Inside Nigeria’s PR Industry of Brown Envelopes, Press Releases and Quacks

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Honoraria. Flava. Keske. T-fare. Brown Envelope.

These are just some of the code names by which cash exchange for editorial coverage is known in Nigeria.

In a country where there are over 50 newspapers and magazines on the newsstands, hundreds of radio and TV stations, and an ocean of blogs and websites, it is no surprise that the media environment is industrious.

Everyone wants to be in the media – politicians, motivational speakers, consumers, brands, entertainers, pastors, even bankers, fraudsters and climbers.

To be frank, only few deserve coverage, but in a country where a tabloid journalist earns less than $100 per month, where most newspapers owe up to six months’ salaries, and TV stations pay tokens for wages, it is no surprise that the numbers of reporters and editors patronizing their subjects have been increasing.

Some of the busiest journalists are freelance agents; securing advert placements, planting news and features in their journals, managing celebrities and consulting for banks and politicians. Many of their bosses are aware of these activities – if not equally guilty.

According to a May 2015 report by the Nigerian Union of Journalists, about 9 Nigerian newspapers owed salaries up to 18 months.

Journalists protest against ThisDay over non-payment of salaries

The media scene is a mess and the public relations industry in Nigeria is a beneficiary. Driven by a news conference and press release culture, PR pros in these parts have mastered how to speak the language of envelopes. For decades, they have connived with poorly remunerated reporters and struggling publishers to fill papers and magazines with promotional content that scarcely catches the interest of the readers.

There are now about 50 agencies registered with Public Relations Consultants’ Association of Nigeria (PRCAN), the body recognized by government to regulate PR consultancy in Nigeria. Yet, there are hundreds more, practicing in every sector, without certification by NIPR or PRCAN.

A 2015 BHM Survey estimates that around 1,900 press releases are issued per day in Nigeria. Most of these are from politicians, corporate organizations and celebrities.

Journalists on every beat are bombarded with emails and phone calls requesting priority. Usually, only those from ‘friendly’ sources make it into the pages in consequence of bank alerts, gifts and promises. Most of the time, the press releases are announcing a new product, countering a report, promoting a new artiste, or an event.

In 2013, three top 10 agencies paid out over $250,000. One year after, the figure could have quadrupled for each of these agencies.

Meanwhile, newspaper sales continue to drop at an alarming rate. At least, five print publications – The News, Entertainment Express, Sunday Express, PM News, Y!,- have gone under in the past year; many have reduced frequency of publication while others are shutting down presses and cutting staff. After publishing for five years, Nigerian Entertainment Today is shutting down its weekly print edition to focus fully on digital operations.

PR agencies are not doing any better. Many are unable to keep senior staff due to poor remuneration. Salaries are owed regularly – a sad reality for an industry that pays less than half what advertising pays. Just as it is in the media, some of the brightest talents in PR have fled, in search of better packages.

The verdict is clear – consumers don’t care about press releases. Consumers only care about themselves and what is important to them. When agencies and media began to bore audiences, they wasted no time in switching to an alternative: blogs and websites, which spoke their language.

Elsewhere, in the United States and England, agencies are embracing story-telling and big ideas. Agencies are news jacking, blogging and breaking the Internet. The press release has been murdered and buried. Elsewhere, bribery is a sin and if it does happen at all, it is clandestine with clear understanding of implications.

TheNiche

Moreover, PR is driven by clear strategy and clear measurement indices. Media is driven by circulation figures and ethics. Those who practice otherwise are the exception, not the norm as it is here in Nigeria.

Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and PRCAN are working hard to cleanse the practice and lead the industry into the future. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and other associations are working to ensure organizations treat their journalists better, and more than a few agencies are determined to execute campaigns that meet current global standards.

Great case studies are emerging from Nigeria. Little agencies are doing big things and interests in membership for NIPR and PRCAN is at an all time high.

But experts claim some things will need to happen before we experience this big transformation.

  • Journalists will have to be better trained and remunerated.
  • Media organizations will have to be better funded and run.
  • PR professionals will need to embrace new thinking  – we will need to think and behave like copywriters, filmmakers, storytellers, comedians, designers, editors and bloggers.
  • Regulation will have to be stringent to make it more difficult for quacks to find and keep business.
  • PR consultancies will have to be better funded and run. There will have to be mergers, acquisitions and partnerships.
  • In-house PR staff will have to embrace technology, stay updated on trends and be at the forefront of helping management understand that #PRISDEAD.
  • Training, according to all the experts surveyed, is at the centre of it all. We all -media, agencies, regulators – must invest in training and tools if we are to change our stories and change our lives. All three must work together to create the kinds of experience that will lure the audiences back.

