebrate about our country, helps frame the world perspective of us.

We must return Civics to the school curriculum and insist that all schools, no matter what curriculum they claim to run, must include Nigerian History in the subjects taught.

We must identify national heroes in the context of our growth as a nation, and  celebrate them and let Nigerians be aware of their contributions to our nationhood. Such stories must be used to inspire younger Nigerians, instill a sense of national awareness and pride in them and cause them to take ownership of their nation’s destiny.

We must entrench understanding of the basis of our nationhood, and celebrate our strengths and values as a nation.

According to Professor Ibrahim A. Gambari, “Nation building is about building a common sense of purpose, a sense of shared destiny, a collective imagination of belonging. Nation building is therefore about building the tangible and intangible threads that hold a political entity together and gives it a sense of purpose. It is about building the institutions and values which sustain the collective community in these modern times”.

“Nation-building is therefore the product of conscious statecraft, not happenstance. Nation-building is always a work-in progress; a dynamic process in constant need of nurturing and re-orientation.

Nation building never stops and true nation-builders never rest because all nations are constantly facing up to new challenges”.

STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS

As a seasoned practitioner in the field of marketing communication and brand building, I am a firm believer in the power of strategic communication in building a united nation and creating a positive identity that inspires hope, confidence and pride.

For the purpose of the subject matter under discussion, I will attempt to define Strategic Communication as:

  1. A systematic choice and act of defining, designing and implementing tailored communication ideas and initiatives about the programmes and activities of a product, an individual or institution to select publics in order to elicit a desired response.

2. It is a series of coordinated communication initiatives designed and tailored to influence the attitudes, behaviours and perception of an organised group in favour of a common cause.

The basic roles of Strategic Communication include:

  • To Define and Create
  • Inform and Engage
  • To Position and Differentiate
  • To persuade and Influence
  • To Remind and Sustain
  • To stimulate Action

Wilbur Schramm-“Father of Communication Studies”- buttressed the fact that Strategic communications is a potent force in social, economic and political progress when he pointed out that:

“By making one part of a country aware of other parts, their people, arts, customs, and politics; to the leaders and to each other; by making possible a nation-wide dialogue on national policy; by keeping the national goals and national accomplishments always before the public–thus modern communication, widely used, can help weld together isolated communities, disparate subcultures, self-centered individuals and groups, and separate developments into a truly national development.”

PEOPLE AND COMMUNICATION ARE THE COMMON DENOMINATORS IN NATION BUILDING AND DEVELOPMENT:

The human factor is the first and most important element in national development. The future shape of any development process, its pace, sustainability and ultimate direction will be determined by people – the level of their awareness, participation and skills.

Until the citizens are mobilized and converted to become the driving force of their own development, no amount of investment in infrastructure or provision of technology will bring about any lasting improvement in their living standards.

It is mainly through consistent, focused communication and strategic engagements that Nigerians can be converted to become advocates and active participants in the success of such programmes. Once the citizenry are so sensitised and buy-in is secured, they take ownership of the process and become the driving force. Leadership will then have no option than to maintain the momentum or be consumed by the “movement”.

Effective strategic communications will give people the platform to adapt their views and acquire new knowledge and skills.

To help us appreciate the contributions of strategic communications, we need to have the following KEY CONSIDERATIONS at the back of our minds:

-First. We must recognize that government is a business and a big business at that. The country is a brand that must be managed for growth and profitability – all key government functionaries are managers and custodians of the brand whose actions or inactions could have a positive or negative impact on the brand.

-Second. We are operating in a fast changing national and a highly competitive global market space. We must struggle to create and maintain our own space in the comity of nations and earn the respect that we desire and deserve.

-Third. The government must be clearly positioned to stand for values, principles and interests that reflect the goals and aspirations of the majority of its citizens.

-Fourth. The government, like every serious business undertaking, must take deliberate steps to build and sustain emotional relationships with all critical stakeholders in a manner that will inspire support, respect and love for the government and the country.

-Fifth. Government policies, initiatives and programmes are products. They must be thoughtfully packaged and strategically sold to the people for their acceptance, support and participation. In the real business world, products are sold, not bought. Government business cannot be different.

Being the first part of a lecture delivered by Mr. Udeme Ufot, Group CEO, SO&U at the 43rd AGM/Congress of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria at the Le Meridien Hotel, Uyo Akwa Ibom State

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DODGING THE QUESTION: SMART OR DUMB?

Politicians are famous for dodging journalists’ questions, and it is happening all too often…Robert Taylor

Even President Obama executed an outrageous, if skillful, dodge in his recent BBC interview with Huw Edwards, when asked whether Britain really would be at the back of the queue in post-Brexit trade negotiations.

