The 28th African Public Relations Association Conference took place at the Calabar International Conference Centre (CICC) Calabar, Cross River State.

The 28th African Public Relations Association Conference took place at the Calabar International Conference Centre (CICC) Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria from 24th - 27th May, 2016. The 4-day conference kicked off with a session for Students and Information Officers of Cross River State Government to mark the children’s day celebration.

The theme of the session was ‘’NIPR Day with the Children’’. Following was a pre-conference for PR consultants put together by the Public Relations Consultant Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) where PR specialist and consultants discussed the business of PR and managing a successful consultancy with the President of International Communication Consultancy Organization, (ICCO) Maxim Behar.

Tuesday 24th May was the opening ceremony which had in attendance the Cross Rivers State Commissioner for Information & Orientation, Mrs Rosemary Archibong who officially declared the conference opened. Other participants include the representatives of Dangote group of Company, Mr Anthony Chiejina , Former President of Nigeria and Chairman of the occasion, HE Olusegun Obasanjo, Public Relations Guru and President of Business Education Examination Council (BEEC) Maazi Mike Okekere, PR Practitioners and Students. Goodwill Messages were delivered on behalf of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mohammadu Buhari,  Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade and  Deputy Chairman of African Union Commission, HE Erastus Mwencha. 

Keynote address was delivered by the Representative of Dangote Group of Company, Mr Anthony Chiejina who spoke on the theme of the conference, Leapfrogging Africa: The Role of Communication.

Various speakers from different parts of the world took turns each day to deliver and discuss various topics relating to Public Relations and Corporate Communications. Some of the speakers include President of the International Public Relations Association, (IPRA) Bart de Vries, Executive Head, Marketing and Corporate Communication, Stanbic IBTC, Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, Managing Director, Hill+Knowlton Tokunbo George Taylor, Sales Manager, Rest of Africa, Ornico Group, South Africa, Alexis Petje, Head of Operations, Ornico Group, Francois Van DYK and Immediate Past Secretary General, APRA, Dr Wole Adamolekun. Others were President Public Relations Society of Kenya, Jane Gitau, Corporate Affairs Director, Unilever Nigeria, Soromidsayo George, Director, Corporate Communications & CSR, Airtel Nigeria, Emeka Oparah and CEO, Burston Marsteller Africa, Robyn De Villes who was represented by the Secretary General of APRA, Yomi Badejo-Okusanya while Acting Director, Army Public Relations, Col SK Usman, Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olabisi Kolawole and Service Public Relations Officer, DC Wale Adeniyi spoke at the Security Session put together by the MILITARY, POLICE AND PARAMILITARY PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICERS FORUM (MILPOPPROF).

The over 140 delegates from 13 countries in Africa also had the opportunity to visit tourist sites and enjoyed the beautiful night life and culture of Calabar as they visited the Calabar slave trade zone situated in the Marina Resort as well as other historic sites. Major take home from the conference are highlighted below:

1.     Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who was represented by Mr. Tony Chiejiena, admonished APRA to take the lead in positioning Africa to reverse her current negative narratives and stereotypes that have impeded economic development of the continent.

1.     He also charged governments in Africa to tackle the issue of stronger international ties and inadequate power supply for citizens to maximize benefits of the use of the social media and other modern communication tools as well as improve economic activities.

Key points from each of the Speakers

1.     CREATING VALUE THROUGH CONTENT CREATION AND STORY TELLING” by Emeka Opara – Director, Corporate Communications, CSR, Airtel Nigeria.  Mr. Opara apprised delegates of the success story of Airtel Nigeria despite changing names severally in the past.  He highlighted the skills of story telling to include core competence in reading wide, deliberate writing which should impress, have rich content and be factual to meet the perceptions and expectations of the customer.

2.     Mrs. Tokunbo George – Taylor of Hill + Knowlton in her presentation on “MANAGING THE CORPORATE AFFAIRS FUNCTION” harped on organizations telling their story and avoiding losing reputation.  According to her, the key planks of managing corporate communication are to build, manage, maintain and sustain both relationship and stakeholder’s reputation through creativity, passion and massive publicity.

3.     The third day of the conference opened with a presentation by Mr. Max Behar, ICCO President on “PITCHING TO WIN IN A VERY COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT” He enjoined Public Relations Practitioners to take Pitching as a serious business which should be paid for by the client.  To pitch successfully, one must choose a client; organize your strategy, have knowledge of others pitching, engage a transparent process, have a good project team with attractive campaigns, be skilful and creative so that the pitch will have value addition. Mrs. Takunbo George – Taylor and Mr. Raheem Olabode in their presentations on this topic apprise delegates on the need to have a well-planned and written brief that is smart, specific, achievable, and have realistic content that is valuable.

