Published by BusinessDay
Charles Igbinidu CEO of CFO & Associates, a Reputation Management firm based in Lagos, Nigeria, is a very savvy and award-winning Public Relations practitioner with a demonstrated history of achievements working in the communications industry in Nigeria. Charles who has worked with leading corporate organizations in this interview with Daniel Obi spoke on a number of issues but regrets that the performance of the economy, where marketing communication industry derive its strength is far less desirable. Excerpts
Looking back, how would you say business of marketing communication fared in 2018?
You cannot talk about the performance of the marketing communication sector without taking a holistic look at the general business environment. There remains little doubt that the business environment in the country was hostile during the year 2018. The economy, which was dragged into and brought out of recession by the oil and gas sector was throughout 2018 still buffeted by varied problems. Although, the price of crude oil was higher in 2018 than the two preceding years but not high enough to make the desirable impact on the economy. Revenue mobilization by government was weak leading to increase in debt accumulation. Domestically, there was continuation of heightened security tensions across the country, delayed fiscal policy response to issues such as subsidy payment and budgetary allocations and according to figures released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment rate escalated thereby increasing the level of poverty. In summary, the performance of the national economy was far less than desirable. If this was the environment in which Marketing Communication companies operated in 2018, you should be able to arrive at a conclusion on their performance.
Would you blame government for perhaps poor performance of the business last year and why?
The country’s high dependence on the oil sector and the failure of successive governments to diversify the economy has been our major drawback as a nation. As stated earlier, the country was largely dragged into and brought out of recession by the oil sector. Successive governments have paid lip-service to the issue of economic diversification.
Do you see any hope of marketing communication business doing better this year and why?
I am an incurable optimist who believes that the future of this country could be great if the right policies are put in place followed by the right decisions. In the elections, my appeal to whoever is elected as President, is to pay more attention to the economy. We can only have a flourishing marketing communication sector in a thriving business and economic environment.
Companies have been cutting marketing communication budgets, how has this affected the media industry?
Companies are shrinking their marketing communication budgets because of the very difficult and probably harsh operating environment. This means that there have been smaller budgets for media buying resulting in dwindling revenues to the media industry. This has had deleterious effect on payment of salaries by many media organisations.
What suggestions would you offer to your colleagues on innovative ways on how to survive this difficult environment?
There is no one fits all solution. Depending on their positions in the corporate life-cycle, different organisations have different challenges. The onus is on the leadership of the various organisations to identify their key challenges or potential pitfalls and develop strategies for countering them in line with their vision.
Your agency, CFO & Associates is a young agency which has come to offer unique services to clients, what are your niche areas, DNA?
CFO & Associates, a full-service Public Relations firm known for its strategic approach to helping clients meet their varying business goals is a member of MTI Network, a leading world-wide crisis and reputation management organisation with 26 international offices and 22 subsidiary offices. We have a team of savvy Public Relations practitioners who are mavens in media relations, Editorial development and placement, media and communication counsel, issues management, Online/Social Media marketing and management, End to End event management, stakeholder liaison, Strategic blogger engagement and Social Media content strategies. We have a very passionate team at CFO & Associates. We like to say that we’re equally passionate about working in the field of Public Relations as we are about the clients we work with. In our less than two years of operation, we have made a mark in the area of crisis communication and management.
Could you tell us more about your agency and your plans this year and beyond?
Let me throw more light on our relationship with MTI Network and the unique services that it affords us. We are exclusive partners both for supporting clients of Maritime Technical International Inc operating in, or visiting Nigeria and supporting ship-owners, ship managers and operators who are headquartered or operate from within, or into Nigeria.We therefore provide 24/7 crisis media response coverage in support of MTI Network’s designated clients. The MTI Network provides reputation management services to some 8500 pre- registered vessels operated by 320 ship owning and managing clients, including tankers, gas carriers, bulkers, container, ropax and cruise ships.
Again, what underlines the company’s approaches to project executions – passion? Innovations? and partnership with clients or understanding of the briefs?
We are a strategic player in what we consider to be a game of relationships. We ask a lot of questions, and we keep our clients involved every step of the way. We find this to be the most valuable and mutually beneficial means of accomplishing their goals and objectives – working together and with them, instead of just for them.
More foreign companies are entering Nigeria looking for creative agencies to work with,why do you think your firm should be an attraction to them?
There is a need for me to speak more expansively on our approach at CFO & Associates. Our approach commences by we getting the brief. During this process, we pay immense attention to the client or prospect.
This enables us to comprehend and have a correct knowledge of their businesses and goals. Then we work together as a team to set practical, tangible goals and knock them out. They will always know what’s happening and what they can expect throughout the campaign. Our clients repeatedly commend us on our excellent communication and our ability to meet their expectations.We also appreciate the fact that bottom-line results are of vital importance to our clients.
We always have that entrenched in our being. Our clients tell us that return on investment from our campaigns is excellent and easily quantifiable. This can only come about from a clear understanding of the client’s situation, unique expectations and the media industry at large. Significantly, our secret is in the little extra we bring to the table that make the huge difference.
Businesses often seek our help when they feel they’ve done all they can on their own to promote their business through advertising. Now, they want marked difference in results from Public Relations; clients trust us to deliver better results because we always go the extra mile in every facet of their projects. In many cases these clients are surprised, positively overwhelmed and amazed by the coverage, credibility and exposure we achieve for them — and at the impact it has on their businesses.