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Redefining PR with Chude Jideonwo: The Trouble With RealityTV Show Kind of PR



Chude-ThisDay-Style-Ty-Bello copyI had a spirited conversation two days ago with a journalist friend. His complaint happened to be something I have been passionate about for a while now: journalists are tired of reporting on ineffectual activities for agencies, and clients who appear to have nothing new to say.

Indeed, colour me disdainful of “ineffectual activities” – this kind of media relations (which, for many in Nigeria, is the major Public Relations activity) I call ‘2 tweets and 1 press release’.

You do something – anything – without thinking through how effective it will be with the press or with the public. Then you start struggling for the same one page with a million other brands who do the same clichéd, ultimately inconsequential projects – like reality shows.

I have nothing against them of course, especially since my first official PR assignment was for The Apprentice Africa in 2008. But here is the deal: one brand launches a reality show, and every other brand decides that a reality show, in the exact same format, in the exact same segment (music, fashion etc) is the new deal. Then they spend the new few weeks sending dueling press releases to the very same journalists, in the very same sections of the newspapers.

At the end of the engagement period, four lucky young people get 100,000 Dollars or thereabouts, build that one career, and over 80 percent of them are soon forgotten. In an analysis done by our team, the data shows that there is an 87 percent failure rate for winners of A-list reality TV shows, with a ‘relevance’ period of, on the average, 10 months.

Between the eight winners of MTN Project Fame, the three winners of GloNaija Sings, and the five winners of Nigerian Idol, only 2 – Iyanya and Chidinma Ekile – have gone on to remain relevant in the industry. That’s 12.5%.

The three shows have also become less popular over time, the data shows. Glo Naija Sings ended after three seasons because it could not compete with Project Fame and Nigerian Idol, and even Nigerian Idol is not as popular as it used to be.

image1The effect of this is a lack of any effect.

The journalist isn’t convinced about the utility of the engagement and thus reports it without passion. He finds it difficult to justify space to what is clearly a commercial story. The show itself didn’t log in as many viewers as it could. The winner-ambassador of the brand can’t sustain celebrity value.

image2 No one cares about the show, No one loves and trusts (which is the whole point of PR) the brand more, because of the show. Finally – and the worst of everything else – the world is not any better as a result of this ‘activity’.

Let’s try a radical idea.

We already know for a fact now that reality TV shows do not create stars. For reasons including media fragmentation, fickle consumer behavior, saturation, a comparatively weak media market, small celebrity spaces, amongst others. So, that engagement is, literally, a gamble.

Call it ‘kalo-kalo PR’.

However, we also know there is a proven model for creating stars, led by knowledge-driven experts like Don Jazzy, Audu Maikori, even Olamide.

Now, there are thousands of young people across Nigeria who want to be superstars. They want to be successful musicians AND successful celebrities. Many of them will fail, but many will yet succeed.

So, a brand decides to go around Nigeria, and to spend a few days taking these celebrities to meet these eager, earnest young people in their natural habitats and teach them how exactly to succeed in the music industry: how to book studio sessions; how to find a record label or succeed without one; how to build relationships; what kind of sound the public wants; how to differentiate your brand; how to ‘apprentice’ with known stars; what kind of contracts to avoid; what kind of producers to align with; how radio stations select music, and how to avoid press that kills your brand before it even stands on one leg. (I’m looking at you, Skiibi)

So, how do you teach a young man in Enugu how to build an audience using the Chioma Jesus model?  And then build that model into a local audience, expanding into a national audience and then an African milieu, like Flavour…

How about spreading the effect of your PR activity across 1,000 youths with direct engagement (a captive audience), letting them be your ambassadors at no cost to other aspiring young people across the locales you visit? Give them small monies f0r studio sessions (the chances of success are no more or no less than if you give them 4 million at the end of a boring 4-month-show). Give them your products to test and spread.

