CSR trends which emerged in 2015

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It is 31 December 2015 and that time of the year, where people sum up their year and make resolutions for the New Year. Instead of doing same, I find myself rather strangely taking stock of the significant Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) trends which emerged from Corporate Ghana.

2015 has been a memorable year. Like others before it, it will soon be tucked away in the vaults of history. Despite this, the fact still remains that the corporate actions of some companies in Ghana, during the year will not be forgotten in a hurry.

These corporate actions (or let me call them social interventions) to a large extent, created shared value and gave hope to many in communities; where such companies operate or other areas, which were in dire need of such interventions.

In a chat with a CSR and Sustainability professional, who works for a top company in Ghana, he intimated that “for most companies, it is not enough to make money and satisfy customers, because businesses cannot be successful when the society around them is failing”.

I found his statement true in the sense that, a look at the corporate landscape reveals an increasing drive by companies. More than ever before, they are ensuring that their events and processes contribute towards making communities around them and those far off, a much safer or a better place.

During the 2015 business year, CSR/sustainability became a driving force for businesses. Some companies in Ghana, with good reputations, spent some percentage of their budgets on social intervention programs and initiatives.  An observation of some notable corporate efforts revealed the following trends.

Trend #1 –Companies are using smart and innovative ways to tackle social issues

The discussions around CSR this year changed from the usual “do the good things” to “do the right things”.

During the year under review, the starting point for most companies has been to solve real social problems rather than just resorting to social philanthropy. To this end, CSR programmes and projects were tailored and tied around finding smart solutions to salient and social needs.

It has become an era where organisations have assumed a more ‘social-centric’ approach in the way they do business.  It thus goes to confirm the blunt but truthful statement by Robert Phillips, in his controversial book Trust Me, PR Is Dead, where he points out that “Social is the new normal – not just social media or social business but social impact, social enterprise and social value”.

Which of these social interventions by companies quickly comes to mind? For me, I can’t forget Tigo Ghana’s Shelter for Education, Aquafresh Limited’s Kalypo Kares, Airtel Ghana’s Schools Adoption Programme, Huawei Ghana’s Ghana Seeds for the Future programme and refurbishment of the Accra Library, the MTN Foundation’s Shea butter production project in the Upper West region and furnishing six-unit classroom block for the Asikasu community in the Eastern region, among others.

In all of the above-mentioned, the emerging trend reveals an approach by companies to ensure that corporate actions are tied to stakeholder expectations.

Trend #2 – More collaborations and ongoing partnerships

In 2015, another trend which emerged as far as CSR was concerned was a situation where companies invited consumers, academics, NGOs, and even at some point competitors for a common good.

It was a year where we saw Ghana’s premier beverage producer, Accra Brewery Limited, (ABL) joined forces with Bekofi, an NGO committed to inculcating positive change in the young generation. The beverage company organise a seminar for more than 600 Senior High School students drawn from selected schools within the Greater Accra Region, on the harmful effects of underage drinking.

Tigo Ghana along the line also used social media (Twitter) as a platform to discuss with its customers and Twittersphere, on the topic of corporate participation in community development.

Apart from the above stated, the company also took a giant step towards digital inclusion for children in rural Ghana by outdooring the Mobile Digital Library earlier this year.  How did they do this? The telecommunications giant partnered Street Library Ghana, founded by its 2012 Changemaker, Hayford Siaw, to provide a Digital Street Library.

They achieved this by employing the use of a van, whose interior is beautifully fitted with tables and chairs and laptops and additional tables and chairs and laptops; which can be set up outside the van to cater for additional children.

Trend #3 – Engaging employees around corporate responsibility initiatives

The challenge of CSR has always been to ensure that employees feel tangibly connected to their company’s causes. Another remarkable trend which emerged this year was employee volunteering.

For most companies, employee volunteering was a core area as far as corporate social responsibility was concerned.  For example, Access Bank Ghana through its Employee Volunteering Program was able to rally its employees around projects situated around education, health, greening and environmental sustainability, financial inclusion and empowerment.

