AFKI Corporate: Africa’s Negative Perceptions Vs. Your Business Story
Over the next few weeks and months, the ‘AFKI Corporate’ column will bring readers a range of business insights, trends, news and tips exclusively for corporations and people conducting business in the African Market. Each week this column will provide readers with international business strategies, tips, tools and insights customized for the continent.
‘AFKI Corporate’ will also feature exclusive Q&A’s with influencers, business leaders and entrepreneurs from across Africa, and the African diaspora sharing their business tips, vision and ideas for continued accelerated growth on the continent.
It is a cold hard fact that bad news not only travels fast, but it is also loud and over the last few weeks there has been a steady flow of bad news emanating out of the continent making international headlines across the world.
Ranging from the appalling terrorist attacks by Boko Haram on the outskirts of Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria to the much publicized trip by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Central Africa Republic to highlight the growing chaos as opposing militias continue to battle for power. The message to the world behind these headlines is clear…Africa is a place of chaos, turmoil and all round bad news.
Simply put, continued bad news from Africa creates a pervasive negative perception of the continent, and this negative perception will continue to make potential international corporate investors, entrepreneurs and strategic partners both big and small cautious about venturing into the continent despite the impressive stories of growth that are slowly trickling into mainstream international media.
While bad news about Africa organically and rapidly disseminates, conversely good news beyond the lofty topline statistics of impressive growth has to be proactively and strategically pushed. African corporations and indigenous brands have to adopt highly targeted public relations and communications strategies in the same way as their international equivalents.
By leveraging a variety of tools, strategies and tactics public relations creates and shapes global conversations, elevate corporation reputations, and builds the awareness of issues, causes and initiatives.
If African corporations and organizations apply these international public relations strategies towards raising the awareness of their positive and progressive corporate stories, they will present an accurate picture of who they are in a way that resonates with international investors and entrepreneurs.
By presenting their corporation or brand in a way that the international business audience understands and appreciates, the investment levels and partnerships will be more lucrative, accurately reflecting their true value and potential.
Below are some effective public relations strategies that African corporations and brands can adopt to assist in presenting their corporate story:
1) Messaging – Strategic and consistent messaging is the thread that will weave, bind and strengthen your corporate story. Across all platforms print, digital and social media ensure you are describing and presenting your brand in a way that is consistent and clear. It is important to note that whether speaking directly to investors, consumers, strategic partners or media there must be alignment, strategy and authenticity. A great place to begin is to consider your core corporate story and think about how you need to convey this to different audiences.
2) Digital Presence – It sounds simple but ensure your website from both a technological and aesthetic perspective is on par with international standards. Your website should be updated frequently, and in some cases depending on your business and frequency of news, daily. We live in a 140 character world with readers having small attention spans and little time to read vast amounts of copy so find the balance of engaging, detailed and thorough copy and keeping it brief. Sounds like a contradiction…it is not and it can and should be done. Corporate blogs are now an expected and standard part of your online presence. Establish a corporate ‘voice’ and ‘personality’ and stick with it, your readers will feel more connected and in tune with your organization.
3) Social Media–Unless you have been living under a rock for the last five years you should all know that social media is an essential part of business. Whether you decide to use twitter, Instagram, Vine, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook or Pinterest, find the social media channels that make sense for your brand and create a strategy. Ensure your social media team is made up of both junior and senior executives.It is tempting to leave social media in the hands of junior team members, but there is a lot to be said about the combined value of including more senior and experienced team members. Finally, don’t forget to have a formal and legally binding social media policy. Social media channels are volatile and the impact of mistakes can be hugely damaging.
4) Transparency –From governments to private companies, Africa does not have a reputation for being transparent. With international attention increasing alongside the notion of rife corruption, adopting and communicating more transparent business practices will create increased trust and credibility.
5) Employees = powerful advocates–Your employees are your most powerful brand advocates therefore internal communications is as important as external communications. It is important that you adopt an internal communications strategy that empowers and engages your employees in such a way that they will speak positively about the organization. Employees leave and join other companies, they may have social media accounts with large followers that can include international industry influencers and media, and they also have family and friends to whom they will communicate and talk about the company. With this in mind it is important that internal communications be considered ‘internal PR’, becoming an intrinsic part of your overall communications strategy.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list and in some ways simply taps the surface of what is involved in a robust and smart PR strategy to create and convey a compelling corporate story.
African corporations, brands and even governments must proactively and aggressively push their positive news internationally in order to create a more balanced global view of the continent especially during this unprecedented growth and opportunities.
Claudine Moore (@ClaudineMoore) is the founder of C Moore Media headquartered in New York City with a growing African division. Claudine is also a columnist with top media outlets including CNN and specializes in Africa topics and news. Claudine spends a significant amount of her time traveling across Africa for both business and pleasure.