 

War Against Public Relations

PRCAN

Chido Nwakanma was still president of Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria when we sat in my office at BlackHouse Media in 2014.

Chido Nwakamah

Chido Nwakamah

BHM, where I’m CEO, was launching Nigeria’s first mobile application in the PR industry and Nwakanma attended with the association’s excos John Ehiguese, Muyiwa Akintunde, and others. As we demonstrated and tested the app, one question appeared consistent: how did we plan to get the right information, in a country where the PR market was shrouded in so much secrecy?

One year later, our industry has opened up a bit. A late 2014 survey gave us an idea of who’s billing what. Journalists have more information about accounts’ movement and pitches. Many agencies are now providing campaign case studies on-the-go. The industry is opening up to affiliation and collaboration and PR agencies here are beginning to use their own medicine.

But while that is happening, there appears to be a sustained assault on the industry. The perpetrators? Those whose job is to protect and develop public relations; those who profit from the profession; those who deeply need the industry.

Some of these people know what they’re doing. Others have no idea.

As I have noted repeatedly, the public relations industry has been at best disappointing. While many complain about everything there is to complain about, it is often my style to look at what we did wrong in the past 20 years. Top on the list is that fact that we did not embrace technology early. Information and communication technology has transformed the way humans interact. As public relations professionals, we should have been at the forefront of big data science, of social media, of location and habit mapping. We should have been the pioneers of digital marketing and experience design and branded story telling.

If you do not disrupt yourself, then you must get ready to be disrupted. It happened to the search industry, happened to media and photography. It’s happened to computing and mobile messaging. It happened to advertising. And now, as the transportation and telecommunications industries face unprecedented disruptions, public relations itself is undergoing an assault by new ideas and tools. New technology has ensured that every industry today must innovate or die.

The Kardashians

The Kardashians

Newspapers are now playing catch up with blogs and websites. Telcos are being forced to rethink their business model because of obvious threats from Facebook and co. Google built a global advertising business while ad giants were snoring. The Kardashians are launching bestselling apps and engaging millions of millenials without breaking a sweat. Taxi associations are grumbling as Uber makes a mess of tradition and reinvents an entire industry. Apple, which itself disrupted the music industry with the introduction of iTunes, was a late comer to the party as Spotify, Deezer and Soundcloud changed the way we consume music. Netflix? You know the story of the disruption that took down Blockbuster. You know of how Blogger and WordPress gave everyone the power to be an online publisher and how that impacted traditional news brands. You know of how the Android OS caused a revolution that took down more than a few mobile phone companies.

As the global public relations industry faces the biggest threat in decades, many insiders are admitting that indeed, PR is Dead. Writing in his book of the same title, Robert Phillips, a former Edelman executive says, “PR has run out of options and has missed its moment to lead. It is in terminal decline. About to be overrun and overwhelmed by the age of data, PR today is to communications what analogue was to digital at the turn of the century.”

This was my exact position, when I met with staff of X3M Ideas, a Lagos communications group recently. My exact position when I addressed participants at the African Public Relations Association conference in 2014.

X3M Ideas

These admissions are not to nail the coffin on the profession and move on to something else. Rather it is information to help us understand what has happened so we can adapt and survive. We have since killed the press release. We are making measurement more scientific and using storytelling in better ways than ever. We are investing in data and tech and redefining the kind of talents that make up an agency.

In Africa, where the PR industry is hitherto traditional and conservative, dominated by press agentry, practitioners are dumping old habits and moving into the future. Many agencies are staffing web developers and programmers; designers and editors, as well as community managers and influencers. One Nigerian agency is employing psychologists while another has put out an advert for in-house comedian.

