The founder of BHM Group and one of Nigeria’s leading PR consultants, Ayeni Adekunle says it is inappropriate to break public relations into digitaland traditional practices.
Ayeni made this submission while presenting a paper at the 10th edition of a Masterclass series organised by the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN). PRCAN is the umbrella body for PR agencies practicing in Nigeria and participants at the masterclass included mid-level and senior PR professionals.
Delivering the paper on ‘role of digital Public Relations in managing online communities’, Ayeni explained that “there is nothing like Digital PR…What we need to focus on, and talk about is Today’s PR and Today’s online communities. Today’s PR is about story telling, about content. Today’sPR is increasingly about using the understanding of the psychology of identified publics to weave our message into their minute-to-minute lives and have them thanking us for it.”
“Just like PR, today’s communities are witnessing fundamental changes. Communities are now defined by not just who, when, why and where, but by indices no one would have imagined just a few years ago.”
‘It was a different story yesterday. And tomorrow will be different. Consumers’ and communities’ habits will keep changing. What will help us continue to deliver value is our understanding of how and why these changes are happening, and how we can continue to play in the circumstances, using the tools of PR guaranteed to add value.
Ayeni explained that the principles for managing communities do not depend on medium or trends, but on the understanding of behavioural patterns, psychology and the sociology of identified publics. He said, “If we master the tenets of PR, and understand the importance of the psychology of the communities we want to ‘manage’, we’re already on a smooth ride.”
“If we’re truly determined to offer the kind of true superior value that PR has over advertising, then we need to think like psychologists and sociologists, we need to know what counts, before we can have meaningful conversations with the communities we seek to engage.”
Citing examples with Barrack Obama, Linda Ikeji, Don Jazzy and Google, Ayeni explained that brands could build the kind of relationships they desire with their target audience; also building trust and credibility through conversations across relevant platforms.
With over 50 million Internet users in Nigeria, Ayeni emphasized that mobile is the present and the future. “Everything is now social and on the go – from blogs, to banks, to telecoms, shops and corporates. We live in a Diverse and dynamic community, no matter how we look at it.
He reiterated that “Communities are fragmented into youth, young professionals, women, young adults, adults, men, etc depending on demography while online communities are fragmented into mobile, web, depending on OS and device. So just like the physical communities, the virtual communities are easier to understand and engage, with a clear understanding of their common interests and identified characteristics.”
If PR managers don’t understand today’s communities and use that understanding to help clients achieve results that affect the bottom line, then we risk a situation where we soon lose our relevance, our business and industry. “If we don’t understand the importance of having a voice and influencing conversations that can impact our industry and our businesses, other people who may not necessarily be stakeholders will take up these conversations whether consciously or unconsciously. Conversations will continue to happen whether we are aware or not.”
Just like every community, online communities are not homogenous. We must understand the peculiarity of each community and their shared characteristics; whether dealing with shoppers, blog crawlers, job searchers, organisational staff, tweeters, music fans, activists, or journalists.
Ayeni also touched on tools PR experts today can use in understanding activities online. ‘You must make Google your best friend’, he says. From SEOs to Ad words, to Alerts and monitoring, Google has become indispensable. And if you look at what they’re doing with new offerings likeGoogle Glass and the rest, you’ll see that they’re using an understanding of sociology and psychology to deliver products consumers don’t even know they need yet. That’s how Google became the biggest advertising agency in the world.
Other tools to master include blogging, Content Management System (CMS), Alexa analytics, footprints management as well as understanding the power of podcasts, videos and influencers.
Notable PR professionals who attended the PRCAN masterclass include MD/CEO CMC Connect, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, CEO Media Craft, John Ehiguese, Group Head, CMC Tola Odusote, Group Head, SilverBullet, Babajide Satukesi, Secretary General, PRCAN, Muyiwa Akintunde and many others.