4.     Mr. Alexis Petje, Sales Manager, Best of Africa, Ornico Group in her paper, “INNOVATE OR DIE (CREATIVITY IN PUBLIC RELATIONS AND COMMUNICATIONS”, urged Practitioners to be very pragmatic, innovative to sell good ideas using skilful strategies that are objective, independent and capable of raising the profile of organizations among competitors. She opined that a creative unit is a critical component of any PR Department in any organization and therefore should be created.

5.     FORMULATING A COMMUNICATION STRATEGY THAT ADD VALUE TO THE BUSINESS” – a paper delivered by Mr. Jerry Sawyer on behalf of Jill Hamilton (Weber Shandwick Africa), Public Relations Practitioners were tasked to always identify a problem before formulating any communication plan. The campaign goals must be clearly defined with key messages that can move the customer.  He charged Practitioners to do well to always plan for any attack in any well thought-out communication strategy.

6.     Speaking on “REPUTATION MANAGEMENT FOR COUNTRY BRANDING”, Mrs. Robyn De Villiers, whose paper was presented by Mr. Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, pointed out that in African Countries today, business is more trusted than Government.  She emphasized that branding is central to a country’s reputation.  The paper challenged countries in Africa to stand up to have her brand that can attract businesses and patronage from other continents.

7.     Cross River State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Barrister RoseMary Effiom Archibong in her presentation on the “FUTURE OF TOURISM IN AFRICA: A CASE STUDY OF CROSS RIVER STATE, opined that

Africa is naturally endowed in agriculture, Environment and Culture which have remained largely untapped in the past.  She used the successes of Cross River State in the last one and half decade in Carnival Calabar as well as boost in tourism offerings that have made the State the preferred destination for business and leisure and urge African Countries to embrace tourism as alternative revenue source to boost their economy.

 “THE BENEFITS OF HOSTING INTERNATIONAL EVENTS FOR A COUNTRY BRANDING” – a paper presented by Mr. Justin Green, former President of Ireland Public Relations Association used documentary evidences of the massive benefits from different sectors of a country’s development citing the 2014 Brazil World Cup, the Rugby World Cup in South Africa and the London 2012 Olympics, among others.  He charged African Countries to aggregate resources to provide infrastructural facilities that can attract such massive international events that would serve as a catalyst for drawing businesses, job creation and export.  The paper challenged Practitioners to develop a tracker and measuring system to gauge the brands in Africa.

MEASURING THE IMPACT OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION ON THE BOTTOM-LINE” – this was presented by both Mrs. Nkiru Olumide Ojo of Stanbic IBTC Bank, Nigeria and Mr. Francois Van Dyk of Ornico Group.  The two Practitioners harped on the need to measure the impact of Public Relations activities and this can be achieved when Practitioners break free from the traditional PR to scientific approaches that provide analytical statistics and measurement of outcomes of Strategic Communication.

 Dr. Chuks Osuji, a legendary professional in Public Relations in his paper, titled “MANAGING GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATION CHALLENGES”, condemned the old theories of top-down to listeners, suggesting integrated communication strategy in these days of digitalization.  He posited that today’s communication must be fact-based while communicators must endeavour to wear a toga of credibility at all times.

 Similarly, the Corporate Affairs Director of Unilever, Mrs. Oluwasoromidayo George, in her paper titled “THE ROLE OF COMMUNICATION IN THE ATTAINMENT OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPEMNT GOALS (SDGS) passionately preached the need for APRA and all Practitioners to start positioning themselves through effort aimed at nipping in the bud the disintegrating and emerging poverty resulting from population explosion.  She advocated for resilience, awareness creation aimed at getting the citizenry involved in all activities targeted at achieving the SDGs.

 Mr. Bart De Vries, President IPRA dwell extensively on the topic – “EFFECTIVE STAKEHOLDERS ENGAGEMENT”, with a take home point that the wider the circumference with the stakeholders, it will definitely engage the stakeholders in business.  He summed it up by saying that Public-Private Partnership efforts, all influence stakeholder engagements.

 In their presentation on “SECURITY COMMUNICATION: HOW NOT TO COMMUNICATE DURING CRISIS”, the Nigerian Army Acting Director, Public Relations, Colonel S. K. Usman, and that of the Nigeria Police Force, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Bisi Kolawole, posited that proper planning is necessary to communicate rightly during crisis, using the proper channel to achieve targeted results.  They advocated for national interest to be the overriding consideration in all security communication situations while also providing for preventive crisis management.