• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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How public relations can change the negative perception of Nigeria, by Olorundero

How public relations can change the negative perception of Nigeria, by Olorundero

Insightful public relations strategies have the power to transform a nation’s reputation, according to Tolulope Olorundero, a public relations consultant and founder of Nigerian Women in PR & Mosron Communications. In this interview with DAVID IJASEUN she discussed the importance of proper public relations in transforming Nigeria’s negative perception and revamping its poor post-election reputation both domestically and internationally. Excerpts:

What do you think are the main reasons for the negative perception of Nigeria in the international community?

Speaking realistically, Nigeria’s negative perception in the international community has been as a result of the combined efforts of both the political class and the actions of citizens both within and outside the country. On the one hand, Nigeria’s leaders refused to establish and enforce the proper protocols and policies that should guide the actions of citizens.

From a glaring abuse of the rule of law and documented unlawful activities of law enforcement officers, to the cultural celebration of ill-gotten wealth – there is a pervasive atmosphere of lawlessness that, with the aid of social media, is now glaring to the whole world.

Add to that, the actions of a few Nigerians who travel to other countries to perpetrate crime and our penchant for amplifying more negative things about our nation, then it would be obvious why Nigeria is not seen as the giant we claim it is.

The 2023 general election left a sour taste in mouth and minds of Nigerians. How can public relations change the negative perception of Nigeria caused by these election?

To change the negative perception caused by the 2023 elections, the public relations industry can start by working with relevant stakeholders to address gaps in public institutions and support internal change management.

Next but just as important is providing strategic direction to restore trust and inspire national pride is also important. Rather than simply telling stories, a strategic approach is needed to support the turnaround of institutions, restore the trust of Nigerians, and inspire a rebirth of national pride.

It is that sense of pride that will extend to how we comport ourselves both within the country and when we travel out.

Despite the incredible limitations, an approach that public relations professionals can adopt is to identify one aspect of our national life and deploy the full power of the profession to drive change.

How can public relations practitioners effectively communicate positive aspects of Nigeria to both citizens and the international community?

To effectively communicate positive aspects of Nigeria to both citizens and the international community, practitioners in the PR industry can adopt an approach of identifying one aspect of the country’s national life and utilising the full power of the profession to drive change. This involves working with relevant private and public stakeholders to promote the chosen aspect and engineer change.

For instance, the Nigerian Women in PR launched the #TrashyourTrash campaign at their annual national conference to encourage citizen advocacy for individual responsibility in environmental cleanliness.

By holding ourselves accountable for keeping the environment clean and encouraging others to do the same, we can gradually build functional and clean communities and a nation. Therefore, public relations professionals can effectively communicate positive aspects of Nigeria by adopting a strategic approach and working collaboratively with stakeholders to drive change.

In what ways can your industry collaborate with government agencies and private organizations to combat the damaging impact of fake news and misinformation on social media?

Education is crucial to address this issue. It is important to inform both private organizations and government agencies, including politicians and political parties, that having many followers on social media or a byline in published media does not make one a PR professional.

PR professionals, through the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) have warned against hiring non-professionals as spokespersons or engagement strategists, which often leads to negative outcomes.

Public relations professionals follow ethical standards that prioritize the duty of care to clients and the general public.

In the lead up to the 2023 elections, politicians have exploited social media influencers to fuel tribalism, bigotry, and hatred, creating a divided nation. The immediate solution to misinformation is to hire only PR professionals who follow ethical codes, and to educate citizens on identifying fake news and misinformation through ongoing engagement and orientation.

In your opinion, what are some successful examples of public relations campaigns that have positively impacted a country’s image and how can they be scaled?

We don’t need to go out of Africa. Think about Rwanda: Rwanda has leveraged public relations strategies extensively to position itself as the tourist haven of East Africa. It has a growing technology hub and has secured the unsolicited endorsement of some of the continents most celebrated tech founders, many of whom are Nigerians.

Yet incredibly, Rwanda is not one of the top 15 largest economies in Africa by GDP. There remains some disquiet about their political system. Their citizens are not constantly attacking their government on social media, or amplifying the misdeeds of a few criminal citizens in other nations.

It is the same with South Africa; according to World Population Review, South Africa has the third highest global record of reported rape cases. The crime rate remains worrisome. Yet, the country has invested significantly in amplifying its tourism offerings and focusing on the positive experiences that visitors will get when they visit South Africa.

These are examples on the continent that should challenge Nigeria. There are no countries without their peculiar challenges. As they work on addressing those challenges, it remains the collective responsibility of both leaders and citizens to show the world the good stories of their country and its people. Nigeria can follow these examples.

How can Nigeria improve its global image to attract and retain foreign investors?

Nigeria can improve its global image to attract and retain foreign investors by creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive through supportive policies and laws. Also, professional public relations professionals should work hand-in-hand with relevant institutions to showcase success stories of thriving businesses that transform the lives of citizens and provide globally competitive job opportunities.

With that said, It is essential to avoid relying on social media influencers or information merchants to tell these stories of impact.

What methods can PR professionals use to evaluate the impact of their activities on improving the perception of Nigeria?

Public relations professionals can measure the impact of their efforts by gathering initial data to understand the current landscape, deploying strategies, and ongoing measurement.

For example, to improve the ease of access to foreign countries by Nigerian passport holders, measurement could be done by comparing the number of complaints, comments, and negative experiences shared 12 months prior to implementing a comprehensive strategy to the number shared 12 months after implementation. This will help determine if there has been any improvement or not.

We teach some of these strategies at Nigerian Women in PR during our various training programmes for PR professionals: Scale PR training in May, the Reverse Mentorship Workshop that holds in June, and The PR Job Fair for young professionals that holds in November every year.

Read also: Nigeria among top 5 countries with longest time to earn $1million

What mistakes should PR practitioners avoid when working to improve a country’s image?

PR practitioners must put the country’s interests first and prioritize strategic planning over media engagement. When accepting briefs, particularly from politicians, they should carefully consider the potential impact on the country and avoid actions that further polarise the population.

Moreso, political spokespersons must avoid coining terms that create further division amongst the populace, and remember that citizens are not their principal’s opposition. By keeping these factors in mind, PR practitioners can effectively and positively contribute to changing a country’s image.

What’s the future of public relations in Nigeria and how can it shift the negative perception of the country and its citizens?

The future of public relations in Nigeria is vital to the country’s development. It will be instrumental in rebuilding damaged relationships, promoting positive economic activities, and changing the negative perception of Nigeria and its citizens. To achieve this, educating stakeholders on the value of public relations is crucial.

The academia will also continue to evolve to meet the demands of society and organizations in guiding practitioners. The Nigerian Women in PR is committed to funding research and publishing scholarly materials, such as the Experiencing PR magazine, to educate stakeholders continually on the importance of public relations for true progress to occur.

Programs such as the Experiencing PR Conference can as well help to achieve this goal. As a result of such initiatives, more institutions and organizations will engage public relations professionals to manage perception effectively.