The Future Of Public Relations In The Age Of Social Media, Fake News & Global Crises- Ayeni Adekunle

So much is happening across the world and Public Relations (PR) is about the truth and telling a good story. Everyone loves a well-put together story.
From one generation to the other, we have preserved history through storytelling but not every story has the same ending.
PR in this age, from where we’re coming from to where we’re going especially, is about building communities, brands, businesses, governments and enterprises through good storytelling.
Watch Ayeni Adekunle speak, on the Africa Communications Leadership Series | Online Webinar, about The Future Of Public Relations In The Age Of Social Media, Fake News & Global Crises.


This Is Dangerous!

This is dangerous

Locking eyes with strangers.

I see the danger

‪In looking at beings without really seeing them

‪I see teenagers ‬
‪vulcanizers ‬

‪I see men and women going here and there

Doing this and that

‪The hawker with baby on back and load on head‬

The swagged out boy selling plantain chips‬

Locking eyes with strangers‬

Looking out from my car windows‬

Trying to read minds‬

‪Wondering if they see mine‬

Is it not dangerous‬
‪To see so many people‬
‪And never see them?

Poetry and photo (c) ATG, December 2017

No One Ever Dies


By Ayeni Adekunle Samuel 

Adaora Zinno-Orara passed on, on December 21, 2014. 

It was the end of a chapter, and the beginning of a new one for her husband Zinno Orara, and their kids – Chidera, Majiri, Kesena, and Princess.

It was the end of years of pain and anger and drugs and hope and fear and tears and all the mix of emotions, burdens and tribulation you could think of. 

It was the beginning of a new life, without a wife, without a mother; without the string that binds. A new life with no hope, and a lot of hope. With no life, and a lot of life. 

adaora, zinno orara

Next month will mark the third anniversary of her death, and her husband, the renowned artist Zinno Orara is confirming something I’ve always suspected; known: if an artiste falls in love with you, then you can never die. 

And it’s not just because this exhibition, Orara’s second solo in three years, is dedicated to her. It’s not even because he continues to use his brush to refresh her memory with every opportunity. So, why is this so? 

I guess we’ll never know. 

But we can begin by paying attention to the works Zinno Orara is showing us at this exhibition, aptly titled ‘Life’s Journey’. We can begin by looking and thinking deeply, by asking important questions, of him, and of ourselves, and by taking a look at our own lives, the people, places and things we care about, and what this entire journey means – to us, and everyone sojourning with us.

Exhibition creative

To find that meaning, is to find life itself; and to live in a world where nothing, no one, really ever dies.

How I became Mr. Nigeria, nine hours from home

I was going to tell you anyway. But now you know – I’m officially Mr. Nigeria.

I remember years ago, my friend from Okokomaiko, Deji Bakare, won the Silverbird contest. And to be honest, I haven’t really followed it since then. Not that I’m really that keen about a macho contest for men anyway. In fact, I’ve never been keen about any ‘beauty contest.’ How do you determine that one human is more beautiful than another?

I wish I could say I found the answer.

Instead, what I found is that I was one of the best Africans in Finland this past week, representing BHM the annual summit of International Communications Consultancy Organization. And it was such a big deal; it made me feel quite honoured, seeing there were just about two of us.

And guess what? Of all the Nigerian PR executives that attended, I was the most active, the best dressed, the most punctual, the most everything. How many of us attended? Well, since you ask: I suspect I was the only one.

And that’s exactly how I earned my new title.

Attending the two-day conference in my traditional buba and sokoto, complete with embroidered cap, and taking every opportunity to share case studies and situation reports from the Nigerian industry, I didn’t know I was campaigning for a title I barely remembered existed. By the end of day one, everyone was already calling me Mr. Nigeria, even though my name tag was on my chest, with my full name boldly printed on it.

The immediate past ICCO president Maxim Behar led the gang, and I loved it.

Paul Holmes, Ayeni Adekunle Samuel and Maxim Behar

The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Innovate, Engage, Evolve,’ with sessions focusing on a wide range of topics and issues – from A.I to ethics, measurement to mergers and acquisitions; from purpose to talent management and creativity.

