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.

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Why Internal Communication is important to Brand and Reputation Building

Internal Comms

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.

A rewarding career in Corporate Communication

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By: Gifty Bingley

Over the past few months, I have taken up some speaking engagements at the Ghana Institute of Journalism about a career in Communications. Outside the office hours, I am also mentoring two young ladies that have just started their careers in Internal Communication and Public Affairs. We meet once a month to talk through some of their projects and what the next steps should be. I have also volunteered as a communications consultant for some start-ups.

A career in Corporate Communications is very rewarding and fulfilling – no two campaigns or projects are the same and you often get to think and execute outside the proverbial box. The objectives, strategy and tactics are always different and depending on the target audience, product/service, budget … you can switch it up or down.

It is also exciting because it offers various specialized roles including Internal/Employee Communication and Engagements, Public Relations – this could include government relations, policy formulation and analysis or both, Corporate Social Responsibility/Social Investment and more recently Social Media/Digital engagements.

Often I find myself and members of the team in different roles other than our job titles and this varies from project to project.

Together as a team/department our single most important focus is to build a great reputation that drives a positive business climate for the organisation.

The bottom line for every business is to deliver value for shareholders. How do we deliver such value if there is no deliberate plan to building a great reputation for the business among various stakeholders?

This is summed up by the famous American Business leader, John Rockefeller, that “next to doing the right thing the most important thing is to let people know that you are doing the right thing.”

Employees need to know that you are doing the right thing, customers need to know and so do other stakeholders including the communities where we operate, regulators, government, shareholders, potential employees, etc.

And there are various ways of keeping these people informed, right from newsletters to press conferences, op-ed, roadshows, town-halls through to social media channels. Increasingly we need to think through our plans and develop compelling content.

It is not an easy job though especially for people who like to sit still. With the range of content, contacts and relations that we need to build including media, events and speaking engagements for senior executives, it is impossible to sit still unless you have an agency on a monthly retainer. Even then my suggestion is that you still go ahead to engage so that you can effectively add-on and support the agency.

Again, you would struggle if you are not open to learning new ways of communicating and measuring success. I will be honest here, what I used to practice in 2010 is far different from now, so much has changed including some of the tools and channels that I used to work with. It is constantly evolving. Like it or not, digital and social media has completely changed our relationship with the public and how we communicate with them and vice versa. The emphasis is ‘engagement’ rather than the ‘filter down theory’.

Like every job though, you need to work hard and consistently put in your very best to be successful. You would certainly love your role if you are passionate, very creative and resourceful, dedicated and committed and most importantly have integrity.

I transitioned from broadcast journalism to this field and it’s been very exciting. I have learnt a lot by reading, learning on the job – from line managers and colleagues. I often ask a lot of questions and I am not afraid to ask for help from colleagues and mentors. I also have a small group of friends who share ideas, discuss various strategies and tactics and I would certainly recommend joining bigger networks such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, UK and the  Institute of Public Relations, Ghana – the continuous professional development programmes have been amazing.

More and more business leaders in Ghana appreciate the value that we add to the business strategy and I certainly think it’s a great time to be a part of this profession.

 

Hits and misses: How Akufo-Addo’s PR, media communications fared in 100 days

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The 100-days of the president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo administration has not been without controversy.

There has been highs and lows in equal measure both of which have found expression in the media.

Three researchers , Dr. Etse Sikanku, Kwaku Botwe, & Selasie Kove-Seyram have chronicled the big moments of fame and shame in a piece titled “Hits and Misses: Ranking PR, Media and Communication under President Akufo-Addo’s first 100 days.

LOW POINT RANKINGS (STARTING WITH THE WORST) 

Plagiarism-gate
No matter how you slice it, the findings of plagiarism in the inaugural day speech of President Nana Akufo-Addo must be one of the most embarrassing moments of the young administration. It put us on CNN; it made us the laughing stock of the international media; it was simply embarrassing in a very painful way. When you earn a spot on Trevor Noah’s very much coveted “Daily Show” (with competition from the likes of Donald Trump) you know you must have done something really really bad.

The government apologized but this was just wrong in every respect. Administrations normally take a while to get their first major scandals but it looked like the Akufo-Addo government hit the ground with scandals. I hope the regime has exorcised whatever omen it was but kicking off your government with such a major international PR disasters is one of the worst possible beginnings anyone can imagine. Thankfully we haven’t seen any such plagiarism embarrassments after that.

