Creative Communications and Political Campaign in Nigeria -By Femi Amosun

Filed under: National Issues |

The disappointment explicitly expressed by Nigerian marketing communications stakeholders, particularly PRCAN, AAAN and some notable advertising practitioners, should not be dismissed as negligible. If truth must be told, the issues raised are central to our national orientation, attitude and patriotism.

As a well-trained and experienced practitioner, l find it extremely nauseating that our Political Parties, public Office holders and politicians are pertinacious in promoting foreign firms. I often wonder why this narcissistic mind-set is the preferred modus operandi. Perhaps, it is their way of expressing self-aggrandizement or monomaniac predisposition. This attitude may also be as a result of ingrained or compulsive obsession with foreign goods and the Oyinbos. After 58 years of Independence from the colonial masters, an overwhelming majority of Nigerians are yet to discard their “Colonial mentality”. l cannot over-emphasis the consequential effects of such customary mentality on our national progression.

It is almost inconceivable that foreigners or foreign Political Parties and Governments will hire Nigerians to handle their communication in their own countries. Even when you’ve studied in their country and live in their country, such opportunity or opportunities will not be extended to you. As a living witness, permit me to share my personal experience with you because it is germane to the bone of contention here. Early in my career and as a fresh MBA graduate bubbling with knowledge and fresh ideas, l attended a job interview organized by a Branch Chairman of a highly-respected Professional body who also happened to be conducting a recruitment exercise for an Engineering company based in Richmond, London UK. The first part of the Interview tested my computer abilities, which involved carrying out daily routine tasks using different computer software. I was also given the task of analyzing and interpreting the Company’s forecast data using Spreadsheet software. Having done extremely well in the first part, l was invited to the second stage of the Interview that involved presentation of my Credentials and oral interview.

 

 

The Interviewer (highlighted above) meticulously examined my academic and professional Qualifications; Passport and my Status (the Right to Live & Work in the UK); and my NI Card. He then asked me series of questions bordering on the outlined skills-set for the job. After all the rigour of the Interview, the Interviewer/Branch Chairman turned around and said You’ve done exceptionally well during the Interview process, you have excellent and high-valued academic and professional Qualifications and your command of English language is remarkable. Although you don’t have strong accent, but you have a foreign accent I did not get the job. (It may interest some readers to know that “having foreign accent” is tantamount to racial undertone, an unspoken basis for discrimination and racism). At the time of the Interview, l had thought that one’s accent is not a prerequisite or barrier to job opportunity. I thought the ability (as l demonstrated during the interview process) would supercede any form of discriminatory sentiment. As a Commonwealth citizen, like many Nigerians, who have lawfully invested own money (what they termed as “Without recourse to Public fund”) and time in education and training in the country, l would’ve thought that l should have been given the opportunity to make valuable contribution.

As l moved on from the initial setback, l would experienced several form of discriminatory treatments with racial undertone. I would later learn that racism is deeply ingrained in their systems; similar to the way Corruption is embedded in our country. The only slight difference is that racism is targeted at black and foreigners while Corruption is perpetrated against our own country by the privileged few.

The advent of BREXIT; the introduction of Hostile Environment Policy; and the well documented malevolent treatment of the Windrush Generation (Offspring of the Caribbean migrants who came to Britain in 1948 upon the invitation of the UK Government. The Ship that brought the Migrants was named Windrush) reinforce the highest level of intolerance and disdain for foreigners, harsh treatment, and generational racial undertone in Western societies.

I am not bringing to mind my personal experience and other well-documented Cases as a basis of despondency; my candid intention is to highlight the fundamental reasons why our Politicians and Leaders should not be running to these countries for help. Astonishingly, these foreigners who are denying us opportunities in their own countries are the same ones that our Politicians and Leaders prefer to do business with. I may take the view that some of our leading Political Parties may want to use foreign firms for some PR work, including building Credibility and Goodwill, in foreign countries. However, this can be done clandestinely. It is also understandable that Parties may crave to achieve results pari passu election successes, legacy etcetera, but what cannot be justified or rationalized is the continuous use of foreign firms to address our national and local issues.

It is evident that Political Party’s Communications strategy is at the heart of a nation’s well being. Suffice to say that such strategic input cannot be entrusted in the hands of foreign agents or companies. It’s not in our strategic interest to hire foreign firms over our indigenous firms. What is at stake is the issue of morality in hiring foreigners to handle important aspects of our national development. The ethical questions, therefore, are: Do we really know these foreigners? What is their background; beliefs; and past history or antecedents? Do they share our common values or high-moral ground to intervene in our local politics or ways of life? As l have argued in another piece, Nigeria Air: Flying the Flag, July 2018, foreign firms or group of individuals may not have our interest at heart. On one hand, we proclaim that we’re fighting Corruption and Capital flight; whereas on the other hand our politicians are consciously patronizing foreign firms yet our international image remains at all time low. Therefore, our Politicians and Leaders cannot continue to add salt to injury; otherwise they’ll disappear into vortex of shame and embarrassment.

For the benefit of some readers who may be uninitiated, let me turn to Communications strategy with the view to enrich our understanding of this very important mechanism.

Marketing Communications, as a set of powerful tools, directly or indirectly affect the society at large. It acts as the strategic medium to change or alter attitudinal disposition, behaviour and perception, purchasing decisions, voting intentions, wealth creation etcetera. It can also be used to raise awareness, enhance image and corporate identity. In practice, it serves as a coordinated set of activities to communicate with the marketplace or identified target audiences.  Marketing communications can also be perceived as an embodiment of an enlightened society where individuals are respected as responsible agents who are capable of making their own decisions. (It’s what they called Existentialist theory in Philosophy). Without marketing communications, a company or organization may struggle to survive and the society will be reminiscence of the Dark Ages in Ancient History.

