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.

Celebrating 2face and Annie Idibia

Most people believe celebrity weddings are packing up every minute. Check any news feed right now and you’re likely to read of one that’s just hit the rocks.

Three years ago, we ran a strong editorial, asking: ‘Who will save celeb marriages?

‘At a time when global moral values are on a rapid decline, it is not surprising that the nuclear family structure, and the conventional marriage institution, is greatly endangered. Marriages appear to be breaking up more than ever before. Single parenting is on a steady rise while the number of young people who are developing a phobia for marriage is alarming. For those who get married, and indeed, the marriages that seem to ‘survive’, stories of trouble abound: Married couples now cheat on each other with reckless abandon; the rate of spousal abuse is on the high; some of those who stay on do so for reasons other than those for which the marriage was contracted.’

But the truth is this: We’re only hearing more of celeb marriages going under because we hear more of celebs anyway. Look around you. Your friends from school, your colleagues, your cousins and friends; even your siblings. Most of us can point to family and friends having bad marriages or walking out of what was once heaven on earth. Marriage is a lot of work. You never stop putting in work until either partner drops dead. And because marriage, especially in an environment like Nigeria, is to many, what English and Mathematics are to college students, most young people feel obliged to take the plunge, even when they’re sure the circumstances are not right. Continue reading…

Why My New Company Is A Big Deal

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.


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.

Continue reading…