Government PR must seek to mobilize all behind it’s vision – Gayheart Mensah

 

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Gayheart Edem Mensah

Public Relations (PR) Personality of the Year 2016, Gayheart Edem Mensah, has suggested that one of the key roles of Government PR is to mobilize Ghanaians behind the vision and major objectives of the government. That, he believes, is an area where the PR Machinery of successive governments have struggled to deliver on.

Speaking on YFM’s Ryse N Shyne programme, Gayheart, who is Vodafone Ghana’s External Affairs and Legal Director, called on the managers of the government’s PR to undertake to deepen Ghanaians’ understanding of government’s vision for the country, particularly for the key sectors which drive growth and development. That he believes is the surest way to obtain the support and contribution of the ordinary Ghanaian to the attainment of the country’s vision.

“I am persuaded that today, a huge chunk of the youth, workers and the middle class in Ghana know next to nothing about the vision of government beyond campaign promises. At best, what you will get from them, should they be asked about the government’s vision for the country, is likely to be diverse views.”

He said he was willing to be a member of a team from the Institute of Public Relations (IPR) to support the government in this effort at mobilising all behind the endeavours at attaining a commonly articulated vision for Ghana.
“That will be a source of motivation and empowerment for Ghanaians to contribute to the success of our country”.

The IPR Personality of the Year said he was looking to draw on his vast experience in PR practice across mainstream media, manufacturing, banking and finance, oil and gas, the telecommunications sector and academia in documenting practical PR approaches and solutions to serve as a guide to upcoming PR practitioners and students.

“I look forward to making insightful, informed and practical submissions to help the PR profession, organisations and government communication machinery to deliver value through the application of PR solutions.

On how PR practitioners can remain relevant to their organizations, Mr. Mensah said they need to acquire the relevant skills and competencies that are in demand in the changing world of the profession. “The knowledge of how to develop, implement and monitor various PR strategic interventions that contribute to achieving an organization’s objectives is critical. So is stakeholder mapping and analysis in order to better understand your organization’s publics and deploy effective and impactful channels and messages to reach them.”

Gayheart is a sought-after speaker on Public Relations themes and has, in the year under reference, shared ideas on various PR topics at the Philanthropy Forum, the Annual Conference of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Ghana (CIMG) and forums of the African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP). Gayheart has also been a regular speaker at the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS), an adjunct lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) and the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA).

He is also a resource person for the IPR Accreditation Courses.

Aside his 13 years of practice as a journalist, Gayheart has practised Public Relations at senior management level across four different companies – Unilever Ghana (4 years), Barclays (5 years), Tullow Oil (3 years in Ghana and 2 years in London) and over 3 years at Vodafone Ghana.

The Institute of Public Relations (IPR) is the professional body for Public Relations practitioners in Ghana. It exists to provide a professional development, structure and the requisite recognition for the practice of Public Relations across the country. The IPR last year adjudged Gayheart the best PR Practitioner for the year.

Source: Ghanaweb.com

My experience on Social media and the changing nature of the PR Profession

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By Gifty Bingley

In 2010 I had to write a business case on why the organisation I was working with then, needed a social media presence. The approval process was quick and soon we had Facebook and Twitter accounts.  In addition to the company website, we had a Flickr account for our official photos. We would often embed the photos from our Flickr page into the news stories on our website. We also got training from the digital gurus in our London and New Delhi offices.

In those years, social media was still evolving and it was therefore not necessary for brands to have a presence. Fast forward to 2017 and if your brand has no presence on any social media platform then you probably don’t exist even for B2B. This includes Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest just to mention a few. This turf is where all the stakeholders are, including consumers. It is part of our everyday lives and transcends communities, nations and continents.

Social media has changed our jobs as PR professionals. The broader goal of positively managing the reputation of the organisations we work with remain the same, however the approach including the strategies, tactics and timing to reach out to the target group and wider stakeholders has significantly.

As professionals managing the online reputation of organisations, we have over the years improved on content – from the early days of using it to blast social pitches to consumers mainly for sales and marketing leads. Now we are finding innovative ways to be consistently engaging, relevant and exciting.

For starters, our ‘influencers’ have expanded to include both traditional and new media. On any single day, there are millions of conversations happening online about people, places, organisations, products and services just to mention a few.  And there are numbers to prove their reach, prominence, tone and net add-value just to mention a few.

Combined with traditional media, social media is powerful, we can reach thousands of people. It has amplified the impact of most successful campaigns, which have a mix of both traditional and social media strategies. As an example, our initial research for the Tigo Shelter for Education programme showed it would be impactful because we were contributing to education in the most profound way – providing infrastructure for teachers and children that were learning in makeshift structures. In documenting the journey towards the transformation of the schools, we created content to reach out to both traditional and online media and feedback was phenomenal. The brand scores showed considerable improvements especially on the emotional attributes.

