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Experts propose branding approach as public sector reform strategy

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[FILES] Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria (APCON)

Experts in the public relations, marketing and communication sector have called on government to adopt branding approach as a means to address the challenges of inefficiency, trust, and credibility facing public sector organisations in Nigeria.

This was advocated at a summit organised by Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria (APCON), in collaboration with Brandmarks Communications, in Abuja.

The summit had as theme ‘Branding Approach: A Tool for Enhancing Public Sector Objectives,’ where it was stressed that branding approach is imperative to help the sector serve the Nigerian public better as many developed countries now use branding strategies for coordinating efforts.

A Senior Lecturer of mass communication, University of Abuja, Dr. Abiodun Adeniyi, said it is important that nations be concerned about branding because government is responsible for the generality of the population.

He explained that even though there are different levels of branding, at the national level it is responsible for creating social impact.

According to him, “Social in the sense that it is not profit-oriented. It is essentially rendering of services towards guarantying freedom, happiness and prosperity.

‘Change Begins with Me’ is a government initiative and it is all about conceptualization, implementation, and commitment to implement the programme. Practicing what you preach is a human thing.

Are our leaders ready? The officials responsible for it, are they ready? Are they conscious about it? All these come into play if we want to determine the efficiency and productivity of it.

“Nigerians are very patient people and it is important to understand that we do not have any nation apart from this country. If you are opportune to live abroad, you will know that you still need your original nation. It doesn’t matter whether you have naturalised or have same right citizens of those countries have. We have to make things work together.”

Also a public sector expert, Dr. Henry Nzekwu, said branding is a vehicle government can use to achieve prosperity, freedom, and prosperity. He argued for the institutionalisation of branding as a tool for enhancing public sector objectives.

“We need a form of compulsion and this comes through some level of laws, Acts and some statutory initiatives, which we should do year in year out or else we will be going about intellectual gymnastics, which will lead nowhere.

“The time to act is now. We are in an election year, and it is important if we want to move forward to drum it into the ears of politicians that whatever they promise us, there is something we need to cut into their programme, that by the time they get into power, they will be conscious of the need to portray the society and this nation as one of competence, quality, and progress and one vehicle needed for this is branding.”

A panel discussions took a critical look at the issues, with a marketing communications expert and member of APCON, Temitope Jemerigbe, expressed belief in the need to start branding from the top because Nigerian society is at a stage of denial.

Mrs. Jemerigbe said there is a level of arrogance that is commensurate with the services coming from the public sector that resists feedback and one of the first things needed in the private sector is a customer experience and feedback. This, she said, has been made easier with technology.

“The need to get feedback so that you can improve your product is very critical,” she said. “But there is resistance of feedback in the public sector. We don’t want to take feedback and that prevents us to want to take measures to correct our mistakes.

“The private and public sectors are not really different. The only difference is that the private is open to feedback and that maybe because the private sector operates to make profit. They engage researchers to enable them understand the critical issues they have.”

Interestingly, while the summit aimed at improving government engagement and public sector revival, key stakeholders were ironically absent.

The Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who was expected to give the opening address, was unapologetically absent without even a representative sent in his place.

Besides the presence of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and National Coordinator and Chief Executive Officer of SERVICOM, Nnena Akajemeli, however, played most of the part assigned to government’s representatives.

She admitted that it is no secret that services in the public sector have not been consistent, which she said was why SERVICOM was established as a service delivery office of the Federal Government to improve services in public institutions.

Akajemeli explained that when it comes to branding of products, SERVICOM office does not have a product per say, but it achieves its goal through effective communications.

She, however, noted that SERVICOM is a means to an end, but not an end itself.

According to her, “We still have MDAs, which are doing well with service delivery but we still need them to improve. We will always see complaints in service delivery gaps and we let the MDAs know that they cannot disregard complaints as they are what is used to get to the root of problems.”


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