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Ministerial bonanza: For your  appointment Dial  *110#
The appointment of 110 ministers by our president Nana Akufo-Addo made sure Ghana was once again the item of ridicule by our own African brothers and beyond. On Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms comparisons were made to countries with even bigger populations but fewer ministers. Others also took the liberty to mock how Ghana had supposedly fallen so low after the high points of the Nkrumah era. It wasn’t a very comfortable feeling seeing your country being the subject of such ridicule. Everyone knows Nana Addo means well but this his 110 ministers conundrum just didn’t fly. We don’t know how Nana settled at 110 but the figure itself sounds like a toll free number. No wonder it was so easy to develop memes and make fun of.

Delta Force & political impunity
This has got to be one of the biggest disappointments of the Akufo-Addo regime so far. Here is a president and a government which prides itself in such enduring democratic principles such as the rule of law. In fact the entire political identity of Nana Addo is anchored on his lifelong commitment to law, discipline and justice. When you see Nana Addo you see law. Yet one of the central pillars of justice delivery–in fact the very crucible of legal adjudication–the judiciary has been seriously undermined by activities of a purported security group with affiliations to the NPP.

Mr. President has repeatedly and roundly condemned the petulant, nefarious and abominable activities of Delta force but one cannot ignore the feeling that more needs to be done. If you consider both the short and long term effects of these so called “vigilante” groups and then place it within the context of International security and law, you know this is one organism that needs no pampering. President Akufo-Addo has built a reputation as the embodiment of law. He’s got to walk the talk.

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Independence Day Speech Brouhaha                                                                      

Overall, when one looks at the subtext and the connotation of the Independence Day speech you cannot help but conclude that the president wanted to re-present history in a way that favoured his party’s ideological leaning. The mere fact that the president chose the Independence Day to tell us about our history, which we mostly know already, raised suspicion. The public reaction (the conflict and drama) afterwards confirms this.

This is rather unfortunate because the speech contained references to some great national figures but all in all, it did tilt towards emphasizing certain partisan ideological heroes with sympathies to the NPP/UP tradition. The speech was unduly bent in terms of foregrounding individuals more attuned towards the NPP’s ideological strain.  Sure he did mention Nkrumah and others but generally you leave that speech knowing there was an attempt to promote the Danquah-Busia tradition/elements of our historical narrative. Public opinion was heavily divided and a speech which should have brought the country together on Independence Day rather deepened the ideological schism within the country. Not cool.

Galamsey Communication and “Ministerial Begging”                                          

Galamsey or illegal mining has become one of the topical news stories under the Akufo-Addo regime so far.  Various stakeholders including the media, politicians and civil society need to be commended for the campaign and sensitization. However not many Ghanaians were happy with the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, John Peter Amewu for some of his language/communication/conversations and posturing during his interaction with the Chinese Ambassador to Ghana and the Mayor of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Province (where a majority of Chinese illegal miners are purported to have come from). CITI FM for instance reported that the Minister was “practically begging” the Chinese to help fight the menace. Many felt the Minister should have taken a firmer stance during his communication with the Chinese team.

This is understandable to the extent that such posturing during conversations like this determines or indicative of the balance of power when it comes to international communication. It somewhat makes Ghanaians appear powerless while tilting power towards the Chinese. We all know that in such delicate international dialogues one party is likely to dominate the conversations with the view to maintaining influence and power over the other. Hon. Amewu did not help matters in this particular case.

From an international communication perspective it indicates, even if peripherally, that the ideological framework underpinning Ghanaians relationship/dialogues with the Chinese is hegemonic. Let’s not forget that according to international communication scholar Thussu (2000) “communication has always been critical to the establishment and maintenance of power” (p.1). For a free, independent African nation with a full-fledged democratic credentials— the star of Africa and leader of the African independence movement—this is not acceptable. Not in 2017. Not in the 21st century. Not ever at all.

Galamsey

THE HIGH POINT RANKING (STARTING WITH THE BEST) 

Nominee announcements: Akufo-Addo Style

Before Nana Addo, the typical style of announcing ministerial nominees had taken the form of a press releases.

Brief SONA (State of the Nation Address)

Brevity, they say, is the soul of wit. This saying may have its origin in literature but has a lot of implications in communication. Good communication is concise, devoid of clutter and bureaucratese. The president teased out the essential parts of the state of nation address and left the unintelligible jargons having in mind the state of the nation address (unlike the budget statement which may target experts and technocrats) is for the entire nation.  The president was fully aware of this and he kept reminding MPs who shouted in request of details that “this is not a budget statement”.

