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Oluwayemisi Mafe, passionate about brand communication, fulfilling her dreams

Oluwayemisi Mafe is a Marketing Communications professional with over 20 years’ experience in Consultancy, Social Enterprise, Banking, E-commerce and Insurance. She heads the Brand Communications department of SUNU Assurances Nigeria Plc., a member of SUNU Group which has the vision to be a leading African Insurance Company. Before now, she was the Manager, PR & Brand Communications at Konga Online Shopping Limited where she was responsible for managing the online giant’s brand communications, public perception and strategic engagement of her stakeholders by ensuring consistent delivery of brand message in a timely and relevant manner. She started her career as a Freelance Journalist with Herald Group of Newspapers in Ilorin, and over the years has gained experience in the Marketing Communications industry working with leading Advertising and Public Relations agencies. Prior to her present employment, she had a brief stint with Accion Microfinance Bank.

She has expertise in successfully conceptualizing and implementing innovative communications, public relations and marketing initiatives—including both digital and traditional media channels—to drive market impact and expansion for top companies in diverse industries.

She is a 2014 Vital Voices Lead Fellow. The program is a distinctive partnership between the UK government’s Department for International Development and Vital Voices Global Partnership). Oluwayemisi is a Fellow; National Institute of Marketing in Nigeria (NIMN), Member; Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Member; The Chartered Institute of Marketing, UK , Associate; Advertising Practitioners’ Council of Nigeria (APCON) and a Mentor and an Associate; Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ). She is also a mentor of Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

She is very passionate about touching lives and gives expression to this by volunteering for social causes that impacts women.

The switch from freelance journalism

So I started as a freelance journalist because I discovered early in life that I love to write. And as an undergraduate, I felt it was a talent I can put to use while studying English in the University. So I was just doing it on a part-time basis. I would say it was is a progression from being a freelance journalist to now coming into public relations as a media relations executive where I started from then to copywriting and using all those skills as a consultant to develop the various brands I’ve worked on.

Journalists switching from journalism to corporate communications. Why is that so and what is the nexus between both fields?

Okay, I think the thread that holds everything together is number one, you must have a creative skill to be able to coin words together in a way that makes meaning and tells a story. So if you have that basic skill, the sky like they say, is your stepping stone because you can take it to any length you want or you aspire to. I don’t see it like it’s a trend. I believe it’s something that happens if you are qualified for the position. For me, being a restless soul, I can’t just stay in one career over the years and I believe I have to just move and keep evolving as I grow.

What’s your typical workday like?

There’s no typical work day for me. The day starts the moment I wake up. When I wake up, I do my morning activities then come to the office and the moment I step into my office, I take it as they throw it at me and I believe I handle it well, whatever comes I make sure that I give it my best shot and keep at it.

Challenges on the job and surmounting them

I believe that life on its own is full of challenges but your perspective to it, the way you handle it, then the way you see it basically determines whether it will sink you or you’ll rise above it and keep trudging on. I believe challenges make you better however, I do not believe you should succumb to just copying every and anybody if trying to be ‘like them’ is your challenge. You find out that a lot of people have perfected the art of copy and paste. Guess what? When push comes to shove, you will know who is the thorough professional and the one that is just doing copy and paste all over the place. You are able to see the best and you’re able to see the worst at the same time. So for me, there have been challenges, so many, but it all depends on how you decide to take it and give it your best shot. And also make sure that ‘this too will pass’ like they say.

The new media and brand communications

The world is a global village. Everything you do is no longer in your own little corner. People all over the world, people all around you are looking at you. They’re monitoring your activities, even those things that you don’t think they know, maybe somebody tags you or somebody made mention of you somewhere, people are watching. So I’ll say that the internet has really impacted the practice because right now, you gain more knowledge and insights from different parts of the world. You don’t need to depend on getting a particular book to draw knowledge from it before you advance your skills and your competence. Now at the click of a button, you can have all the information you need to know about what is going on, how brand communications is being practiced in this part of the world, how it’s being done in that part of the world. It makes it easier for you to bring your best to the table because you now see how things are done in various parts of the world, you learn from it and impact your own world better.

