Redefining PR with Chude Jideonwo: Let’s Have a Conversation About Empowerment PR

Chude-ThisDay-Style-Ty-Bello copyLast year, a bank invited me as Keynote Speaker at a get-ready-for-work conference. I accepted because speaking to young people looking for opportunities is the most fun part of my work. Still I doubted that young people (already a bit fatigued by generalized conferences) would attend.

I arrived that morning at 8am, two hours before the event was to begin, and I thought something was wrong. Because all the participants were standing outside.

I asked my chaperone, ‘Is the hall not opened?’

His response shocked me: The hall is already full. It was full from 7am.

This was a 5,000 seater hall, in Ikeja – an Ikeja venue that’s not popular…or a corporate, fully-branded event.

It got better.

The (captive) audience stayed till the end of the event, fully engaged, fully excited. Falz dropped by, but only for 15 minutes. After the event was over, people stayed around to interact – with speakers, with new-friends, with bank staff

Today, I have at least two people I met who have jobs from that conference – including two in my firm – and there are so many other success stories from this event.

Let me interpret that in value:

a) Frenzied engagement on the day (the organisers didn’t need beg too much for this particular hashtag to trend) It was without employment of dodgy influencers, tweeting the same thing at the same time to the same (probably bought) followers.

b) An impressed press corps. They couldn’t believe the numbers of people and the questions that they asked showed how impressed they were.

C) A public convinced that you really care about making a difference.

d) The ripple effect of friends and family who hear about this life-enhancing activation e) An engaged audience for a full day hit by messages from a brand they believe in because they see what it does.

f) An actual, trackable audience which database is proprietary information for the brand that competitors do not have, and for which it can send targeted information.

g) People whose lives were actually transformed. They will always refer to that day when a bank changed their lives.

Now, imagine that event across every state of Nigeria where this bank has engagements.

5,000 young people – there with friends and family and associates who will hear your message told with genuineness and passion, in every branch where you have a bank.

If you want to go a step further (because, Nigeria – hence, everything ozugbo-ozugbo), take your account officers with you and make sure people with sense follow through on potential customers. Prospectives who already believe in you, and whose incomes are almost certain to grow. Some of them into the millions, because, within a 5-year period, at least 100 of them will run successful businesses.

I checked with a staff of the bank to track the value of that engagement.

This wasn’t just a pie-in-the-sky goodie-two-shoes activation. It led to actual value, social media feedback, and favourable coverage that didn’t look like it was paid for, with account openings and deposits.

The bank’s conference was a Public Relations (PR) activation, conceptualised by a PR team, activated by the PR department. Not CSR, not the some Foundation locked up in a one room office just so the CEO can look good. This was central to customer engagement.

So, why don’t C-Suite executives think long-term about this kind of engagement that actually makes people trust you, believe in you, even love you? Love you enough to part with their monies – because you empowered them, and because they truly have a soft spot for you?

The kind of love that makes the general public look at you differently, because they see you acting differently. Because they see heart, and have something real with which to speak up for you – inevitable in the life-cycle of any serious bank – hits. The kind of love that makes them forgive you when you make a mistake, or hit a rough patch. Especially in a new world, where a man with a Twitter account can be more powerful than a million press releases.

Sadly, culture and tradition are hard habits to break. So people continue to do the same series of activities, even if monitoring and evaluation reveals zero conversion.

But a new thinking must mirror a new world.

If the purpose is to build trust, consolidate a positive image, create a loop of value that can always be called upon, and actually grow numbers (whether for followers or engagement) then it makes no sense to keep doing things that no one cares about anymore.

There was a time it was enough to tell people something in a newspaper and they would believe you. That time has passed, thank God. Too many people are saying the same thing you are saying. Too many people promise and don’t deliver. Audiences are now cynical. They need something fresh, impactful, beyond ‘you sell, I buy’. Something that says: ‘I am for you. ‘

I once overheard this quote: “Empowerment Marketing does not view the audience as a consumer, a person whose only worth is measured in product sales. She is a citizen. She is self-actualized and assumed to live a meaningful, worthwhile lives outside of her purchasing power.”

Call it an emotional investment.

There is an entire continent of young people – and other demographics – whose lives are hard, who need real help, who desperately deserve to be empowered. They want people, and institutions who care about their lives, their contexts, their futures.

Brands need to begin to think of a new quid quo pro – empowerment in exchange for brand loyalty. The kind that audiences can believe in, and that can build a lifetime connection.

It’s time for companies and agencies who want to win, in an era of saturation, to begin to think different.

Photo Credit: TY Bello for ThisDay Style

9 Comments on Redefining PR with Chude Jideonwo: Let’s Have a Conversation About Empowerment PR
  • Tosin March 14, 2016 at 7:56 am

    I was JUST thinking about you, and thinking about such, clicked to this site and saw this. It must be love. Tosin <3 Chude 🙂

    I want to do an animation school, like, in Ekiti.
    It shouldn't be hard…all you need beyond willing humans with computers and time
    is maybe
    meeting spaces + hang-out facilitators + a general overseer / visiting mentors ,
    maybe a contest or twenty to motivate and direct people ,
    It really shouldn't be hard. Why do we make things hard?

  • Tosin March 14, 2016 at 8:42 am

    ozugbo-ozugbo = ?

    i like the snark (o dikwa coded but it’s there and it’s funny)

    also thinking this morning about why i hate marriage and why it has to go; it’s too ridiculous, thinking that say this young man showed up with a wife or wifie/wifey now, i would have to quit him, “watch” the way i admire him, be unable to talk work with him without fear of sin or persecution…i’m ranting about this because i really hate marriage and i’m sick of losing my friends to this freaking black hole. i think we need a city, and a city needs new kinds of connections, and connections need freedom, and marriage is impeding freedom. end of rant.

    • Maxine March 14, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      Your brian is a complicated maze… But i love eeet!!! Lol!!!

  • NIRA March 14, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Unfortunately most institutions in Nigeria do not appreciate the importance of PR, until they have problems. They do not understand that PR is a continuous thing.

    • Keeky March 14, 2016 at 11:03 am

      This is so true! There is more to PR than the event/crisis management aspect.

  • Bleed Blue March 14, 2016 at 10:35 am

    Chude I loved reading this.

    Found myself in awe, incredulous even, at the Venue being packed beyond capacity THREE HOURS BEFORE start time! Can this mean the new generation is moving away from the “African time” epidemic? If we are able to cure that alone, we have made fantastic progress.

    In any case, I have learned something useful here. Empowerment Marketing. Ace concept! Thank you!

  • Dongagleo March 14, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    So true! They don’t see PR as necessary. Sometimes even when there is a problem, they don’t think investing in PR is key to building a positive and trusthworthy image and sustaining that image. In Nigeria even companies/brands believe that bad publicity is good for business.

    Chude is such a well of knowledge.

  • Que March 14, 2016 at 11:24 pm

    Empowerment in exchange for brand loyalty…….ngwa…off to unpack this statement…..

  • Tosin March 17, 2016 at 7:08 am

    still reflecting
    on the subtle choice of ozugbo-ozugbo cos I only knew osiso-osiso
    on how deep this is, if we think long term we’ll likely have long term better outcomes, if we think only for now, we’ll be afraid of old age

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