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The role of strategic communications is influencing business growth and shaping social impact – Jaiyesimi

The role of strategic communications is influencing business growth and shaping social impact – Jaiyesimi

The Comms Avenue is a capacity-building and networking platform for communications professionals across Africa and beyond. With over 1000 members from 20 African countries in its mission-driven community, The Comms Avenue is on a mission to equip professionals with the skills, knowledge and opportunities to achieve measurable results in their roles as communicators. The Comms Avenue facilitates growth opportunities for community members by creating impactful programmes and networking events. According to Adedoyin Jaiyesimi, co-founder, The Comms Avenue, the community also engages senior professionals in the industry with the overall goal to upskill professionals within and outside their network. Excerpts by SEYI JOHN SALAU:

How would you describe Public Relations practice in Nigeria in recent years?

The practice of Public Relations in Nigeria, as in other parts of Africa, continues to evolve. In the last ten years, PR practitioners in the country have done well in the use of creative skills to create awareness for brands across the country and build reputation. We have also seen more practitioners in Nigeria receiving notable pan-African and global awards which is a testament of the impact of their work in PR. There, however, still remains more room for growth, especially with regards to properly articulating the value of Communications and PR in the private and public sectors.

What are some problems facing the Communications practice in Africa?

There are several challenges that professionals have faced over the years. Through the work we do at The Comms Avenue, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with junior and senior professionals from across the continent and the challenges are quite similar. A common thread is the misconception about what Communications and PR entails.

A lot of people think Communications and PR is just about media relations and publicity while this is not the case and it also ties into the second challenge of executives and senior leaders not properly understanding the value that Communications and PR brings to the table.

This presents an opportunity for professionals to show their value by being able to objectively show the impact and result of their activities. I believe this is one area that will make a lot of difference in the Communications practice.

What is your take on the use of Communications/Public Relations in the public sector in Nigeria and Africa?

Generally, in the public sector across Africa, more attention has been placed on engaging the media to disseminate information about government activities and policies. Ensuring citizens have proper access to essential information is good but there are more ways that the public sector can leverage Communications.

For example, there is an opportunity to leverage Communications for national branding across the African continent. There is also room for better engagement with citizens, especially in the policy making and implementation process.

I look forward to a time when the public sector in Nigeria and Africa will adopt a more strategic and cohesive approach to Communications to promote a sense of unity, belonging and patriotism among the citizens. It is also time for African countries to take control of their narrative and this can be done through the strategic use of Communications and Public Relations.

What are the trends communications professionals should look out for this year?

I believe one major trend they will need to look out for is in the area of technology. We ended 2022 with news about ChatGPT and how it will influence our work. As technology advances and there are more breakthroughs with Artificial Intelligence, professionals will need to understand how these advancements will change the way they work and how they can leverage technology trends to perform better.

Ignoring these developing trends in technology will be costly. Another thing I’d like to point out is that it is important to be mindful of general societal and economic trends in the nation and globally too because these have an impact on the audiences and stakeholders we need to reach out to.

How can young professionals position and prepare themselves for success?

It starts with being committed to mastering their craft. You just have to know your stuff. That means constantly seeking knowledge to ensure they are constantly improving themselves. Young professionals should also be open to learning from those who have gone ahead and from their peers. An attitude of learning is crucial to success.

This is one of the reasons why capacity-building is one of our core pillars at The Comms Avenue. It is also the reason why we created the Comms Intensive Africa programme. With a thirst for knowledge, a dedication to doing excellent work and the willingness to go the extra mile, young professionals will be positioned for success.

Can you tell us more about Comms Intensive Africa?

The Comms Intensive Africa programme was created by The Comms Avenue to equip communications professionals with the practical knowledge and tools required to deliver exceptional results in their work. It is a specialist communications programme that will be taught by seasoned academics and practitioners from across Africa. We’re starting off with these three courses: Strategic Communications, Development Communications and Internal Communications.

Over the years, we’ve seen that there is a need for communications professionals to become more strategic in their work in order to have the desired impact. Through the Comms Intensive Africa, our goal is to contribute to closing the existing knowledge gap and help young professionals across Africa to become more confident in their ability to do work that will be valued. To register for any or all of the courses, professionals can go to bit.ly/CommsIntensiveAfrica

What would success look like for Communications Professionals in 2023 and beyond?

With rising social consciousness in consumers and young people across the world, organisations need communications professionals to help them shape an authentic brand story and build a strong reputation that makes the organisation truly connected with its stakeholders – both internal and external. Success for communications professionals will therefore be their ability to build and maintain their organisation’s brand as one that truly listens to and cares about the needs of not just their stakeholders but also the environment in which they operate.

This makes the use of data and insights absolutely critical. Communications professionals will need to understand the rudiments of gathering and analysing data in order to pull out useful insights to develop strategic campaigns and programmes that will skillfully merge the priorities of their organisation with those of their stakeholders and lead to the desired behaviour change or outcome.

What are some misconceptions about Public Relations?

A common misconception about Public Relations is that it is an instant process. This explains why it mostly comes as an afterthought to a lot of people. As I mentioned before, there is more to PR than media relations and ‘trending’ on social media. Good and effective PR requires strategic thinking, an understanding of existing and future trends and the ability to leverage data to create effective campaigns and strategies and also being able to nurture the relationship with various stakeholders.

The results are not instantaneous but when implemented strategically, organisations will see its impact on business objectives and outcomes. Another misconception is that anybody can be called a PR professional. Although PR is largely creative in its practice, there is a science to the art of what we do.

Without a thorough understanding of PR principles, especially strategy and measurement, it will be difficult to achieve the desired results. Again, this is why we’re keen on contributing to closing the existing knowledge gap. PR is a reputable craft that needs to be mastered.

Read also: To say is one thing, to accept is another: Principles of Effective Communication

How can other Communications professionals be a part of the work you are doing?

Communications professionals can be part of what we’re doing by joining our mission-driven community. We put together programs, webinars, knowledge exchange and networking events that allow our community members to collaborate and connect with senior communications professionals and peers from across the African continent.

We also produce practical resources and guides to help communications professionals to perform better on the job. These are accessible on our website -www.commsavenue.com.

Senior communications professionals can also serve as mentors in our highly successful Comms Mentoring Programme through which we have mentored over 150 young professionals from 8 African countries.

Lastly, we recently launched a Scholarship Fund to make our courses and capacity-building opportunities accessible to young communications professionals who are at the early stages of their careers. This is also another avenue to support our work.