“Breaking News”: Disconnect Between Editors and Web Managers

Newsroom2

I was already putting finishing touches to the last item on my “To-Do” list for the day when a maritime reporter called to enquire about the “breaking news” he just heard that a container loaded with fire arms was seized at my company’s seaport terminal at the Tin Can Island Ports, Apapa. He also said a “reliable source” informed him that the terminal had been closed down by the Nigerian Customs Service and all staff chased out. As the company’s spokesman, he wanted my own side of the story.

I quickly deployed my team to scan the online space for any news mention of the story and lo and behold, about three online news platforms; one industry journal and two national newspapers, had published the story with a lot of errors and misrepresentations.

The truth of the matter is that a container with 441 fire arms was intercepted by the Nigerian Customs Service. The inaccuracy in the story published by the online news media is that the container was neither intercepted at our terminal nor was the terminal closed down as erroneously reported.

The next one hour was a tough one for my team and I. With each passing minute, other online media platforms were reproducing verbatim the erroneous news story published. We quickly got in touch with our contacts (which included maritime correspondents, editors and a publisher) in some of the media organizations that have published the story. We wanted to express our reservations at the misrepresentation in the story and demanded that our rebuttal, which was under processing, be published.

That was when we received the shock of our lives. None of the persons contacted knew anything about the story already published on their news sites. They all sympathized with us, apologized, promised to check how it escaped the normal gate keeping and assured that our press statement would enjoy generous mention. Eventually, two of them reverted as promised and delivered the bombshell: the web manager is expected to scan the online space for “hot” or “breaking” news story and is expected to publish before other rivals. Proper gate keeping is jettisoned.

The demand of beating others to it has put a lot of pressure on the web manager who doesn’t have the time to cross check the accuracy of the facts in the “breaking news” he stumbles on. Most of the time, editors and other professionally-trained journalists like the relevant beat reporters, are not consulted before such news are published. In the case under reference, the maritime correspondent of one of the leading national newspapers was still at the Customs office, Apapa, gathering facts and relevant details about the seized container in order to write her story, when we called to inform her that her company’s news site has already published the inaccurate report. She was simply dumbfounded and angry. As the reporter on the beat, her opinion wasn’t sought. The web manager just published.

One clear insight from this experience is the disconnect in the news processing system in an average news room. The needed synergy that would guarantee proper gate keeping is clearly lacking.

Most of the web managers that are saddled with the onerous task of managing the online platforms of the news organisations are, in most cases, deficient in the principles and ethics of journalism that gives vent to factual and balanced reporting. There are clear dangers in such trend. The image of victims, whether individual or corporate, of such unprofessional attitude, is damaged; the reputation of such media organizations as a purveyor of truthful and reliable news is called to question while the unsuspecting members of the public, who are unwittingly fed with lies, are short changed in their quest for truthful information.

To correct this, news organizations must elevate their reputation as a reliable news source above the haste that accompanies publishing “breaking news” that are riddled with lies and errors.

Officers who have responsibilities of managing the online news portals should be properly schooled in journalism ethics. Getting facts right and balancing their stories with views from concerned parties must be sacrosanct. They must also be made aware of the dangers of sloppiness in this regard.

Quality assurance management in the news room is an issue that needs more attention.  Final gate keeping for stories meant for the online platforms should be done by very experienced and thorough hands, who will be able to sieve out the potential errors and inaccuracies.

Living Far Away, Working in Apapa

Until some weeks ago, there were two places in Lagos I never wished my office would ever be located; Lagos Island and Apapa. They are both TRAFFIC-prone.

While that of Lagos Island is due to the expected huge vehicular traffic that is associated with commercial city centres, Apapa is notorious for terribly-bad roads and the unwholesome activities of tanker and truck drivers, who lift products and goods at ports and tank farms located in the area.

I can’t count the number of times I had been trapped in traffic in both locations over the years. I actually boasted to people that working in Apapa and Lagos Island wasn’t for me, except I live in an adjoining neighbourhood.

As someone who had worked around the Ikeja axis in the last 10 years, picking up a job in Apapa is a whole new experience, considering that I live many kilometers away.