Watch them be deeply grateful for the actual skill you have given them. Give the journalists change they can actually believe in. Differentiate your brand from the motley copy-copy crowd. End the trainings with a massive concert –  if you absolutely insist on hosting a show. More importantly, build a band of success stories (the conservative mathematics favour at least 10 of them becoming bonafide stars) that you can leverage on for years and decades after, when the success stories come – as they must.

In the short term, you generate real social media buzz, actual engagement as people voluntarily live tweet their experiences (rather than the forced begging of votes), column inches, because the journalists have something different to say. It is earned media because this doesn’t look immediately commercial. Get celebrity association with your brand in a way different from everyone else, and mention in other aspects of the media in addition to entertainment.

Why aren’t we thinking deeper about engagement that will actually work in the Nigerian and West African contexts?

Here’s one reason: there are too many people that think that PR and empowerment can’t go hand-to-hand. They think that development should be left to CSR department. It is believed that you cannot empower people and then use that traceable, genuine empowerment to connect with them – to spread your messages and to drive engagement, sales and retention.

Those people are not paying enough attention to the numbers. They are not paying attention to what the public actually wants in 2016. And they are wasting money.

#RedefiningPR is a periodic column by Chude Jideonwo, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of RED that helps the public think through effective ways of spreading messages, reaching audiences and going viral. Red Media Africa is the PR & Communication company under the RED group (

Photo Credit: TY Bello

Jideonwo is a storyteller, using the research and evidence on human flourishing to inspire new narratives about politics, markets, faith, identity and society in Africa. He is a co-founder of RED, which he ran for 13 years before stepping down in December 2017. One of its companies, StateCraft Inc. handled communication for the Muhammadu Buhari campaign in 2015 and has worked in elections in Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.


  1. ElessarisElendil

    February 22, 2016 at 8:19 am

    ????Data on a BellaNaija article. Wawu???????????

    After reading this, why am I getting the vibe this was an unorthodox business presentation.

    TLDR version: Current reality show formats aren’t geared for popular consumption and ultimately impact, they need to change their format.???I skipped a few, I won’t lie.

    • Lauryn

      February 22, 2016 at 9:31 am

      An unorthodox presentation but a brilliant one however. And no I am not affiliated to Chude in a any way. Just a regular journalist. I read every line and I think he has a very fair point.

    • U.E

      February 22, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      He found google trend and added some gibberish and called it research.
      Oga Chude have several seats..

  2. Dongagaleo

    February 22, 2016 at 8:35 am

    Coincidence or not… I am having a class presentation on ‘Reality shows- making stars or killing talents’ tommorrow, and i visit Bellanaija and see this article.
    So much here to help make my presentation faya! Thank you Chude!

  3. A Loco Viva Voce

    February 22, 2016 at 9:12 am

    I don’t mean to be a party pooper but have you watched American Idol and compared it to Nigerian Idol? Is that really the best Nigeria can do? From the production to the participants, they need to better the program and people would show more interest. Simple!

    Read todays post

  4. New bride

    February 22, 2016 at 9:14 am

    You left out timi Dakolo, omawunmi and praise. They are all products of reality shows.
    Even Darey sef really blew up after being on idols.
    Of course Ebula too was a product of Big Brother Nigeria.
    So pls beg your staff to take another look at this ‘data’ you’re presenting as facts.

    • cybernd

      February 22, 2016 at 10:28 am

      Omawunmi and Praiz did not win!

    • Seriously

      February 23, 2016 at 12:36 am

      They did not win but were participants which gave them a platform and connection. Just like Jennifer Hudson didn’t win but still became a big star. Being on a large platform gives you opportunity especially when you have a great talent to offer.

    • cybernd

      February 22, 2016 at 10:29 am

      Darey was never on Idols, he became popular after Project Fame and he also did not win it

    • Efkay

      February 22, 2016 at 10:36 am

      I was gonna say the same.

    • Common sense

      February 22, 2016 at 10:45 am

      Don’t be silly. Timi, Omawumi and Darey were not part of the reality shows he specified here. Second of all, he specified “winners.”

