The next generation of PR pros: IPR, Ghana can aid you, but your future is in your hands

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By: Michael Bruce

Last week I attended the Institute of Public Relations, Ghana’s 24th annual general meeting (AGM) in Kumasi, the first time an AGM by the Institute held outside the capital, Accra, a bold move that paid off.

During the two-day event, I met other practitioners from different industries – telecommunications, energy, banking, security, academia, among others.

It was a real opportunity to learn from peers and discuss the current state of the industry. That said; what got my attention most was the outreach programme with the PR students at the Christian Service University College.

It was great to see practitioners such as the President of IPR, Elaine Sam, Gayheart Mensah, Shirley Toni-Kum, Kwame Gyan and Ivy Naa Koshie Heward-Mills sharing top tips for success in a PR career and passing on their wisdom to the next generation of PR leaders.

While some practitioners urged the students to proactively identify ways to expand their expertise, others counselled them to become professionals who come forward with solutions that would help organizations to be profitable, transform lives and communities.

As a practitioner, I applaud IPR for organizing the outreach programme as part of the AGM. However, I believe that the next generation of PR leaders are emerging and the Institute needs to focus more on the industry’s future talent.

The next generation of PR pros are young, daring, passionate about the profession and aware of the digital revolution, but they need guidance; IPR needs to improve its access to young pros.

The Institute needs to do a lot more about improving the understanding of exactly what PR is among the students in the country. The PR profession is constantly evolving and those that don’t keep up with the pace will inevitably get left behind.

It’s important that IPR shows leadership to enable the students to make the choices that will support their future careers. In Kumasi, I met some of the students who wondered if they would even secure jobs after graduation.

Others are fighting to be accepted into an internship programme with organizations. But, I believe IPR and those of us in the industry can help by aiding the next generation of PR pros with a sense of direction.

Today, technology has changed the PR industry. There are so many different channels, and the challenge for we practitioners is how to reach audiences. But thankfully, the next generation of PR pros grew up in smartphone era – they are attached to their phones 24-hours. This is an opportunity for IPR to blog, tweet and post short videos about PR to interact with the students – there is value in engaging people on social media. I need not emphasize that social media now is a critical factor to any successful PR strategy.

Like the outreach, we had in Kumasi, workshops will also offer practitioners the opportunity to share insights on successful campaigns, industry trends and build a relationship with the students.

Also, there is a need to motivate and inspire students because sometimes they don’t have a plan in place after school. Having practitioners with experience speaking at universities to talk about their career moments’ will help the students to start their PR careers on a good note. It will also help the students to determine which area they want to pursue.

For my future pros, inasmuch as, IPR has a role to equip you to become better PR pros, the buck stops with you. Note that your university degree is not enough; you need critical skills that will prepare you for the real world.

The PR industry in Ghana needs megastars like you – your ideas and opinions. But to seat at the table, you need attributes such as;

•   Be willing to learn

•   Have good writing skills

•   Be a good storyteller

•   Understand the players in media organizations and how they make decisions

•   Understand how reporters and editors think and work

•   Embrace numbers

•   Detail oriented

•   Have thick skin

•   Be patient

•   Form relationships

•   Multitask and demonstrate results

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Businesses must adopt effective communication and public relations – Cynthia Lumor

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Cynthia Lumor

The Corporate Services Executive of MTN Ghana, Cynthia Lumor, has urged aspiring Executives and CEOs to see corporate communications and public relations as integral parts of a business,
According to her, they contribute positively to business success and sustainability by building internal and external goodwill for sustained competitive and business advantage.

Sharing insights during the breakout session of the 2017 Festival of Ideas organized by Legacy and Legacy in Accra, Mrs. Lumor stated that corporate communications and public relations should be part of a well-planned, well executed, cohesive integrated communications strategy seeking to link organizations with identified stakeholders.

“The decision by customers to patronize a company’s products and services, as well as investment, regulatory and policy decisions are hugely influenced by credibility and trust, which are built over time and influenced by stakeholder experience with a company’s actions and communications,” she said. She emphasized the need to develop an effective, well-thought out plan that fits within the goals of the organisation, with clear timelines and monitoring, metrics for measurement, and the flexibility for adjustment where necessary.

“Knowing your business, understanding the company’s vision, goals and strategy, as well as the broader industry and the needs and expectations of stakeholders is extremely important; that knowledge will drive the relevance and effectiveness of your communications and PR strategy,” Mrs. Lumor stated.

She advised communications practitioners to be proactive in the anticipation and identification of issues, to better implement mitigation plans before they turn into crises. Reiterating the importance of crisis management planning, she stated that a good crisis management plan includes comprehensive analyses and plans for possible and potential crises. “Treat it as a living document that needs to be examined frequently. Additionally, when there is a crisis elsewhere – in another company, another industry, another country, another region – consider if it could happen with your company and if you have an effective plan in place,” she said.

In the area of employee communications, Mrs Lumor said employees are every company’s best ambassadors, thus it is important to engage them effectively and frequently. “They must understand the company’s vision, goals and strategy and the part they play in achieving them. Factor them in the rollout plan of all your communications activities and the results will be phenomenal.”

Source: Edward Adjei Frimpong l thebftonline.com

IPR Ghana elections slated for October

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The Institute of Public Relations (IPR), Ghana, has fixed Friday, October 20, 2017 for the election of officers for its council during its 24th Annual General Meeting slated for Kumasi in the Ashanti Region.
Nominations for the various positions: president, vice-president, honorary secretary, deputy honorary secretary and treasurer opened on Monday, August 7, 2017, and will close on Monday, August 28, 2017 at 4 p.m.

Statement

In a statement signed by the Chairman of the IPR Electoral Committee, Mr Charles Nii Ayiku Ayiku, the institute explained that in accordance with Article VIII (2) of the IPR Constitution and Article V (2) (b &c) of its bye-laws, “Only members in good standing shall have the right to vote. This includes affiliate, associate and accredited members.”

The statement asked members desiring to offer themselves for election to any of the council offices to collect nomination forms from the secretariat or request soft copies to be emailed to them.

“Current officers are eligible to serve another term in office and thus are eligible for re-nomination except for the position of the honorary secretary where the current occupant has served the maximum two terms and cannot serve in the same office,” the statement added.

Source: Daily Graphic

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.

SDGs

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