Press friendliness

The president has shown some press friendliness which is a good mark of democracy. Within the 100 day period he availed himself to journalists from GTV and Daily Graphic for questioning. This offered him the opportunity to address a myriad of issues including concerns over what many perceive as his bloated government. As one-sided as the communication maybe it still afforded the nation the chance to hear from the presidency on prime issues to concern.

By: Dr. Etse Sikanku, Kwaku Botwe, & Selasie Kove-Seyram

Contact: 020 3295907, 0244998642

Citation: Sikanku, Botwe & Kove-Seyram (2017). Hits and misses: Ranking PR, media and communication under president Akufo-Addo’s first 100 days.

References

Thussu, D.K. (2000) International Communication: Continuity and Change. London: Arnold.

A blender, a brand and a catastrophe: Case study of the Mawarko Foods crisis

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No one can accurately foresee when a crisis will happen. They are sudden and unpredictable. The key to this is in how prepared one is to mitigate a crisis in the first place and then manage the process of returning the situation back to normalcy.

In the corporate world a crisis could either tank your business or serve as a catalyst for the improvement of business processes. Some areas prone to creating issues which eventually turn into crises are labour, operations, and management and environmental activities among others. Organisations need to be mindful of the potential of sour issues going incredibly wrong.

One organization currently facing a crisis in full bloom is Mawarko Foods. The company is one of the well-known brands when it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine. It is not uncommon to witness the unending queues of patrons, waiting their turn to sample a ‘Mawarco Shawarma’ et al.

Sadly, a recent incident involving the alleged maltreatment of staff on site seems to have shaken the foundation of business for this company. Organisations are not immune to crises. They need to insulate themselves from the devastating impact that crises can cause to their brands. History has taught the many of the effects of a crisis on the reputation of organisations with the likes of Enron, Domino’s Pizza and Johnson & Johnson.

In the grand scheme of things, one can use the Mawarko crisis as a case study on how a company should tackle any crisis and emerge reformed for future business operations.
The road to recovery starts with admitting that there is a problem (note that this may lead to and reach damaging proportions to the brand at the initial stage).Then a prudent switch to emergency mode and a prompt advance towards implementing a full crisis communication strategy to ameliorate circumstances must be pursued.

The purpose of the crisis communication strategy is to guide the organisation’s executives to communicate to its stakeholders and the general public on the events that have cast a negative perception on the integrity of the company; the crisis plan is the blue print of a clearly defined channel to alleviate negative repercussions.

One must always know that the media will do their job in sounding the alarm when things go wrong; but social media amplifies a crisis exponentially at astounding speed. This case is evidently a media crisis; it is important to understand the issues clearly, respond swiftly and to send out consistent messaging.

So, how did things get so out of hand for this company?

  1. Timing (delayed response): The issue happened on Sunday February 26, 2017; the company delayed their response (i.e. issuance of an official statement) until about a week after. By this time, different versions of the story had taken root in the minds of the public.
  2. Breach of crisis response protocol (the issue of spokesperson/s): It seems that there was no crisis management policy or strategy guiding the company in handling communications between the company and the outside world. Too many voices from the company were giving testimonies by granting interviews on behalf of the company.The official statement for instance, was attributed to the CEO, which should be no crime. However, two other staff, one is reported to be the “Public Relations Officer” and the other, a Supervisor, were heard on separate radio stations speaking on the issue and creating contradictions which undoubtedly inflamed tensions. Engagement with the media must strictly be for designated persons with the skill and approval from management.
  3. Social media and the missed opportunity: They missed the opportunity to actively use social media in time to reach the public. Public mob-waves began ganging up against the company with concerted cries from the public to boycott all services and products of the company. The issue began to   trend and spread on many other social media platforms.
  4. A struggling statement: Aside being late, the official statement from the company seemed wrought with contradictions. There were different accounts to the story from the various statements in the public domain which opened the company up for further mistrust and anger.
  5. Whistleblower Protection: This one is tricky but from the official statement given, the company created the impression that their internal structures were not strong. They stated categorically that though the issue happened, and was being managed by the HR department, management only got wind of the situation after the police   arrested the suspect.  Whistleblower protection is serious business. To ensure organiations are aware of all incidents within their walls it should offer immunity or full support and protection to staff who alert management of mishaps within the organisation.
  6. The “Lebanese company” tag: It emerged that the organisation is Ghanaian-owned and is headed by a Ghanaian. This was announced in their statement address and re-iterated by Lawyers for the firm during court proceedings. Granted that this fact is true, the company missed the opportunity to water down the “Lebanese companies exploit staff rhetoric”. Obviously, the Ghanaian public got enraged largely because the Supervisor was perceived as a hostile expatriate. However, regardless of the origin of the company, should the organisation have had a proactive crisis management strategy or plan  functioning, a large part of the company’s image could have been greatly salvaged.
  7. Distancing the brand from an individual:  In relation to the previous point, a clear crisis management plan would contain the situation enough to buy time for further investigations to be conducted. Clearly, this was an act of indiscretion on the part of an individual which was most unfortunate but should not have impacted the brand so.
  8. Connection between suspect and CEO: Because of the said family ties between the CEO and the suspect, the public felt the company was trying to sweep the incident under the carpet. Again, the company could have been smarter with their internal investigations and indicated their readiness not to tolerate any acts of abuse or bullying from Line Manager towards their Subordinates regardless of the relationship between  the alleged culprit and the owners of the company.