And those who matter have noticed. There’s a renewed client and employer trust, as evidenced by a 2014 PRCAN survey. There is a surge in the number of young undergraduates interested in working in PR, and an interesting increase in the number of foreign agencies interested in doing business here. In Nigeria, the country with Africa’s highest GDP, highest Internet penetration and highest population, at least two affiliations have been announced in the past six months. Burson-Marsteller has partnered with a leading Nigerian agency, CMC Connect while Fleishman Hillard only recently signed an affiliation with Mediacraft Associates LTD. Bell Pottinger has collaborated on project with BlackHouse Media while Edelman last week paid a working visit to Sesema PR in Lagos.

the-Nigerian-Institute-of-Public-Relations-nipr1-300x167

As the quality of service is improving and new ideas are helping the profession rebound, regulators Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) are working to step up industry governance, kick out quacks, provide resources for training and development, and ensure certified practitioners in public service achieve chartered status like their colleagues in accounting, human resources and medicine.

But I suspect recent happenings may make all the work of the past few years come to naught. Foreign agencies are opening shop in Nigeria without recourse to NIPR or PRCAN. Those who are not physically here are getting and executing briefs from their base in Europe and America. Public and Private organizations are patronizing PR staff and agencies not certified to practice by NIPR, nor accredited by PRCAN.

There is a good precedent in what Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) andAdvertising Agencies Association of Nigeria (AAAN) have done. No foreign agency can currently practice advertising in Nigeria without 75% local ownership. No advertising agency can do business without an AAAN membership certificate (registration fee is at least N750, 000).

The recently formed Experiential Marketers Association (EXMAN) is as we speak, setting up policies and procedures to sanitize and regulate their practice, hoping to curb falling standards and ensure a system that can help clients tell the difference between quacks and professionals.

Since our agency BHM was inducted into PRCAN on November 23, 2013, I have been part of several meetings where standards have been discussed. The association has spent time engaging with clients and employers, travelling round the world to see what is happening elsewhere, partnering with Holmes Report, ICCO, APRA, etc for training, data exchange and resources, while developing a masterclass programme that continues to receive praise.

Former-PRCAN-president-Nnemeka-Maduegbuna-Ayeni-Adekunle-and-Vice-President-John-Ehiguese-300x200

NIPR was established in 1963, and chartered in 1990 by Decree No 16 to regulate the practice of public relations and monitor professional conducts through an established code of ethics and professional conduct regime. The law stipulates standard academic and professional qualifications for admission into the institute. A 22-man governing council elects the president every two years.

PRCAN was established by an NIPR byelaw of 1993. The association was also registered as a not-for-profit organization in 2007. Just like NIPR, PRCAN was set up to promote the professional practice of public relations in Nigeria.

As both organizations work to ensure that individuals and organizations that are not certified do not parade themselves as professionals, there has been a vehement attack on both bodies and their executives, by those – as I said earlier – who should be working to develop an industry from which they profit.

Having followed the discussions around NIPR and PRCAN’s letters to Guinness Nigeria and MTN requesting they do not work with non-accredited agencies, and having followed media reports on the matter, I am convinced the reputation of our entire industry is being dragged in the mire, by this unnecessary campaign. NIPR and PRCAN are not being unrealistic in their stand that having won PR accounts already; the agencies concerned must regularize their papers with the associations. The request, I am assured by PRCAN excos, is not for their contracts to be terminated, but for them to do what is appropriate and sort out relevant memberships. I do not think it is too much to ask from agencies actually working in public relations and representing clients who themselves mostly identify with relevant associations – be it NIPR or APCON or PRCAN.

To do otherwise, and instead embark on a war against NIPR and PRCAN is, to put it mildly, bite the finger that’s feeding you.

We have bigger battles to fight as an industry. It’s time to get together and put in the work required to guarantee our future. If we continue to put personal interests, ego, and sentiments ahead of the industry’s interest, it will remain impossible for us to build the kind of ecosystem that can ensure PR does not die a painful death.

Steve Babaeko: 20 YEARS OF INSPIRATION

Ayeni Adekunle, Ayo Animashaun & Steve Babaeko

Spent Monday evening at the BHM Lounge, in company of some of the brightest minds around, as we gathered to celebrate the founder of X3M Group Steve Babaeko.

SB had announced last week that September 1 made it 20 years since he ventured into advertising.

As we shared hot amala and orisirisi; with canapés and cognac and cocktails, everyone spoke about the power of Steve’s imagination;  about the determination and drive that got him here. Everyone agreed this gentleman that arrived in Lagos broke and hopeless changed his life and his story by doing the work- from artiste management to equipment leasing, to copywriting and music.

Music gave him the fame; advertising gave him a career and much more.

