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Jaiye’s nebulous prognosis and the future of Public Relations practice in Nigeria

With COVID-19 lockdowns effectively closing the gates against events and meetings where marketing conversations are generated in Nigeria, two people that I know were able to leverage technology to keep industry people talking and perhaps, thinking. One was Segun McMedal, the President, Nigeria Institute of Public Relations, Lagos State chapter, who inspired his inspired his team to organize the a first-of-a-kind virtual PR Clinic in April, 2020. The second is Joshua Ajayi, publisher of Brand Communicator, whose platform created Live Instagram Chats to shake of the pall of silence in the wider Marketing environment.

The diverse audience Brand Communicator addressed in its chats infused some form of energy in an industry that was condemned by the ravaging Coronavirus to become as silent and precarious as a lonely man in an isolation room. It was impossible for me to follow the live chats but I ensured I read the reports the promoters published almost immediately after each Live Chat.

Two of these chats significantly interested me before I opted to write this article. The first was the Chat with Steve Babaeko of X3M Ideas. The second was the ne with Israel Jaiye Opayemi, Chief Strategist at Chain Reactions and President, Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria.

Jaiye spoke on the topic, “Reputation Management Amid and Beyond COVID-19 Pandemic.” When I aw the promotional banner on Facebook, I knew it was an interesting topic. The talking point everywhere in the world was the Coronavirus and COVID-19 and chances are nothing else would trend during this period. I loved the theme because I was hoping to hear how the industry was preparing for the revolutionary changes that will happen in the world during and after the pandemic. Being the President of PRCAN, Mr. Jaiye Opayemi was the right candidate to present the industry’s perspective to the world.

Jaiye Opayemi, President, PRCAN

Except the interview was poorly transcribed, it did not look to me like Jaiye captured the prevailing feelings, fears and possibly threats and opportunities of the industry in the chat. From the news publication on Brand Communicator’s website,, it looked to me like there were a lot more issues that was addressed much the same way politicians generalize issues without paying attention to any detail worth taking out.

The first sign that perhaps the Nigerian PR industry may not be ready for the challenges that may likely be thrown up, post pandemic was when the PR expert advised his colleagues to reposition their talents as companies will be looking for “research analysts not writers.”

“As PR firms, we need to begin to look for consumer neuroscientist (sic), who will analyze the minds of consumers in the time of crisis,” the Chain reactions MD was quoted to have said.

Well, I may not have half the industry experience of the Chain Reactions Chief Strategist but I was shocked all the same, to read him saying that companies will be looking for research analysts than writers. Saying this is a very direct way of admitting the growing irrelevance of Public Relations in businesses.

My research tells me that contrary to the views shared by Opayemi, companies and brand have always employed research analysts and writers. The two jobs have never and I am convinced, will never be competitive in demand. The researcher and research analysts have their jobs cut out for them; conduct studies (as far as marketing is concerned) on consumer behaviour, preferences and motivating factors and other dynamics, analyse those researched and submit findings to the brand. It then becomes the job of the writer to make use of the data so gathered to prepare engagement literature needed to create the romance and, if you like, sexual relationship between the various and different demographic, sociographic and psychographic segments and the brand.

Jaiye’s position seemed like the old Catechism teaching about the head telling the hands that they were not important in his duty of coordinating the body. The job of the writer and that of the research analyst are not the same and cannot be in competition. As a matter of fact, PR people have never been in need for writers than the present era where, the multiplicity of media and the democratization of channels is increasingly making is hard for clean content to be possible.

Writers are in short supply these days, not only in Nigeria but worldwide and the industry is in search of those who knows the art and who could craft the contents that are strategically applicable to particular market segments, depending on where they congregate in the digital ecosystem.

In a recent survey conducted by PR News, 80 percent of senior-level communications professionals at agencies, corporations and nonprofits identified writing as the top skill their team needs to improve.  In short, writing is the biggest weakness for communicators.

Another story published by listening tool company, Meltwater suggested that writing was still the biggest thing in PR given the convergence of paid and earned media.

“As paid and earned media move closer together and we see branded content continuing to rise in popularity, PR pros who can write well are more in demand. We’ve even seen journalists make the move to PR, where they can continue to write stories, but with more job security and higher salaries,” the reports said.

“PR is increasingly content and good writing,” says Elinor Mills, Senior Vice President of the content studio at Bateman Group, said in the same report.

What I think Mr Opayemi should have told the industry was the increasing importance of research, especially those that go beyond PR issues, for industry players. The truth is this is happening already and unfortunately, the shift is led by PR agencies or consultancies. I will give just one example.

Nigeria’s giant brewer, Nigerian Breweries have leveraged reality shows and other forms of entertainment to reach its customers. But years of slide in fortunes, occasioned by increasing competition compelled a stoppage of many of them. Gulder Ultimate Search died. Star Mega Jam, Star Quest and Maltina Dance All are some other victims.

But somewhere, a former broadcaster, musician and thinking business man, Dare Art Alade, used his experiential company, Livespot Entertainment, to create an event that Nigerian Breweries could not resist. It is called Access the Stars musical show and what Dare did was get Access Bank to bankroll the event in exchange for brand visibility (Access de Stars). Access Bank was also made the collecting bank for all the thousands of wannabes that registered to be a part o the reality television show.

