ISOC Dubai Head of Training Barbara Bedike has launched an award ceremony for outstanding achievements in communications with a keynote speech celebrating how far the profession has come in recent years. Following is the text of her speech at the Corporate Communications Awards ceremony in Lagos, Nigeria.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here this evening and be part of such a prestigious awards ceremony. The International School of Communication’s CEO, Jennifer Hardie, is unable to be here this evening, as her son is in hospital, however, she has asked me to extend her heartfelt congratulations to everyone here tonight – whether you were nominated for, or won an award, simply to take part is a fantastic achievement.
The introduction of the Corporate Communication Awards shows the growth and development of the PR industry in Nigeria. Gone are the days when PR was seen as “nice to have”, normally used to support more consumer related activities – like – “buy our brand of washing powder or toothpaste”. Today, worldwide, good corporate communications and PR are now essential for the development and maintenance of an organisation’s overall reputation.
More than ten years ago, we used to have the debate in the PR industry, what can we do to have a seat at the table? Practitioners would complain that the executive team would take decisions without thinking of the implications on communication or overall reputation, often times making things worse for the PR team. Practitioners would have these debates back and forth, but really the answer was that the management and leadership teams need to see the value of PR and communications and the value in us as PR practitioners.
Back in the day, when Jennifer started in PR, more than 20 years ago, there were no degrees in communication nor were there any proper courses in PR. There certainly were no professional qualifications or even very many awards, even in the more developed markets such as the USA and the UK. People who worked in PR simply got good at their work by learning on the job and learning from others who were more senior than them. This resulted in a mixed bag of practitioners, some were outstanding, others were mediocre and some were downright rubbish. Now you can see why leadership teams found it hard to include communications in the overall decision making and strategy of an organisation.
Today, in 2017, things have changed. PR now has a seat at that table.
When a crisis happens, or a new corporate strategy is unveiled, or a new brand launched, or even an employee policy implemented, communications is at the heart. Decisions are not taken until the communications angle is careful considered and the director of communications is consulted.
Why do we now have a seat at that table? It’s simple. We’ve gotten better at our jobs. We are no longer those people who just send out press releases or organise events, we are the guardians of the organisation’s reputation – and that is an important change.
In 2015, Ocean Tomo conducted research into the power of reputation. They found that intangible assets accounted for 84% of the value of all Fortune 500 companies. This is important for those of us in the PR industry, because it means that intangible assets such as brand value and customer goodwill, is directly linked to reputation – and to PR. That is why we add value!
PR trade associations, universities who offer degrees in PR, PR awards, and private training organisations, such as the International School of Communication, have all played a key role in the advancement of the industry. At the International School of Communication we have more than 50 specialised training courses in PR that we run in our centres in London and Dubai. The most satisfying thing for us at ISOC is when we hear from our learners that they’ve received a promotion as a result of their training, or to hear that they’ve run a successful PR campaign or even developed a new strategy – all which they learned how to do in their training.
Now that we have that seat at the table, we need to make sure we keep it. We need to commit to continuous learning and developing: that could be signing up to PR training courses, with organisations like ISOC; attending conferences; completing distance learning; or even taking part in awards, such as the Corporate Communications Awards.
One of our favourite quotes that sums up the value of PR is from Bill Gates: "if I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget, I'd spend it on PR"
Congratulations to all of you here this evening, and keep working towards the development of the PR industry in Nigeria.
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your evening.