Steve Babaeko

Steve Babaeko

But it’s the inspiration – the one that pushes him; the one he gives to others even when he doesn’t try, that gave him a name.

That name may be what his parents gave him. But it’s no longer a basic nomenclature for a random guy from Kabba in Kogi state. That name now belongs to a trusted brand that’s fulfilling a promise: that Nigerian advertising can be great again; that copy writers and creative directors can build a business too; that you can make it if you dare. That an agency CEO can sag his pants and wear Giuseppe Zanotti . The promise (and message) that everything you want is chilling on the other side of fear.

The full story of Steve Babaeko will be told someday soon.

Happy anniversary, boss.

Kelvin Orifa, Steve Babaeko & Toni Kan

Kelvin Orifa, Steve Babaeko & Toni Kan

Kelvin Orifa, Steve Babaeko & Ayo Animashaun

Kelvin Orifa, Steve Babaeko & Ayo Animashaun

Ayeni Adekunle with Yetunde Babaeko

With Yetunde Babaeko

Modenine with Steve Babaeko & Yetunde Babaeko

Jonah the Monarch, Modenine with Yetunde & Steve Babaeko

Steve Babaeko,  Ayo Animashaun & Ayeni Adekunle

With Steve Babaeko & Ayo Animashaun

Ayeni Adekunle & TEE A

With Tee A

Chris Ihidero

Chris Ihidero

Ayeni Adekunle, Ayo Animashaun, Steve Babaeko

 

I Started BHM In My Three Bedroom Flat – Ayeni Adekunle

Ayeni Adekunle1 cropped1

By Charles Okogene (Daily Independent Newspaper)

 

Ayeni Adekunle is the PR practitioner, journalist and businessman behind Black House Media (BHM) group, a public relations and digital communications agency based in Lagos, Nigeria, with offices in London, UK. He founded BHM Group in 2006 from humble beginnings that manage strategic communications programmes for companies with interests in entertainment, lifestyle and ICT.

While studying for a degree in microbiology from the University of Ibadan (UI), Ayeni started his career with Hip Hop World magazine, worked with Encomium Weekly, Thisday and The Punch  before leaving to concentrate on the BHM Group. He founded Nigeria Entertainment Today, a niche website on November 23, 2009, five months before launching its print version in April 2010.

Since 2013, Ayeni has convened the annual Nigerian Entertainment Conference, the largest gathering of artistes and professionals in Nigerian entertainment, and in 2014, he led the BHM Group to conceptualise and build BHM App, Nigeria’s first PR mobile application.

BHM’s clients include MTV Base, Nigerian Breweries, Nickelodeon, Hennessy, Interswitch, Verve, as well as BET and Comedy Central.

In this interview with journalists, he gives a rare peek into digital marketing agency ID Africa, his latest business venture, which will see a spread of the BHM Group’s clientele and content across more nations on the African continent.

How did BHM Group begin?

BHM Group started in 2006, while I was still a reporter, from my two-bedroom flat in Akute (Lagos). My wife and I had no furniture so I bought a small chair and table, and could only afford to pay someone to assemble a computer. We started out working for musicians, actors and record labels that had smaller budgets, so it was tough but fulfilling work.

A few years later, my friend Ayo Animashaun gave me a desk in his office from where BHM operated. Eventually, we had to rent our own office space and today we have 60 employees and various consultants across the world. In 2009 we began working for corporates, and they tapped into the experience we had built with entertainers and young people.

It’s never happened in Nigeria that an organisation comes from entertainment  – working for artistes and actors – to begin working for multinationals. That’s our story and we are proud of it.

ID Africa

You’ve recently launched ID Africa, a digital agency and subsidiary of the BHM Group? What do you hope to achieve?

With Digital Marketing, disparate uptake rates exist.  Brands across regions in Africa are very late to the party, while those trying to get into the party are not in the appropriate attire; I mean they are not using the right tools to speak to, or listen to the people. Africa is a continent of up to 2000 languages from numerous tribes, with over 1 billion people becoming increasingly globalised, yet retaining the peculiarities that categorize their individual heritages – the status quo is changing. We all know that the latest arrivals to a party can still make the atmosphere electric, so this is an opportunity for practitioners.