China’s Zhao Dali told the 300 delegates-strong room on day one how the industry in his country only kicked off in the 90’s, earning around $1m in 1998, and now billing over $7bn as at 2016, with at least two agencies already listed on the exchange. Mind so blown, I had to turn and ask everyone around me to be sure I heard the figures correctly. Then I had to take a picture with him and get his card. Of course, I’ve already emailed him. Don’t be too surprised if I head to China from here.

Brad Schwartzberg and Michael Lasky from the US firm Davis & Gilbert gave us some very good tips on mergers and acquisitions, but from the buyer’s and seller’s perspective. This is something I believe is extremely important to agencies in emerging markets like Nigeria – to emerge strong from the current situation in which many find themselves, we must align in strategic ways. Some will have to merge to achieve stronger finances, stronger talent, stronger governance, and so on. Others will have to be bought and sold. If we are to truly take over the continent and play big within the EMEA, possibly even globally, I see M&As as inevitable.

I particularly liked three presentations: Rob Flaherty (Ketchum), John Brown (Hotwire) and Roger Bolton (Arthur Page). Ranging from discussions on how new technology and the disruption of the consumer media industry has changed how we help clients communicate with the media and audiences, to how a CCO would actually make sense of all these things in the face of merging roles, expanding responsibilities, and expectations of a variety of skills. Brands need our help at the intersection of so many new and emerging skills, and we can’t afford to fail them.

The consumer now has unprecedented power, and brands now have to actually be who and what they claim they are. I like the term Rob used: ‘Brand is as brand does.

I can go on and on, from John’s successful attempt at shattering many myths, to Katie King’s amazing presentation on the fourth industrial revolution, and Aedhmar Hynes’ talk session on the kind of leadership we need in the midst of all this disruption. Or Paul Holmes’ powerful talk that fired everyone up. And to think he had not a single slide!

ICCO Finland 2017

In 2015, our organization BHM sponsored a research into the Nigerian PR industry, doing surveys in four cities, and speaking to hundreds of practitioners from client and agency sides. Our conclusion? PR is dead. Every piece of data pointed to this fact: public relations as we knew it is dead; practitioners must evolve, or die. We must stop complaining about the incursion of so called digital agencies and consulting firms into core PR functions, and actually start demonstrating to clients we have superior skills and resources. We not only published our findings on a dedicated website –; we went on to execute social media campaigns across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. In fact, we organized a memorial service in our office, and got several national Newspapers to write about it. And then we followed with the Nigeria PR Report, which has now been published since 2016.

As I sat on the Pub Tram on Friday night with fellow ICCO delegates, clicking plastic cups, taking selfies, and exchanging banter, I couldn’t help thinking about the theme for the summit: Innovate | Engage | Evolve; I couldn’t help thinking about everything we have been saying about PR in Nigeria – I couldn’t help hearing different loud voices in my head, from Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, to Emeka Oparah, to our own Femi Falodun, and the university lecturer Dr. Bisi Olawuyi.

Let me attempt to say it, now that I have been decorated with this new title from faraway Finland by some of the most remarkable PR executives from all over the world: the public relations industry as we know it is dead.  Our clients’ needs have changed; the media landscape has changed; consumer needs and habits have changed remarkably. The world has been transformed in so many ways since the last set of PR textbooks, curriculum and practices were designed. If we must survive and succeed; if we must see the future and truly solve great problems, tell great stories, and bring our relationship skills into this new age; if we must be part of this new economy, then we must learn new skills, relearn some, and unlearn the old, decayed stuff.

ICCO 2017 Finland

If we do what’s right, it is impossible for anyone to stop us. Technology and globalization could be our greatest enablers if we embrace the opportunities they provide.

If we don’t, then that’ll be another story entirely.

And that’s a message for the global PR industry, not just for Nigeria, or Africa.

Why I’m devoted to Nigeria PR Report

So we had an AMA ( ask me anything chat) session on BHM‘s Facebook and Periscope yesterday, and someone wanted to know why we are doing the annual Nigeria PR Report and what impact I  think it’s had.