Another example is StanChart Ghana, who also as part of its “Employee Volunteering Month” engaged more than 140 employees to educate the public on HIV/AIDS by visiting the Odorgonno Senior High School, Abossey Okai Spare Parts Market, where they distributed more than 10,000 pieces of male and female condoms and some 8,000 leaflets.

Furthermore, noteworthy examples can be cited in the telecommunications industry, where companies such as Airtel Ghana, Vodafone Ghana and MTN Ghana also engaged staff during the year in various volunteer programmes.

Airtel Ghana during the year got together its employees to hit the runway in a charity initiative dubbed Airtel Catwalk for Charity to raise funds for breast cancer through internally generated funds from Airtel employees, family and friends.

Vodafone Ghana, also through its Employee Volunteering Program paid hospital bills of some patients up to the tune of GHC 30,000 while MTN also initiated 21 Days of Yello Care Staff Volunteer Programme, which saw employees from Ghana and 21 other operating countries give back to their communities.

It’s already a few hours to 2016 and if what transpired in 2015 is anything to go by, I am excited by what will transpire in the coming year. Going forward, I believe companies will build upon these trends and sustainability will continue to be a driving force for most business while aligning them to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Did you realise any other trends? Which other companies had noteworthy CSR initiatives? Let’s have a conversation in my One Corner.

Media relations lessons from Stonebwoy’s Christmas surprise visits

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In the last few days, all talk in Ghana’s entertainment industry has been around Wisa Greid. Whatever was the reason or lack of reason thereof behind his action on that fateful night, I think he has succeeded in setting a record on Gh Twittersphere. He has given KKD, who last year by this time was also trending, a good run for his money.

Can we say that he has given us the longest trending topic in Gh for this year? Why do i say so? Since 24th December, stories about him have been trending albeit for the wrong reason on social media. These stories, posts, or tweets have to do with either the act on the fateful night or his recent apologetic campaign on various media platforms.

If you are the only stranger in our Jerusalem, let me bring you up to speed or as the Gossipers Association will say ‘gist you’ on the incident involving him, which received so much flak from his faithful and the ire of the general public.

The “Ekiki mi” hit maker was one of the acts, who performed at Citi fm’s December to Remember event on the 24th of December. Getting to the end of his rather bland performance, he did the unthinkable. Being his first stage performance as a new act, he rather shocked the gathering by flashing his “crown jewels”. Yes you read right. He threw caution and common sense out of the window and gave patrons a night they wouldn’t forget in a hurry.

As if that was not enough, he gave the crowd the shock of their lives. Like a man who was on some aphrodisiac or psychoactive drug, he boldly went behind a dancer; who accompanied him and rubbed his “little man” against her backside. Shocked? Yeah. I was shocked too. He did that in the full glare of the public on a night and stage, where he could have left patrons something memorable than the thoughts of his “childhood”.

What he did and the implications on his brand is not the focus of my blog today. I want to highlight something, though showbiz related too, which caught my attention yesterday. It was an action by one artiste, whom i must admit is fast establishing an enviable brand for himself.

What he has been doing the last two days is not controversial enough to make the headlines or garner all the press mentions but in my opinion, any serious artiste, who means business will take a cue from what he has been doing.

Yesterday and today, Livingstone Etse Satekla , popularly known in showbiz circles as Stonebwoy Burniton, CEO of Burniton Music Group, also the current Vodafone Ghana Music Awards artiste of the year and 2015 BET Best International Act (Africa) has been touring media houses in the capital.

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What has he been doing? The Ghanaian afropop, dancehall and reggae hit maker has not been resting on his oars. He has been reinforcing his brand in the last few days by using the festive occasion as an opportune moment to thank the media, whose platforms have been used to project his brand in the year 2015.

While some of his compatriots are probably at this time of the year enjoying vacations beyond our shores, counting their successes or probably losses and others are moving from one media house to the other on a “pity” campaign, he is already making it glaringly clear that he seeks to make 2016 successful and the competition even a lot more keener.