Someone aptly summed up the actions to take when hit with media crisis and the advise couldn’t be more concice.When handling a media crisis, be guided by these three principles:-

  1. If it cannot be explained, it cannot be defended:- If the issue is bad, own up to it and apologize.
  2. You’ve got to tell the truth; be selective. There’s a time and place for everything. Tell the truth and as little as you need to, but enough to please the media and the different stakeholders interested in the crisis. This is where a PR Specialist (in-house or retained) is needed to navigate the course of communications surrounding the crisis.
  3. When there’s a crisis, there’s also a great opportunity: the spotlight is already on the company: use it favourably to your advantage

Once the public sees a concerted effort to genuinely make amends all the tension will eventually subside.

Conclusion

Crises communication is a product of crises management. Crises management is a metamorphosis of issues management. Organisations need to deal with issues before they get out of hand. Ronald D. Smith, author of Strategic Planning for Public Relations, 2005 gave the analogy of  issues management being somewhat similar to steering a sailboat which runs with the wind. When the wind happens to be blowing in the direction you want it to go you make progress against the wind. Sometimes you need to work to have the wind in your favour, sometimes you stall when there is no wind; you adapt to a constantly changing environment. In a crisis, the analogy can be likened to riding out a storm on the high seas; the best anyone can do is drop the sails, hang on and hope the boat is strong enough to survive without too much damage.

The Mawarko story is now included in the library of crisis communication case studies for organisations to learn lessons from and students of Communications to dissect and earn marks for exams.

By:  Henking Klonobi Adjase-Kodjo

GUEST BLOG: If I were to evaluate the litany of names associated with Public Relations

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Georgina Asare Fiagbenu, IPR Ghana PR Discovery of the Year

When a baby is born, a name is given by the parents.  In Ghana, the name usually reflects when the baby was born and who gave birth to them. It also reflects the religion and tribe he belongs to. After the naming ceremony, the name given is expected to stay with the person till thy kingdom come.

That is not the same with many people. As time goes on, some people change their names and this is often done to reflect their new identify or the image they have built for themselves.

The new names may be self-acquired or imposed or inflicted on the bearers. Sometimes people are given nicknames which they have no clue of. It is also common for people to give up religious names for traditional or local names whilst others also take on new names when they take on a new religion. Some original names are sometimes traded for names like Aliiiolo, Prof, Bola Ray, DJ Black, Captain Planet, Opana and several others.

It is also very common to see people who have about five or six names for different reasons with each of them highlighting a different meaning.  It is easy to find someone who has a name that is not familiar with his/her family.

Not only do humans struggle with names and identity but some professions also face similar identity crisis. One them is the Public Relations (PR) profession.

So last Friday evening, November 4, 2016, as we gathered at La Palm Royal Beach Hotel for the Institute of Public Relations Annual Excellence Awards and Presidential Ball, I begun to think carefully about the names given to Public Relations (PR) professionals. This thinking was triggered by the acceptance remarks made by the Chairperson of the event. This was not the first time I was having this thought.  Finding an appropriate universal name for the PR profession remains a challenge in PR practice.  But the concern is not new. Way back in Communications school more than a decade ago it was discussed and the impressions people have about the name also been well documented.

Since Public relations started it has suffered an identity crisis from the time of its formation till date. Isn’t it quite ironic that the profession which is charged with the building of positive identities would suffer an identity crisis?

So far I have never seen any profession that has so many names. As we all know a doctor is a doctor but of course we have physicians, surgeons, medical practitioners etc. But the name “doctor” seem to be a universal generic name.  A nurse is also a nurse and pilots are pilots and so are accountants, Lawyers and musicians. Their names are simply cut for them and there is no doubt about who they are and what they do.

