KEVIN JOHNSON-AZUARA, head, investor relations & company communications at Axxela Restricted, a pure gasoline shipper on the West African Fuel Pipeline (WAGP), beforehand labored as a journalist and PR government in the US and was a communications government at Oando Plc. He shared some insights with CALEB OJEWALE on excelling as a media skilled in the Nigerian panorama, describing his communication profession as centered on making an impression on society. Excerpts:
You’ve spent your total profession in communications (from the US to Nigeria), so I’m assuming there should have been a ardour from the start. What was the motivation for you?
The inclination after my first diploma (in Political science) was to go straight to legislation college, however I used to be supplied a scholarship inside the subject of communications. There have been different prestigious establishments that I
might have gone to however I selected to remain in my alma mater, which is Howard College. Throughout the sphere of communication, finding out it from such a theoretical perspective, you get to know so much from case research, theories to go by, analysis papers you do after which having sure internships with main public relations organizations reminiscent of Ogilvy and Edelman.
These experiences actually dropped at the fore for me, the facility of communications. So, I believe my training performed an enormous half in my sensible and early experiences in the PR business, and in addition pushed me alongside the trail which I discover myself on at present.
After education in the US, you labored there briefly earlier than coming again to Nigeria. What knowledgeable that call?
I’ve always regarded myself as a Nigerian initially, and I believe the mix of Nigerian that I’m which is Igbo and Fulani has always given me a really numerous view of issues. For me, I always felt that I might make a mark inside the communications sphere in Nigeria.
Talking with lots of people there was quite a lot of speak across the change that we, as my era might drive and clearly that change can’t be pushed from afar. It’s a must to be on floor and be prepared to toil and do what you may, in order that was how my journey to return from the US right down to Nigeria began.
I used to be afforded the chance to return and work with Oando, a prestigious indigenous participant in the oil and gasoline house. Oando is an incredible model, a really aspirational model for lots of people. If I didn’t perceive that absolutely previous to becoming a member of the corporate, after I joined the corporate, it undoubtedly hit house. So it was an alternative I couldn’t flip down or I might have questioned myself if I by no means accepted. So I transcended
that, I accepted the chance and I came to visit to Nigeria in 2012.
Wouldn’t it be truthful to say the supply was in all probability higher than something you could possibly have gotten in the US at
It truly was not. I truly took a pay lower to return to Nigeria, however I believe it was simply understanding the place I used to be at the moment in my life and the challenges I used to be prepared to come across. I wished to take up a problem and never have to take a look at myself, two to 4 years down the road and be like ‘I wonder if my life would have been better’.
How would you describe working as a communications individual in the oil and gasoline business in Nigeria? As an expert, what do you suppose you had been in a position to accomplish that different aspiring professionals can be taught from?
I believe the very first thing earlier than you even begin to talk about accomplishments or achievements, it’s important to perceive the traits it’s important to carry to the job. Part of you must be an incredible communicator, it’s important to be somebody that has an incredible tenacity.
What does it imply to be tenacious? Tenacious with the ability to go from level A to level B with relentless energy. You simply maintain pushing on and you might be by no means drained. Even if you’re drained mentally, you inform your self you aren’t drained. So being tenacious, being relentless, being resilient, I believe these are a few of the traits that come into play and I say these items as a result of the oil and gasoline house may be very unpredictable. And the simplest instance I can provide is once we had the final drop in oil costs and we noticed how severely it affected not simply Nigeria, however the international financial house
The preparedness of a communications skilled must be much like the symmetry required when making ready for surgical procedure. This trait is required to successfully manage the disaster and to always be capable to put ahead an endearing message or narrative that individuals can always recall or keep in mind. The underlining
objective of all these is guaranteeing that your organisation or your model, that’s if in case you have reached that spectre, is
simply recognizable. That the model recall is excessive and the model affinity is one that individuals really feel deeply about.
Are you able to give an occasion or extra that you just suppose there was one thing, not essentially a scandal, however one thing of public concern that needed to be managed and what precisely you probably did? Any communication technique that stood out?
I believe one state of affairs that’s straightforward to deal with, is the concept of oil bunkering. Often, folks inside the Lagos Metropolis are inclined to neglect that as a result of points in the Niger Delta, energy provide can also be affected when gasoline provides are affected and so forth. They neglect that the availability of gasoline is barely secured if we will correctly
safe what’s going on in the Niger Delta. So we now have had a number of events that we didn’t essentially need to lay blame of the actions in the Delta on sure people. On the identical time, we needed to provide you with a method to actively manage each stakeholder. From shoppers to regulators, even one’s workers, data is essential however additionally it is delicate on the identical time and there are specific terminals that we could not be capable to talk about or gasoline vegetation. As an illustration, as soon as influx is disrupted from a spot, we could not
get the required gasoline to energy sure distributing firms over right here (in Lagos).
We needed to actively create strategies whether or not from a PR perspective or participating media and guaranteeing that applicable strategies comply with in telling the narrative correctly instructed, not placing any spin to it (andI hate that phrase) however once more actively participating and telling the focal factors of the story.
Utilizing this oil bunkering as an illustration, which impacts gasoline provide that in flip impacts energy era, and naturally the common Nigerian customers, how had been you in a position to inform any of these narratives?
Once more, the important thing to doing quite a lot of that is engagement of the media. The extra we interact the gatekeepers in
this data movement, because the fourth property, as you’ll in any democracy, the extra we continually interact and provide you with impression figures and impression situations. Additionally, educating folks internally inside our group, in order that they have a firmer understanding of what they’re doing on a day-to-day foundation and the way what they’re doing is impacting what we are attempting to attain.
If there are any points relating to provide, as an illustration, issues we’d do clearly could be to work with the gross sales and advertising workforce to get data out as rapidly as potential to prospects that can be instantly impacted. It’s a factor of trying by means of a method doc, understanding who your stakeholders are, what their contact factors of engagement are; are these folks you may simply attain by way of social media? Are these folks you may simply attain by way of conventional media, whether or not it’ dash or tv?
In fact, one other factor from my expertise in Nigeria is that Drawnout strategies don’t work. It’s very fast, very virtually machinegun like. Individuals take care of bite-sized data. They need the data now.The longer you dwell on that piece of the data you will have, you will have already misplaced the battle or battle earlier than it already begun. The faster you may get it out knowledgeable and impactful, the higher for you, the higher for the end-user, the higher for everybody in normal. It simply units the story straight and you’ll be able to pinpoint it.
What would you say to the common contemporary graduate or another younger individual that’s trying to construct a profession in communications and/or public relations?
I might say to whoever is attempting to break-in, by no means consider that no matter you might be doing is just too little. There was a time in my life actually what I used to be doing was consulting for folks and I used to be properly, a information editor for a politics web site. That was what I used to be actively doing for a brief interval in my life.
I meet lots of people who could also be ready for a possibility and I ask them; so what are you doing at
the second? And so they’re like, oh, I’m nonetheless attempting to get into this. And, I’m like, yeah, however what else, are you
writing? Are you studying? What’s the final e book you learn? A communications skilled must know quite a lot of random issues. That’s one factor it’s important to perceive. In case you hear of Michelle Obama’s e book; why
are folks speaking about it? Don’t ask that query. It’s best to be capable to reply that query. It’s best to have learn the e book, discover the e book, learn it, learn so much. In case you don’t know a phrase, look it up and perceive the way it’s getting used. By no means act as if you’re the neatest individual round. There may be already a basic drawback in case you are (always) the neatest individual in a room.