As most media agencies presentations for pitches are flooded with digital or online strategies, perhaps due to the trend, a PR expert, Akonte Ekine, CEO of Absolute PR, in this interview with Daniel Obi, asks clients not to swallow those proposals holistically but to sit back and ask questions about the content that will go online. Excerpts:
As marketing shifts online and media agencies embrace the strategy, what is the best way to ensure that clients maximise the benefit, especially in the deployment of appropriate content?
First, content itself is a word that is used to capture a series of information, either educational or entertainment or instructional information, that one consistently provides and shares with consumers. On the other part, the consumer is also a content generator, because the consumer also needs to give you feedback, and if they do, the best bet to handle the feedback is do filtration, that is, to create a funnel where you consistently drop materials that are exciting, refreshing and enlightening for the consumers to enjoy. I have noticed in this environment that almost every presentation we go to, everybody seems to be talking about the New Media, that is the ‘digital stuff.’ And I ask a fundamental question, what is it that is going to happen in the cyber space without starting from the natural state, which is offline? This means that at the end of the day what you are online should be a reflection of who you are offline, and that is why my submission is that content itself is king in today’s interaction with the consumer and every stakeholder.
For instance, 90 percent of what you should be doing in investor relations is to get the investors to be true owners of the institution and the only way to achieve this is through the amount of information that they can get to take decisions. So, it is the content that the institutions or brands create that will eventually be the food and the meat of the soul that the other stakeholders will feed on, and the only best bet for institution to provide such information is PR.
What do you mean when you say that content belongs to PR when almost everybody provides content?
Public relations is relationships between two or more people, creating mutual understanding, and the only business of communication that has the platform to create such mutual understanding is PR. By that it means a deliberate art or science of counselling, co-ordinating and predicting trends. When you predict trends, you are advising people on how things will be, what will likely turn out at the end of the day, and to win your other party, you need to consistently provide information. It is not in the power of a digital person to do that, it is the power of a public relations person.
Digital itself is a tool. PR is the only profession with the expertise to design messages for particular audience. You do stratification of the audience and you stratify the audience by segmentation.
Are you saying that content online is for mass audience without proper stratification?
Online is another vehicle like traditional media to engage the consumer and not the message itself. Unfortunately, some people see online as content. Online is a vehicle for the content to get to the audience. What you do online should be a reflection of who you are offline. When an agency comes with online plan, the client should be able to ask what the agency will put there, what is the content? Again I ask, what is online strategy? It is similar to saying traditional media strategy. I believe more on communication strategy and then deployment of online mechanism. When agencies produce online strategies, clients should ask questions on what the content is, also what an online strategy is.
Do you see clients’ embrace of online proposals as a “follow-follow” mentality: just joining the new trend without perhaps deeply understanding it?
That is where we are now and everybody wants to jump into it, without really understanding if there is any content in it. Everybody wants to be online which is very good, but there is no way you can be online without defining your personality offline. If your personality is not in terms with which you think you should be offline, it cannot be the same thing online.
Do you think online strategy has become a fashion because there are a lot of consumers online?
Out of the total number of Nigerians online how many take decisions online, what percentage of decision makers are really online and what product are you pushing online that will get to the audience that they are looking for to deliver what you want. Who are the primary buyers of stocks online, where are they in terms of location, what do they do, what are the basic information they need before they can take a decision? These are basic questions that are lacking in most of our environment now. We just assume that because a million people are doing something on Facebook, we should also be on Facebook. I ask myself that after putting it on Facebook, do I get value from people that hit the advert on Facebook and does it translate to sales.
Do you think that our agencies have understood how to develop effective communication online?
I can only say we are all learning the curve, because most times what we all see is more of assumed eyeballs, we haven’t heard much of decision by people who say because I saw this online, I decided to do this online, so we are still learning the curve. And like every other thing, we will continue to learn before we can be the master and there are people who have built expertise that are present in Nigeria today, they are WSI-AXON, a certified digital marketing company.
In all this, what’s your advice to clients who jump?
The best thing for them is to take a step backward and review the total operation as regards online. And the best way to review it is to ask themselves offline ‘what are we’? They are suppose to be one character whether they are offline or online. It is that character people should see in you. Therefore, taking a step backward and weighing their reputation offline and online before they start their next campaign is important.
But don’t you think that the youths consuming this content online are being targets of future market?
You are right when you are targeting for the future, but you need to be careful not to create disconnect, because raising the hope of the youths through online communication and these youths end up having physical contact with you. And if the physical contact does not resonate with the online, there will be a disconnect and eventually they won’t take decision. So, for me a brand that is active online should also reflect the same offline for the client, consumer, stakeholder and investor. There should not be disconnect in activity, whether online and offline.