I must say that by this action he has sent a clear and resounding message. The message is that he is an artiste who knows and acknowledges the power of the media and realises that he owes so much of his success in Ghana and on the international stage to them. Personally, I believe this is how you create a brand for yourself as an artiste, while giving your fans and the general public a December to Remember.

I have been monitoring his activities on his official Facebook page since yesterday and realised that he has made surprise visits to some notable media houses such as Starr Fm, Joy Fm, Hitz Fm, Adom Fm, Y Fm, GhOne, TV3, Live Fm, Citi Fm, Okay Fm among others in order to interact with them on a personal level.

In all of these instances except Pluzz Fm, where he remarked rather humoursly “I got surprised instead…Not a soul at work when we arrived”, he has presented a cake to the media houses with the inscription “Merry Christmas and a happy new year from Bhimnation”.

I stand to be corrected but I am yet to see any of our local artistes take up an initiative of such kind to reach out to the media and in such a manner. I say kudos to the Bhimnation team for this novelty and I believe that some established and up and coming acts will take a cue from this.

In a week or so where we have seen so much “small things”, this might be a “small” gesture,  but I believe it carries so much weight. Added to this, i must admit that what a way to also subliminally promote and raise awareness about a new single. For your information, Stonebwoy recently released a new single Go Higher, which has received some positive reviews so far.

Going forward into 2016, I believe that Stonebwoy Burniton has reinforced the lessons on effective media relations. It is a lesson(s) artistes in Ghana can take a cue from and a general lesson for all who want to take up media relations seriously.

Personally, i feel in his actions, we can draw the following lessons;

  1. Effective media relations should not be an afterthought. It should be tailored and tied around actions to establish a transparent and cordial relationship with the media.
  2. Identify your strategic media partners and make them feel appreciated for being part of a  mutually beneficial relationship with your outfit.
  3. The most effective approach is to contact the media directly. A phone call, email and sometimes social media mention is always appropriate. For effective media relations, going the extra mile of calling on the media where they operate should be considered.
  4. The relationship between the media is always ongoing and it is all about building BRIDGES and not BUFFERS.
  5. The PR professional or publicist connects with the media all year round on behalf of organisations. CEO’s and captains of industry can enhance this by engaging media outlets once a while on a personal level.
  6. Last but not the least, continue to tell your story and use small (if possible random) acts to amplify your brand.

Do you have any thoughts on Stonebwoy’s recent media relations drive? Feel free to share your thoughts. Let us have a conversation in my one corner.

Some popular misconceptions about PR practice in Ghana

Myths and Misconceptions about PR practice in Ghana

The year was 2007 and I remember very well, the conversation I had with a maternal Aunt. She asked me what I was currently doing. I replied, “I am studying for a degree in Communications Studies with specialisation in Public Relations at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ).

She further inquired what job prospect that degree could offer me after my studies. Beaming with so much gusto and confidence, I replied, “It would put me in a better frame to represent companies, organisations or individuals”. With this response, she exclaimed rather humorously, “Herh Nana Egyir! So now you are going to join those who always tell lies on behalf of companies and politicians?”

That reply drew laughter out of me, because I knew there and then, that like I had done with others before her, this was another herculean task of trying to clarify the ‘issues’ regarding my chosen profession to another ‘unbeliever’. I hastened to assure her that I was going to undertake the practice during my working life in a rather professional and ethical manner and won’t fail her. She was not convinced after all the ‘long talk’ but I knew she was not the only one yet to understand the true nature of PR.

The truth is that my Aunt and others like you (Hahahahaha! Yes…I know you do) are part of a large group of people in Ghana or elsewhere, who hold or have held a negative opinion of the public relations profession. These misconceptions about the profession have thrived over the years and become so prominent over the years that they have become myths or are even in some circles taken as fact.

It is rather ironic because one purpose of PR is to create understanding, get good press along the line, while avoiding bad press, but it seems the profession itself has had some pretty bad perceptions about it over the years.