We are fortunate to have an extensive understanding, based on our PR background, about people who consume and publish content on the Internet. We know what they are looking for, so we have an understanding of how to use that social space better to create the kind of conversations that can help people meet each other and have a nice time, whether it’s a brand meeting the consumer or just consumers interacting, or even brands needing to engage with each other.

 

Read full interview on dailyindependentnig.com

 

My Chat With Junior Chamber International (JCI) Members

Ayeni Adekunle with Members of JCI

Tell us about your work life?

I had worked for five years before getting admission into the University.

The five years I spent at home prepared me for where I am today. The only thing I got out of university when I eventually got an admission was that I got access to a very good library where I could read everything about music. I would have exams and I would go to the library to read books on what I know holds the future for my life. I had access to a huge library to learn about media, PR, advertising and music and then I met my wife in school. Outside of those things, it’s just little of what I studied in UI that is useful to me in my daily life.

But you had the option of studying communication and language arts?

As at when I went to university only a few parents wanted their children to study language arts in school. Every parent wants their child to be a lawyer or a doctor. They would say you should study a professional course. I finished secondary school; I did sciences because I went to a school you couldn’t even aspire to become a prefect if you were not in the science class. So I did sciences but when I finished and realized that I preferred the arts, I bought all the books in the curriculum, I read them and I passed all the subjects. Still all my parents wanted was for me to just study medicine because I had distinction in my science subjects, but I wasn’t meeting the cut-off mark to study Medicine. It was after writing it for like five years they said if you don’t get medicine you would get Microbiology. In Part two, I came home to see my Father, I told him that Daddy I want to change my course of study to Communication and Language Arts but he said NO. He said I should do this for him and that he would sponsor me to go and do whatever I want to do but by the time I was done with school, my father was retired.

They said you have to work in an office. But when they started seeing me on TV and in Newspapers, gradually they began to understand.

How did your parents cope with you not working in your Field of study?

 I had a third class so there was no way I would have gotten a great job. Most of our parents are very traditional and so they don’t understand, I don’t even blame them; my father thought it was a lazy thing to organize events. They said you have to work in an office. But when they started seeing me on TV and in Newspapers, gradually they began to understand. By the time I was leaving school I was already earning money. By the time I left school, I had a job.

Before my father died, I was already comfortable. Their own generation was Study get a job, Work, and Retire so you can get your pension. He kept telling us to make sure we have our pension.

 Tell us how you started Black House Media, the rudiments and the challenges?

I’m a bit fortunate because I had spent five years at home writing JAMB and I had been talking to entertainers during those periods. By the time I left school, I realized that I wanted to be a journalist so I got a job with Encomium, one of the biggest magazines in Nigeria. I wanted to work in Encomium because I wanted to make my name known and the bigger the platform, the more renowned you will be. I also wanted to learn how the structure works in an organisation. By the time I was stepping out to do my own thing, I already made acquaintances across the entire industry so it was easier. Because I was reporting entertainment, it was easier for me to start out doing PR for entertainers. So that was where we started but that’s not where we are today. So because everybody in that industry knows me it was easier for them to come to me and say I like how you write can you do this for me and for those I wanted to work with it was easier for me to walk up to them and tell me what I could do for them.

We started very small after I left Encomium, I wrote for Thisday for two years while I was doing my business by the side. The media industry in Nigeria is very peculiar and I worked at Thisday for free for two years because I knew I had to keep my name out there while I was trying to build my own business. I also won’t say it was easy because the Entertainment industry was not well structured and also there wasn’t as much opportunity for revenue as there is today. The bulk of what we spent when we started was my wife’s salary. She had a job and I remember I had her ATM card and we were spending what we needed. But we were serious and consistent and it was just two of us and eventually we became three. We were squatting in the office of the Gentle man who owns Hip TV. He gave me a desk in his office. So we started from there, when money came, we bought one computer and eventually we moved into our own office.

Soon I realized that the entertainment industry was not very stable, and that it was impossible to build a sustainable business working in that industry. I’m a very ambitious person and I’m confident it’s possible for us to build a global organisation. But if artistes are rich today and broke tomorrow and if actors that are buying jeeps today and tomorrow can’t even pay their own bills, how will that help my own business? So some of my very good friends encouraged me to change the direction of the business. Although music and entertainment is my primary passion I had to now restructure the business to work for corporate organizations that have a longer life span. For example, we currently work for Nigerian Breweries, the company was established in 1946 and they started producing in 1949 so you can imagine how long they have been around. They are part of the Heineken group and are quoted on the stock exchange.