Again, thanks to social media, working on low budget campaigns is now easy and fun. We have our own channels and our influencers include journalists, bloggers, employees and customers. These days even our own employees could be social media influencers – if they have established some credibility, have a large following and can persuade them. Can you imagine the cost of being able to reach hundreds of thousands of people across the world and the price tag on the rate cards prior to social media? Now we own our own channels and can plan content and engagement. And it’s easy to measure the impact. Low budget campaigns though require very thorough planning.

Again, reaching the audience has never been this quick. Prior to social media the only way we could reach the target audience and the wider stakeholders was through traditional media, which often took hours or days sometimes before the press release is published. With social media, we can provide real time updates as the event/activity is happening with photos and videos. It’s also easy to get feedback and measure the sentiments. I will add though that it has heightened customer demands and expectations, often putting us under pressure to respond to issues tactfully and swiftly, managing and guiding conversations positively.

It is the place where the news breaks or goes viral – thanks to the power of citizen journalism. As an example, I was with my team at the Ghana Institute of Public Relations lecture in April 2016 with our mobile phones on silent mode when our friend and blogger, Chris-Vincent Agyapong broke the news on Facebook that our employer had introduced an ‘unfriendly’ maternity leave policy for contract staff. In summary, the policy was that all women who went on maternity leave would have to apply for leave without pay and reapply for their position after maternity break.

Within an hour, the post had been shared a hundred times over with people putting their own spin on it. Some employees had been tagged, the brand was being butchered without our side of the story. This incident happened in the evening and reacting immediately was of essence as by morning all the traditional media would have picked it up without our input. We quickly developed a press line and humanized it with the CEO posting to the thread of conversation generated on the blogger’s page. The feedback after her post was much better and the following morning both traditional and social media carried the story with our response. Within 48 hours, the issue was resolved and we shared the feedback. On that fateful evening, time was our biggest enemy.

I previously worked in a newsroom for many years and I absolutely loved the buzz – always active with journalists working the beat. In PR, social media gives us the opportunity to build and develop a 24/hour news cycle and vary our content – albeit not as intense as the newsroom. Certainly, the brands we work for are bigger than just the end product or service they produce/offer. We could engage consumers on how our business is being socially responsible, celebrate and build the profile of some of our outstanding performers/employees, learning and development initiatives that would lead to specific results for consumers etc.

For both B2C and B2B, we can still vary our content and introducing emotional attributes like how the product was developed, the process, the problem that it solves, even the teams that worked on it and dynamics among them.  The key though is to link such posts to how consumers or stakeholders would benefit.

In conclusion, I would like to add that I am excited to see our CEO’s and business leaders gradually developing an active online presence. From my experience in the past, such digital engagements humanise our brands – creating thought-and-progressive leadership, transparency and trust among consumers and employees. These are important elements that strengthen public perception about businesses and adds to credibility. As PR professionals, what we need to do is to think through what is relevant and attention-seeking and support our business leaders.

CSR & Sustainability in the 21st Century: It should be an inception philosophy and linked to UN SDG’s.

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It’s an undeniable fact that we are in an era, where it’s become imperative for companies to be INTENTIONAL. In this era, corporate actions should be able to create some shared value and give hope to immediate communities or others in dire need of some intervention.

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to be part of the 4th National CSR and Sustainability Conference organised by the Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), West Africa, one of the sub region’s leading sustainability and corporate social responsibility advocacy organizations.

Their annual conference, which brings together some major stakeholders in the CSR and sustainability space in Ghana, sought to discuss lessons from multinationals and how to promote a culture of social responsibility and sustainability among indigenous Ghanaian companies.

While listening raptly to the engaging and insightful panel presentations from Professor Martin Gyambrah, Director for University of Applied Management (Ghana campus), Dr. Jemima Nunoo, Lecturer at GIMPA, Gabriel Opoku Asare, Director for Corporate Relations, Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited, and Michael Sarpong Bruce, Corporate Responsibility Manager, Tigo, I picked up a few lessons. Today on my blog, I want to share with you these lessons.

  • Responsibility and Sustainability should be an inception philosophy

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Often, responsibility and sustainability for most local businesses is not an inception strategy or philosophy. For these businesses, it is rather an afterthought or an activity undertaken as a reactive measure.

Rather, businesses right from the onset should have CSR and Sustainability at the core of their inception philosophy or strategy. It should be a core business practice to have sustainable processes, products, packaging, and delivery.

