PR: Experts lament slow pace of businesses in 2017

Practitioners under the auspices of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) have lamented the slow pace of businesses in 2017.

They argued that despite the fact that Nigeria exited recession in the third quarter of the year; the rate at which the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) industry experienced growth was very minute.

Former Managing Director of The Quadrant Company and Founder of Precise, a facilitation company, Mr. Bolaji Okusaga, said the PR industry witnessed a slow but painful recovery process in 2017.

Okusaga stressed that since 2016 when Nigeria plunged into recession, every aspect of the economy had received its own bashing including the PR industry, adding that 2017 was actually a year when practitioners in the industry were trying to remove the debris which was occasioned by the recession.

In his words:“What happened in 2017 is the fact that when an hurricane just blows over an area, there will be a period to clear the debris; so largely, what we were doing in 2017 was clearing the debris. I am sure that the coast will be clearer in 2018 for growth but what happened in 2017 is more like a gradual, slow but painful recovery for the marketing industry.”

According to him, the economic realities started in 2014, began to have effect in 2015 and made 2016 the eye of the storm when the country finally plunged into recession.

The Founder of Precise noted that apart from the economic realities that bedeviled the country, disruptive tendencies in technological advancement was another major problem that took a larger chunk of the revenue that would have gone into the coffers of the PR industry.

He affirmed that PR practitioners were busy grappling with disruptive, alternative services that leverage on cutting edge technology which created disruption in the industry.

With that, he said brands seeking salient connections in the market place often engaged the services of the consulting firms who make use of the disruptive technologies to gain relevance in the market place instead of using the PR professionals.

Okusaga said:”Brand owners are now innovative in the way they deploy their spend. They now understand that there is a changing media consumption habit that is borne out of the fact that they are now disruptive technologies – be it chat, be it social, be it even mobile which is from the device end – that has affected the way people consume news and interact; so there is now so much interactive bases that are more measurable than when you look at the traditional media and also have the opportunity to be able to back check and predict from a deterministic perspective, the return on investment for marketing efforts.”

“So you find that technology has really created a lot of transparency around all of these and to the extent that technological tools, technological platforms and proprietary tools have, in some sort of ways, disrupted this practice. So, added to the economic issue is the disruptive tendencies and that take a big chunk from the economic issue because from an economic standpoint, clients now want to do so much more at less cost; so it puts a lot of pressure on the guys who still use traditional media.”

“It is more challenging for the marketing practitioner and especially the PR guys to be able to know where to trap the consumers because the race that we run is to be able to find and own the consumer for our clients and that has become difficult when you look at all of the disruptions that you have in the market place.”

Speaking in the same vein, President, Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN), Mr. John Ehiguese, said the recession took a toll on the PR industry like every other sector of the economy in 2017.

Ehiguese stressed that due to the adverse business conditions occasioned by the recession, clients were forced to cut down on their marketing budgets, noting that PR is always the first casualty whenever the marketing budget is being cut.

He said: “I know from personal experience and from the experiences of some of our colleagues that we took quite a bashing in terms of reduction of business opportunities, in terms of reduction of budget from the client side.”

“I know of agencies that were personally called by their clients and forced to take a cut on their fees just to keep the business. Like every other sector of the economy, we all experienced a downturn that was occasioned by the recession in 2016 spilling into a larger part of 2017.”

Meanwhile, Managing Director, Chain Reactions Nigeria, Mr. Israel Jaiye Opeyemi, said PR businesses was  really low in 2017 noting that it was so because the industry was not insulated from the economic downturn that bedeviled the country.

Opeyemi said that the PR industry was at the receiving end, noting that as the economy bit harder, clients reacted by cutting down on marketing budget to which PR was not an exemption.

According to him, “A number of clients were also looking at their marketing budget, looking at what we should be shaved off and, almost instinctively, you will find out that most clients would rather cut down on the PR budget and leave advertising budget running thinking that for as long as we have the advertising campaign going, we will enjoy some measure of top-of-mind amongst the consumers.”

Opeyemi, however, revealed that despite the economic downturn in the country, the situation also gave opportunities to PR agencies to help build the reputation of most of their clients who had challenges managing their reputation within such a period.

In his words:”The PR industry, to a large extent, has been really affected by the recession but the truth is that just as you look at the reverse side of every challenge, there is always opportunities within every challenge. Within this same period, too, a number of clients have encountered certain challenges, reputation challenges that made them to turn to PR companies for help. I mean advertising couldn’t have done that for them.”

“Running heavy campaigns on TV or Radio couldn’t have done that for them, they needed some strategy support and directive from a number of PR firms and I know for a fact that a number of our member firms were actively involved in that regard with those clients. When you look at the fluid side of the challenge, it has also presented some opportunities.”

Corroborating his assertion, Managing Director, CMC Connect, Mr. Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, said:”How could we as PR practitioners have fed well when the recession was there? I mean 2017 has been a challenging year for us. It actually began in 2015 with the new government, we expected that there would be a turnaround in the economy; yes we knew we had some challenges but we were hoping that it would be faster than slower.”

“I believe that it has not been a good year in terms of growth for the Public Relations industry, I don’t have the numbers but from what I have, from what is happening even in my own business and my colleagues’ businesses, I wouldn’t say that it has been a fantastic year for us at all.” Badejo-Okusanya lamented.



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