PR companies must improve on digital capacity or risk fizzling out – Brooks and Blake boss

Mr. Taiwo Ogunwumi,a Chartered Economist and seasoned Project Management Professional with over a decade of broad-based experience in Marketing Communications and Brand Engagement, is the Executive Director, Brooks and Blake Nigeria Limited, a front-running Perception Management agency in Nigeria. In this exclusive interview MARKETING EDGE, he discloses how his agency rode on the storm of the Coronavirus global pandemic and has been waxing strong consistently. Excerpts.

 How is your company coping in this pandemic period? 

The Covid-19 pandemic as we all know took the whole world by storm and affected our economies like a wrecking ball. No one saw this coming and the virus hit us on without a moment’s notice like it did everyone else which resulted in an unplanned change in the operations of companies across the nation; Brooks and Blake was not excluded. However, we have kept a driven and progressive mindset, centring our approach to being innovative and responsive in dealing with challenges that come with the times. We have always been sure-footed about doing things differently which is a prerequisite for growth. For Brooks and Blake, roadblocks are not seen as obstacles but opportunities. This has ensured the continued demand for the value we provide. I will say the effects of pandemic showed us both sides as a Consultancy which are doing the work and creating more opportunities. As a company, we are riding on the opportunities to learn and visualize how best to satisfy all our clients.

More so, change is inevitable, the birth of anything valuable takes time. As a company we have been taking it one step at a time, learning all through the process of the new normal; but also interestingly identifying growth opportunities.

We are quite mindful of returning to the regular work schedule, while still monitoring the next wave of the pandemic as it continues to pose a challenge and generate a wide range of emotions, especially the risk of contracting the virus and the extended impact on business. In terms of safety and well-being, they remain our utmost priority, so we have set in place a robust staff telecommuting policy amongst other vital safety measures while leveraging technology broadly to deliver on our mandates effectively.

How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has redefined the PR profession and other businesses in Nigeria?

Given the nature of the pandemic and restrictions to physical contacts that came with it, communication and media consumption naturally moved online, which has over the years accelerated the adoption of the global digital medium as the mainstay of disseminating information. This has inadvertently challenged marketing communication practice to think more digital than anything else. PR is certainly right in the middle of it all. The slant of communication has also gradually shifted from hands-on media companies and PR professionals to that of consumers. Public Relations has been going through this evolution in the last decade, however, the pandemic has accelerated this process a thousand folds. PR agencies now have to push strategies from traditional to digital to meet the needs of a wider range of audience who are more informed, hungrier for qualitative content and sophisticated in their choice of media consumption.

Therefore, PR companies must improve on the digital capacity to cater to this new audience or risk fizzling out of relevance.

How would you then describe the new normal in PR practice in Nigeria?

The new normal for PR is building a strong online and digital presence. Zoom calls, online webinars, and launches have been the new order of the day and many organizations are adopting this method to reduce cost, and I don’t see it changing soon. PR companies must learn to manage clients and consumers from afar.

The need for digital public relations skills is one of the most significant ways that professional growth, especially as online visibility, engagement, and relationships will continue to grow in importance. There is a need for public relations agencies to improve their online presence through high-quality backlinks, social media mentions.

Digital PR encompasses more than pitches and media lists; it requires a clear understanding of the core communication strategy and how to achieve it in this new age. Consultants must improve on their digital skills as it is paramount to the success of any PR agency in the nearest future as the industry continues to move online.

How do you think Nigerian PR agencies are adapting to this new normal?

We can see that most PR agencies have shifted focus on maintaining a good online presence. Agencies are now investing more in digitization to stay relevant now and in the future. Expectedly, PR has fully gone digital because it is a new reality. What people today call the core of public relations is a dying business. Mobile has become a new reality. Any agency that ignores the digital space, does so at its peril.

One of the many ways agencies are keeping up with the new shift is by embracing a new mindset and learning new systems and technology. The most important skill for a digital public relations professional to have in this time is the ability to learn new skills and, in some cases, staying up to date with new technology and approaches to gain recognition for brands. However, with the public relations profession constantly changing and developing, professionals who cultivate the right adaptation skills will thrive and succeed.

What would be your assessment and forecast for the IMC industry in 2021? 

The goal of the IMC is to build a stronger brand and increase sales through the influence of consumer promotion which is necessary for brand enhancement and recognition. The future is evident in the glaring changes in marketing which include the use of new technologies and where PR is consumer-focused to nurture customer satisfaction and feed their need for quality content. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ravaging effect it had, most brands are latching on to providing a point of view messaging that resonates with the times.

So, how well is your agency supporting your clients through this period?

This year, we intend to collaborate more. PR tactics are good, however, besides strategy, it mostly relies on the genuine credibility of platforms and resources it identifies. No matter your market, your best bet for credibility is to have people of influence tell others why they should appreciate and adopt the product or service on offer.

We are making deliberate efforts to collaborate with individuals and platforms that their contents engage and impact their audiences effectively. Let me state clearly that investment in Innovation, adaptability and collaboration will determine the survival of many consultancies soon.

As a company, how do you hope to up the ante in your operations and deliverables this year?

Our agency is looking more into in-house training and upskilling to meet up with the global trend in technology because new measures require new knowledge.  PR has always been about communication prowess. The basics of PR is being a good writer, that will always stand, but also marketing skills, audiovisual media and graphics, data wrangling, being technology savvy and a good team player will prove non-negotiable. At Brooks and Blake, we are looking at the bigger picture of the IMC industry. We have built businesses to cater to ideation, digital marketing and experiential marketing services as part of our plans for growing the business.

 What is unique about Brooks & Blake?

I would say flexibility. Our policies allow for a swift change in our work process and clients engagement and that stood us out within the five pillars of B+B values which are Partnership, Integrity, Continuous Improvement, Innovation and Focus.




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