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Conduct a survey of most local businesses’ in terms of their engagement with the SDGs and a sobering outlook will be revealed. But given that 2030 is not a distant time, it’s imperative that as a stakeholder group, local businesses contribute to its attainment by linking their responsibility and sustainability efforts to the UN-SDGs.

The private sector can be a force for good and lead the way. With the financial power and able human resources, businesses are better placed  and should be poised to lead the agenda for sustainable development/growth. This should be the BIG ambition of local businesses apart from the focus on bottom line.

In their presentations, Tigo and Guinness Ghana had a particular trend. These multinational companies had linked their local responsibility and sustainability initiatives to the UN-SDGs. For Tigo, they had been able to successfully link their Automated Birth Registration to the UN SDGs 9 (Innovation and Infrastructure) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals), while Guinness Ghana has also been able to link their Water of Life, Alcohol in Society and Local Raw Material initiatives to the SDGs 6, 12, and 8 among others.

  • PARTNERSHIPS – Stakeholders need to come together for the good of society

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Partnerships, Collaborations, Alliances…name them. These will not only be key to ensuring that corporates impact their communities but also achieve the SDGs. Cross-sector partnership has become essential to scaling and sustaining impact as far as sustainability is concerned.

Businesses, Governments and civil society organizations can play a critical role to unleash innovative solutions, mobilize expertise and hard to reach resources, and create a shared accountability that could never be achieved alone.

For companies like Tigo, they’ve been able to partner UNICEF and the Birth and Deaths Registry (BDR) to deploy the nation’s first Automated Birth Registry, which is showcasing how partnership can play a crucial role in addressing a pressing social need through the application of technology and expertise from different sectors of the economy.

From May 2016 to May 2017, 328,882 new births had been registered using this new system and Tigo is helping the BDR to attain its goal of achieving a 90 percent birth registration coverage rate by the end of 2017.

  • Companies are moving beyond traditional CSR to new ways of adding value to society

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Back in the day, a company donating a TV to a police station or a one-off activity by a company was often classified as CSR. This used to be norm until the debates around sustainability set in. It delineated a clear difference between corporate philanthropy and corporate sustainability.

For a company like Guinness Ghana, it is using its Local Raw Material (LRM) initiative as a means to support local businesses through the creation of value chains. In so doing, they are not only using local raw materials in the production of their products but also supporting local farmers to gain ready market for their produce and empowering families.

  • Sustainability should be an organizational culture

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There is a direct correlation between a company’s postion on social and environmental issues and its perception and position as an employer of choice. Young professionals want to be part of a company which has a culture and a reputation for being responsible; and has a far-reaching impact on society.

To this end, sustainability should be embedded in the very fabric of every organization. Essential internal stakeholders such as management and employees should be made to understand the position of the business in the areas of responsibility and sustainability. It must be integrated into the overall business strategy, with a clear vision, goals, metrics and strong executive sponsorship.

Additionally,  for the culture of sustainability to thrive, an employee engagement program with rewards and recognition must be ensured to reinforce sustainability behaviors.

Institute of Public Relations launches Communications Excellence Awards

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The Institute of Public Relations Ghana has launched its National PR and Communications Excellence Awards 2017.

The National PR and Communications Excellence Awards are opened to all parties involved in the use of PR and Communications; PR consultancies, free lancers, in house communications departments, Government and Non-Government agencies and media owners.

A press statement issued and signed by Henry Nii Dottey, Secretary, said IPR introduced the new award categories to reflect the ever-expanding communications eco-system.

He mentioned the new exciting categories as communicator of the year, internal communicator of the year, crisis communicator of the year, best in house team as well as digital and social media campaign of the year.

Mr Dottey stated the PR campaign of the year awards, PR consultancy of the year, PR organisation of the year for the commercial, Financial and Public sectors of Ghana.

Other categories include best community relations programme of the year as well as the most outstanding young professionals of the year as the already existing awards.

The programme would commence for entities on Monday 17th July to Friday 25th August 2017.

He added that winning entries would be announced at a dinner and dance ceremony at the State House on November 17.

Source: GNA

Djembe Communications opens office in Ghana

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Djembe Communications, a pioneering Pan-African communications consultancy, has officially launched its expanded office in Labone, Ghana, on Thursday, July 13 and also announced their merge with The One Event (TOE), a leading Ghanaian public relations and events management agency.

Speaking to Ghanaweb at the official launch, the Country Manager for Djembe Communications Toyin Dania said they have been opened for business in the last 19 months but have now successfully merged with The One Event in order to let their clients understand who they are and what they have for them.

