Who is watching over the watchdog?

The last three months have seen workers go home on furlough or job losses across different companies in various industries across East Africa. This season has also been a defining moment of the tenacity of corporate giants to withstand a global crisis. Business models have been put to test.

Adaptability to change is tipping the scales and the bottom-line is no longer predictable. The numbers tell of a different narrative altogether. A narrative that is determining strategic realignments that embrace tech and innovation pivoting to a COVID world. Brands that have been laggards in embracing tech have had this season create deep fissures between them and their employees.

In recent weeks I have been following closely on the media space in Kenya. Journalists have invested their talents, time and resources in breaking down news content into digestible bites for the Mwananchi (common man). They have unearthed and fleshed bare bone leads to meaty newsworthy features that would leave the target audience mulling over tons of information. They have continued to exude professionalism in their craft.

With some receiving termination notices over text messages, like in the case of Media Max employees, while others like Nation Media Group releasing names that have been synonymous with their brand, is telling of the gravity of the situation. Media has defined the careers of these professionals for decades. With all this happening across the media stations who then is the watchdog of the watchdog? A couple of groups including Kenya Editors Guild have weighed in. They have called on debtors to bail out the media by honouring their advertising contracts and have also called on the government to consider reprieve through a waiver of license fees.

Realising the gravity of the situation, we have some media houses who have offered counselling services as an extended benefit beyond the exit. It might arguably be a considerable benefit given the public pronouncements of the exits of these media celebrities.

The exposure, rubbing shoulders with bigwigs, incessant calls and opportunities that come with publicity, all down the drain and the world is mum all of a sudden. All the moderating engagements that would add a penny are out of the question with the ban of external events. This is a very difficult season for media practitioners in Kenya.

Five years ago, following the shutdown of three mainstream TV channels during the government’s digital migration, media houses re-routed to digital platforms like YouTube. That period defined the place of social media in disbursing news. We started seeing a lot of signposting to social media channels for further engagement. This was on before the migration however the digital migration turbocharged the use of multimedia.

Several journalists started doing live engagements with their new segments by opening up YouTube, Facebook and Instagram channels. Unfortunately, others were glistening in the platforms of their employers. They did not create their own channels or if they did, they did not have an exit strategy, hence some might have been subsumed by the pandemic.

Media disruption is proving that many who have desired the screens can have that by creating their channels on social media. This like any other business would require strategic planning, audience research, needs assessment of your target audience, novelty and quality service. Having this mapped out will give you the drive and consistency.

Across careers, social media channels have given us platforms to influence our segments on different spheres. As you manage your company’s brand how well are you building into the next phase of your career? And for the media brands, this is the time to think about sustainability of the media houses in a digital world. The offering to target advertisers needs to be above board.

Marketing in tough economic times

On the other hand, companies whose services are not on the frontline, have established or still are in the process of establishing their new normal. No doubt, departments have been putting their heads together to establish their delivery model. Boards of Directors have been overworking. New strategies are being chartered, others deprioritised, and trial and error is the new gear to engage in driving the companies’ direction. While in departments like marketing and sales, pushing sales is continually a mirage, the finance team is realising the numbers are not adding up while the HR is dreading to draft the dreary emails explaining the bleak future for weeks on end. The situation is dire as your workers are members of families which might be suffering the competition with company time for example through home-schooling while working.

With the current information age, advancement in tech and innovation, millions of companies across the world are equipped to be able to work remotely. Medical professionals are all hands to the pumps, managing a tsunami of patients.

Your company could be in a quagmire similar to this. How can you continue to reach out to your customers?

There are some PR tips you can employ to continue being on top of the game as opposed to being a sitting duck.

  • Welfare of your employees

Genuinely show care and concern for your employees, they are your greatest ambassadors. Give them flexible working hours are they balance between office work and homeschooling or nursing young babies.

  • Welfare of your community

Repurpose your company’s CSR budget towards the fight against the pandemic. Your generosity will be etched in the minds of your customers and it will come in handy in the long-run.

  • Welfare of your customers

Have a favourable price list for your products, ease the burden of your customers accordingly. You can revisit your leasing agreements for example by reducing by a percentage of payments for a couple of months. You can also reduce the pricing of your products or add incentives like free delivery.