Nigerian Breweries did not have to spend a kobo. Access Bank, which did, recovered its money from ticket entry forms, have the chance to be in the face of millions of young people for the period the show would last and created banking relationships for Nigerian Breweries, a big spender in the bonds, loans commercial papers market.

This is what I am sure the industry wants to hear from their leader. I understand the importance of soundbites and memorable quotes for people’s profile but it is also important we drill deep into issues and ensure the industry benefits. In the interview, Jaiye pointed to the importance of PR firms to “rethink strategies, remodel their business operations and act as consultants to clients in order to survive in the post COVID-19 era.”

I wish the agencies would begin to think along the lines of Dare Art Alade’s Livespot Entertainment. It is the Dare’s of this world that brands will be talking to and not PR agencies who are still going through identity crises of not knowing whether they are consultants or agencies to their clients. I need remind us here that PRCAN, which Mr Opayemi currently heads, has “Consultants” in its name.

My question is; how many neuroscientists do we have in Nigeria at the moment? Ny quick search told me that as at 2018 there were just a little over 200 neuroscientists in Nigeria all of them specialized in Neuroanatomists, Neurophysiologists, Neuropharmacologists, Neurochemists , social scientists Psychologists, Neurolinguists, sociologists, Psychiatrists, Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, Anaaesthesiologists and Neuropathologists. Not one of them specialized in Consumer Neuroscience.

I do not know whether it is necessary for us to put the PRCAN President to the task on his other suggestion that PR firms need to “look for consumer neuroscientist, who will analyze the minds of consumers in the time of crisis.”

Consumer neuroscience, loosely defined, is the combination of consumer research with modern neuroscience, with the goal to find neural explanations for consumer behaviors in individuals. The most popular marketing person with literature on neuromarketing is Martin Lindstrom. His books find prominent display spaces in the shelves in most agency CEO’s offices.

My question is; how many neuroscientists do we have in Nigeria at the moment? Ny quick search told me that as at 2018 there were just a little over 200 neuroscientists in Nigeria all of them specialized in Neuroanatomists, Neurophysiologists, Neuropharmacologists, Neurochemists , social scientists Psychologists, Neurolinguists, sociologists, Psychiatrists, Neurologists, Neurosurgeons, Anaaesthesiologists and Neuropathologists. Not one of them specialized in Consumer Neuroscience.

Who then is the Consumer Neuroscientist that the PRCAN President wants to help analyse our minds?

What most of us do not wish to accept is that most of what we do in Marketing is first of all commonsense. There are no trick in plain and simple truths, if I were to paraphrase William Shakespeare. Anyone of us that have read Tony Agenmonmen’s book, Excellence is not by Luck: Taking Charge in Challenging Moments would not be in doubt about the superiority of commonsense over and about heaps of consumer neuroscientists. You can have a train-load of these scientists but it takes commonsense to make sense out of what these people say and understand whether they are even applicable to particular market segments and during a particular time.


Ikem Okuhu is a journalist, a Public Relations professional, brand strategist and teacher. With a career that traversed Print Media, Oil & Gas, Banking and entrepreneurship, Ikem is the author of wave-making book; PITCH: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths, a dispassionate exposition of the dos and don’ts of successful engagement in the marketplace, especially the Nigerian marketplace. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish, Nigeria’s first nationally circulating Brands and Marketing magazine. He has also handled the PR and reputation management consultancies for a number of brands, businesses and public figures.

  • Ofuma Agali

    So let me add another angle to the issue.

    First, it would have been nice to see a drill down for clarifications on ‘consumer neuroscientists’. The phrase reminds me of the mid-2000s when buzzwords were top elements in marketing strategy during the glorious days of visual/symbolic branding and taglines as a route to business communication.

    Now to Research analysts and writers? And the former gets the nod as future residents in the new marketing Kingdom?

    We have all just emerged from a cacophonous ‘5G’ narrative. Forget the Covid-19 angle. That’s scrap! The truth that noise ought to have amplified, for those who cared to listen, is that AI and IoT are almost here. When that happens (soon!), research analysis is likely to be an easy prey for AI. With super advancement in data mining and information processing, we don’t need to waste time painting the picture AI is likely to play in this regard. But writing? AI won’t be ‘thinking’ yet to be able to replace the role of the human brain in writing and content development. It can guide you to write but it can’t think for you. In fact, writing appears to be one of the ‘protected’ jobs of the future what with the rising need for stories (and other content) that consumers find valuable, non-intrusive and less sales oriented. I saw this picture around 2008 but I could not interpret it until 2013, after which I begin to preach content marketing from 2014 till date. Those were the years of predicting that the ruling marketing strategy in 2020 will be ‘honesty’ coming immediately after the era of ‘experiences’. That is a story for another day.

    Covid-19 seems to be solidifying the walls of virtual engagements. But the consumers remain the same. Brands will still reach them. The minds of the consumers (already exposed to over communication, information clutter and content shock) remain the same. Real or virtual, valuable content (in varied formats) that adds value to the consumer’s life will continue to hold sway. And writers and storytellers will play strong roles.

    April 29, 2020 at 4:31 pm Reply

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