Let’s face it, PR practice in Nigeria is currently on trial. If in doubt, consider the frenzy with which our governments (at all levels) as well as political parties are falling over themselves to contract the services of foreign-based PR consultants.
My reading of the trend is that it portends both good and bad news for Nigerian PR professionals. Good news in the sense that it confirms that there is an awareness among such patrons, of the importance of PR, especially professional PR support, for their communication and perception management projects.
The other dimension of the good news is that they are apparently prepared to pay good money for such services – at least going by some of the huge sums being bandied around as fees for these foreign consultancies. And trust me, they don’t come cheap.
The bad news is that Nigerian PR professionals and consultancies are being passed by, even undermined, by this worrying development.
Why is this so? Is it that there are no PR consultancies in Nigeria with the requisite capacity and competencies to service such high-profile clients, and to deliver on the scale of their expectations? Is it a matter of trust? Is it simply our propensity to want to consider anything ‘foreign’ as necessarily ‘better’?
Or is it that the PR profession in Nigeria is simply not ‘marketing’ itself effectively enough? Are we collective victims of a perception deficit?
I personally think that it’s a bit of ‘all of the above’. But in this piece I intend to dwell on the issue of ‘marketing’ the PR profession in Nigeria. So, I have come up with a list of 5 imperatives for this, which we, as committed professionals, must begin to implement, or at the very least, support:
# 1: Research
There is currently no reliable data and statistics on PR practice in Nigeria. For instance, how many PR practitioners are in active practice? On client side? On agency side? In training and research? How many PR agencies currently operate in Nigeria? Where are they located? Who are those running them? What practice areas do they cover? What is their clientele profile? What are their annual billings?
I know that there is always a problem with gathering data and statistics in Nigeria. But then such a situation is not sustainable. We cannot seriously hope to catch up with the rest of the world if we do not begin now to take practical steps to reliably gather data, and then to index and document such for reporting and planning purposes.
# 2: Do Good Work … And Sell It! (Case Studies)
There are a number of Nigerian PR agencies doing great work, executing successful campaigns. But there does not appear to be enough effort to document such work in the form of case studies which can be published, or shared at conferences and professional forums.
Case studies provide a basis for evaluating the quality of work we are doing, and how globally competitive it is, by benchmarking against those from other parts of the world. They are perhaps the most effective means of marketing ourselves. They also serve as very effective tools for learning, especially for younger professionals. Learning that is based on practical, real-life work and experiences.
# 3: International Exposure/Networking
There is much to be said for the need for Nigerian PR professionals to continually seek ways of exposing themselves internationally – through attendance and active participation in international conferences and membership of international professional associations. It enables us tap into the vast body of knowledge and experience out there. And to be in tune with current trends and global best practices.
The opportunities for networking and note sharing which such exposures provide also enhance professional self confidence – driven by the realization that you can indeed be at par with your contemporaries from any part of the world.
# 4: Enforcement of Ethics/Standards
One of the hallmarks of a profession, in the true sense of the word, is a body of professional standards and ethical codes – which are stridently enforced! No doubt, the current regulatory environment for PR practice in Nigeria is not effective enough. This is exacerbated by seemingly very low barriers for entry into the profession. We cannot expect to earn recognition and respect as serious professionals if our trade is perceived as an all-comers affair.
Without prejudice to on-going efforts being made by the bodies statutorily responsible for enforcing standards and ethics, we the practitioners ourselves must as a matter of urgency institute, and support, a culture of self-regulation.
I suspect that one of the attractions of the foreign consultancies is their seeming adherence to strict ethical and professional standards – especially on issues such as client confidentiality and corporate governance.
# 5: We Must Write!
PR is largely about writing. So how come Nigerian PR professionals shy away from writing – about themselves, their organizations and their work?
We write for our clients, we should be doing it for ourselves too. One important feature I notice on the web sites of many of the world’s leading PR firms is their very active ‘Blog’ links. Interestingly, the posts you find therein are invariably written by the employees of these firms themselves.
It is safe to assume that there is a corporate culture in these organizations that deliberately encourages, and indeed supports, their staff to write and develop posts for their corporate (and sometimes, individual) blogs. Some of the posts are even shared on Social Media and other platforms.
Nigerian PR professionals at all levels need to begin to write. The fact is that continuous writing makes us better at it, and by so doing helps us to hone our professional skills. But beyond that, when we write we are also making our own contributions to knowledge, to the discussions and current narratives around us – and ultimately, to the documentation of the human experience.
When we as PR people write, we inevitably metamorphose to thought leaders, and our clients – current and prospective – notice, and begin to take us more seriously.
And that includes our corporate and political leaders.
CEO Mediacraft Group