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To what degree would you say that brand communication professionals are keying into the art of storytelling?

Some people naturally sit back and watch trends before they latch onto it, while some people set the trend. I would say that we have both at play presently in the country because we have some people that are sitting back and watching but of course, we have so many people that now use storytelling to a great extent and use it quite well to tell their stories to impact their brands, to make people buy into them better than it’s been before. So it’s really a great tool, is a great opportunity and I believe everybody, the back seaters that are still watching should come on board and start doing great stuff.

Recount a moment of set-back and tell us how that has spurred you to where you are now?

Okay over the years, starting from being a brand consultant as a PR manager to being a copywriter, of course, there were times when you would do some stuff and the client will say “Is this the best you can do?” It could be very demoralizing, it could demotivate you. But you know, you just have to rise above it and be like, okay, this might not really be the best now, what else can I do to improve on this? I’m a very optimistic person; I never allow setbacks to keep me there. I always find a way to rise above it and forge ahead irrespective of what it is.

What’s your take on women supporting women?

I’m a 100 percent believer in women supporting women. The fact is that a woman understands another woman better than a man would. Before you start telling a man about your cycles, about your challenges, a man might not see it the way another woman will see it. So, I always believe that there’s this part of the holy book that says that the older women should teach the younger women. I believe strongly in that and that pushes me a lot of the time to try as much as possible to mentor and coach younger women –to make them see that what you’re going through, I’ve gone through it before and you can rise above it. You can do this, or you can choose to do that. You can always be better than whatever you think you are presently.

What are your own ideas towards achieving gender parity in Nigerian and Africa?

Number one, like I said earlier, I believe that women should support each other and when you see a woman trying to forge ahead in life, don’t join the people that try to pull her down. Don’t join the people that demoralize her with the side talks and the gossips and the name calling. When you see a woman maybe going into politics, you should support her and part of the support you can give to her is to give her the agenda she needs to push that will support women’s priority when she gets to that post. You should be able to say to her ‘we are supporting you because we believe that when you get there you’ll be able to push for this and this that will support women advancement, you’ll be able to do various things that will help the women folk and empower the women.’ We shouldn’t be the ones castigating those that are bold enough to come forward. You may not be able to do it, but since she has decided to come forward, what is expected of you is to help her to be better at what she’s doing and give her all the support that she can get.

What are the opportunities in volunteering and how can it be made attractive so that more people can begin to engage in it?

I will say that to a large extent, whatever I might say I’ve been able to do with my life rests a great deal on how well I was able to volunteer my time, my skills and everything into making it what it is. So volunteering is something that I greatly support. The way we are in this part of the world, a lot of us believe that if there’s nothing in it for me, I won’t do it. We should be magnanimous enough to say that ‘I am what I am because I’m meant to be a blessing to the next person’. I don’t always look at what is in it for me. I look at ‘let’s get it done and make it a better place for the next people coming behind us’. So I believe that should drive anyone that wants to be a volunteer. It might not be attractive because the people you’re volunteering for, the organizations, the bodies, might not be able to pay you back but at the same time, you should be magnanimous enough to say that I’m throwing my hat into the ring because I believe it can be better. I have the skills and competence to make it better than it is presently.

Family, social and work life. How do you balance these?

I take it one day at a time. I always believe that I have to seize the moment. Right now, I’m granting you an interview, we’re here discussing, no other distraction. So I try to schedule things accordingly so that one does not overlap the other. When it’s family time, it is strictly family time, when it’s work, it’s work and I give it my best shot as well so that by the time I shut it down I can face the next thing. And the social life too, when it’s time for that we go for it.

Describe yourself in two words

Strong woman. I’m a woman and I’m very strong. I intentionally choose those two words because they encompass so many other things. I’m a woman and I’m very strong.

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