Every day, I come across people who want to know why we could have done something as stupid as resting the weekly print edition of Nigerian Entertainment Today. With each enquiry, I take my time to explain what’s happening, how consumer habits are changing, how news has become fast food, how circulation in Nigeria is a mess, how media agencies and newspaper agents are evil, how small businesses are better off shedding that excess print baggage and focusing on all the opportunities digital provides.
Digital adoption will continue to be on the increase, as internet access gets better in developing countries like Nigeria. Newspaper and magazine sales will continue to drop, as consumers look to radio, TV, blogs and other means to get information and entertainment. It’s my wish that newspaper owners will do digital better – I’ve seen, and must commend what The Guardian is doing, with the help of Ventra Media. I’ve seen how Vanguard is using technology and innovative reporting to build impressive traffic. But, in a market as promising as ours, I believe there’s more to be done, if the big seven are to survive the next 10-15 years.
It’s not only the newspaper business that’s being disrupted by technology.
Music, transportation, medicine, education, agriculture, banking, communications, construction, just name it. Even technology itself is being disrupted.
To understand what has happened, what’s happening, and adapt accordingly, is one thing. To imagine – and prepare for – what is to come is another.
To determine what should and could happen, and enable such is where you want to be – that’s what our friends in financial services have done; what those in telecommunications are doing. It’s what’s consuming the entire music industry.
Things will never remain the same. Media organisations need to begin to think themselves technology companies; think themselves marketing companies. They must begin to see the telcos and TV platforms as competition. Even the music and movie industries.
It’s time to disrupt yourself, your business, and all those trying to disrupt your market.
Something from BHM Research & Intelligency I believe you’ll absolutely love. Highly recommended if you work in public relations, advertising, media, entertainment, digital marketing, social media, brand management or the academia.
A poor 72-year-old, unpopular, retired army-general ran to be president of Nigeria, an oil-rich West African country with population of about 200 million people.
His opponent, the incumbent, was a 57-year-old Ph.D. who, three years earlier while he was VP, was so popular and favoured that influential citizens marched the streets protesting, when it appeared some powerful interests were determined to prevent him from becoming president after it was clear his boss, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had passed on.
That election, to elect the 15th president of Nigeria, finally held on March 28 and 29, 2015.
But it had been won and lost months before. Won by General Muhammadu Buhari of the Action Congress of Nigeria who comparatively, had little money and plenty obstacles, but deployed an almost-excellent political strategy and reputation management.
The defeated sitting president as we have since discovered, had limitless access to funds and other resources. But his campaign strategy was lousy. As lousy as some of the people who were the faces and voices of his re-election project.
One party found a big idea (Change) and rode with it. The other was hijacking a campaign to bring back kidnapped schoolgirls from Chibok, a little town in Borno, South-eastern Nigeria. One party proactively used research data to develop PR strategies for youth and citizen engagement, the other, as we also have now seen, used cash and mercenaries and sophistry, until the last minute.
Buhari was a mean military dictator, despised by many discerning Nigerians. He was an old, eighties man who, as many agree, was out of touch with the tools and trends required to transform a paralyzed country like Nigeria. Yet about 15,424,921 million Nigerians in 36 states voted for him to return as president, defeating his young, ‘better educated’, rich and powerful opponent by a 2,571,759 margin.
It’s not fiction.
The role of public relations in politics and governance in Nigeria cannot be over emphasized. The ‘Buhari-GEJ’ story would have been remarkable if it were rare. Yet if you look deeply into the affairs of the private and public sectors in Nigeria and indeed elsewhere across Africa, what presents, is an increasing intervention by PR to help communities and organizations and governments solve problems they thought were insurmountable. In Buhari’s case, he had contested and lost three times in 12 years.
In 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin completed an orbit of the earth, effectively becoming the first man in space. If there had been no records of the event, if there were no pictures taken and circulated, no reports made, did he really make the trip? Did he accomplish the feat?
A historic moment becomes myth, fable even, if there are no evidence and facts to support claims and silence sceptics. Who here will call a party to celebrate a child’s excellent result without first laying hands on the report card?
There’s little data, if any, on the role of public relations in the last national elections. Little data, if any, on how in-house PR teams and external consultancies are helping local and international brands make sense out of a chaotic business environment like Nigeria. You will go very far to see case studies on all the great work I’m aware have been done by Nigerian professionals on brands like Wole Soyinka, MTN Nigeria, Nigerian Breweries, Dangote, Indomie, Etisalat, GTBank and Airtel.
We complain regularly that the quality of our work can be better. We excuse clients’ lack of trust and investment with the belief that we really haven’t shown value. But how do we get better if we do not have records of the work we do – the good, the bad and the ugly? How do we train beginners? How do we engage globally, in a space where the lingua franca is billings and case studies?
The global PR Agency industry revenue is put at over $13 billion. I can assure you Nigeria, which by BHM estimates, makes over $68.75 million, is not in that calculation.
We all know why.
That’s why our company BlackHouse Media created the campaign #PrisDead in 2015. That’s why we decided, after relevant consultations, to begin this hopefully annual report on the Nigeria public relations industry.
Of course it’s inspired by The Holmes Report’s World PR Report, which, I hope, starting 2016, will begin to feature great Nigerian agencies doing amazing work.
We have a lot to do, to make that happen. We have even more to do, to accomplish our dreams of increased billing, attracting and retaining super talents, and becoming big regional and global players.
Starting December 31, 2015, we reveal the annual report on searches, trends and views from the world’s leading website on Nigerian entertainment, thenet.ng. The report, available for download on our website, is our close-to-scientific approach to identifying which people, events, places and things that shaped the year.
