Despite the International Monetary Fund’s prediction that Africa will have the highest rate of economic growth in the world over the next decade, global perceptions of the continent are still tinged with negativity. Many experts believe it’s time for Africa to up the ante in executing an effective public relations and branding strategy.
There’s no shortage of bad news stories coming out of Africa currently: xenophobic attacks in South Africa against the citizens of other African countries; an oil crisis in Nigeria; political turmoil in Burundi. There’s more than enough ammunition for international media outlets to once again paint a negative picture of the continent.
In an column for the ‘IOL online’ news website, media relations and PR expert Rich Mkhondo commented on the renewal of xenophobic attacks in the continent’s most developed economy and explained the damage done to brand South Africa. “The truth is xenophobia is hurting South Africa the brand. We cannot divorce the business and image of the brand from the look of the brand. At the moment we look like a nation of savages, with thugs running amok with machetes [attacking] fellow Africans,” he wrote.
“While it is difficult to put a [monetary]value on how much xenophobia is damaging the [national] brand, there is no doubt that there is a real link between the brand valuation and business valuation of our country as a [place] to do business with and visit.”
Mkhondo continued: “We live in a branded world. Nowadays everything is branded; from soap to sport; from the connectivity of a country to its politicians. To brand a country is a natural progression – a bigger, more complex challenge. But branding a country is not only about pride, but profit too.”
Branding a continent means taking such challenges – and potential rewards – to the next level. The Africa Public Relations Association (APRA), which recently met in Yaoundé, Cameroon has echoed the need for a more effective PR strategy on the continent, reports the ‘Voice of America’ newswebsite.
The experts gathered at the APRA event agreed that Western Media largely portrays the continent in a negative light. Yet many argued that solutions to very real problems ultimately need to come from leaders on the continent. “Leaders must not sit back and assume that somehow [issues] will fade away tomorrow,” commented Charles Nklonzo from Day Star University in Kenya.
APRA’s intent is, therefore, to work together with governments – the continent’s most prominent brand ambassadors – to build a positive image of Africa.
“What we want to do is to [move forward] together, telling our own story,” said Bogwa Djeroge, an APRA official in Kenya. “There are so many projects that are being initiated [and] our tourism industry is booming. If you look at our education system, it is superb. We are sending out so many graduates and these are the stories that we want to talk about. Stories of hope [and] stories of success, not stories of despair like have been [presented] by the foreign media.”
While there’s no denying the significant issues Africa faces, there are numerous positive stories in a continent that’s experiencing phenomenal growth.
“The African consumer is on the rise and their spending power is increasing year on year as more and more households move into the middle-income bracket,” Loretta Ahmed, CEO of Middle East, Turkey & Africa for leading global communications network, Grayling, told ‘Forbes’ magazine recently. It’s up to communications professionals on the continent to market the [region] in a realistic yet hopeful way, emphasising its considerable achievements and the undeniable spirit of its people.
With PR professionals on the continent clearly on message, a positive move is the announcement that Africa will host the 2015 World Congress of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA). The event, taking place in Johannesburg from 27-29 September, offers the chance for African practitioners to set the record straight on the continent, with 800 delegates from around the globe expected to descend on South Africa.
Dr Amybel Sánchez de Walther, President of the IPRA, said in a statement: “We believe that this event will be important for the PR community in Africa, as well as in the rest of the world.”
American-based fast-food giant, Burger King, has spotted the public relations opportunity of a lifetime and made a lucky couple a proposal they can't refuse: let us pay for your wedding! Joel Burger and his fiancé Ashley King are due to be married in the US state of Illinois in July and the fortunate coincidence of their surnames now means that their big day will be happy in more ways than one.
Already the news has become a PR-person's dream and is creating media headlines across the world, with a Burger King spokesperson telling the 'State Journal Register' newspaper: "When we heard about the happy Burger-King couple, we felt an overwhelming urge to celebrate their upcoming marriage. On so many levels it felt like fate; they found each other and their story found us."
Public relations professionals from across the globe will gather in Africa for the second time when the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) holds its World Congress in Johannesburg in September. The last time the congress was held on the continent was in Durban in 1998.
Approximately 500 delegates are expected to attend the event, which is held every three years. According to Congress Chairman, Johanna McDowell, it is a highlight for the PR industry and the theme for the 2015 conference is ‘Leadership in Communication – the Way to Trust’.
The annual PRISM public relations awards ceremony, which has traditionally honoured excellence in the Southern African PR industry, is expanding to have a greater pan-African focus. The vision is to “become an African celebration of excellence in public relations and communication” say the organisers.
Two new categories have been introduced for 2015: Best African Network and the Pan African Public Relations Campaign of the Year. The former is aimed at “consultancies working together on common clients [and] showing a clear African vision and plan, stature and presence of each in- market partner”. This is according to a statement from the Public Relations Institute of South Africa (Prisa), which co-ordinates the 18-year-old awards.
Company executives need to be aware of three critical factors when it comes how consumer boycotts may play out, says new international research on the subject.
Writing for the Canadian-based Network for Business Sustainability, an organisation of global academic experts and business leaders aiming to improve the sustainability of business, Professor N. Craig Smith of Insead Business School notes that one of the key lessons from the research is that “any boycott, no matter how illogically conceived or badly executed, can wreak long-term havoc on a company’s reputation – even if it does not hit short-term sales”.
Smith says the following are the key factors company executives must be aware of when facing consumer boycotts.
A four-month public campaign headed by environmental group Greenpeace has led to Lego, the international toy brand, ending a lucrative deal with the Shell oil company.
The two organisations have business ties dating back to the 1960s and, in 2011, signed an agreement whereby co-branded Lego toys are sold at filling stations in 26 countries. The deal is reported by Britain’s ‘The Guardian’ newspaper to be worth around $US109-million.