Based on the experience of friends who work around there, the first thing I ditch was my car. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to survive driving daily in that traffic-congested area. I thought the combination of ‘Keke Marwa’, ‘okada’ and public transport would deliver a faster journey. While this option looks attractive, the discomfort that one experiences in Lagos rickety buses, particularly when one is trapped in “wicked” traffic, is better unbearable. Imagine a well-suited young man sweating in a bus with traffic at a standstill.

One of my new colleagues, who lives not too far away from me, also suggested an option that is popular with him: TRAIN. Prior to this year, I had never boarded a train in Nigeria, though I was privileged to ride in one few years ago in Dubai. He assured that with the train I would be saved the agony of traffic congestion.

Despite my misgivings about the train, I decided to give it a try. The first sign that it won’t be a good option hit me at the ticketing point at the Apapa Terminus on my first trip. Passengers had to practically push and shove just to buy boarding tickets. The attitude of the ticketing officers is one of the worst I have ever seen. To them, selling tickets to passengers amounts to doing them a favour. Asking for a change is a capital offence. By the way, the terminus hall is one of the worst public buildings I have ever seen.

Though I had a mental picture of how bad the interior of the train could look like based on its rickety exterior that I saw almost every time, but I never imagined that it would be far worse. The chairs (or what is left of them) are in a sorry state; the windows are long gone (imagine what happens when rain falls!), there are gaping holes on the floor; the electrical fittings are all hanging dangerously out of their sockets. In fact, using the train to convey even animals would amount to cruelty to them.

The major putdown of the train, as far as I am concerned, is the unbelievable congestion. Passengers are picked at every terminus, even when it has exceeded its capacity by as much as 100%. Every single space in the train is occupied including doorway and aisle, thereby generating unbearable heat and sweat. The most unfortunate passengers are those who are unlucky enough to get the aisle seats, which are termed “sorry seats”. They are the primary victims of the uncontrollable overcrowding in the aisle.

Alighting from the train is also a big problem. Because of the crazy congestion in the aisle and doorway, disembarking passengers have to battle their way out of the train.

Whatever one gains in avoiding traffic congestion, would be lost in the unbearable inconvenience and discomfort that come with the train ride.

As for me, the search for the best option to “conquer” Apapa traffic continues.