Obama got away with it, because Edwards let him off the hook. But you can never guarantee a journalist will do that.

Neither a Paxman nor a Humphries would have been as overawed by the President as Edwards obviously was.

And even if the journalist lets you dodge, the audience will certainly notice. And what will they think?

I can remember no occasion, ever, where a dodged question made the dodger look good.

Often it makes them appear insincere, arrogant and slippery. It’s also profoundly irritating.

The most famous case dates from 1997, when Michael Howard avoided the same Jeremy Paxman question an incredible 14 times.

Two decades on, Howard is still living it down.

You might have thought that politicians would have learned from Howard’s experience. But no.

Take Chloe Smith, a junior minister in the last government. Her Newsnight interview with Paxman about the Government’s decision to abandon a tax increase on fuel was like a slow-motion car crash.

And it all started to go wrong with her needless avoidance, six times no less, of the very first question: “When were you told of this change of plan?”

Would it have been so damaging to her if she’d simply answered?

Journalist and former MP Matthew Parris has made an admirable attempt to defend the dodgers, saying that politicians who “hedge, bluster, flannel and obfuscate” are, paradoxically, the honest ones – they are trying merely to avoid saying something untrue while sticking to their party line.

Well, of course, politicians shouldn’t lie.

That’s the worst thing they could do. But, knowing what the audience’s reaction is likely to be, nor should they avoid pertinent questions.

There is also an ethical issue here. Journalists ask questions for a reason: their audience wants to know the answer.

If you dodge questions, surely you are concealing the truth from people you claim to care about.

So should interviewees always answer the question? No.

Sometimes you get questions that you should not answer for legitimate reasons.

For example, the journalist might have asked for confidential information, or there might be security or privacy considerations.

But in these cases, interviewees should address the question simply by telling the journalist why they can’t answer it.

There is all the difference in the world between addressing a question and avoiding it.

No doubt there are a few questions where answering truthfully can damage the interviewee even more than dodging. But not many.

And if you are ever tempted to dodge, ask yourself this: are you sure that portraying yourself as untrustworthy and slippery (the danger of dodging) is less damaging to your reputation than the alternative?

In nearly all cases, answering the question, or at least addressing it, will serve you better.

Robert Taylor is a media and comms trainer and author

 

CREDIT: PR WEEK

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WHY AGENCIES SHOULDN’T OVER-EGG THE PUDDING IN A PITCH

WHY AGENCIES SHOULDN’T OVER-EGG THE PUDDING IN A PITCH.

Pitching remains a key aspect of winning business and it’s an area I enjoy and am good at, but I learned a painful lesson about the limits of selling the vision for what the agency thinks it can achieve for a client.

I led a response to a charity brief a few years back for an organisation seeking to campaign around a controversial issue, one that gets very little coverage in the media.

We developed a really good tactic for launching a research report it had produced, one that we felt was in with a chance of getting it the national profile it was after. We brought it to life as much as we could for the pitch. I decided that the best way to seal the deal was to mock up a shot of its chief executive sitting on the BBC Breakfast sofa discussing the report with Bill Turnbull.

My colleagues were rightly worried this was over-egging it a bit and we would be better off being more circumspect. I was blind to their concerns, pulled rank and insisted we include it. We duly won the work and ran a reasonably successful campaign – but completely failed to get it anywhere near the BBC Breakfast sofa.

The damage had been done in the pitch and the client felt we had let it down when we didn’t get the coverage we had so confidently mocked up. The project, and our role in it, was written off as a failure, and we were not invited to pitch for the next piece of work with this charity.

Lessons learned; listen to others so your blind overconfidence doesn’t get you into trouble and, of course, don’t over-promise.

 

Peter Gilheany is a director of Forster Communications and forst published this onPRWeek

 

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WHAT IS THE VALUE OF PR?

Why we need to define the core human skills required for public relations to avoid automation taking over

What is the value of PR? How do we measure and show its value? These questions have always surrounded the practice. However, the traditional answers don’t really cut it in the 21st century. As the nature of PR itself changes, the ways in which its value is demonstrated must change too.

When people talk about the value of PR, they invariably mean its economic value (cultural, ethical and aesthetic values don’t normally enter the picture). This typically translates into a discussion about justifying return on investment (ROI) which is itself a financial metric. In simple terms, how do I know that for every £1 spent on PR, I get more than £1 of value back in return. And the higher the rate of return, the better.

This thinking pervades both commercial and non-commercial organisations. How can anyone prove that time, personnel, money and effort have been allocated with maximum efficiency?

How do you know that client, stakeholder or taxpayer money spent on PR has been deployed to best effect?