We wanted to make ourselves appeal to companies that are serious and well structured and are in it for the long run; once we did that it looked like we had found the Magic. As of today all our clients are corporate organizations except for a few entertainment companies that have become family. Now we also run some of the most popular websites some you may know, some you may not. We run a weekly newspaper, also because entertainment is my passion, I started convening the Nigerian Entertainment Conference 3 years ago.

I am also fortunate to have an idea of how companies die and how people die. A lot of people die even before they die. If you don’t continue to develop, you will find out that everything else has left you behind.

The soul of the businesses departs because they were not prepared for today. Some of these things are as little as preventive maintenance that could have been done proactively. A few years ago, I started learning about Information technology and Digital marketing. After about 5 years of learning on my own, on my computer at Night, in 2014,I decided to go to some of the biggest trainings around the world. In February this year, we launched a digital marketing agency. So there are different perspectives to what you do. When you say how we were able to do it or succeed I don’t think we have built a successful business yet, I just think we have just had opportunities, based on the promise Nigeria holds. Nigeria is one of the greatest countries filled with so many opportunities for everyone and then because you are here in this country, at this time and because you have the kind of knowledge that you have then it shows that if you don’t self-destruct then you have an opportunity.

CEO BHM Group, Ayeni Adekunle & President, JCI Lagos City Chapter, Kehinde Adedeji

With  President, JCI Lagos City Chapter, Kehinde Adedeji

But it seems like you had a passion and along the line you realized that your passion might not absolutely pay your bills. What are the challenges you have faced thus far?

Well, we all live in Nigeria and I think the biggest issues we face, as people who live in developing economy like ours are issues of basic infrastructure. I live in Opebi just down the road and I could just have taken a bus to this place. But people will look at me and say, see that guy in public transport, he is probably broke and that is if the Bus doesn’t tear your clothes. I could have also gotten on a train but we have some many cars on the road because we haven’t fixed the problem of Transportation. There is also the issue of power and then once you see queues you know you have to start buying petrol. But these are basic things we can find our way around and which consistent good governance can fix within five tenures. All we need is a good team of people who would rule for five different tenures.

The most important problem that I face when I share notes with SMEs is the Quality of Human capital. People have graduated with first class degrees but you give them a job and they can’t perform and I don’t blame them because they have not been prepared from a young age. The pastor of Daystar says that, It is important to raise children well because they might end up as presidents and governors. But if they have not been prepared they would run the state aground. We don’t even teach leadership in schools.  The biggest problem still remains the quality of people available to do the job.  How do you become a global organisation, if you do not have first class brains and talents? Any serious company, invests as much as they invest in their raw materials and marketing in trainings for their workers.

So it’s increasingly difficult, you have a vision and you can’t do it alone because there is a limit to how much you can do as an entrepreneur. When the good ones move on to go and do their own thing, who are the people that will help them achieve it? I think our educational structure is flawed. Countries I have studied, Singapore, India and China, they structure education to reflect the society and economy’s needs but we structure education so that your family will say to you that you have to get a degree then we choose courses based on what we think is prestigious. People who studied courses like Agriculture, Yoruba, and Music are considered inferior, so we under developed a lot of sectors and focused on what looked good to us. If you make me president for a day I’ll fix education. If you want to be a vulcanizer, a bricklayer, or a painter you will be sent to the best places in the world to study.

(L-R) CEO, BHM Group, Ayeni Adekunle, President, JCI Lagos City Chapter, Kehinde Adedeji & CEOs, Speed Meals Mobile Kitchen, Titus & Tobias Igwe

With President, JCI Lagos City Chapter, Kehinde Adedeji & CEOs, Speed Meals Mobile Kitchen, Titus & Tobias Igwe

How did you build systems and structures that ensure that your business runs without you?

