VENTURES AFRICA – “Africa is rising, and for the first time in decades this huge continent with unparalleled natural and human resources is on the cusp of unprecedented growth.” If you had the opportunity to read Claudine Moore’s “A Disapora Tale: Experiencing Nigeria on the verge of a new era” in February, then you can easily recall those remarkable words of this global player passionate about sharing best practices in public relations with African professionals.
BusinessDay, a Nigerian business oriented newspaper, recently interviewed Claudine, an American with African descent and Founder of C. Moore Media (CMM) International Public Relations. CMM is now leading the North American PR initiatives for Arik Air, a wholly owned Nigerian company and West Africa’s leading airline. In the interview, the PR expert reiterates the need for African Brands and Organisations to raise their global visibility. Perhaps, there is a lot other brands can learn from MTN, a South Africa based Telecommunications company with branches in other African countries. MTN was recently ranked as Africa’s number one on Brandz Top 100 Global Brands.
As Africa becomes the next destination, brands need to raise their visibility. Below are excerpts from Claudine’s Interview on Business day:
Your client, Arik Air seems to be one of the successful airlines in Nigeria, how do you intend to maintain the brand?
We are creating a robust and strategic communications platform that will bolster Arik Air’s position as Africa’s fastest growing airline. The communications platform includes traditional, online and social media, and is delivered in a creative, results-driven, news bureau styled programme. Our expertise are in international PR, so we are focused on raising the profile of Arik Air within the US business community, which demonstrates continued interest in connecting with the continent, especially with key markets like Nigeria due to impressive economic growth forecasts in the region.
We have already raised the visibility of the airline in key top tier US and international media such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek, which have all published favourable features on the airline.
This increased visibility within the US business press is across all media platforms, including social media. This is so important because as a brand you have to connect with stakeholders at several touch points.
What informed your appointment as Arik Air PR agency in US?
Arik Air has worked with us on small projects, and was impressed by our expertise in the international and US market combined, with our knowledge and awareness of emerging markets like Nigeria. We achieved good results for Arik Air on these small projects. As the airline wanted to increase their PR activities, and based on our understanding of their business and insights into their competitive advantages, they selected us to help them tell their story to the international audience. In Nigeria, Arik Air has a very talented team of in-house local communications experts.
How did US media business industry, especially PR cope with the recent recession?
It is interesting because in my opinion, the US PR industry coped and is coping pretty well in the recent and current economic downturn. I say current as globally we are still very much in the midst of a depressed and sluggish economic environment. Sure, the growth in the industry has not been as high as previous years, but the growth has been steady.
PR Week US just released data from their annual Agency Business Report and the top 50 reporting firms grew on average 10 percent in the US, and this is good news. I think the reason for this is that the PR industry is positioned at the forefront of issues affecting brands in both good and the bad economic times. Strategic corporate communications counsel is especially valuable during times of change largely due to the advent of social media and the 24 hours news cycle that now exists. In addition the value-added proposition that PR delivers provides more cost-effective results, particularly when compared with advertising and marketing.
As smart practitioners, we have to remind companies and brands about this. I think as a whole the PR industry has demonstrated this well to corporations, and this has allowed the industry to not just be resilient but actually grow. But many companies are still conservative with their spend.
Africa’s economy is providing opportunity to West and European investors, how is US marketing communication industry position itself to leverage the opportunity in Africa.
I simply love the fact that Africa is rising and key countries including Nigeria are experiencing economic growth. This is such a golden moment for the continent and investors are eager for opportunities. It is interesting because on the one hand, African brands and organisations need to raise their global visibility in order for investors to know about the opportunities.
You don’t ever want to be too hard to find, and when you are found you should have a compelling story to tell that is positioned in a way that is understood by the global investor and is attractive to them. This is where international firms can help the development of the continent… they can help attract investment by raising visibility and positioning opportunities in a way global investors understand.
In alignment with this, as more investment opportunities open up in the continent, agencies in the US will have to increase both their scale and their reach in order to stay competitive. This will be largely due to an increasing number of clients becoming more attracted to agencies that have a global footprint that includes emerging markets, especially Africa. The approach will be a combination of establishing offices in target markets, or formalising partnerships with affiliate. It is a win-win situation for all concerned and a great opportunity for countries like Nigeria.
What are the likely challenges the agencies in the West tend to face in branding organisations in Africa compared with the West?
Digital marketing and social media engagement is important in the West and has overtaken the traditional marketing elements of many campaigns. While internet penetration is 99 percent in the US it is currently on average less then 20 percent across the continent, and is only 28 percent in Nigeria. This in effect means that traditional marketing is still very influential in emerging markets although this will undoubtedly change over time as internet penetration grows.
The challenges in the West is therefore to think creatively in the new digital age and the challenge in Africa is to think creatively using more traditional forms of marketing leveraging transferable elements from the digital world.
In Africa, adequate talent in the marketing communication is a big issue, how is the West handling this in view of the fact that more foreign firms are entering Africa?
This is a tough issue and one that firms are still trying to figure out. At the moment, I think that some companies are looking at the Diaspora and seeing if there is an interest in ‘going back home.’ I have a number of friends who have lived in the US and the UK for many years, but are now returning to Nigeria as they have been offered jobs with the local office of foreign firms.