This situation in part is as a result of the fact that PR professional and organisations who should know better have dabbled in cover up, misdeeds and chicanery. On the other hand, it can also be inferred that some section of people are yet to fully understand the profession.

So today, I want to dedicate time, space, and a few words, to highlight a few of the misconceptions about the public relations practice in Ghana. Enjoy!

PR, Marketing and Advertising are one and the same

Visit some companies and you will find out that they have a Marketing or Sales person playing a public relations role. I find nothing wrong with that but in such cases, you find out that PR is often place on the back burner; as the lure for sales and instant return on investment (ROI) becomes the focus.

The fact is that though these three professional areas are often placed in the same basket, public relations, marketing and advertising are in absolutely different sections. The difference isn’t only in the way they are spelt. They are totally different areas of study and practice.

I remember my PR lecturer giving us a basic understanding as thus – Advertising and Marketing being a one-way street, with the advertiser or marketer on one end of the street and the customer on the other. But public relations is more of a two-way street (often three), with many interactions between the actors involved.

Notwithstanding their difference, recent events has shown that these areas frequently play complimentary roles despite the competition to stay relevant at the table of the dominant coalition. E.g.: Promotion (a component of the marketing mix) is a combination of communication activities which include advertising and public relations.

PR is all about spin, lying, manipulation and propaganda

People have the belief that PR is all about trickery and deception. Well, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. But that assertion is blatant lies. For a profession that at times stands in the gap for the indefensible like Lawyers often do; and while doing so creates some understanding, there is always bound to be a lot of negative attitude towards it.

Having said that, I cannot also overlook the fact this is also as a result of the fact that in Ghana, the trend has often been to see PR as the profession which cleans up the ‘mess’. So the proclivity for individuals, a government or a company is to engage ‘people who can talk’ and at times lie or paper the cracks when it matters.

These situations have not helped the cause of the profession but it is noteworthy to say that today’s audience has never been more sophisticated, and there have never been more alternative sources for news and information than we have now. To this end, throwing dust in the eyes of people becomes an arduous task.

The public relations profession is built around telling the truth and building trust. If the public’s trust is lost, PR loses all footing. That is a fact and successful communicators will intimate that “spinning” news doesn’t achieve PR’s goals.

PR is all about Press Releases and Press Conference 

Ask anyone what a PR person does and probably the popular feedback you will gather is, “they are the ‘guys’ who write press release and organise press conference”.  These two are what clients and even some bosses often associate with PR.

In spite of this notion, thank God (or let me hasten to add that thank advancement and technology) that age of the PR is no longer what defines the profession. The days when PR professionals were referred to as ‘Glorified Messengers’ is H-I-S-T-O-R-Y. In its place, communicating through content marketing, visuals, videos and social media has become the new forms of PR.

While writing press releases is certainly still PR’s responsibility, PR specialists are now leveraging multimedia assets, writing content, planning and implementing events, and oftentimes tracking/measuring results.

In recent times, public relations in Ghana and like other parts of the world is a professional area experience undergoing a massive revolution, with more communication happening in cutting-edge ways. Ever heard of YouTube videos, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, SEO, RSS?

PR can keep bad news out of the press

Try engaging any journalist or ordinary man on the street on their notion of the PR professional and they will not mince words. The reply often will be, “They sit on information”. “They try to protect their organisation, even when they know they are culpable in wrong doing”. Thus, for many out there, their view  of the profession is one which rather builds BUFFERS rather than BRIDGES. That is a blatant lie.

The fact is that nothing stops bad news from spreading. At most, what PR professional can do is to manage it for a while and then it ‘BLOWS UP’. As most experts will tell you, more than two-thirds of company crises gain international reach within just 24 hours. With the emergence of digital technologies and social media, it actually takes micro-seconds to be in the public sphere.

What PR professionals who practice ethically over the years have done, is to help mitigate the effects of a crisis and look out for warning signs before it occurs and inform/advise management on the way forward.