According to her, combining Djembe’s award-winning international corporate communications and financial public relations capabilities with The One Event’s consumer healthcare PR and event expertise presents a strong offering to existing and potential clients in Ghana and West Africa.

“Djembe Communications are now open to business, we’ve been opened for business for the last 19 months but we’ve now merged with The One Event who’ve got fantastic track record here in the ground and they are going to merge their capabilities with us”.

“The reason we are celebrating is because we really want people to understand that we are a partner of choice. When we come onto the market we are not going to tell you what to do, we are going to listen to you, we going to make sure your brief fits what exactly what you want to do. And then once we found out what you really want, we will start looking at the trends and start highlighting different areas for you to then tap into based on the work we are doing with you”, she said.

She further stated that her team looks forward to supporting new and existing clients to deliver successful and impactful communications programs for clients with a particular commitment to both Anglophone and Francophone West Africa so language won’t be a barrier for them as they work here.

Djemba Communications is into media training, branding and design, consumer marketing, events management, reputation management and stakeholder engagement.

In addition to a presence in Accra, Djembe is present in Angola, Mozambique, Morocco, Nigeria, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.

 

 

Source: Ghanaweb

The next generation of women in PR: Embrace change, distinguish yourself and go digital

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Though there are no available statistics, let’s be honest, public relations is a profession dominated by women in Ghana. They are found at multinational and indigenous firms across the country.

Over the weekend, I had the honour of listening to women executives in the public relations industry at the inaugural ‘Women in PR Ghana’ seminarorganised in Accra by E’April Public Relations in partnership with the Institute of Public Relations, Ghana.

The event was such a huge success, thanks to the great line-up of speakers that were able to share their experiences and gave attendees an insight into the world of PR they may not find in university lecture halls.

Attendees were told that the PR industry is growing in size and scope — the work is even becoming more complex and challenging. As the future holds lots of opportunities, the enthusiastic participants were also counselled to adapt to the changing environment.

“PR is everything. It’s not necessarily what you’ve read in a textbook. Everybody likes working with people who can deliver,” Gifty Bingley, an award-winning communications and public relations leader with over 15-years of experience in telecommunications, government and broadcast media organisations, told the participants.

Engaging the participants on how to transition from any career into PR, Ms Bingley, said: “In aspiring to go into PR, do a SWOT analysis before transitioning into PR; get expert advice, look at various PR roles and requirements, look for things that will keep you busy, focus on your strengths and focus on the rest which you think are threats.”

Ms. Bingley, who landed her first PR job at the British High Commission in Ghana, advised the next generation of PR women to distinguish and differentiate themselves. “Do not leave your competence in question. When you get into the job market, ace it and kill it. PR pays well when you are able to show that you can deliver value for money.”

Speaking on digital PR, Cynthia Ofori-Dwumfuo, a PR business leader for Ogilvy & Mather Ghana, an integrated communications agency, highlighted the need for women in PR to build a digital arsenal. “Digital is now PR; be creative and innovative and tell a story because people like stories.”

Based on her vast experience in communications, Ms Ofori-Dwumfuo explained that PR is about adapting, adding that PR people need to put extra value on the table through digital measurement.

“Digital is organic; it just happens. But you need to understand the risk and be open minded. You also must know the digital channel to help you define what you want to do I your PR activities. You need to know your reputation goals with online PR,” says Ms Ofori-Dwumfuo.

Urging the attendees to classify their online audience properly, she explained that engagement on digital platforms is queen and PR people cannot afford to lose that.

During a panel discussion moderated by a communications professional with Stratcomm Africa, Ms. Akosua Ogyiri Kwafo, panellists including the Sustainability and Community Affairs Manager, Voltic Ghana; Ms Joyce Ahiadorme, the Head of PR Department, Ghana Institute of Journalism, Ms Paulina Kuranchie; Head of Public Relations, Trust Hospital Ms. Afia Drah, and Ms Fati Shaibu, News Editor, e.TV Ghana also encouraged women in PR to demonstrate value by measuring their PR activities. They also urged them to build a better relationship with the media.

“It is my wish and that of the many other women in PR who have dedicated their time to see women achieve more in their career advancement and are able to balance their role as leaders and personal life the best way they can,” Ms. Faith Senam Ocloo, the Convener of the seminar told me on the margins of the event.

She continued: “We can achieve whatever we aim for if we work for it. As these speakers, panellists have made it as leaders in their various organisations, so can other young women in PR at entry-level make it to the top of the organisations.”

