Nigeria needs positive PR to counter the negative, says Areola
Founder, Vivacity PR, Ann-Melody Oluwakemi Areola, who is currently Special Assistant (New Media) to the Minister of Communications, believes that the media profession in Nigeria, especially public relations, could help the nation’s economy and businesses grow and also address unemployment if inherent challenges are tackled. She lamented the misconceptions about PR practice by people and practitioners alike, saying they don’t understand its primary function, adding that this makes it difficult for them to deliver effectively.
According to her, “People see PR firms as advertising firms. They don’t understand that content creation forms the bedrock of what they truly are. What we need is to create a better understanding of our role as PR experts.
“Content in PR firm is sometimes different from how you see it in advertising firms. We create a third person story and so the way the content is created is different. We need to look at the foundation across our institutions and address key issues. What I will also advocate is for experts to take more PR courses. I attended a course or two in my MBA programme and I can see that I am on the right line.”
While stressing the need to strategise for emerging disruptions in the sector, Areola insisted that Nigeria’s image at the international community would become better if concerted efforts were made on creating awareness locally on why Nigerians must promote the country in positives, adding, “We promote more negative things than the positives about Nigeria. I am not saying you should keep negative things under the carpet but we don’t promote the good things as we promote bad things. We need to limit our joy for bad publicity for Nigeria. Things are hard in many other countries but citizens of those countries don’t come online to talk more about the negative things every time.”
She also decried the poor funding of public relations in Nigeria, adding that corporate organisations may not achieve desired objectives if they do not invest in PR campaigns adequately.
“Nigerian firms don’t make budget for public relations,” she said. “The bulk of the work for PR is mental. It is for you to sit down and think of how to create outside the box campaign, yet we don’t respect intellectual property. If you don’t invest enough into that you are not going to get what you deserve because you don’t understand the creativity that is behind a PR expert.
“People feel you can employ just anybody. They think it is not a difficult job. You need to hire someone, who has experience or outside-the-box thinking and those people don’t come cheap. If you are not investing into that, you may end up spending much more in solving problems.”
Trained at London Metropolitan University in Electronics and Communications Engineering, Areola is currently aiming to ply her trade in major cities of the world, including New York, London, and Shanghai. Her firm has served a number of clients worldwide in the past 10 years, and she hopes to develop and implement effective public relations strategies.
She said her company’s services span a wide range of areas, with specialisation in entertainment, corporate and political public relations as well as promoting groundbreaking events, branding international artists, corporate firms and others. She launched her career in 2015 with a modeling agency, Vivacity Models but wasn’t contented with the treatment given to young, ethnic models. The modeling agency was accompanied by a clothing store, Urban Vivacity, which both gave the young urban communities in the United Kingdom a glimmer of hope. The agency created jobs for over 500 models and a clothing store that kept everyone looking trendy. With a focus on PR, she now promotes and runs events, presenting her own TV show on B Sky B and a contributing writer for online and print publications.
Unless there is a clear understanding of the roles of public relations in society, it would be difficult for people to take the advantages the profession offers, noting, “PR is not totally understood in Nigeria. When I tell people that I am a PR consultant, they just ask me what that is. Are you a PRO or a blogger? I am the interface between the brand and the public or the public and the brand.”
Areola advised that rather than legislate against social media, government should channel more effort into educating people about opportunities in PR, including using it for good governance.
“I feel we need to educate people more on what PR is and the benefits of PR. Public relations encompasses marketing, advertising but it is not limited to them. So, it is more about brand development. It could include research and development. You also need to understand that it is a two-way thing. We are listening as well as we are talking. We don’t just put our products out and not understand how the public feels about them.
“Nigeria itself needs more positive PR. The PR at the moment is busy dragging people down and we are not so much focused on the positive. We are not looking inward for ways to create jobs. PR can play a great part in facilitating these things.”
According to her, while technology is currently creating disruptions across industries, the future of public relations would remain bright as technology would impact the industry more in positive ways.
“What we are trying to do at the Ministry of Communication is to educate Nigerians on the best use of social media. A lot of individuals are not aware of the benefits of social media. They are not aware of what you can achieve with a phone and a laptop. We need to sensitise top level stakeholders on the best use of social media – social media for job creation; it can contribute to the Gross Domestic Product. You can send messages on whatsapp that could fetch you money than sending negative messages all the time. Until we are able to explain what Nigerians can do with social media, people may not realise the power of the media.
“Today, I am the special adviser to the minister on social media. This is a job I got through my use of social media. I did not study social media; I did engineering but because I was constantly posting on social media, I became known for my skills in social media and now social media is making me money. That must not happen for everybody but there is a way you could use the huge human capital using social media. Use your data and megabits to your advantage.”