  • Consider services to meet pandemic needs.

Globally, we have seen car manufacturers are shifting their efforts to start manufacturing ventilators and others facemasks after governments called for help in managing the pandemic. You can donate such supplies or sell them at reasonable prices.

  • Align your messages to current reality

For those in influential roles like politicians, it is not the time for mudslinging your political rivals. Your constituents’ need you to show leadership in matters that matter to them. For example are you providing them sanitisers or hand washing facilities? In these uncertain times they care less about the political landscape and they need support to contain the pandemic.

  • Automate

Automate as much as possible. If you have a general enquiries email and you currently cannot handle the scale of the enquiries you can send automated messages redirecting the customers to particular actions. As you do this for your enquiries email, mirror the same in your social media channels like Facebook and twitter.  Automate and redirect but do not ignore.

  • Re-strategise your outreach

If you used to employ strategies like cold-calling, you need to re-look into genius ways of how to go about this. Given that people are working from home and most probably are dealing with a lot including childcare and health burdens, the least they want is bombardment by a sales pitch.

As Robert H. Schuller aptly put it, “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” These tough people are the key contributors to either loss or profitability of companies. So making it or breaking it, is your responsibility.

How to achieve and maintain brand leadership

Choice, as simple as it sounds, can be nerve-wracking. Making choices especially when it comes to shopping can be daunting. Shopping malls, to open-air markets, to clothing stalls, to beauty salons are all embellished and full or flair promising heaven and oftentimes delivering hell.

Shopping malls in Dubai

In supermarkets, aisle after aisle, shelves are lined up with audacious salesmen and women chattering their brand superiority. This can be daunting to the ever-growing fickle consumer who wants an effortless transaction process. Instant as if magic is becoming more attractive, and disrupting those that still swear by status quo. The big question is how can one build brand loyalty given the circumstances?

Know your product inside out

It is embarrassing to have wobblers swinging your logo and taglines in well organised supermarket aisles, yet your talking heads are stuttering with every question of interest a potential customer prods. Great organisations demonstrate leadership through their employees. Invest in training and development and you will avoid unnecessary losses.

Create ease for your customers

In the 1990s our parents would effortlessly go to the supermarket or send their little ones to go pick powder soap, bar soap, bathing soap, oil or flour, brand notwithstanding. This would easily be timed as it was a grab, pay and go process. Almost three decades later, you tap and within minutes it is delivered on your doorstep. Few if any parent would consider sending their children for such purchases. This is because the time for delivery might be longer as they will go fiddling with their gadgets.  Adverts would occasionally pop up and likely influence their choice, which would give the parents unnecessary headaches. As a brand think creatively of ways to ease the shopping process of your customers. This can be through deliveries.

Good leaders rise to occasion during hard times

This article was published in today’s People Daily, Read on!

We are in tumultuous economic times when Wanjiku is trying to make sense of the ever growing costs that are ballooning her monthly expenditure.

From increased costs of kerosene for lighting and cooking to the indirect effect that the high petrol prices has on the cost of transport and travel, Wanjiku is being forced to dig deeper and deeper into her shallow pockets.

We are at the last quarter of the year and her son will be sitting his final year examinations.

That means additional costs because she needs to provide  better nutrition to ensure her son’s comfort and peace of mind during the examinations period.

Unfortunately, with all the increases on her daily expenses, the business front does not bring any good tidings. Her daily expenses for her mitumba business have soared, thus significantly reducing her meagre profits.

Read more

How to revive brands after poll uncertainties

This article has also been published this morning on People Daily! Read on!

Last week marked one year since the declaration of the August 8, 2017 election results.  And they were greeted with either jubilation or anger depending on the political divide — President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee and Raila Odinga’s Nasa.

There was anxiety and uncertainly across the country. This was a hotly contested election, whose outcome — Uhuru’s re-election — was rejected by the opposition.

The tense atmosphere kept sensitive sectors such as businesses on a razor’s edge. For months,  business remained muted and efforts to resuscitate them has been a slow climb-up the hill.

One year later, though some businesses are on recovery path thanks to the thawed political atmosphere after the Handshake between Uhuru and Raila on March 9. Others are still struggling with looming layoffs and no hope of resuscitation.

