In this interview with Raheem Akingbolu, the Head of Corporate Communications at Indorama-Nigeria, Dr. Jossy Nkwocha, shares his experience spanning 30 years in PR and journalism. He also spoke on Nigeria’s brand building challenges. Excerpts:
How would you assess the Nigerian Marketing Communication industry, in face of the current global digital boom?
Technology and the internet have changed the state and content of the marketing communications industry, be it marketing, public relations, advertising, sales promotions, among others. Digital communication has changed the traditional methods in any of the sectors I mentioned earlier. Social media have given mainstream media a big fight for attention and dominance. In addition, new technologies have taken over from the analogue systems. In general, what we have now in the entire gamut of the marketing communications industry is a complete new face and phase.
The economy is currently going through a difficult patch called recession, with marketing budget being the first victim. How best do you think practitioners can make themselves attractive to brand owners at this period?
Practitioners are either in-house or consultants and agencies. Whichever, the recession calls for survival strategies requiring innovative ideas, change management, optimisation of resources, among others. Every organisation is looking for ways of survival, searching for ways to keep their brands above water. At this time, practitioners in the industry must put on their thinking caps and provide superior services to their clients and bosses. That’s the only way to remain afloat.
The current administration is making frantic effort to reposition the Nigeria project, what role do you think Marketing Communications; especially PR can play in the process?
Public relations has a lot to do in the repositioning project. We need peace, unity and progress in the country. The federal government wants to galvanize the entire country to support its policies and projects. The government also wants to project itself positively in the intentional community to attract investors. The government needs public relations experts, reputation management specialists, professional image builders and managers. There is need for effective public communication and strategic communication that promotes national unity, national cohesion, peaceful coexistence and other areas that would help us mend the crack walls. Government speech writers must be people who have the capacity to season the speeches with the salt of national unity. The governments need experienced reputation management experts who can manage stakeholder groups effectively, make friends for the government, not enemies. My new book on Reputation Management and Branding has a chapter on managing nation brands, and building Nigeria’s reputation internally and externally.
What would you say is Nigeria’s greatest brand building challenge?
Nigeria’s most critical brand challenges are corruption that looks endemic, very decayed infrastructure as in our roads, airports and power supply. Others are; insecurity /violence as in insurgency, kidnapping and armed robbery. There are also unstable economic policies and unstable polity. These are Nigeria’s reputation challenges or brand eroders. These are the issues that paint the country black and scare investors and tourists.
There are schools of thought that believe that government is not keen about engaging the services of marketing communication professionals to drive public communications but some also hold the view that the practitioners themselves are not doing well enough to engage the public sector. What is your take?
What I can say is that government at the federal and state levels should engage the services of public relations; communications and reputation management specialists who can help handle public communications very well, who have capacity for stakeholders’ engagement, crisis management, media relations, political communication, among others. There are too many quacks who do “image laundering” for government — laundering the dirty linens of government officials. What government needs are reputation managers who will help Government to build and sustain good image and reputation. Members of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) are professionals who are trained and licensed as image managers
Do you think government is doing enough to create enabling environment for marketing communication industry to grow?
Government has provided the enabling environment and laws guiding the professions. Public relations is chattered by Decree 16 of 1990 which is now an Act of the National Assembly. Advertising in Nigeria is also regulated by an Act; the same with Marketing. The regulatory bodies only need to enforce the laws and drive away quacks. Having said that, it is important for government to patronise local practitioners and agencies rather than foreign agencies in carrying out branding campaigns.
Looking back at your practicing years, either on the agency side or client side. What are the memorable moments and campaigns undertaken under your watch that shook the marketing landscape?
I moved into Public relations practice from journalism where I spent 18 years and rose to become General Editor of Newswatch magazine of the Ray Ekpu /Dan Agbese era. I went back to school to obtain a Masters degree, and later a doctorate degree in Marketing (public relations) with specialisation in corporate reputation management. I established a PR firm and handled so many challenges jobs for the government. In the past eleven years, I have been managing the reputation and communication of a multinational Corporation with operations in petrochemicals and fertilizers. That perhaps explained why my new book on reputation management and branding is a best seller.
Going through your new book, ‘Reputation Management and Branding’ I observed that it is more of scholastic material than practice journal? Who and who are your targets?
Even though the book is a synthesis of my PhD dissertation, it was repackaged to contain both scholastic and professional materials. Such chapters as Building and Managing Brand Nigeria, Key Drivers and Benefits of Corporate Reputation, Major Strategies in Reputation Management, Specialised Branches of Reputation Management, Ethics of Reputation Management in Nigeria, CRM in Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Industry, among others are all both academic and practical. The icing on the cake, the unique feature of the book is the addition of Nigerian case studies. The foreword was written by Prof Pat Utomi, one of Nigeria’s renowned figures in the marketing communications industry. We have sold off the first print and now reprinting. The book is a must-read for all students, lecturers and practitioners of marketing, public relations, advertising and mass communication.
Can you shed more light on what your other books are about?
In total, I have written 14 books, four of which are in public relations management. The one titled Media Relations: Issues, Strategies and Dynamics first published in 1999, is used as a text book in universities and polytechnics and the professional examinations of NIPR. It is also a hands-on book for all PR professionals. The other book titled Digital Public Relations published in 2004 was a ground breaker and pacesetter for both scholars and practitioners.