Are African consumers more sophisticated in using technology than their global counterparts? Technological advancements in Africa are evident — the continent has leap-frogged traditional landline connectivity to go online through mobile technology and this is creating a tipping point for the region.
The implications for PR has been pointed. There is an imperative for PR professionals to be sophisticated in harnessing technology to build value for clients. Yet, as the old adage goes ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’. As the communications landscape is transformed by technology, the mastery of traditional principles of communication and relationship management becomes ever more important.
Digital and social media channels provide the platform for engagement and advocacy amongst a youthful, tech-fuelled population and with that comes the reputational challenges of a society that now has the power to communicate in real-time with its global ‘neighbours’. Now, more than ever before, PR professionals are under pressure to be more thoughtful, more creative and focused on delivering value for their clients. What makes a PR person different from the regular ‘tweet’ is their ability to bring to bear the traditional principles of PR in a technologically sophisticated communications terrain.
Technology has robbed the PR profession of the luxury of time and the privilege of professional exclusivity. One thing this means is that the PR professionals cannot anymore stand aside as a ‘consultant’ or ‘adviser’ to a client, but has to stand alongside their clients as a co-creator of value in their brands. You are now a soldier in the army of your client!
PR professionals must not only develop a sophisticated understanding of their client’s business. They must also cultivate the relationships and trust that facilitate access to business leaders and their thinking on strategy. This is the only way to perfectly marry specialist PR knowledge with a client’s strategy to unlock and enhance value for clients.
The privileges PR professionals have previously had to build and protect a client’s reputation today is more than just helping a client to project a positive image externally, it is also about making the image count. Conversely, PR is not about selling products per se, it is also about shaping the markets to make client’s efforts at expanding their business, improving that bottom line and building the trust of stakeholders to go further.
That said, as much as technology has enabled Africa to reduce the gap with other parts of the world, the PR professional on the continents has unique responsibilities and much more to cover than counterparts elsewhere.
The most important of these is being able to facilitate open and transparent communication, this includes being clear on mutual expectations between the client and the PR advisor, which creates the parity that underwrites trust. Many agencies today have been reduced to takers of order instead of strategic partners. The same goes for clients where it’s their right to expect a high quality of work from advisers.
The second challenge is to be able to create meaningful conversations with the client about mutual value, which includes enabling agencies to invest in the capabilities, tools and talent they need to deliver superior value for clients. It is a dual responsibility that is resolved with methods of measuring value.
In brief, PR professionals today must measure themselves as much by the ‘hard’ value that comes from measurable outcomes, but also by the ‘soft’ value that comes from the mutual trust with clients, and the commitment to build meaningful relationships that unlock value.
Culled from the 2018 Nigeria PR Report