    • tybay

      February 22, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      The sucess rates of these reality show products are still few and far between. Being a PR practitioner, I agree with Chude’s anaylsis for the most part. We really need to redifine PR across all touch points in Nigeria.
      It has become a monotonous and almost predictable process if you will…

  5. Dr.N

    February 22, 2016 at 9:16 am

    I really enjoyed reading this. What irks me is that these brands have no real intention of being associated with development. If Bill Gates was all about PR, polio would not be on d way out as we all acknowledge. These reality shows cost so much money and leave behind so many frustrated youths.
    I noticed a particular girl 2 years ago. She partook of 3 of d singing shows. Finally, I saw her in either gulder or so, as part of a band. She was good but she never won. I kept wondering why she never stepped into a studio, recorded a demo & tried to push on her own.
    Perhaps, your article is the answer.

  6. Benny

    February 22, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Timi Dakolo is still VERY relevant but I guess that is not why we are here

    • Common sense

      February 22, 2016 at 10:46 am

      Was Timi on Project Fame, Naija Sings or Nigerian Idol? NO.

    • SLA

      February 22, 2016 at 1:11 pm

      The article is focused on reality shows, so yes Timi is a product of a reality show – Idols (W/A)

  7. Okoh A

    February 22, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Eek, Benny. He didn’t say there are no reality stars. He says all as a whole shows a major failure rate. Over 100 shows. Less than 10 stars. Major problem.

    • Benny

      February 22, 2016 at 10:42 am

      Madam, he got that DATA wrong. He presented these as findings from research. He got it wrong. Which makes me question the entire research. What he is saying may be sensible but don’t throw “research” and “data” around if you know you are not going to be accurate. This article is a PR job he is doing for himself to present his firm as a “PR firm” that backs work with actual research. The least he can do is to be thorough.
      Others have called him out on it too. I mentioned Timi alone cause Timi won. Now eek back to yourself. ???

    • Okoh A

      February 22, 2016 at 11:29 am

      Lol are you unable to comprehend stuff? Didn’t I read this: “the data shows that there is an 87 percent failure rate for winners of A-list reality TV shows, with a ‘relevance’ period of, on the average, 10 months.”

      So you call some part of the 13 percent he already says succeed, and say his data is wrong? Why are people eww like this?

    • Ni Ne

      February 23, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Timi Dakolo was on West African Idols not Nigerian Idols. This data appears factual to me

  8. Joachim

    February 22, 2016 at 11:31 am

    The broad point is that they are the exceptions to the rule, which is oblivion.

  9. Olulu

    February 22, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Hmmmmmmm……….some truth in Chude said.

  10. Tosin

    February 22, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Remember Femi: truth don die oooo,
    yes, I’ve always been tired of false advertising, lying PR, “branding” empty shit, etc. For some reason, Nigeria has a core competence in this, lucky me. 🙂
    yes to your article, before you brand, be deep. before you market, have content. before you sell, the product. solve problems. work that doesn’t solve problems is crap work at the end of the day. (and then you die.)

  11. nunulicious

    February 23, 2016 at 12:25 am

    the most profound thing you said was “Why aren’t we thinking deeper about engagement that will actually work in the Nigerian and West African contexts?”

    The person who embraces our uniqueness and proffers our own solutions that fits within our environment, norms and culture is the one that is going to thrive. Well done Chude, you’re on track.

  12. Middle Aged Profnl

    February 23, 2016 at 5:24 am

    This article is so refreshing. As a country, I believe we have become mediocre in most things. Not only in PR. Other fields exhibit the same issues outlined in Chude’s article- the cut/copy and paste mentality. You only need to read Nigerian media articles to realize true journalism does not exist in Nigeria. However, I have hope that we can retrace our steps to where we were in the late 60s to the early 80s. Thank you Bella Naija for adding Chude to your platform.

  13. B.U. 'N' M.I

    March 16, 2016 at 11:02 am

    I really found this post refreshing. thank you for sharing. I am hoping that you are making moves like you suggested. I have always been concerned about reality shows and the promises they claim to make for the audience

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