PR is getting Publicity at all cost

Often I hear people mention or discuss PUBLICITY and PR in the same breath. That’s where many get it wrong especially in our part of the world. There are times people think they are doing PR when rather what they are busily doing is publicity.

The two are different terms. PUBLICITY is what gurus in PR will call the art of getting ink or media coverage (that is getting unpaid media to pay attention, write you up, point to you, run a picture, make a commotion about you). In doing so, one could employ fair or foul means to achieve that.

I once watched a movie ‘Beyond the lights’ where an up and coming artist by name Noni faked an event just to get some amount of press. A press briefing was hurriedly organised a day after. She informed the press about the fact that she had so much to drink the night before (a complete lie), tripped over her balcony but the timely intervention of her body guard saved her. She was successful and got some press coverage in the end but events later on affected her brand.

Does this instance remind you of  some of our local artistes and ‘celebrities’, who do anything just to get some amount of press?

Public Relations (PR) on the other hand is the strategic management function that helps an organization or individuals communicate, establish and maintain communication with the public.

It goes beyond communicating and publicity to embrace concepts like relationship (where trust and credibility is key). It is the strategic crafting and dissemination of your story and focuses on the examination of one’s interactions; which includes what you say, what you do and how people talk about you.

Thus in such instance, it is not about doing anything to get the publicity but ensuring that what is done and said builds on a certain reputation capital. As Seth Godin notes, “a few people have a publicity problem, but almost everyone has a PR problem. You need to solve that one first”.

Public Relations can’t be measured

The truth is that most businesses will prefer Marketing and Advertising to PR. They are the areas that bring the money. This is true but the fact also is that event though PR doesn’t bring immediate sales, it builds pathways to sales and ROI.

For sales to be achieved, PR must often play a crucial role of making target market familiar with products and services and the brand. PR helps to craft stories in a way that will help stand out from competitors and be heard through the cacophony of media noise.

In doing so, it establishes the reputation and credibility of the brand at the point of purchase decision. As a business owner, you can try “selling” your goods and services to a target audience with a bad reputation/credibility and find out the outcome.

If you still think PR cant be measured, may i humbly refer you to Ilya Pozin‘s article in the Forbes magazine titled 5 Measurements for PR ROI. It is a good piece and will help disabuse any notion that PR cant be meansured and as such worthless.

Ex-journalists end up being  better PR professionals

In Ghana, some school of thought believe that that only ex-journalists are the best for for the PR job, because they tend to speak and write better. No wonder some businesses owners and individuals will always opt for a journalist to fill a PR role. Thus, some have come to believe that PR is the ‘retirement home’, where journalists check in after some years of active service in the newsroom.

However, recent trends in the industry has shown not only ex journalist can do PR. The profession is growing, as the demand for information grows. Organizations of all types are also seeing the benefit of communicating with the press and public, and they are doing it in more ways than ever through web sites, blogs, Twitter, radio, Facebook, print, e-mail, YouTube videos and television.

PR is only needed by BIG companies

For most small and medium companies, the idea of PR is an afterthought. Propose the idea of a PR department or having an agency that looks at its PR issues and the response you get is that “PR is only for big companies”.

So, it is often a last resort in the event of possibly a crisis or issue but the internet age has reveled, PR can be a very essential tactic for  small businesses, who want to boost awareness about their company and aids in managing the brand’s reputation.

Wondering how small companies can also benefit from PR, then have a look at a piece by my friend Philip Osei Bonsu, titled “How Small Businesses Can Benefit From Good PR“.

What misconceptions do you know? What are your thoughts on the Public relations practice in Ghana? Join me in my corner by dropping a comment and let us have a conversation.

Succeeding in Public Relations

FEAT. JOHN SMITH. CREATIVE DIRECTOR.
Gifty Osei-Boakye Bingley, Dir. for Corporate Communications & CSR, Tigo Ghana and 2014 IPR Ghana PR Discovery of the Year winner.