It’s a question I get asked a lot. Why are you doing this? What’s in it for you and your agency? Are you building some sort of credentials so you can run for PRCAN presidency? Or you’re just using all the campaign to position your agency? Someone even suggested it’s a covert spy operation to help us know what’s happening with competition. And I laughed in Itsekiri

My answer? None of the above could be farther from the truth. But it’s not the first time I’m being asked such. In 1998 when I started organising the Youth Awards for Excellence in Music, YAFEM, there were many at the time who thought I was doing so many of such free, popular events to position myself to run for PMAN presidency. You’re laughing too? Hahahahahahahahaha!

I believe in building ecosystems. I believe in baking bigger pies so everyone can have a bigger share. I believe in making communities better than I met them. I believe in building tomorrow today.

That’s why we do NECLive every year, for free. That’s why we publish Nigeria PR Report every year. That’s why I do most of the things I do. Chatting with a friend this morning, about this article from The Atlantic, it suddenly dawned on me that all the industries I work in are endangered: PR = endangered. Media = endangered. Entertainment = endangered. To fold one’s arms, and continue business as usual, is to be digging one’s grave without knowing it.

I believe the PR Report brings something we desperately need to save our businesses: data. We need to know what’s happened, what’s happening, how it happened, why it happened, etc etc if we are to plot a good future for ourselves and those coming behind. We must have the kind of insight that takes us into the minds of the market, the minds of the consumer, the minds of government, the minds of our customers, and other stakeholders, if we are to potentially make informed decisions around our individual businesses and the industry in general. We need to know what areas to invest in, what skills to build, what new markets are opening up, what new tools could make distribution and reporting better; what technology we could utilize to transform our work, and ultimately our businesses and our clients’. How do you build a multi billion dollar industry while you’re winking in the dark? You simply cannot!

As PR people, we like to use that quote Richard Branson has denied owning: ‘If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on PR’. We like to tease potential clients, asking them to not ‘wink in the dark. We like to complain about so called ‘digital marketing’ pulling the rug from our feet; we like to give advertisers and media buyers the side eye, insisting they’re getting paid so much for doing so little.

But the joke is on us, really. If we really want anyone to ‘spend their last dollar’ on public relations, then we must do better than we currently are doing. To do better, we need to know better. To know better means having the right data to help with strategy and planning and measurement and billing. We must pul the wool from our own eyes first, before asking multinationals who have built big businesses, or SMEs building amazing businesses, to stop ‘winking in the dark.’

One of two things eventually happens to endangered species: the are either rescued and preserved, or they go extinct. I see a big opportunity for PR now and in the future (I see the same future for entertainment and media, and it’s not even because I’m afraid of what will happen to me and my family should these three industries go down :|); a big opportunity with governments, with consumer companies, with technology and media. There’s a higher probability that our industries will morph into something formidable if we continue to do things differently, if we continue to innovate and self-disrupt. The entire BHM vision is built on the belief that Africa will deliver the brands, businesses, leaders, thinking, tools and nations that’ll run the world in a matter of years. And we believe it is possible.

Let’s just say it’s time to build tomorrow!

The best decision I took in 2016

The best decision I took in 2016.


So I took my first family vacation.
We were to travel with our friends, the Babaekos in December of 2015, but, as usual, I chickened out.

You see, I’ve been working since I was 18, afraid of failure and too ambitious for my own good. I do get to travel often, around Nigeria and overseas. But it’s usually brief. Usually for trainings and meetings and even more trainings. If you are the CEO of a young, growing business, it’s easy to think there’s no time to take time off.

So I never took time off.

But in 2016, my body started telling my brain to have some sense. I would listen to their conversations and shake my head.

It was during one of such sessions, while I did my best to not meddle in those body-brain arguments, that the Babaekos offered again; asked actually, if we’d love to come with them to their home in Kabba, in Kogi state, for a family vacation.

It’s one of those offers you accept before thinking of the implications. In fact, I think my body put a gun to my brain’s head and screamed YES, as if it was an answer to a marriage proposal.

It’s the best decision I took in 2016.

So at the peak of work in December, I shut down, drove 10 hours to Kabba, in Kogi state, and remained there, for all of 10 days.