Chibok Abduction: Jonathan’s 7 PR Blunders

To every objective observer of the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, one of its major failings is the faulty strategic approach to key national issues and one is tempted to conclude that the administration lacks deep thinkers who can critically evaluate events, trends and situations with the objective of coming up with bespoke strategy that will solve problems, douse tension and ultimately, boost the image of the president.
This blatant deficiency in strategy has accounted for series of blunders that the presidency commits each time the nation looks up to it for clear-cut direction, symbolic gestures, concrete actions and inspiring pronouncements.
One great example that explicitly highlights this obvious deficiency in this administration is the mishandling of the Chibok girls’ abduction. While a more strategic government would have used the opportunity of the problem to rebuild its fluffing image and garner better political capital through a series of well-articulated and compassionate activities and pronouncements, the Jonathan presidency, as usual, didn’t seize the occasion. Even when opportunities present itself on a platter of gold, the president’s “strategists” would rather snatch defeat from the jaw of victory.
President-Goodluck-Jonathan-copy-4
Seven examples will suffice for this discourse.
1. The Kano Gyration
24 hours after the girls’ abduction and the Nyanya bomb blasts, President Goodluck Jonathan attended a political rally in Kano in which some APC defectors were welcomed into the PDP fold. The festive mood at the rally and the presidential dance steps didn’t reflect a nation that just witnessed two major tragedies a day earlier.
A more strategic president would have cancelled the rally and immediately mobilized all the military resources at the nation’s disposal to rescue the girls particularly in the light of the reported logistics problems of the abductors in ferrying the girls away.
2. Presidential Doubt
The body language and silence of the president coupled with the disappointing utterances of presidential aides clearly showed that the president didn’t believe any abduction took place. To him, it was one of the gimmicks of the opposition to pile more pressure on his government ahead of the 2015 elections. It took the relentless social media campaigns and international pressure from foreign media and key political and social figures for the president to realise the enormity of the issue.
3. Not Visiting Chibok
Over 50 days after the abduction, the president has not deemed it feet to visit Chibok to sympathise with the victims’ families. In 2012, there was a shooting in Aurora, Colorado in which a gunman killed 12 people in a cinema with scores injured. The response of President Barack Obama, who was in the tick of electioneering campaigns, is quite inspiring and a lesson for President Jonathan. Two days after the incident, Obama visited the city, sympathized with the victims’ families and the injured, ordered flags in government buildings to fly at half-mast for five days, suspended his political campaign and election TV advert in the affected state, met with local and state officials and made a nationally televised speech from the city.
4. Blaming Opposition for Insecurity
The presidency and the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been under the illusion that the opposition, especially, the All Progressives Congress (APC), is responsible for the spate of violence in the country. They see the current insecurity as part of the grand plan to frustrate the second term ambition of the president. Instead of waking up to the constitutional responsibility of guaranteeing the welfare and security of the citizens, the presidency’s warped mindset has sucked logic out of their response to the abduction and other similar incidents.
5. Shunning Protesters in Aso Rock
After weeks of sit-in protests in Abuja, the Oby Ezekwesili-led #bringbackourgirls group resolved to take their grievances to President Jonathan in Aso Rock. The well-publicised protest was designed to hear directly from the president the government’s efforts at rescuing the girls. The group unwittingly provided an image laundering platform for the president to address the concerns of the group and other similar campaigns all around the world. But in what has become the hallmark of this administration, the president was nowhere to be found. Not only were they not allowed access to Aso Rock, but also the aides that stood in for the president didn’t help his cause as well. Anyway, their response reflected the mindset of the president: Don’t Blame the Government for the Abduction, Take Your Campaign to Boko Haram.
6. Sponsoring Rival Protesters
In order to change the national conversation and dilute the #bringbackourgirls message, a rival group, #ReleaseOurGirls, with an undisguised sympathy for the government hit the streets of Abuja. The focus of the rival group was to exonerate the government of any blame, redirect attention at Boko Haram and attack the position of those calling for better response from the president on the Boko Haram abduction.
7. Attack on the #bringbackourgirls Protesters
For about one month, the #bringbackourgirls group has been holding its daily sit-ins at the Unity Fountain, Abuja, to protest the government’s insincerity in the handling of the Chibok abduction. The hallmark of their protest has been the non-violence style. The peaceful nature of the protest was however punctured recently when the venue was stormed by sponsored thugs who destroyed everything in sight including chairs, tables, public address system, camera, among others, with security agencies watching. So many days after the unfortunate incident, the government hasn’t deemed it fit to condemn the act or bring to book the perpetrators.

While the government has failed woefully in responding strategically to the Chibok girls abduction, the presidency can however learn valuable lessons from the event that has attracted global outrage. It’s time for the president to reorganize his strategy team and appoint competent people who would be bold enough to give him sound counsel without entertaining the fear of losing their jobs. Also, the president must be determined to turn deaf ears to those who believe people with dissenting opinions are his enemies.

Dearth of Business Case Studies in Nigeria

‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ — Isaac Newton (1642 – 1747).

The above quote came to my mind while pondering on how best to start this piece. Isaac Newton was one of the greatest scientists and inventors that ever lived. While he’s best known for his work on gravity, Newton had an array of inventions to his name including reflecting lenses for telescope.

The above quote suggested that he benefitted greatly from the scientific researches of earlier philosophers and scientists like Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Descartes. In some cases, his theories were improvements on works of these great minds; he merely built on the solid foundation he met. In a way, he had access to ‘case studies’ of earlier scientists.

Pile of books
Case Studies

G. Thomas (2011) defines case study as ‘analysis of persons, events, decisions, periods, projects, policies, institutions, or other systems that are studied holistically by one or more methods. The case that is the subject of the inquiry will be an instance of a class of phenomena that provides an analytical frame — an object — within which the study is conducted and which the case illuminates and explicates.”

A case study provides critical, practical and objective insights into the object of study for the purpose of revealing the underlying principles, philosophies and undercurrents behind the success or failure recorded. In advanced economies, business case studies are taken seriously with universities, research institutes and philanthropic foundations committing substantial funding to produce and document.
Due to their importance, business case studies also form a key component of business school curriculum abroad and they are readily available on the cyberspace.