In practice, Communications strategy is a systematic process by which a company or an organization connect with key target audiences and differentiate its offerings from competition. The process provides insights into brand identity and awareness, perceptions and associated values. This process is quickly followed by the creation of a dynamic, attention-grabbing and campaign including concept formulation, planning and development, media selection, advertising, and timeframe for the agreed Campaign. The primary purpose, therefore, is to connect with key target audiences. To achieve effective communication, the communicator need to gather, process, interpret and understand the complex issues that may impact on the lives of the target audiences. This could include the external factors of current and/or projected PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Legal, and Environmental). A detailed SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats, Opportunities) analysis will also identify important factors.

The Economic: Income levels, employment levels, rate of inflation, rate of economic growth and the Social & Culture: Demographics (population growth/distribution, age), lifestyles and cultural values (changing beliefs, skills, family values) will also present valuable information and deep insights which can be harnessed to develop coherent communication strategy. The principal task, therefore, is to favourably position the organization’s offerings in the mind-set of its target audiences.

Furthermore, the task of formulating Concept may evolve around using Functional Needs (related problems, potential problems, or conflicts) to highlight specific attributes or benefits that will solve consumers’ problems. Symbolic Needs (involving psychological needs such as the desire for self-enhancement, role position, or group membership) may also be used. Think about your personal beauty products, alcoholic drinks, and cigarettes, which frequently appeal to symbolic needs. There are other methods that are beyond the scope of this piece to enhance our understanding of Communications strategy.

The most important point to bear in mind is that communications or advertising strategy tend to explore the part of our mental processing that drives the vast majority of our behaviour (Unconscious mind), and associating the offering with something of fundamental psychological importance to the target audience (known as Customers’ psychology). The critical aspect of communications strategy is about changing Attitude, i.e., the mental property of the receivers. Attitude is generally defined as enduring positive or negative feeling toward or evaluative judgement of a person, object, or issue. Attitude cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled, but attitude can be learned and can influence behaviour. The Cognitive components of a person’s beliefs (i.e. knowledge and thoughts) about an issue represent one’s behavioural tendency, or predisposition to act, toward an object.

Specific Appeals that could influence consumer behaviour includes:

Fear appeals (invoking fear appeal, by identifying the negative consequences of engaging in unsafe behaviour e.g., unsafe sex, drinking and driving, drug abuse). The underlying logic when using fear appeals is that fear will stimulate audience involvement with a message and thereby promote acceptance of the message arguments. The appeals may take the form of social disapproval or physical danger.

Humour can also be used to create desired reaction. Think about the actions of politicians, actors or actresses, professors etcetera. Advertisers also turn to humour in the hopes of achieving various communications objectives – to gain attention, influence attitudes, and ultimately, to trigger positive actions. Music and Sex appeals are also commonly used to influence behaviour.

It is also pertinent to point out that the Sender and Receiver (target audience) plays a twin role in the communication process. In planning the marketing communications strategy, the identified benefits or attributes will then be translated into communication messages aimed at the target audience. The Advertising element of communications strategy is valued because it performs a variety of functions including informing; persuading; reminding; adding value (by altering consumers’ perceptions); and enhancing results of other marketing communications efforts. The advertising process involves four major groups:

  • Companies and organisations that advertise – Advertisers
  • Advertising Agency –responsible for creating and placing Ads for their clients
  • Advertising production companies–i.e. independent businesses that photograph, film, and produce advertisements
  • Advertising media – Channels media e.g. Newspaper, TV, Radio, Social Networks etc.

Enhancing local Expertise and the Beneficial Effects

A strong and stable Political Party may use communications strategy to highlight its Cardinal Programmes and notable achievements. As part of the Strategy, the Party may consider attracting more new supporters; creating or raising awareness of its Policy; and making voters buy-in into their Programmes. To achieve these strategies, they may consider:

  • Developing an educated-based sets of initiative to synthesize the public
  • Continually suggesting ways and community-based services that will impact positively on the lives of local people
  • Establishing ongoing communication with the voters, e.g., in a regular newsletter that presents compelling reasons why the Party should be trusted
  • Tracking voters and voting patterns to deduce meaningful data/information
  • Local Sponsorships to generate a lot of goodwill in the local community
  • Follow up with Voters’ surveys to gauge the level of popularity and important feedback

At a time when many countries around the world are protecting their national interests and valuable assets, a form of protectionism agenda, our privileged politicians should begin to look inward and show genuine interest in developing our country. In an open and transparent society, elected governments and appointed public Office holders are inclined to protect their National interests; develop and preserve resources including the Economy; Trade; National wealth; Human resources; Political system and evolution; Social system; Physical infrastructures; Education system; Security and Safety; sustainable Healthcare and Welfare; Commerce & Industry sectors; Public institutions; Power supply; Jobs creation; and above all improve the lives of their Citizens.

All these important rudiments are preponderance enough to occupy the minds of any serious Politicians and Officials as opposed to the plethora patronization of foreigners who may not even be well-educated and qualified when compared with their Nigerian counterparts.

Yoruba legend has it that Ile lati nko eso ro de. Eniti o ta ara ile lopo, ko le ri ra lowon.

To access the full Paper double click on Creative Communications and Political Campaign in Nigeria

Femi Amosun is an acclaimed Business Adviser, marketing & communications expert and management practitioner.

 

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