I was born in Aiyetoro-Gbede, about 15 minutes from Kabba. And I had not been in that area since the burial ceremony for my grandparents in 1996.

So you’ll understand when I say this was more than a vacation. It was a spiritual excursion, a trip into my past; my beginning, as I prepare for the next phase of my life.

From visiting the street I suspect I was conceived, to combing over 150 plots of farmland, attending the Obangogo carnival where I failed to get to the top of the hill; to pounding yam with Steve, Dotun and Yetunde, playing tennis at St. Augustine’s, and drinking palmwine like it’s going out of vogue, I spent the period between December 23 2016 and January 2, 2017 chopping the life of my head in company of the most important people in the world, in one of the most important towns in my life.


The kids made new friends, played football, spent time swimming, threw fireworks, and fought over what to watch on TV. It’s the longest time I’ve spent with them, without having to rush off to work, or to one of those endless meetings. Actually, it’s the longest I’ve stayed without rushing anywhere, or doing any serious work, since 1995. For the first time in years, I found no use for my computer; no use for social media.


If you live in the city, rushing to and fro work from Monday to Sunday, working day and night for a take home pay that can’t take you anywhere, you’re likely to look at those living in villages with contempt. If you live in a place like Lagos, barely taking vacations and ‘hustling’ your days away, it’s easy for you to be deceived into thinking you’re living the life.


Spending 10 days in a village taught me one lesson: the most important things we need in life are food, shelter and basic healthcare. And these people have all three. It may not be luxurious buffets and Banana Island town houses. But they eat fresh, organic food, live in decent homes, with the basic facilities needed to exist. It’s actually likely they eat better food than we do. They don’t have to deal with traffic and noise pollution. And they actually have standard educational facilities. St. Augustine’s, where we played tennis, is as good as they come.


I don’t expect all of us to suddenly move back to the village, and I’m not saying there are no opportunities here for those living in places like Ayetoro Gbede, Kajola, and Odobata. But as we take frequent trips to London and New York, as we visit Kenya and South Africa and Dubai, we need to take a look at our backyard and return to our roots. As recession bites and the nightmare of foreign exchange continues, we need to consider tourist trips and spiritual excursions to our ancestral homes; places where we don’t have to spend dollar and pounds; where there are even no shopping malls!


And what’s more, I was convinced the government of the state had no clue of the opportunity for tourism and foreign exchange sitting untapped in this place – an actual goldmine waiting to be discovered and explored. I was enthralled by the picturesque landscape; the delicately balanced rocks seating precariously atop one another; the fiery dust sprinkled generously on everything, everywhere. Kogi only recently increased its monthly IGR from N350m to 600m; nothing to write home about when compared to Lagos which generates around N30 billion per month. The amazing Obangogo hills alone, with no clear access roads, maps, facilities and guide, is a waiting contributor to the state’s IGR, if the government would see the opportunities and put the right things in place. Instead of opening just once in a year, Obangogo should be a tourist destination available to host visitors 24/7 – with good revenue from ticketing, food and beverages, tolls, photography, games, etc.


I for one will plan to take more vacations, alone and with my family. And it won’t be just to London and Glasgow. I’ve already pencilled my home town, Oka Akoko, in Ondo State, where both my parents are buried, for my 2017 vacation.

The Babaekos gave us the vacation of a lifetime; and opened our minds and eyes to a world we – especially my kids – didn’t know existed. Then heading back into Lagos, we spent the night in Akure, visiting Dotun’s younger sister, her mom and grandmother. When we settled down with mama in her living room, and I brought out my phone to photograph four generations of Nigerian women, I knew the trip was definitely not a good decision. It was the best.


What a way to start a new year!





Why I won’t be leaving Snapchat for Instagram Stories. Or will I?

I am a Facebook fan. I love the platform and the thinking behind their business model. I understand the vision of the founders and believe companies like Facebook are a very important part of today’s and tomorrow’s world – in whatever way you look at it.
The world will continue to get interconnected, as we all work together to solve local and global problems, and build better lives for ourselves and the next generation.