The Nigerian Story
Ironically in Nigeria, most budding entrepreneurs and business managers don’t enjoy this privilege that Newton had. There is a dearth of business case studies in the country. Despite the fact that the country is replete with successful and failed brands, enterprises and entrepreneurs, getting case studies done on them is akin to the biblical analogy of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.

NN24, HITV, Ovaltine, 234Next, Glo, King Sunny Ade, Nollywood, MTN, Star, The Guardian, First Bank, among others, are some of the brands which reasons behind their success and failure would interest not a few entrepreneurs, business and marketing students and the general public. Beyond occasional press interviews, biographies, autobiographies and essays that hardly give anything away, no serious efforts have been made to intellectually interrogate the stories behind the success and failure of most brands and businesses in Nigeria.

The Barriers
Lack of Accurate Data
Lack of accurate data still remains a great challenge both in the private and public sectors. Proper documentation of vital statistics, processes and procedures that could be helpful to researchers and budding entrepreneurs, are either not available or inaccurate.
Funding Challenge
Undertaking a comprehensive research that produces useful and valuable business case studies is capital intensive. With the country’s educational system reeling under the burden of inadequate funding, research has been relegated to the background. With research centres not faring better and the absence of spirited individuals to take up the challenge, funding remains a formidable hindrance.
Culture of Secrecy
The greatest obstacle I see here is that of cultural barrier. The culture of secrecy has gained ascendancy in the country, so much so that getting vital information, even for mere academic exercise, is a difficult task. At the root of this, however, is the suspicion that such information, when released, might get into wrong hands, particularly, competition. Therefore, information that are supposed to be of public good and advance the cause of businesses are classified ‘trade secret’.

Solutions
I believe the private sector, particularly the multinational corporations operating in the country, has a critical role to play in tackling this problem. Being conversant with global business practises, procedures and standards, I am of the opinion that they are well positioned to lead the charge.

While solutions to the problems of lack of data and culture of secrecy might be medium to long-term ones and rest largely with the government, the private sector can, at least, solve that of funding. Using their platforms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the private sector can fund researches through partnership with universities, research centres and premier business schools.

The government, on its own part, needs to initiate a cultural re-orientation campaign that strategically targets businesses and brands with the ultimate objective of communicating the big picture benefits that the economy and businesses stand to gain when their ‘books are opened’.

As a matter of priority, the government also needs to develop a national data roadmap with medium and long-term deliverables. Under the roadmap, relevant government agencies would be empowered and mandated to generate reliable and accurate data that would aid research and planning in every sector of the economy.

The time to do the needful is now — that the country is bulging with a lot of start-ups, who could do with insights that would help them in their businesses.

Why It’s Time To Ditch Your Office

ImageBy Joe Pulizzi

Ask yourself this question: Why does our organization have an office?

When I left an executive position at one of the largest media companies in North America to start a business, the first to-do item on my list was to find an office. And why not? I thought, like many others, that to be seen as a “real” company we needed to have an actual office location. Those employees wouldn’t want to work for a virtual company. That we wouldn’t find the best talent. That we wouldn’t be as productive.

Boy, was I wrong. Our decision NOT to set up a traditional office location was, perhaps, the best decision we’ve made as an organization.

As you make your rationalizations for why an office works for you (and it may), I can tell you right now that the office environment could be killing your organization. Here’s why:

Better Productivity

Jason Fried, founder of 37signals, outlines in his book Rework that meetings are toxic to an organization. The majority of meetings are not only unnecessary, but can kill the entire culture of the organization’s focus on the customer. According to a Salary.com survey, almost 50% of employees say that meetings are the #1 time-waster while at work.

I know a number of my friends who are executives in large enterprises that literally have meetings ALL DAY LONG (the average is 4 hours of meetings per week). Those organizations are getting their butts kicked by smaller competitors who are not bound by meetings (for the sake of meetings). While you are in your meetings, your competition is focused on the needs of the customer, and getting more done. Period.