It will be a shame if I say it’s easy because it’s not. Most newspapers are now shutting down. The media business is in trouble all over the world. I am also asking myself why I should keep running the Print edition of NET because it’s not making sense in terms of the figures. These are challenges entrepreneurs face on a daily basis.  That’s why I follow MKO’s Words where he said you should never invest in a business you know nothing about. Before you start a business you could take about 2 years just to understudy the business. Richard Branson says once a business stops making sense, you shut it down. When people praise you they don’t look at failures. Google also has so many failed products they have shut down. People look at successes but they don’t know the pains you are facing. I don’t consider myself successful. I think success should be redefined. In terms of structure I think God has just blessed me. My wife fell in love with Human Resources many years before I decided to start my business. She put all the structures in place and she still consults for us. I wasn’t trained for that so I got help from my wife because left to me I’m just a writer and Ideas man. She did put the structure in place so I can’t take credit for that.  I started preparing myself for Life after BHM many years ago. That is why we take decisions in terms of mentorship and leadership so that there can be people who can take over the business when I’m not there.

CEO, BHM Group, Ayeni Adekunle Speaking at JCI Business Meeting

When people praise you they don’t look at failures. Google also has so many failed products they have shut down. People look at successes but they don’t know the pains you are facing. I don’t consider myself successful. I think success should be redefined

Why are you still printing NET newspapers in this period where most papers both local and International are shutting down?

Globally, sales have dropped in the print media and Advertising revenues have also dropped. What Newspapers sell isn’t the news, it is advertising. Nigeria has a couple of years to go before it faces such problem.

The reason our newspapers here aren’t selling is not because people aren’t reading but because there is an inefficient production and distribution structure.

The Newspaper industry relies on an archaic structure of circulation and the people who run it don’t have a stake in the business so they do it anyhow. If they had a stake in the business, it would be in their interest that the paper succeeds. It takes the stakeholders to build a proper structure that will work. If the circulation problem is fixed it will work for the distributions of music, books, magazine and all other things.

Whoever fixes it will never go poor again. The music industry would have fixed this because they have made a lot of revenue but most of the money in individual pockets and nobody is willing to invest because they think the Industry is fickle. On what is keeping the paper on, I don’t even know if we are on because we are not sure of next week. I am not sentimentally attached to any of my business. If it’s not working I’ll make an effort but if it still doesn’t work, I’ll get rid of it. Presently, I have met some other publishers and we are seeking an alternative way of solving the circulation problem.

Since you have been talking about your business you haven’t said anything about taking a loan to start your business?

I will never encourage anyone to take a loan to start a business. It is better you start with what you have and let the business grow organically. Presently, we work with organizations that give us purchase orders but I have never taken these purchase orders to the bank to borrow money even when I know can.

What stops the government from putting in place proper copyright laws that can curtail rape on investments?

We all know the reason why these laws are not in place. It is the same reason why Diepreye Alamieyeseigha is not in jail. Nigeria has been continuously raped for forty years. It is the same reason why a lot of people who have committed crimes have gotten away with it. It is the same reason why in other countries, when people are accused for wrong doings they resign from their public offices. The laws are there but who is going to enforce them? Until we kill corruption, corruption will continue to kill us. It is also important that we understand that the problem is Corruption. There is a reason why law exists. A few years ago, the head of the home office in the UK, got into office campaigning against illegal immigrants, after he settled into the office, he decided to check the papers of his domestic staff because he renews it for them every two years.  Then he saw that the papers of his maid, who had been with him for a long time, were fake. Instantly, he wrote the prime minister and he offered to resign immediately. This is something he discovered himself, he could have easily covered it up or sent her away quietly. That is a country that has discipline. Until we fix corruption we are joking. If we have a government that is interested in fixing corruption, it will take just 6 months. There was a time in this country when we always queued to enter a bus. In organizations now, People are putting laws in place and they are enforcing them. The solution, I think is that Government needs to understand how the creative sector works. We must also understand that Intellectual property is not abstract.

Do you think the NET newspaper should be translated into new media reality?

I’m a very active player in the online space. We started a digital newspaper before we went on print. We launched our website on November 23, 2009 but the paper launched on April 26, 2010. We have made more profit online than offline and because we have seen that success, we launched a lot of other online properties. Recently, we launched a music-streaming site and I understand how the online market works and it makes a lot of money and there are also multiple opportunities to monetize your content.

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The solution, I think is that Government needs to understand how the creative sector works.

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I will never encourage anyone to take a loan to start a business. It is better you start with what you have and let the business grow organically.

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Until we fix corruption we are joking. If we have a government that is interested in fixing corruption, it will take just 6 months

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The most important problem that I face when I share notes with SMEs is the Quality of Human capital

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Any serious company, invests as much as they invest in their raw materials and marketing in trainings for their workers.