Because Facebook has implications for our organisation, BHM, I have taken the pain to understand how the company works. I studied Google for years, even attending an FT meeting with Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg in London in 2014. Then I faced Facebook and became a self-taught expert. When the opportunity came to attend F8, Facebook’s developers conference this year, I grabbed it with both hands, even though it was days away from our own conference NEClive.

I left San Francisco convinced that Facebook could be a gift and a curse to the media, tech and advertising industry. The telcos see Mark Zuckerberg and his company as a frenemy, the media see them as enablers and enslavers, I don’t know if the ad industry sees them the way they see Google yet.


With Facebook Engineering Manager, Brian Dewey

We’re at the cusp of something important and it is difficult for anyone to actually accurately predict what the next few years will look like. We are all at best, speculating based on what we can see from where we stand. What is certain is that there will be major losers and gainers, short term and long term. When it finally happens, we would have inadvertently created a new era where the words media, technology, advertising, public relations and computer science would mean something entirely different from what most people understand them to be today.

Facebook likely has a better idea of what’s coming, as one can tell from their recent acquisitions, priorities, products and partnerships. I loved the thinking behind snatching Oculus and Whatsapp and Instagram. I’m excited by the power of 360 videos and VR. I supported Instant Articles from day one, even though I understand the concerns of those who vehemently criticize it. There’s a lot more that Facebook is working on, most of them commendable; most of them stuff that governments and the leaders of the respective industries should have been, ideally, driving.

But what I saw yesterday after tempting my Snapchat friends with photos of my six-course dinner in Milan, left a bad taste in my mouth. I had heard earlier in the day that Instagram, which is owned by Facebook was to launch something called Instagram Stories. Smart move, I thought. Reminded me of how Instagram videos came at the point everyone was on Keek’s dick. But when I left Snapchat to catch up with IG, I was shocked to find a copycat of Snapchat right in my face: if you’re a Snapchat user, you know what tapping your camera screen twice does: it switches the camera from front to back. You know what the eye sign says: suggesting who has viewed your snap. You know how to edit your photos and input text in many colours. These basic Snapchat features were what Facebook introduced yesterday on Instagram. I don’t know if there’s a term for it in Silicon Valley. But in the media, it’s called plagiarism. It’s an illegality. A shame. It’s low and dirty and petty and unpardonable.

Google was late to the social media party and is paying dearly for it. We’ve seen what happened to Nokia and Blackberry and Yahoo and others who didn’t see the future early. So I understand Facebook’s determination not to be caught napping. I also understand they may not have broken any laws, but what’s bad is bad, no matter how much filter you use to beautify it.
Facebook has been eyeing what Google had with YouTube for years, and I recall the criticism that trailed their free-for-all approach to videos from 2014. Looking away as copyright infringements thrived on their platform, they just wanted people to post videos natively on Facebook, no matter whose. They even tweaked the algorithm to prioritize native video content over links. They tweaked the algorithm to show us more video in newsfeed. Facebook wanted a seat at the video table. They now have it.

For many years, Facebook became, for many people, the social media app where your father and grand uncle liked your photos and made snide comments on your tattoos. So millennials jumped out in droves and began cavorting with cooler platforms like Tumblr and Snapchat and even Twitter. To win the kids back, Facebook has had to do a lot of things, including Facebook Live – a product designed, in my opinion, to battle Twitter for relevance in live news, and battle Snapchat in live video.

Instagram’s Stories, launched yesterday, is the recent episode, in this battle for users’ photos, videos, time and data, and it would have been popcorn-deserving, if it were not scary. It would have been entertaining if it were not unfunny.

I’ve been told moves like this are not new in the tech industry. My response: it doesn’t make it right, especially for a company owned and run by someone with Zuckerberg’s vision.

Facebook has used new ideas, good thinking and technology to connect over 1.7 billion people in 12 years. I see a future where will be the home page of the internet, winning in media and tech and advertising. It’s bound to happen, whether we like it or not.

Facebook has done, and will have to do a lot to make sure this possibility is not truncated. Bullying every small Organisation to hand over their businesses or get run over is definitely not one of them.

Sadly, for now, Snapchat will have to reinvent itself or die a fast, painful death.