Happier Employees

Sure, I love looking at pictures from the offices of Google or Foursquare and how cool their offices are. But I’d love to take a poll of those employees and see if they would prefer to work at home (coffee shop?) or in the office. Do you think most of those people enjoy their commute into work?

Unhappy employees are costing organizations billions in productivity. In addition, a Gallup study found that employees’ feelings about the organization has an impact on sales and profits.

Do your employees want more quality time at home? Do they want more flexibility in their job? Do they want to feel more trusted by the organization? It’s your responsibility to find out what will make them happier, if for no other reason than it can make a direct impact on your bottom line. And yes, getting employees together is important for the culture of the organization…but you don’t need an office to do that.

Access to Better Talent

Although the majority of our team is based in Cleveland, Ohio, we have employees in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Boston as well as parts of Europe and Australia. We have a competitive advantage when we look for talent because the prospective employee doesn’t have to be located in a certain place. If your staff is made up of knowledge workers, they can use that knowledge on behalf of the organization anywhere in the world.

Lack of Overhead

Our virtual organization doesn’t have the overhead of our competitors. This gives us the opportunity to invest in other things that make more impact on the business. We can move faster and be more adaptive to change.

Trust

Having a virtual organization means a whole new level of trust. The executive team must trust the employee base with every fiber of their being to make this work. Let’s face it…some employees are just not cut out for this kind of opportunity (frankly, neither are some owners). Organizations that want to go this direction have to put total focus into their hiring and training.

Get Out of the Past

Most organizations are set up for how we communicated decades (or more) ago. The reason we had to go into the city is because communication was impossible without face-to-face interaction. For the majority of non-manufacturing or non-retail organizations, this is not the case any longer.

For most of us, we can get our job done with as much as a smartphone, with access to email, social media and office interaction.

Need to have a meeting? Skype or GoToMeeting are at our disposal in two seconds if a meeting is absolutely necessary. How about Google Hangouts? Instant messaging is at our fingertips. Our IT services are in the cloud.

There was a time we needed the office, but for most of us, that time is over. Here’s the main question: could you provide a better customer experience and better products and services with you NOT in an office environment? Is your organization ready to trust your employees to take this step?

Joe Pulizzi

Founder at Content Marketing Institute, Author of Epic Content Marketing, Speaker & Entrepreneur

Culled from Linkedin.com

Celebrities and Multi Brand Endorsements

In recent years in Nigeria, there has been an upsurge in the appointment of popular faces, particularly music and Nollywood stars, as brand ambassadors. Those who don’t have official ambassadors have featured celebrities in their Television Commercials (TVCs) and other communication materials.
Brands like Glo, Guinness, Pepsi, Loya, MTN, Samsung, Etisalat, Vitafoam, Diamond Bank, BOI, Kanekalon Hair Fibre, among others have gone this route.

Glo Brand Amabassadors

Glo Brand Amabassadors


In choosing an ambassador, brand managers look out for personalities who can promote the brand image, creative positive perception and appropriately communicate and live the brand messages.
Factors like values, strong presence, ethics, appeal and large followership play a critical role in arriving at a choice. The ultimate aim is to appeal to the target audience.
Celebrities like Banky W, D Banj, Stephanie Okereke, Dr. Sid, P Square, Funke Akindele, Tuface, Saka, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Desmond Elliot, Odunlade Adekola, Lagbaja, Inyanya, MI, Lynxx, Bez, Don Jazzy and host of others have secured endorsement deals with various Nigerian brands.
Even in the celebrity circle, brand endorsement has become a status symbol. Tales abound of celebrities who have dispensed with the services of their managers for missing out on juicy endorsements. While many celebrities aren’t considered by brands, there is a tribe of very few who enjoy multiple brand endorsements.
Pepsi Brand Ambassadors

Pepsi Brand Ambassadors


Popular female act, Omawunmi, is signed on by Konga.com, Glo and Mortein. Don Jazzy has deals with Samsung and Loya Milk while Funke Akindele obviously leads in this group with mouth-watering deals with Jobberman, Glo, Vitafoam, Klin, Clichy.com, among others.
One question readily comes to mind: Is there anything untoward in a celebrity being a brand ambassador to diverse brands?
It is a difficult path to tread as there are merits and demerits in the concept.
Multiple brand endorsements obviously come with huge financial reward. To become a celebrity, in most cases, requires hard work, developing your talent, exploiting media opportunities, high networking ability, appealing personality, etc. Every celebrity is interested in getting maximum financial reward for all of the above efforts, which many of them considered as investment.
Funke Akindele

