A peep into the backgrounds of 10 of Nigeria’s best perception managers
His job is a glamorous one. It’s also risk-prone. Those who don’t know what the job entails call him an image maker. Perhaps the title was appropriate in days gone by, when he did no more than launder the image of the organization, in a manner akin to having a white coating over a black surface. His job was to present the organization to the public only through its eyes, that is, show the public what the organization wants it to see. It mattered little if the picture was real or imaginary, true or false. Nor was it taken into consideration the fact that the public could also find a way to get the real picture, which usually came with dire consequences for the image of the organization, with the public relations man saddled with the unenviable task of correcting the blunder.
But times have changed. So also have the perception and understanding of the nature of his job. It is the reason the nomenclature now varies, from the ordinary public relations officer or manager as we used to know, to head of public affairs, corporate affairs or corporate communications – as manager, adviser or director.
Today’s public relations man is savvy. He has to be, if he is to meet new challenges that managing the organization’s image as well as public perception of that image throw up every day. Thanks to information communication technology (ICT), his job has become far easier, though he now has more in his plate.
The corporate communications manager is not the chief executive officer of the organization, but he contends with more severe headache than the latter, if it is considered that he is, unarguably, the one only one in the organization that wears multiple caps.
The corporate communications man must move with the trend, and with an analytical mind, predict consequences and advise the organization accordingly. He is the man that must see what the organization’s leaders may not see in time, and initiate strategies for an appropriate response to his forecast.
He does not create the problems he is expected to solve. His knowledge of the organization and its operations means that he must have at his finger tips problems that might occur in all departments at any given time, and ready-made answers to those problems. The problems might have nothing to do with the organization, but the personal lives of its officers. He still has to find a way to solve them, if they have the potential to negatively affect the image of the organization.
The job of the corporate communications man enables him to interface with the organization’s different publics on its behalf. He has the responsibility to mold and maintain a favourable public opinion about the organization’s activities, products or services.
One word captures the whole essence of the job of the corporate communications man – communication. It is what he uses for his weather forecast, trouble shooting, opinion shaping and advocacy.
Nigerian perception managers
The new generation of Nigerian perception managers who come in various titles such as head of corporate communications, corporate communications adviser or manager, corporate communications, consists of highly educated professionals who know their onions. They strive, day and night, through creative and effective communication strategies, to keep their organizations at the top of the big league.
The difficult times through which the country is passing have brought about a compelling need to think outside the box. Now, it is not just about how good your products and services are. It is also about your ability to communicate the strong points and benefits of those goods and services to your publics. It is your ability to register your organization in the consciousness of a public that is daily inundated with news that are anything but cheering – especially news from the economic front – the type that would make it believe and have faith in your organization.
The negative reverberations from abysmally low oil prices are being felt daily in the key sectors of the economy, like oil and gas, banking and insurance, manufacturing, ICT and agriculture, with untoward developments manifesting in form of job cuts and downward review of workers’ remuneration. Yet, in the face of all these, organizations must stay alive and continue as going concerns, while meeting obligations to their various stakeholders.
A combination of factors that include effective perception management strategies have ensured that organizations continue to enjoy the goodwill, sympathy and support of relevant stakeholders, with positive reflection on the bottom line, thus creating a picture that is diametrically contradictory to the general gloom that appears to hang over the country. There couldn’t be a better proof that periods of adversity bring out the best in creative thinkers, in this case, Nigeria’s perception managers.
They abound everywhere – in the public and private sectors – including not-for-profit and non-governmental organizations. They are the drivers of the good corporate image that many organizations have today.
The feature in the following pages is not a ranking, and is not done in any particular order. It is a random selection of 10 of the best perception managers that are responsible for the positive images that their organizations have in a period when a good number of people have all but given up on the country.