Our website, thenet.ng has been visited nearly 50 million times since December 2014, with our most popular subjects being Wizkid, Davido and Maheeda. For example, Nigerian international pop star Wizkid is the most searched male artiste for 2015 while Mavin singer Tiwa Savage is most searched female.
Nollywood stars, Jim Iyke and Tonto Dikeh topped the list of popular actors and actresses for 2015, respectively. Difficult to believe, but Maheeda is, according to analysed NET data from Google and WordPress, more popular than Linda Ikeji and Don Jazzy.
This year alone, we scored over 6 million video views on Facebook and YouTube combined, published almost 20 thousand stories, and recorded 29% growth in our traffic. We are effectively, according from data by Alexa, the 6th most popular entertainment website in Nigeria.
Most of our coverage are determined by people and issues we believe deserve attention. But we also create and curate based on our visitors desires, and these visitor analytics, will play a part in determining how we prioritize in the coming years.
It should also guide advertisers and subjects on how to rate or rank, especially for business purposes. Also important to note, the apparently higher engagement rates on Instagram and Facebook, compared to Twitter and YouTube, and the fact that the majority or readers obviously prefer soft news to hard, industry news.
Dr. Seye Kehinde, publisher of City People stopped by BHM this morning.
With Publisher, City People Magazine, Dr. Seye Kehinde
Of course all we talked about was the past, present and future of the media industry in Nigeria
He said he came to interview me. But I ended up asking all the questions and picking every part of his brain.
City People is one of the most successful celebrity magazines in Nigeria. Now in its 19th year, SK and his team are now plotting a future in an industry that’s increasingly under the influence of bloggers and social media influencers.
I’ll be glad to see Nigerian brands face the digital challenge and not only survive, but use the advantage technology provides to enter new markets and – as we say at BHM – ‘go global’.
You see, to survive in this business, you have to ‘see’ tomorrow.
It’s July 9, and almost 50 workers at BlackHouse Media, a public relations agency in Lagos, Nigeria are out of patience waiting for June salaries.
A week earlier, the finance team sent a mail to all staff, explaining the delay and promising payment in one week. It’s the first time in many years that the eight year old agency is failing to pay salaries on time.
BlackHouse Media, a member of BHM Group, is by Nigerian definitions a successful agency. It works for two multi-nationals, including the country’s biggest brewer; it works for media giants and has a digital advantage over every competitor in the market. In 2014, the company launched Nigeria’s first PR application, and recorded over 1 billion social media impressions for client campaigns. One year later, it launched its own digital agency,ID Africa.
BlackHouse Media is not struggling. But while staff salaries were only delayed for one week in June (after a cash flowhitch), the same cannot be said for a lot of other agencies in its category.
According to a 2015 survey, only a handful of public relations agencies in Nigeria are able to pay staff and contractors as at when due. A lot of old and new generation agencies are struggling to make ends meet in a market when creative agencies, digital marketing companies and media independents are making a kill.
Why is this so?
Many in the industry believe it is because agencies cannot charge much. Only a few get good budgets and are on retainers.
As a result, only few can keep great talent. The flight from PR into advertising or client side is at an all time high; most of the agencies surveyed have lost senior consultants in the past year.
Only few can do great work.
PR is rarely in the room when management is planning or when the government is strategizing. When we do get called, it is often for traditional media relations or to ‘manage’ press events.
Clients complain they do not get value at the level of strategy; that they do not get help navigating social media; that they do not see creativity and innovation, especially in storytelling and community management.
Agencies lament on the frustration in not being properly compensated; not having access to senior management. They complain about phony pitches, poaching and government’s failure at regulation.
Nigeria’s federal government continues to engage services of quacks for public relations roles even as many public and private organizations regularly engage unregistered foreign agencies to do PR work in Nigeria.
Many of the so-called big agencies cannot pay competitive wages, and in recent times, several have owed up to three months’ pay.
Pundits say creative and media agencies are not immune to these problems. Reports say only a handful of agencies in that segment are running profitably.
The difference? You can identify the big media accounts based on spend. You can understand why some agencies are getting lucrative creative briefs while others are idle. There are more than a few media, events and creative agencies turning over billions of Naira annually from one-offs, commissions or retainer works. There is, at this moment, none in PR.
BHM Media & Intelligence predicts that more agencies will see revenues dwindle if client trust is not restored,if the industry is not able to re- attract super talents. And these will only happen if the practice is able to resurrect.
What exactly do we bring to the table that clients and their publics cannot do without? The current system of press releases, buzz words and other fluff?
Nigeria has a population estimated at about 200 million. Most of these are young people spread round rural, semi-urban and urban areas.
As at March 2015, there was an estimate of 195 million active mobile phones in Nigeria with GSM subscriber base of 144,486,786. Nigeria has the highest Internet penetration rate in Africa with an annual growth of about 4 million.
Newspaper circulation will predictably continue to drop. Some of the country’s biggest titles have cut print runs consistently; several have shut down presses while others have completely gone off the stands. In a country where media relations is a core function for most PR professionals, how will this impact on our work?
More consumers are spending more time on their phones than in front of the TV. Media platforms are rapidly redefining themselves and aligning with consumer habits.
Brands are using storytelling and content marketing to engage their consumers. Many consumers are becoming content creators and publishers in their own rights – be it through their Facebook status updates or by expressing strong opinions on Twitter. Some of the biggest media and influencer jobs of the past two years in terms of income and impact have been by individuals on social media; individuals who may never have been considered ‘media’ only a few years ago. Some of them are so powerful that the Nigerian government has nicknamed them ‘cabal’.
But where are the PR people?
What do these figures mean?
It is time we shamed those who believe “PR will never take its long-coveted seat at the boardroom table, where it will be recognized as an essential component of strategic business rather than a bolt-on” (Phillip 2015, 11).
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.
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.
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.
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.