By Jerry Sawyerr
Formulating strategy that adds value to client’s business will perhaps remain the single most important variable to help keep African PR firms afloat during times of economic recession. Also, as the PR industry in Africa continues to grow – as a result of an influx of multinationals seeking to take advantage of the huge market here on the continent – African PR will be matched comparatively with its foreign counterparts based on the strength of these outreach and engagement strategies.
Speaking to members of African Public Relations Association at a recent summit in Calabar, Nigeria, it became clear that to stay afloat and competitive, African PR practitioners must go above and beyond the ubiquitous press release to improve engagement with the public.
We must realise that organisations are constantly on the hot plate to deliver shareholder gains, and clients are looking for that creative option to help their brands connect more with the public. The PR practitioner therefore needs to put on his thinking cap to arrive at the right strategy that will add value to his client’s business. Arriving at the right strategy is a process that begins with understanding the client’s communication objectives; analysing the situation, identifying the audiences, targeting the media, crafting the key messages, and planning the perfect approach.
Surviving during a recession is tough – PR budgets are usually the first to get axed as organisations struggle to mitigate economic shocks. For example, Nigeria is currently going through one of its worst economic recession since independence. With oil price at its lowest, the Nigerian economy is one of the worst hit, as oil is a major source of foreign exchange earner. The fall in international oil prices has created many challenges across industries (including PR) as 70 per cent of the country’s economy depends on revenue from the sale of crude oil.
With these challenges, business survival in Nigeria is all-around more challenging, and PR is not insulated from the debilitating impact. To stay afloat, the PR practitioner has to be ingenious in spurring out strategies that will leave the client asking for more. These strategies must deliver value and turn newly acquired goodwill into tangible impact on the bottom-line in both the medium and long term. With the right strategy, clients will dig deep to find budget and keep PR practitioners in business.
So what makes a good strategy? I identified certain variables that will not only help keep local PR agencies afloat, but will help African PR thrive in global arena.
A good strategy should disrupt; challenging pre-conceived notions, instigating thorough analysis, creating basis for debates, and presenting the client with new perspectives in problem areas. A great strategy must look different, feel different, and engage.
A good strategy must also provide solution. No solution, no value add. No matter how creative a strategy is, if it does not deliver solution to the client’s problems, it won’t have impact.
A good strategy should be a combination of originality, imagination, and innovativeness. Creativity enhances the uniqueness of any strategy. Unfortunately, many strategies have gone unnoticed due to their lack of creativity.
PR practitioners should note that in today’s communication landscape there are no boundaries. A good PR strategy should not be afraid to cross the communication line. In most African PR practices, creativity is stifled by delineations – that invisible boundary that argues that PR is not advertising. Meanwhile, in developed practices, where communication has taken a broader outlook, there are no boundaries. The business is ruled solely by strategy and impact – not by limitations to communication channels.
Simply put, strategy is everything when it comes to enhancing African PR survival and stimulating its competiveness in global PR practice.
By Jerry Sawyerr, Nigeria Country Director, Weber Shandwick Africa