As a Kenyan brand trying to permeate the maze and reach the fickle consumers, what are some of the strategies of bouncing back? Read more

Brand positioning for posterity

Brands that will remain unassailable in the coming years are the ones that are already making heavy investments in research and development. The top 3 of the worlds wealthiest people are techy nerds. If this doesn’t tell you much about embracing tech, then your company must be existing in a rock. Brands that will continue counting their profits are tweaking their strategies every so often.

It is pertinent to lay down your strategic plan that will guide your employees to draw their annual objectives with an outlook spanning say three to five years. If you are not clear on this, or if this is a plan you have shelved for ages, don’t hesitate to talk to us. But I couldn’t emphasise strongly how important this is. It is the roadmap that defines your existence and lets the world know how you can solve their pain points, or better still provide their pleasure points.

You would certainly not need a future teller, to decipher that brands like Google have made the invaluable investment into their future and that they are here to stay. Last week I attended their Digital skills training, organised in partnership with Gulf African Bank. Majority were youngsters, who went full throttle in giving case studies of their experiences with different digital platforms. It reinforced the knowledge and understanding of some, at the same time equipping the business owners present, with knowledge on the extra they can do to go the visibility mile.

Google is not only equipping the next generation but constantly innovating tools that will bring brands closer to their market.

Which brings us to our point to ponder this week  Read more

Customer mismanagement a case of Sunshine Hotel

Hotel Sunshine, each time I think of the hotel, my mind runs quickly to the picturesque lush green carpet of tea that Kericho County is known for. This week the hotel has been in the news not for the very rosy of reasons, after a mheshimiwa withdrew her booking following what she termed as embarrassment and violation of her constitutional right.

As it’s known,  bad news spreads like wildfire. No sooner did the legislator share her predicament of discriminately having to produce her marriage certificate, than another woman rep was quick to recount her nasty experience of two years ago. It is reported that the proof of marriage was not asked upon booking, but the hotel demanded of it later in the evening when the couple came back to retire for the evening after dinner outside the hotel.

As an outsider hearing this for the first time, you will be marred with derision which is a PR disaster for the hotel. Below are some pointers to manage customers better and have them sing praises of you, years after serving them. Read more

Taxman’s noose, bound to tighten

The taxman’s noose is bound to tighten in tandem with the country’s growing appetite for projects whose funding remains unknown. More pressure will continually be mounted on the revenue collector as a fall back plan to feed this monster called development.

The pressure is indeed insurmountable, since, whenever this topic of development comes to the fore, the immediate comparison is with countries like Singapore who are said to have been in the same page with us 50 years ago. But how they moved from developing to a developed nation, is the puzzle we seek to piece up by playing catch up with the sudden launch of projects which prove burdensome to the taxpayer. Therefore the revenue collector will be casting their nets wider and this couldn’t be a better time to clean up and clean out.

Are your taxes in order? Read more

How will you handle crisis when it comes knocking?

Crisis management is one of the key management tasks that Public Relations professionals ought to have ready ammunition to handle should it arise.

In the recent weeks, Starbucks Philadelphia’s coffee shop had accusations levelled against them on biracial profiling. Two black men entered the coffee shop and requested to use the restrooms, only to be told that policy demands that only paying customers are allowed access. So they opted to wait for a friend supposedly a white, outside the shop but they were accused of trespassing and one of the employees went ahead and called the police.

This exchange could not help but reach the bystanders and within few hours the video of the incidence stirred an uproar and went viral on social media. There were all manner of comments from the irate public spewing disgust under the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks.

How the crisis was handled Read more

Be ahead of the curve by maximising feedback in these 3 ways

‘We are elated and impressed by your work and we are proud of ourselves to have chosen you to journey with us. We no longer hold meetings to ponder and re-strategise about our plummeting sales, and high employee turnover following our implementation of your recommendations to our strategic plan. It is obvious that you are indeed great at your services.’

Isn’t that what every business owner, board chair or senior company executive would like to hear? By all means YES! Perhaps you have gotten such feedback and you are all so smug about the whole idea gloating over drinks to your friends. But, did you know you can use this as a bait for more clientele and be ahead of the curve?

Here are some of the ways: Read more