Business/WOMEN IN THE MEDIA
At 21, the Chief Executive Officer of Image Boosters, a data-driven digital and PR Agency, Debbie Larry-Izamoje, kicked off The Entrepreneurs Best Friend platform, which has helped over 200 young people on their professional journey through curriculum vitae, interview coaching and career workshops. Not done yet, she published a goal-setting workbook that saw over five hundred sales across Africa last year and was endorsed by top celebrities. Raheem Akingbolu caught up with this Amazon of the digital media industry recently and she took him through her career trajectory and challenges facing brands and their managers in Nigeria
To Debbie Larry-Izamoje, any business that has lost its drive for positioning and rebranding has lost everything. Armed with a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Management from the University of Sheffield and MSc in Management from the University College London (UCL), Debbie had every opportunity to stay back in overseas, but was compelled to come to Nigeria by the passion to contribute her quota to Nigeria marketing communications industry.
Today, the founder and chief executive officer of Image Boosters a Lagos based agency, which focuses on digital marketing, social media management, brand communications and PR, has no regret for coming home as her effort has since changed the face of some traditional media houses, including Brila FM and Today’s Woman Magazine.
Besides, her company has also worked for companies in various sectors, ranging from hospitality (Lekki Coliseum) to e-commerce (MotorConnect) and event management.
“I am very passionate about assisting small businesses and entrepreneurs and this led to the birth of my platform called The Entrepreneurs Best Friend, which I am happy to say has helped over 200 young people on their professional journey through CV/Interview coaching and Career workshops and business development. I am the author of two books and my famous goal setting workbook saw over 500 sales across Africa last year,” she stated.
On her foray into the industry, Debbie, who is now 23, said she didn’t find herself in the industry by accident but drawn to the industry by her commitment to grow brands. “I like to say I just found myself here since I always found joy in providing clarity to entrepreneurs and generally solving brand communication or digital strategy problems and I eventually realised I was good at it and made it a full-time job,”
According to her, she is always deriving pleasure in helping brands to tell their true stories. She pointed out that there is so much to be learnt from SME’s. “The stories of most SMEs are so inspiring and I make it my duty to ensure that they are communicating and positioned properly for growth opportunities. And so, when you’re so busy trying to share authentic stories you don’t pay attention to fake news being circulated.
“While some people will consider the industry as male dominated, the digital PR Amazon said she was glad she found herself in a male dominated industry.
“I don’t feel intimidated. I feel like my gender and my role as a woman has helped me because women pay more attention to detail. However, I have realised that during meeting and pitches, I am able to pay attention to details that most men would ignore and also having more empathy towards clients by understanding client’s stories. The empathy side that comes with being a woman has helped me a lot as I am able to tell clients stories properly to solve their digital marketing needs. It is my hope that other young women in their early 20’s can see what I’ve done in such a short time since returning back to Nigeria and be inspired,” Larry-Izamoje added.
Fathered by ace journalist, sports promoter and founder of BrilaFm, Larry-Izamoje, she admitted that her father’s achievement in the media industry had been a major boost to her career. She described the journey to have been a fantastic and unique one and she felt great each passing day seeing brands she has worked on excelling in the market place. “The last few years have been inspiring and I’m happy for what we have been able to achieve for our clients. Just going on my own, learning how to get clients and learning how to communicate effectively in sports management has been very helpful. My father’s foot prints have helped me, because he is a well-known in the sports industry in Nigeria for his integrity and hard work. What BrilaFm has achieved is quite incredible,” she said.
Speaking further about her father and his media organisations, Debbie said her father remains one of her major promoters and one of the few people, who saw sense in what she was doing when she first started. “He was one of the first people that believed in Image Boosters. The management of BrilaFm believed in us and gave us the task of rebranding BrilaFm to Brila Media, which we have done successfully. Introducing Brila.net, Growing its presence hugely on social media to the point that international bodies like Formula one, La Liga and more recognised with the brand on a daily has only been possible because he believed in us. In fact, it will be laxity on my part if I fail to add that his name and achievement in the industry have opened doors for me.”
“However, it’s not about him being just my father, but the hard work image boosters put in daily to ensure our clients have topnotch service. Our good work has given us a name in the sports industry from betting companies, to media and more and we have been able to provide our clients with huge returns on investment and they know that when it comes to sports communications in Nigeria, we are the go-to people.”
After her father, she described her role model, Mo Abudu, as another enigma that has redefined her life.
She said: “I like how she has been able to build people from nowhere; I admire how she has built different brands in different industries and still kept her private life very private. She’s a great mother, entrepreneur and everything she does, she does it strategically and you can see it in the end result.”
But in entrepreneur, Debbie comes back home and give the credit to her parents, who she admitted also fit in perfectly as role models. “They are great entrepreneurs and everything I do in business, I try to follow their footsteps. They have played major roles in just being available, being my biggest fans and cheering me on in difficult times.”
Combining job with family can be tasking, but Debbie stated that it had made no difference because her family didn’t have any set of expectations from her. “They just want to see their child do what she loves and excel at it. Since the launch of image boosters, I believe that they have seen that I am really passionate about it and working towards building one of the biggest brands in the world.”
Speaking on how today’s PR man can carve a niche in the market, Debbie said she always tell those that come in contact with her that a PR man must first define himself or herself to create a niche in the market. “I always tell people that no one can pick your niche for you. Sometimes, the market can dictate what your niche should be but ultimately you have to pick and decided on that things you’re most passionate about and a problem or market your willing to solve or add value to brands.”
She also expressed her take on the debate about whether digital is a threat to traditional media in today’s market or not. According to her, digital isn’t a threat to traditional media but additional tool for brands to tell their stories. “There are endless opportunities for those who know how to create a balance between the two. Digital media is not the enemy; it is there to enhance communication and should be embraced. I like to see it as a little brother/sister. We realised at first that a lot of traditional media houses saw us as a threat, but are slowly embracing digital marketing and I think this was because they were scared of trying their hands at something new. But at image boosters, we have succeeded in helping several media houses leverage digital marketing and increase their revenue through these streams over time. How then can we be a threat to a medium we are in support of?”
On the success story of Image Boosters, vis a vis the agency’s area of specialisation, Debbie said the strength of her brand was in digital. “We work with leading brands and businesses by leveraging digital opportunities in our local market. We are strategists, creators, designers and PR experts with a mission to connect brands with consumers online and create digital experiences for millions. Our mission is to challenge conventional wisdom in business through innovation, strategy, and communications. We push ourselves harder and harder with very client we get.
“Image Boosters is made up of the best team, we are all young, passionate, vibrant and hungry creatives, we’ve grown so much in our few years and so has our staff strength. We work by placing emphasis on bottom up approach; we are comfortable with agile methodology and focused solely on quality. We’ve served brands from different industries and I love the diversity our job brings.”
If she has her way to change anything in the way PR is being practised in Nigeria, perhaps the Image Boosters boss would have compelled brand owners to choose agencies based on experience and knowledge to deliver value and not on man no man.
“I think a lot of brands are not telling their stories well because a lot of brands go with agencies just because they know somebody there or they have mutual friends not because of the value they are bringing to the table. If I had my way I would give small agencies the chance to work with big brands. There are so many unheard stories just because these agencies are not working based on merit.”
When asked who her ideal man is, Debbie didn’t waste time before she said; “My ideal man is an ambitious, God-fearing, focused, calm, highly articulate and a little sense of fashion. He is someone that must make me feel at peace with myself and with him,” she said.