Justifying value

PR has traditionally attempted to justify value in terms of output metrics. Press releases written. Coverage generated. Possible reach.

In the past, there was implicit agreement between the provider and procurer of PRservices (both agency andin-house) that the ability to isolate the causal impact of PRactivity (and its subsequent economic value to theorganisation) was either too costly to work out or just not possible to determine. Advertising value equivalence (AVE) fulfilled the demand for a way to show the value of PR in economic terms (ignoring the inherently flawed way in which is calculated). This was accepted as an act of faith about the apparent value of PR rather than a robust formula based on sound principles.

Yet in spite of the near universal loathing of advertising value equivalence (AVE), it remains the most widely used criteria for determining the apparent economic value of PR. Although hardly anyone will publicly defend AVE, in private, most people cite the lack of a viable alternative model. Or at least one that senior management or stakeholders will accept as a replacement.

So is it possible to isolate the economic value of PR?

Attribution analysis

The short answer is: yes.

Or at least, the traditional objections of cost and execution are largely disappearing. In a world where communication and relationships are largely mediated through digital technology, it has become easier to track, trace and understand the contribution made by various channels to the delivery of observable outcomes in the real world.

The most ubiquitous example is Google Analytics, a near universally deployed tool that has the capacity to attribute the value of a particular communication channel. Although in its infancy, it is this kind of approach that will increasingly be used to show economic impact.

But even if the economic value of PR can be shown, perhaps a more important question to ask is, what valuable roles for human beings will remain in the world of PR in coming years?

Harvard professor William H. Bossert once stated: “If you are afraid you might be replaced by a computer,

then you probably can be. And should be.”

The stark reality is that even though economic value created by PR may well rise in the coming years, at best,the number of people required to deliver this value will remain static. Based on the trends of the last decade, the likelihood is that there will be fewer jobs to go round. Rather than get depressed about this, it might be better to focus on what those valued roles might look like and the skills required to gain and retain those jobs.

Rise of the robots

PR optimists like to believe that computers won’t be able to think or write creatively, or be able to formulate viable PR strategies.

The argument here is that there are certain intrinsically core elements of PR practice that won’t get automated any time soon. The reality is that the future is already here, just unevenly distributed.

Martin Ford’s book The Rise of The Robots presents a convincing (and disturbing) argument for the fact that skilled white collar jobs such as accounting, law, journalism (and yes, PR) are next in line to see technology remove vast numbers of existing jobs in the next five to ten years.

Even if we clearly define exactly what PR is (and isn’t), and assuming that practitioners make use of attribution analysis and other techniques to demonstrate economic value and impact, consideration should be given to what PR professionals may actually be required to do in the future.

If computers can happily produce viable communication strategies, write engaging content and report back on their increasingly unsupervised activities, where does that leave us?

According to Geoff Colvin, author of Humans Are Underrated, empathy and social interaction are set to become the most highly prized human capabilities in a world dominated by technology and automation (he also believes women rather than men are better placed to benefit from this transformation).

In his words: “The most valuable people are increasingly relationship workers.”

In conclusion, many of the tools to demonstrate the economic value of PR work are already widely and inexpensively available. With PR practice encompassing everything from marketing communications, investor relations and reputation management, technology will increasingly replace both the predictable and routine elements of PR work as well as apparent “untouchables” such as creativity.

Ultimately, the value of PR will be derived from clearly defining exactly what the practice constitutes and then determining the appropriate mix of technology and human involvement to deliver demonstrable economic outcomes.

CULLED FROM FUTURE PROOF, the go-to guide for managers of agencies and communication teams

 

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TINUBU VS KACHIKWU: THE CRISIS MANAGEMENT ELEMENTS MANY MISSED

The crisis management stunt many missed in Tinubu’s statement

“I make no attempt to hide it. I am an avid and partisan supporter of this government and of the progressive policies of the party, the APC, upon which this government is based. With that, I do reserve the right and the duty as a Nigerian to voice my opinion when I believe a member of this government has strayed from the progressive calling required of this administration. I do this because my greater devotion and love are for this nation and its people. Party and politics fall secondary.”

This statement, taken from the statement released by Senator Bola Tinubu, Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) sent the vibrant Nigerian internet, media and even “beer palour” community abuzz.

Tinubu’s statement was unexpected, coming from a man credited to have almost single-handedly laid the egg that hatched the coalition which, on March, 28, 2015, toppled the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party government of Goodluck Jonathan.

Three days after the statement was released, the issue has not stopped trending on and off the social media. This is largely because most people trapped in the Nigerian brutally acrimonious partisan divide did not expect such poignantly critical commentary from a man who is believed to have made the victory of APC possible in the first place.