The future belongs to those who not only know public relations, but also know business—and who can think strategically and write.” –  Jeff Conley, partner in Stratacomm, Washington, D.C, quoted in PR Tactics

Have you ever wondered why one professional can be more successful than the other? Ever asked yourself why do some PR careers derail while others take off and soar? I am sure you have also pondered over what factors contribute most to success in public relations. Is it the contacts, communication skills, experience or…?  In my opinion, all the aforementioned and other factors contribute to a professional’s success in what I have come to call “Corporate Journalism”.

Having said this, I want to look at what it takes to succeed in the practice of public relations in our own back yard – Ghana. To do this, i want to throw the spotlight on one lady I have admired from afar and the current Institute of Public Relations Ghana’s (IPR Ghana) PR Discovery of the Year winner, Gifty Osei-Boakye Bingley , whose meteoric rise in the PR profession, as far as Ghana is concerned is not only commendable but worth looking at.

If you never knew, let me start off by pointing out that Ms. Bingley used to be a journalist with one of  Ghana’s leading television network TV3, where she rose through the ranks from Broadcast Journalist to Head of News and Deputy Editor in charge of Assignments. After a decade with the inky fraternity, she finally called it a day and embraced public relations as her new found love.

I remember meeting her at the British High Commission in Accra on one occasion. I knew there and then that the face was familiar but couldn’t put a name to it. After some moments of quizzing myself, I remembered she was the lady who used to read the news. What was she doing here? I asked myself. Later on, I realised that she had quit journalism some years back and no one needed to tell me she was doing well in her new adventure.

The trajectory for her after the British High Commission has been upward; as Ms. Bingley has had a stint with Vodafone Ghana and is currently flourishing at Tigo Ghana, where she has made outstanding contributions to the corporate communications function of  the telecommunications company and the country as a whole.

At this point in her career, I know her accomplishment cannot be compared to that of some older and established professionals but I believe Ms. Bingley’s story just like others gives a good indication of what young professionals in Ghana need to do as far as succeeding in the field of public relations is concerned.

In looking at her professional life and that of others, who are making a mark and being discovered, I have come to realise that they share a few things in common and to follow in their great steps one needs to;

  • Be addicted to the media

A public relations person should be someone who absorbs large quantities of information and always tracking trends or issues which can impact an industry, employer, or client. Thus, a good understanding of the media is key. PR professionals need to be aware of their audience and who is wielding influence for that audience.

In our current professional setting, being aware of the symbiotic relationship between traditional media and the new media is crucial and knowing how they can be used to amplify communication is a skill employers look out for.

Furthermore, an understanding of where the conversations are happening and where you and your organization can and must get involved is important. For someone like Ms. Bingley you just need to follow her on social media and will immediately realise that she is always on top of issues.

Personally, I believe her background in journalism has helped her tremendously with media relations; as she is in constant touch with what’s going on around her and how she reacts to it. On a normal day, you find her either contributing to a discourse related to the profession or giving her opinions on issues which are either social or political in nature.

  • Ensure transparency and practice ethically

The practice of public relations can present unique and challenging ethical issues. Compromising as a professional may not come with an immediate cost to you or your client but it definitely does. If you don’t believe this, have a look at the recent Volkswagen Crisis.  Thus, protecting one’s integrity and the public trust of an organisation are fundamental to the professionals role and reputation.

Topics like Transparency, Trust and Legitimacy have gained currency in recent times and has become a core value not just organizations but professionals as well. Thus, it becomes imperative that PR professional do not withhold information from the public distort reality, dabble in needless propaganda, and have a biased approach towards certain issues.

As a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, UK, Ms. Bingley isn’t only enjoying an international accreditation but has also by her association signed up to practice in an ethical manner because these associations demand that their members uphold the highest ethical standards of the profession.

It comes as no surprise to me that she has been recognised recently, because since starting Tigo’s Corporate Communications and Responsibility function in July 2014, she has made some tremendous impact by telling Tigo’s story across multiple channels and to various stakeholders, helping reinforce the company’s position as a Digital Lifestyle brand.