Ms Senam Ocloo, a PR fashion blogger and Founder of E’April Public Relations disclosed that the seminar would be an annual event which is aimed at gathering women in PR and Communications related profession to share their lessons, journey and inspire the young PR people in the industry.

If you missed the event, it was great to see young, passionate PR people who are highly interested in the industry. From women working in corporate Ghana with students who came to learn the rules of the profession.

The women who spoke had to learn all the lessons they taught the hard way when shaping the image of their organisation. It was certainly a successful event; attendees were absorbing information and networking with the professionals.

After an informative weekend like this, I believe the next generation of women in PR now knows that PR is not easy; patience is a must, embrace change, distinguish yourself and go digital.

Why Internal Communication is important to Brand and Reputation Building

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By: Gifty Bingley

An effective internal communication strategy is important to any successful organisation. It is significant to the people agenda – providing information, engagement, education and inspiration.  It is key to team building.

Often than not, we prioritise communication to customers, shareholders, government officials, communities, vendors and suppliers but not among ourselves as an entire organisation or part of an organisation.

There are several tools and channels that make it easy to manage internal communications. You can develop your own or buy various software including SnapComms, Communifire and Yammer just to mention a few. You can also go from e-newsletters, emails, wall papers, screen savers, posters, SMS and intranet etc. There are also the one-to-group engagements – including staff durbars, roadshows and inter-departmental competitions, etc. Again, depending on the specific objective, you could go from branded content to personalized gifts.

As professionals managing a company’s reputation, the following are some of reasons why we need to pay attention to internal communication.

They are our first brand ambassadors

Employees represent our organisation – unofficially they are the spokespersons and brand ambassadors. They are the first point of contact for friends and family and anyone who wants to know more about the organisation. We do ourselves a lot of disservice when we take them for granted. As a rule, any communication that will go out to customers and the public should first be shared in-house. When people (including customers and potential employees) want additional information, beyond what is on our website and social media pages, they call friends and family that work in our organisations. The feedback they receive often carries more weight than what the commercials in the media say.

Creating an engaging work place and sense of higher purpose

As employees, we all want to know and understand the goal of the organisation, the plan to achieving it and most importantly how we can contribute. How can we achieve such targets if we don’t communicate consistently with staff including sharing the various KPIs and or milestones? It is important to rally everybody towards the goal.

People love to read about themselves, their colleagues and teams, a well-executed internal communication strategy makes us feel we are on the path to greatness in our organisation. It creates a sense of belonging, unity and or community. It reduces working in silos and employee turnover in some cases. When we are well informed about the vision and what others are working on, we collaborate better and support each other.

Keeping the brand promise and satisfying customers

Employees are executioners of the brand purpose. A good brand purpose enables us to differentiate and connect emotionally to our customers. Well informed, educated and engaged employees often feel empowered and this is reflected in how they work –  attentive and supportive to the needs of our customers/stakeholders. They embody the brand purpose and promise and would go the extra mile to do an excellent job.

Staying in control of the narrative

Like any human institution the rumour mill is always buzzing. Are they selling, are they merging, is the CEO leaving, is the strategy and direction changing? It goes on and on… I am not saying we need to respond to everything, not at all. Sometimes silence can also be a strategy – if we have considered the options, risks and consequences thereof. Some rumour can be unsettling though and could affect employee morale and performance. As an organisation, it is important to be transparent and stay in control of the narrative. Internal communication can proactively reduce the rumour mill and take control of the narrative by keeping employees informed and updated.

It is important to crises management

Most organisations have a core Crises Management or Business Continuity Team which often includes a Communications professional.  When there is a crisis, the priority is to clean up the situation and communicate to external stakeholders – customers, investors, and the media. Employees should be part of the stakeholders; they are bound to be even more worried and or confused. It is important to engage them – they are the ones going to manage the crises and implement the next steps. Remember what I said above about employees being brand ambassadors? It also helps to stay in control of the narrative including what they say unofficially to friends, family and customers.

From experience, internal communication has a way of keeping everybody together especially in very challenging times. By sharing information on the incident, the next steps and preventive measures we are all aligned and have a united front.

In conclusion, I am not saying that internal communication is the perfect solution to all employee-related issues. Far from it, internal communication should be part of the broader Employee Engagement Strategy which includes compensation and benefits, learning and development etc.

Often when I engage with my colleagues in communication roles they ask where it should sit – HR or Corporate Communications. I don’t think it matters – it depends on where the role can get great support and the capabilities to deliver tangible results.

I would also like to emphasise that creating the role does not necessarily guarantee success, we need to think through the competencies of the person(s) who handle the role. Some of the gaps can be fixed through learning and development.