When a brand is drowning and the brand owners are not willing to listen to the voice of reason nor re strategize, every rotten tree you see inside the ocean will look like a life safer. Public Relations is a great profession, I am proud to say I am a chartered professional in this great and esteemed field. But as good as this profession is, we all know it may be difficult to cast a rotten wood. The irony of life is that many because of greed will promise heavens on earth.
For Public relations to work for a brand, there are basic fundamentals which will make its application a smooth sailing. When the die is cast and there is no great justification Public Relations spin will deliver much if expected ingredients are missing. It is no longer news; Nigeria image has been suffering a backlash for about three or four years now.
But the abduction of over 200 school girls in Chibok, Borno State Nigeria has added a lot of damage. Nigeria and its leadership have suffered more. Many speak of lack of direction and inability to take firm control of situation created by Boko haram on the part of government. Many also felt the carefree attitude as well as inability to take firm control; seeming inefficiency of Military Forces under President Jonathan Goodluck led administration has reached its height. Internally, citizens are beginning to lose confidence in the ability of this government to perform any magic. To government officials, it is believed that Opposition parties and international community among others are also joining hands in spreading the fire of negativity about Nigeria and all its essence.
No thank to inability of government to communicate its efforts well as well as some half-baked or mischievous government aides who consistently damage the fragile reputation that is left. More importantly, there has been contradictory information flow which makes people to feel government is using propaganda and progressive lies to cover up. With this background, Nigeria government has hired a Washington based Public Relations firm, Levick, with a rumoured fee of over a Million Dollar. Since the deal was sealed, the company had started the process of reputation management with an op-ed placement in Washington Post. Quite a great effort to get such a premium position in a medium like Washington post.
While we commend Federal government of Nigeria’s initiatives and concern for great image, which is a great soft capital for national development, it is also on record that one cannot place the cart before a horse and expect much progress. Efforts and money may be an attempt in futility if this is done. So here are some of the foundational steps that can make the Public relations ‘Make up’ stay on the face and make Nigeria looks great.
Create atmosphere of trust internally: You cannot be pushing a front outside when the internal audience has no confidence, trust in you. The internal audience is the one who shares experience (online and offline) which outsiders pick. If the owner of a cloth says it is a rag, what do you think outsiders will say about it?
Let there be peace within: a house full of crisis will not enjoy good image. If there is a constant fight among family members especially between parents which often lead to shouting, battering etc, no matter what the wife says to cover up will be exposed through swollen faces and dysfunctional lifestyle of the children.
Empower internal audience to become strong brand advocate: What is the value of a Nigerian life? We keep asking Nigerians to be patriotic like citizens in advanced Countries. But in these countries, Government places value on each citizen. They are not just number. People die here and it is seen as a common thing. Bombs explosion happens and leaders keep sending out same rhetoric ‘we are pained about this, we will get to the root of this’ among others.
Reward good character, punish bad behavior: A country that consistently turns its eye away from punishing bad behaviours among frontline Political leaders but punishes beyond limit a common man that does something insignificant need a rethink.
If you must hire foreign PR companies… Government must consider hiring Nigeria professionals who will work hand in hands with the external firms. There is no way an outsider will understand any terrain than those who are based there. How many times has American or other foreign governments come to Nigeria to come and hire Nigerian based Public Relations companies to do such job? A word is enough for the wise.