  • Embrace and employ the use of social media

Today’s public relations requires expert knowledge of social media and the art of engaging in a conversation with multiple audiences in real time. It has become a glaring reality that conversations about brands (individuals and organisations) have moved to social media and thus mastering the social media universe (insta-messaging, blogging, vloging, RSS, SEO, etc) is an add-on skill every professional should embrace.

For professionals like Ms. Bingley, I can say without fear or fervour that with their current approach to the practice of the profession, they will continue to always lead the pack. I have been following her on social media and can say that she is an avid user social media and has embraced several platforms, which she uses in her line of work as a listening tool for her organisation.

She is what I call will call a ‘social’ professional and you will find her either posting on Facebook, Tweeting or blogging. A couple of months ago, she impressed me, when she took engagement with Tigo’s existing customers and prospects to another level by organising a Twitter chat. In an era where organisations (especially telcos in Ghana) will not flirt with the thought of having a chat with customers, she took that daring approach and the results of this action, I believe were good for the brand she represents.

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  • Always remember the basics

No matter the changes the profession will experience in the future, public relations basically has and will always be about excellent writing and presentation skills. These are still fundamental if you want to survive in the modern day practice of the profession. Probably that explains the reason why some companies engage ex-journalists like Ms. Bingley who possess very good writing and presentation skills to start or fill PR roles.

Also, remember that public relations has and will always be about establishing and maintaining relationships. Being objective isn’t the last resort but the first response in this vein. Sometimes, you have to be the voice of your audience with management. What stories will fly and what won’t? As a professional, striving to put that at par even when seeking the interest of those who “butter your bread and sugar your Koko” is the way to go.

  • Make continuous education a part of your daily life

In the last decade, the practice of public relations has changed dramatically. With the emergence of new technologies and approaches, the profession is assuming a new outlook and thus those who do not keep up with the changing scenes will be left behind and at worst become irrelevant.

Making a conscious decision to pursue continuous education through reading, seminars, and short courses should be part of anyone who wants to practice professionally.

Again, being knowledgeable about areas such as business, economics, and the triple bottom-line i.e. profits, the environment, and sustainability are things that PR practitioners need to equip themselves with, as the role of businesses in society is fast changing.

Ms Bingley is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (UK) and the Institute of Public Relations Ghana (IPR Ghana). Both professional associations  encourage continuous learning and development for members.

On several occasions, I have seen her share photos of books she has bought for her personal library and that in many ways have encouraged some of us to never relent on upgrading our knowledge base. For anyone with plans and dreams of following in her footsteps, you don’t need to be told. Watch and learn.

  • Avoid the technician mentality

To be successful in this ever-changing profession, one needs to hone their ability to be a strategic thinker and do creative problem solving. A career in PR always present countless opportunities to be creative, not only in terms of writing but also in coming up with new ways to promote businesses and approaching new clients.

The profession is constantly seeking fresh ideas and lateral thinking on how to approach issues and problems, so having or developing a creative thinking can be a crucial skill to bring you to career success. I admire what Ms. Bingley has been doing so far since she joined the ranks of Tigo Ghana. She has been involved in very laudable social intervention programs like the Mobile lab and the Shelter for Education projects; projects which are ‘social-centric’ in nature and to all intents seeking to create value for the community.

  • Develop your research skills

Having an in-depth knowledge of research and evaluation strategies as an integral part of the PR profession because it became crucial when one has to plan a campaign. A PR person needs to be a good researcher in order to communicate accurately and authoritatively on a subject.

In order to succeed and stand out in the profession, you will have to keep track of fast-paced markets and be knowledgeable about your clients and their needs, keep up-to-speed with current affairs and enjoy learning about new markets. As one of my lecturers at GIJ used to say, being inquisitive should not be second nature of only a Journalist but a PR professional.

Just have a look at the Shelter for Education initiative by Tigo Ghana and all the initiatives Ms. Bingley has been involved in and you will realise that a lot of research went into finding out the needs of the stakeholders involved.

What are your thoughts on succeeding in public relations in Ghana? Let’s have a conversation.