PR officers have been given several names and the list is endless. I can bet that it is the only profession in the world with so many names and identities. The myriad of names in a way reflects the evolution of the practice.

The profession can boast of the following names: Public Relations, Public Affairs, Corporate Affairs, Corporate Communications, External Communications, External Affairs. In the government and political circles names like Press Secretary, Government Spokespersons office, Government Affairs, Propaganda secretary are used to describe PR people. Names like Publicity, Promotions, Protocol, Publications, and Fundraising departments are also quite popular. Some other names are also given to reflect the functions the role player covers. Some are called Media relations, Community relations, etc. In the Western world the term Publicists and Lobbyists are also existent. Recent emerging names include Corporate Relations, Consumer Relations, Consumer Affairs and Reputation Management.

Some of the names sound very corporate, whilst others sound fanciful but it doesn’t take away the fact that there is a lot of perspective and dimensions of the practice. It may appear confusing and murky but it doesn’t take away the fact that Public Relations is an important and strategic role that seeks to influence the bottom-line.

The strategic role includes being analytical, critical thinking, understanding trends and interpreting facts and figures. It requires a good understanding of the industry and business that you are in and it requires the ability to build good relations. Indeed a good practitioner must be a well-rounded person who adds value to everything. Without public relations a big gap will be created in Corporates, Public Institutions and many other fields of endeavor.

I have realized that a lot of people go into Public relations without a good understanding of what the role entails. Just like an octopus, the profession has various tentacles but it still doesn’t change who we are and what we do. We must keep our focus on the key tenets of the profession and work towards working to contribute to the deliverable of measurable inputs and results that helps to influence the bottom line.

As I continued to think through this issue I heard my name being mentioned by the MC and I quickly had to move to the podium. I had been adjudged the PR Discovery of the year and I had to go and collect my plaque. I am really excited about this award.

The night turned out well.  MTN won three awards, followed by Vodafone who won two. Other companies who won are Stanbic Bank, Global Media Alliance and a few others.

In all, it was a beautiful night. The program started late.  Regardless, it turned out to be an enjoyable night. The event was attended by many of the IPR gurus. The MCs were at their best. One of them was my friend Esi Hammond, PR Manager for Bank of Ghana who looked splendid in her beautiful green gown. The décor was really well done and the food was good.   The music was excellent. My personal “Discovery of the Night” was the Fire service band. They were fantastic.  They did a fabulous rendition of some popular songs and they made the night very enjoyable. I commend the Planning committee and the entire executives of IPR.  I am already looking forward to the next IPR event.

The writer is Georgina Asare Fiagbenu, Senior Manager Corporate Communications at MTN Ghana

 

Guest Blog: Brand (re)Activation: The Kalyppo Case & Future Success

kalyppo

Just a few days ago, Kalyppo, a fruit juice from Aquafresh Ghana Limited was unarguably not a “standout” beverage in the market it targets and obviously not in the new market it has broken into. Yes, Kalyppo may have had some good run in the past but managing the life-cycle of a brand in a market with such bursts of substitutes has never been easy.

Everything changed (free publicity & demand hits the roof) for this brand when the leader of the main opposition political party is spotted sipping this beverage that doesn’t even target his demographic.

Questions arise as to the mastermind and the kind of Outcome-Based Thinking (OBT) technique employed to gauge and hit a marketing “bulls-eye” albeit unintentional.

Whether borne out of mischief or muster,one thing is clear;

Endorsement works!!!!

Especially from personalities with a cult following (politicians, religious, athletes, etc.) intended or unintended as the current case is clearly of the latter kind.

The incident and what it was or was not intended for, presents the management of Aquafresh with both an opportunity in the market and a risk in perception, no doubt.

The fact that on their Facebook page, Kalyppo appreciates the new patronage from every Ghanaian and not a grouping and further preaches peaceful election and patronising made in Ghana is very commendable as that neutralises the risk of perception or any future liability thereof.

The irony here is of an aged breathing new life into a brand somewhat ” aged” in its life cycle but meant for ” new life“.

Almost all of Kalyppo’s brand (re)activation metrics i.e (Relevance, Return on Investment, Uniqueness, Amplification) have seen tremendous boosts.

The future success and the real challenge will be for management of Aquafresh to strategically utilise Outcome-Based Thinking Strategies to gain in terms of long-term market potential for Kalypo and how to integrate the capabilities from all this to affect other brands in their portfolio.

In short, however, this election goes, Aquafresh as a company and Kalypo as a brand should be the better for it.

The writer is Appiah-Kubi KwatengHead, Customer Operations and Inside Sales at Jobberman Ghana Limited.