Is PR dead?

Sometime in 2015, Ayeni Adekunle, founder and CEO, Black House Media (BHM), a media publishing and PR consulting firm stirred the hornet’s nest. Ayeni, leading a group of young, energetic and creative heads at BHM pronounced PR practice in Nigeria dead. Precisely on October 6, 2015, Ayeni organized a service of songs to herald the passage of PR. At the well attended event by industry leaders, Ayeni , whose action was described as radical by industry observers gave reasons for his disruptive assertion.

According to Ayeni who addressed dignitaries at the event, it was high time PR practitioners in the country changed their game, if PR is to survive as a profession. His call for the gathering was not an obituary for PR as a profession but a wake-up call to brainstorm and strategise on the future of PR. Although, PR as a profession in Nigeria is almost a hundred years old, yet compared to other professions, PR is not growing as it should. Ayeni is pained by the docile and lethargic approach to PR consultancy practice.

“As public relations professionals, we should have been at the forefront of big data science, of social media, of location and habit mapping. We should have been the pioneers of digital marketing and experience design and brand story telling. If you don’t disrupt yourself, then you must get ready to be disrupted, “Ayeni stated.

Citing instances of how other industries are embracing change and examples of the fate that befell industries that failed to innovate, Ayeni said: “It happened to the search industry, happened to media and photography. It has happened to computer and mobile messaging. It happened to advertising. And now, as transportationand telecommunications industries face unprecedented disruptions, public relations itself is undergoing an assault by new ideas and tools. New technology has ensured that every industry today must innovate or die. Newspapers are now playing catch up with blogs and websites. Telcos are being forced to rethink their business model because of obvious threats from Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook and co. Google built a global advertising business while ad giants were snoring.”

And so what is the way forward for PR in Nigeria? The answer: Innovate or perish. This, in a nutshell is the summary of the first part of the Nigeria PR Report 2015: Inside Public Relations industry in Nigeria, an annual publication of BHM Group published in collaboration with the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN). The publication modelled after the renowned Holmes Reports and edited by Ayeni Adekunle is divided into two parts. The first part as already stated above chronicles the history of PR in Nigeria; x-ray the challenges facing the industry and also charts the way forward.

The second part of this revealing and incisive book reveals the state of the industry in the past year via an agency by agency research. From affiliations to billings, campaigns and awards, Nigeria PR Report 2015 avers that there are indeed some positive developments in the industry in spite of obvious challenges of recession in the Nigeria’s economy and crippling stagnancy afflicting PR practice.

And as an icing on the cake, the publication features a chapter on organizations regulating the practice of PR in Nigeria. It also contains a listing of PRCAN member agencies. But then from further research by this writer, one would discover that some of the agencies listed have either become extinct or moribund. The authors should in future expunge inactive agencies in their listings.

Perhaps because of Ayeni’s background as a trained scientist turned journalist and PR cabal, the mode of research adopted for the publication is precise, the style of writing is lucid and engrossing while the illustrations are self explanatory. Nigeria PR Report 2015 is a must in the library of all serious minded marketing communications and marketing professionals.

The publication couldn’t have come at a better time than this. Buffeted by hard times, brand owners are groaning, brands are dying. Producers of fast moving consumer goods and service providers are cutting cost and downsizing. This development will definitely impact negatively on marketing campaign budget PR inclusive. But rather than give up, the PR consultant would have to be more creative and think out of the box to survive and thrive in this hard times. This is the kernel of the campaign PR is dead that kick-started Nigeria PR Report 2015 project.

About BHM Founded by Ayeni Adekunle, Black House Media Group is the parent company to Nigerian Entertainment Today (NET), Black House Media and ID Africa.

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