‘I Thought I Knew PR Till I Came To Mediacraft’ – Seun Igbalode

'I Thought I Knew PR Till I Came To Mediacraft - Seun Igbalode

‘My Staying Power in Mediacraft’  – Seun Igbalode, the longest-serving employee in Mediacraft celebrates his 11th anniversary in the organisation.

Seun Igbalode joined Mediacraft Associates in 2010 and has risen through the ranks to become Client Service Director. He is presently the longest-serving employee at the 17-year-old top-notch PR agency.  

Seun has a B. Sc in Political Science and a Masters in Public Administration both from the University of Lagos.  Before joining Mediacraft, he worked at IT and Telecoms Digest as  Assistant Manager, Editorial Services.

Since switching to Public Relations, Seun has earned various professional diplomas in Nigeria and the UK. He is also a member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and a member of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa.

In this interview with BIZWATCH NIGERIA, he speaks about his foray into the exciting world of PR and reveals the secret of his impressive growth. Excerpts:

Congratulations on your recent elevation to the position of Client Service Director at Mediacraft Associates. Did you expect it?

Thank you. To be honest, I was sort of hoping to get promoted, which is normal for any person that desires to make progress. However, I wasn’t expecting the elevation to the position of Client Service Director just yet.

You’ve spent the better part of your PR career in Mediacraft Associates. You have been with the organisation through various weathers. What has been your staying power?

I’ll attribute it majorly to the fact that Mediacraft has been a training ground in terms of my progression as a consummate PR professional. I thought I knew PR until I got into Mediacraft, and I’ve had to go through the process of unlearning and re-learning. It’s essentially a learning environment for growth.

You are challenged to break boundaries at Mediacraft. I’ve also experienced growth both professionally and personally. Another factor is the Group CE, John Ehiguese. It’s not been an easy ride working with him, but he has mentored me in several ways.

The relationship has morphed from employer-employee to mentor-mentee, and now a father-son relationship. Quite rightly, I’ve been through various weathers with Mediacraft, but I’ve also been a huge beneficiary.   

You had a brief stint with journalism. How would you juxtapose your career in journalism with PR?

I was a reporter for 6 years before joining Mediacraft. I will say that the journalism background prepared me for a career in Public Relations. Firstly, I developed my writing skills as a reporter, and I am continually honing them as a Public Relations professional.

It is instructive to note that my first article as a journalist was trashed, to the extent that my then boss actually questioned my undergraduate degree. And I’m a proud University of Lagos alumni.  

That challenged me to improve; and I did to the extent that I was then saddled with the responsibility of writing columns which, for several years, had been the sole responsibility of the Editor-in-Chief. I would go on to win several awards, both local and international, for my writing, and I will attribute this feat to the tutelage under my previous employer.

A good Public Relations practitioner must first be a good writer. I must also say I’ve become more disciplined as a writer at Mediacraft. A popular mantra at Mediacraft is attention to detail.

Journalism also paved the way for me as a PR professional in the area of media relations. I have a nose for news, and this has greatly helped me a lot. Knowing the workings of the media has also aided me to excel in my PR career.

How did you get into the Public Relations sector and how has the journey been so far?

The business model adopted by the publication I worked for then lured me into PR. Beyond being a medium for information dissemination, educating the readers, and also shaping public opinion, the media house diversified into other commercial areas such as managing conferences/ exhibitions and even organized award ceremonies.

These events needed to be publicized, so even though what we did then was essentially media relations, it was my first foray into the world of PR since I was also highly involved in the process. My former boss also became a de facto communications consultant to a few of the regular advertisers in the magazine then.

I was also approached by a few organisations to help them with publicity, as were a few other journalist friends. I would later run a ‘boutique’ PR agency before applying to Mediacraft and the rest, as they say, is history.   

In Mediacraft, what has been the most exciting account / brief you have handled?

The most exciting account I’ve worked on is the Nigerian Breweries account and I worked on several projects for the Star, Gulder, Legend Extra Stout, Goldberg, and Amstel Malta brands. Some memorable activations were Star Mega Jam, Star Quest, Star Trek, Star TV Game Show, Gulder Ultimate Search, Gulder Ultimate Promo, Gulder Ultimate 5 A Side, Legend Extra Stout Promo, Amstel Malta Showtime, and Amstel Malta’s sponsorship of the inaugural Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCAs).

In the course of your practice, has there ever been a time you felt like giving up and just walking away?

Yes, on several occasions, but one particularly stands out. Everything had gone well with Gulder Ultimate Search 10 until a journalist mistakenly published the story of the winner online, hours before the broadcast of the final episode.

I had always sent the story of the final episode to journalists, clearly stating the embargo date and no one had ever published before the agreed date. The final episode of each edition of the programme was always shrouded in secrecy to deliberately arouse anxious reactions by the viewing audience. Under my watch, many people already knew the winner.

I felt like I ruined the fun for everyone. Worse still, the journalist denied it, even when confronted with the evidence. The Marketing Manager in charge of the Gulder brand was predictably livid.

Such mistakes can cause an agency to lose its account. I took responsibility, profusely apologized to the Marketing Manager and I told him I would resign from Mediacraft. It was a grueling wait as I wasn’t sure of my fate, or if Mediacraft would be fired as an agency due to that error.

So, what kept you?

Luckily, every party was understanding, including my boss. He was also deeply involved in the damage control with the client. He also advised that I shouldn’t be hard on myself as mistakes do happen.

In your opinion and experience, what will you say is the major problem of today’s PR professionals?

The major challenge is that PR is still being treated as a footnote and is relegated to just getting publicity or damage control in the event of a crisis. The song is always being sung of how PR is not involved during the agenda-setting phase, or how PR is hardly represented on the board. 

The pandemic brought disruptions in many sectors. What effect did it have on the PR industry and how have you and your colleagues adjusted to the ‘new normal’?

The impact of the pandemic on the PR industry is difficult to quantify. The PR business is essentially a services business – we provide PR services to our clients. With the exception of few PR agencies which have developed revenue-generating proprietary properties and those that may have diversified into other business ventures, our fate is inextricably tied to the fate of our clients.

Some clients who were severely impacted had to let go of their agencies while others renegotiated contracts or changed the terms of engagement, for instance from a retainer contract to a transactional arrangement. It was also a period in which many PR agencies were put to the test and had to (and some were actually asked to) justify their engagement by the clients. I’ve also seen some PR agencies that have tried to create niche PR practices.

In terms of adjustments, we’ve had to digitize a lot of processes. Client engagements are now mostly done online. We still have a staggering working arrangement whereby we only resume in the office, physically, twice a week.

We’ve also become accustomed to having our brainstorming and knowledge-sharing sessions online.

What will be your advice for any one who wants to start a career in PR?

I’ll recommend this Harvard Business Article authored by Tarunjeet Rattan titled Is Public Relations the Right Career for You?  I’ll however advise newbies to adopt an inquisitive mindset. Be very curious.

The modern-day PR practitioner is also a Jack of all trades. Adopt the mindset of a content creator and be prepared to produce every form of content – audio (podcasts), pictures, and videos. Be prepared to challenge the norm. Be knowledge-driven; you never can tell when what you learnt may be put to use.

Adopt a ‘Marketing Communications’ mindset and have a bit of knowledge in marketing, advertising, media buying, digital marketing, and experiential marketing/ event management. There are both free and premium courses online. Explore these opportunities to expand your knowledge horizon

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