BRANDING HAS A LOT OF ROLES TO PLAY IN NATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY – Lekan Ishola, MD PR Redline
The amiable, soft-spoken communication expert and managing director of PR Redline, Lekan Ishola recently had an interview with Global News’ BUNMI ORIJA where he spoke on sundry issues concerning his job as a public relations practitioner and that of the country, Nigeria. Here he bares his mind on how the Nigerian brand can be reshaped and returned to international stardom. Enjoy the excerpts:
Can you let us into your experience so far in the public relations and media industries?
Well, I read Communications Art from the University of Ibadan and I graduated in 1992. I had worked with several PR agencies before becoming the managing director of PR Redline. I have had stints at Concord Newspapers, TPT International, Ruyi Communications, etc. I have worked on the media aspect as well as the public relations aspect. My experience so far has been challenging and at the same time rewarding. Thanks be to Almighty God, I wouldn’t want to say that the road was smooth, but with prayers, diligence and hard work, God has been wonderful. I have also had the opportunity to work with PR gurus who really impact on my life. In all, it has been a good journey so far.
So, what are some of the brands you have worked on in the course of your career?
I think I may lose count of that but let me just emphasize that I have worked on several brands. At TPT International, I worked on different brands like Guinness, the Lagos Lotto, the British American Tobacco, several banks etc, and while I was at Ruyi Communications I worked on brands like Phoenix Steel Mills, Dorman Long Construction Company, the Lekki Construction Company (LCC) to mention a few and here we have worked on different accounts like Heritage Bank, Moneygram, Eko Supreme, Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, Wema Bank, Keystone Bank and many others. Thank God for all these accounts, they have been really successful today through our efforts and we are happy for that.
What can you say is the synergy between public relations and the media?
You see, the fact is that both go together. Public relations is about positively portraying the image of a brand to the public and customers while the media is the tool to use for this. Some clients prefer the PR agencies to send their stories to media establishments. This is to enable the media release have solid impact in the minds of their customers. So, there is no way the two, that is public relations and the media would not work together.
And what has PR Redline done to achieve the aims of its clients?
PR Redline has done a lot in this aspect. Let me remind you, we have been in existence for long and with the vast experience garnered by the founder himself, Mr. Kola Ayanwale having worked with several industry gurus, the agency has been able to put its vast knowledge on the scope of things in assuring that clients get the best result and this has been working for us. Some people may think it is magic, but we believe it all depends on your level of creativity, loyalty and delivery. This has been the qualities of PR Redline and we are very proud to tell you that the sky is just the limit for us as we are ready to add to our huge acquaintance in order to improve the marketing stability of our clients and I believe that is paramount to us here in PR Redline.
Sir, can you tell us some of the most challenging brands you have handled?
My brother, talking about that would take a lot of space. We have handled several but let me tell you, that is the reason we are a public relations agency. We do not have to see all these as challenges but part of our job. We are there to protect their images. Our clients don’t pay us just for fun but for business and so, what do we expect. We need to create a platform for our client to believe in us and that we have been able to do at PR Redline. It has been challenging though, but all we believe is that it is what we have to do.
Once again sir, how has the media been able to support the PR Industry?
Well, just like we have earlier discussed, the media is like a twin brother to the PR industry. You see, it is the same embryo that connects the duo. Do not forget, I talking to you have also worked in the media industry. I had a stint with Concord and I was once the editor of Brandface magazine, an industry-focused magazine from the stable of Tokunbo Modupe-led TPT International. I also published a magazine known as Marketing Standard. So this is for you to know that I am also grounded in the media before becoming a PR person. Be that as it may, this is to let you know that the media and PR are all the same. Another thing is that, if a PR agency has a client and the client is organizing a press or media conference, the agency would have to call on the members of the press for the conference to be showcased to the whole world. So, that is to let you know that the duo cannot walk alone. In actual fact, a normal PR agency must have a media department in its organizational structure for balance.
And what has been your own personal relationship with the media as regards this?
I must confess to you that most of the friends I have in my life are people from the media. They make up the crux of my friendship because they are the people I need for my job and for the progress of my agency, PR Redline. I cannot do without media men, be it from the print media, electronics and other forms of media. That is not to say I do not have other friends like old school mates and other social friends, but the media make up majority of the friends I have.
Now going politically and nationally, how would you say public relations has impacted in the affairs of Nigeria?
Public Relations has made a lot of impact on the Nigerian brand. In the past, a lot of governments came up with different ideas meant at rebranding the country, but they sometimes do not work. Remember we had the likes of MAMSER etc. The National Orientation Agency (NOA) has done its best to rebrand the country but it takes more than that to do it. The public relations Industry should not be waved aside in the quest to achieve these goals. So, in essence, the government discovered the need to partner with the public relations industry in order to move the nation forward. So, the PR industry’s role in the affairs of this country is now recognized both by Nigerians and the government. The brand Nigeria has now been taken to a new height. With the combined effort of the government and experts in Public Relations here in Nigeria, the country’s image is now respected at the international level.
And you think that would take the country to the level of developed countries like the USA, England, France, Germany, etc.?
My belief is that Nigeria can get to the levels of these countries. You see, these countries you are talking about all have their challenges as well. Remember, no country is invulnerable and I also believe no country is powerless; it all depends on your brand. Branding has a lot to do with the development and achievement of any country and this should be the most important thing. As a brand expert, I would not want to agree that developed countries you talked about can do better than our own country Nigeria. It all depends on how we package ourselves and how we deliver our country to the outside world.
Your take on the issue of Boko Haram insurgencies gradually killing the Nigerian brand…
Let me emphasize here that all what the country needs is proper branding and exquisite security approach to this issue. You see, the Boko Haram insurgents can destroy the image of the country if care is not taken. Just imagine a businessman who felt like investing in the north and suddenly learning that the Boko Haram insurgents are on weekly basis exploding bombs everywhere, do you think the investor in his right senses would be interested anymore? So, these are some of the ways all these security challenges affect the country. So, re-branding the structure of our security apparatus is very important here, because without that, I believe Nigeria is just playing to the gallery. But with the present programme set aside by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Boko Haram insurgents will soon be wiped out and our great country will return to its normal peaceful sphere.