But you see, what Tinubu has done may have enriched opposition narratives on the perceived gaps in the current government’s economic management direction, but it may also eventually succeed in enriching the narratives around the capacity of the ruling party for self-censorship and redirection – something that was not there before.

Below are some of the reasons why Tinubu’s statement may eventually help lift APC

  • The power if internal control

I have seen many brands suffer and actually corrode when stakeholders struggle to “manage” public information. In analyzing the factors that led to the collapse of strong financial institutions in the United States such as Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Countrywide, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Washington Mutual back in 2008, Michael Beer, a Professor of Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard Business School had said:

“It is vital that the leaders of companies understand the five critical choices about higher purpose, strategic focus, limiting risk, motivating through team values and enabling truth to speak to power.”

This is typical internal control aspect of managing brand health. In many cases, we find stakeholders playing the ostrich at a time they should be in the trenches, doing things, even when they may appear unpopular and not conforming to the norm, to steer the brand aright.

Tinubu’s harsh upbraid of Ibe Kachikwu will certainly have this effect. The Junior Minister of Petroleum is occupying a very powerful position and the only people that can speak the harsh language he needs to work are internal stakeholders.

Were the statement from Tinubu to have come from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, the partisan taint that smears everything in the Nigerian ecosystem would have watered down the value.

But coming from an insider; a leader of the party, the effect is definitely clear. Ibe Kachikwu will strive harder to ensure the problem of fuel scarcity is tackled with every possible weapon that will bring it to a quicker and final end.

  • When a father beats the child

Growing up back in the days, many parents were in the habit of using the “rod” to beat their children and wards into line. You do not really misbehave when you are aware that your mum or dad is waiting at home with a big stick behind the chair.

But during those days, the biggest mistake another parent would make was to use even a much more modest weapon to flog his child. Many family feuds had resulted from situations like this.

What Tinubu’s press statement has done is to demonstrate the presence of internal discipline in the APC, something hitherto not part of the country’s political democracy. Close watchers, including political opponents will acknowledge this as novel and commendable. More importantly, it will achieve the singular purpose of isolating the APC from whatever wrong Ibe Kachikwu may continue to do, which in this case, is not very likely to happen.

  • What to take serious in bitter partisan struggle

Political party management is quite a complicated issue, especially in a country like Nigeria where there are no proper articulation of political philosophy by the parties. Parties in Nigeria are generally differentiated only by name and by the noise level.

So politicians would always be in prayer mode, hoping that their opponents make one mistake that would be capitalized on for virulent narratives, designed, not even to make them sit up but to tarnish.

The noise level against Kachikwu was just about getting on the ascendency when Tinubu’s intervention came. I describe it as intervention because what it did was take the wind off the sail of opposition megaphone and rivet attention on Tinubu, the leader of APC as being on the side of the people.

People took Tinubu very seriously. Matter of fact, the conversation moved from what ills Kachikwu may have committed to what good Tinubu has just done. Those who were criticizing Kachikwu lost their voice in the din of the deafening applause for what came from Tinubu.

It changed the perception of the party. It even saved Kachikwu by giving him the quickest opportunity for redemption ever possible.

  • Teaching a career technocrat the rubrics of getting things politically correct

Dr Ibe Kachikwu is not a typical politician and may have paid the price for his political naivety with the rash of criticism that followed his statement that fuel queues would continue until May. No career politician would ever say such a thing in a charged atmosphere like Nigeria.

But did he learn the difference between speaking the truth and getting things politically correct? The answer is a huge “yes.” The truth is that the only person that could have taught him this lesson in the way he would understand is Tinubu or any other very senior member of the APC.

Building a great brand is not dependent on how honest you are. On the contrary, it is how you manage to appear honest, even when a few things are not as straight as they seem.

  • When “surrender” is the fastest way to win

It was Walt Whitman who wrote in his “Walt Whitman’s Camden Conversations” that: “I like the scientific spirit—the holding off, the being sure but not too sure, the willingness to surrender ideas when the evidence is against them… It always keeps the way beyond open—always gives life, thought, affection, the whole man, a chance to try over again after a mistake—after a wrong guess.”

Ibe Kachikwu made wrong guesses about how people would react to his statement. He may have even been angry that people were querying him at a time he was, to the best of his knowledge, working so hard for the good of those asking him questions.

But by seizing the conversation, Tinubu and of course APC may have tactically surrendered to the will and feelings of the people, which is for someone strong and mighty to aggregate their frustrations and pour is hard and hot on the man on whose table the buck stopped.

Whichever way one looks at it, the negative collateral from Kachikwu’s speech may have been arrested, especially since a few days after the statement was released, the NNPC helmsman tendered an apology to Nigerians and changed the timeline for the restoration of normal fuel supply in the country.