Funke Akindele


The concept is also good for them because they need huge funds to sustain their expensive celebrity status which comes with flashy cars, designer clothing, expensive holidays, and houses in choice locations.
On the flip side, the brand value of celebrities with multiple endorsements tends to slide with serial public exposure. Usually because of the financial terms involved, brand managers would normally want to get maximum benefit from the ambassador. As a result, the ambassador appears on the brand’s advertisements; he attends all corporate events; he’s the face of the company’s CSR initiatives; he’s the guest at the brand’s stakeholders forums. All these are complimented with high decibel media coverage that makes the ambassador a permanent feature in the media.
The novelty of a celebrity endorsement gets diluted with over exposure. This over exposure naturally leads to loss in brand value and before long, discerning brand managers look elsewhere for a fresh choice. No brand wants to associate with a ‘tired’ celebrity.
The major challenge to celebrities is how to balance the pull of huge financial rewards and keeping their brand value fresh and appealing.
I conclude with my suggestion: Cut down the number of endorsements and demand higher fee from the few ones signed to.

Evolve or Dissolve … 5 Lessons from Chicago Sun-Times Staff Lay Off

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A particular article I read online inspired this piece.

One of Chicago’s two major newspapers, Chicago Sun–Times, on Thursday, May 30, 2013, laid off its entire photo staff. Many of the affected photographers had worked in the organization for over 40 years.

Commenting on the development, the newspaper said, “The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements. The Chicago Sun-Times continues to evolve with our digitally savvy customers, and as a result, we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography, across the network.”

This got me thinking. Many questions raced through my mind as I ponder on the article. Did the affected see it coming? Was there anything they could have done to prevent this? Was the decision justified and fair? Questions, questions, questions.

However, there are lessons all of us (employees and agencies) can learn from it.

1. THE SURVIVAL OF THE BUSINESS IS PARAMOUNT TO THE EMPLOYER/CLIENT — An average employer’s major pre-occupation is the survival of the business. Central to this survival is customer satisfaction. In the case under focus, the newspaper’s readers are craving for a different engagement platform (video) as opposed to the output of the affected staff (photography). The employer naturally aligns with the customer because they pay the bills.

For agency, the client doesn’t engage you in order to do you a favour. Client’s loyalty is primarily to his business and would not hesitate to fire you if he feels value is no longer being delivered.

2. BE AWARE OF EMERGING TRENDS — While the readers consumption pattern has evolved, the photographers in question were still stuck in their “old ways”. Any staff or organization that wants to be relevant must be consumer-centric; trying to match the dynamic demands of the consumer. As an employee, look for how best you can contribute to your organisation’s quest to add value to the consumer. As an agency, constantly review your deliverables in the light of your client’s changing business objectives.

3. EVOLVE WITH CHANGING TIMES — Whoever that is not ready to adapt in this ever-changing modern world, will sooner than later, be left behind. There is no more room for a ‘dinosaur’. You must constantly be abreast of latest trends, particularly in your industry. Be aware of the buzz words, latest tools, gadgets, strategies, trainings, opportunities and connections that can equip you to deliver better value in your professional functions. No employer or client wants to retain any staff or agency whose output doesn’t deliver maximum results. Instead of being exclusive photographers, the sacked staff would have easily added video to their output.

4. CREATIVELY “PREDICT” THE FUTURE — Evolving with times is good, but it’s more rewarding to be a trend setter in terms of innovations. Constant observation of current trends, events, mediums, technology, etc, in most cases, gives an inkling of future direction. Preparing for this future before it arrives puts one on a better performance pedestal.

5. HAVE A PLAN B — No need to say much about this. Even after doing all that is required, for whatever reason, an employee or agency could still be sacked. The question is: What happens after losing your job or business? Solution — Prepare, prepare, prepare.

On a last note, remember when you are no longer delivering the value that resonates with the consumer/client, it’s about time to dispense with you.