How I fell in love with Beer

Star Radler

My friend, Ita Bassey is an interesting man.

You know those kind of people who love to enjoy life: food connoisseur, boyish dresser, good talker, football lover and sweet drinker.

One day, it was a Sunday I think, we met up at Regent Hotel in Ikeja, Lagos to have drinks.

‘Give me a chilled bottle of Star please’, he told the bar man as we settled into cane chairs by the poolside.

‘Let me have one Star too. And a bottle of Fanta’

The way he looked at me, I told myself ‘Ita is going to be mixing his Star with orange again tonight.’

Few weeks earlier, at the Sheraton Hotel, we sat by the lobby bar, in the company of Precious Nwachukwu (who worked for BHM at the time) and had plenty of Star and Fanta as we waited for call time to set up for the launch of Star Lite. The bar man was kind enough to give us an endless supply of popcorn.

I’ve never really been an alcohol person. I had a bit of beer when I was much younger, before going off completely. But since meeting the likes of Howie T, Steve Ayorinde, Abisoye Fagade, Kingsley James, Layinka Oyedeji and Kunle Afolayan, I have become a consumer again. But it was wines and spirit I returned to.

It was not until our agency began working for Nigerian Breweries that I tasted beer again. Because I hadn’t acquired the taste for it, I admit I didn’t enjoy it at first so when our in house connoisseur Anita Aiyudu suggested I mix Star or Heineken with Fanta or Fayrouz or sprite, I was more than glad.

I stayed with the mix, for as long as I had to – until I realized one weekend, that I may have developed a taste for beer. For the first time in forever, a cold glass of beer didn’t taste ‘bitter’.

That’s when I started to drink my beer ‘straight.’

But a few months ago, Tokunbo Adodo called to have a chat. He wanted to know how I like my beer and why? I explained the mixtures that made it easier for me when I first tried to drink beer, out of loyalty to the brands I work for. I explained how even my female friends who didn’t like beer would ask for extra servings any time I mixed Star with Fanta, or Heineken with Fayrouz. I told him of how it helped us introduce BHM ladies to beer.

Apparently Ita and Biyi Fagade had briefed Tokunbo on this consumer habit. I’m sure they spoke with several other consumers – he told me it was a survey.

I soon forgot about that discussion.
Until I visited a friend and saw a bottle of Star Radler: Beer and Juice in a can. This one is a special present for me, I told my wife. I asked for a cold can, opened it and gulped everything. My wife, who cannot stand alcohol and who may never have tasted beer, did same. And we fell in love immediately.

I’m now a hundred percent beer boy. Apart from my favourite cognac, Hennessy, my friends know a cold glass of Star or Heineken will make my evening.

But although I no longer need to mix my beer with orange, there are still many learners who will find Radler a good way to begin drinking ‘beer.’

At this time when beer markets are dwindling and many young people are made to think – erroneously – that spirit, wine and RTDs are healthier and cooler than beer, I consider Radler a good move by a company that gave Nigeria her first beer.

This one is for me, and for everyone that needs to join #TeamBeer!

Why My New Company Is A Big Deal

I.D PIX4

It’s 6AM in Lagos, Nigeria.

I’m sitting at my desk, looking back at the past few years of my life. I haven’t had much sleep, haven’t seen my kids in two days. I’m wearing the same clothes from yesterday.

But I’m not complaining. Instead, I’m actually grateful. 

It’s 6AM on February 27, 2015 – just about 11 years after I left the University of Ibadan with a third class degree. Just 11 years ago, when I was a hospital reject, a homeless and unemployable ‘graduate’.

It’s 6AM on February 27, 2015. Eight years and 14 days since I officially left paid employment.  I remember the day on February 13, 2007, my dad’s 63rd birthday, when I looked my boss in the face and said ‘actually, sir, I don’t think I want to work here anymore’.

It’s 6AM on Friday February 27, 2015, eight years and three months since I started what is now known as BHM. By now, I’m sure everyone knows the story of how we started with zero Naira, how we squatted for years and used my wife’s salary to run the business.

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It’s 6AM on Friday February 27, 2015, over three years since we crossed the $1m mark (yes, a big deal, for a little Lagos agency), nearly five years since we started our second business (Nigerian Entertainment Today) and the day we officially launch our third – ID Africa – a sexy company that will introduce new ways of helping brands and consumers use social tools to connect with those they care about.

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