Currency volatility, policy issues eroding PR influence, profitability —Report

brand-marketing, DNA PR industryFOR stakeholders in the nation’s Public Relations (PR) terrain, the recent edition of the Nigeria PR Report leaves a sour taste in the mouth.  PR influence is dwindling and its bottom-line, badly eroded by competing practices.

This revelation and others in the new report, published by BHM Research and Intelligence, in conjunction with  Brent Consulting, one of Nigeria’s most respected market research companies, are quite damning for PR practice. Perhaps, more worrisome are these revelations, especially for practitioners, who had been looking forward to some  improvements in the performance of the practice in the period under review.

According to the 2018 Nigeria PR Report, besides recording  a 20 per cent drop in respondents’ assessment of profitability in PR,  the report also reveals a 33 per cent increase in the number of respondents who think profitability is dwindling, thereby reaffirming the fact that PR is mostly the first casualty when companies initiate a cost-cutting exercise.

Interestingly, one of the highpoints of the report is the attribution of the dwindling PR spend to the 2016/17 economic recession in the country, as manifested in the profitability of PR businesses.

For instance, a key respondent and PR practitioner, Mr Bolaji Okusaga, sees the dwindling fortune of PR business in the country during this period as a result of currency volatility macro-economic shocks and policy issues.

The former Managing Director of The Quadrant MSL and now Managing Director of Precise,  believes the present state of affairs has been driven largely by currency volatility, macro-economic shocks and policy issues.

Okusaga stated that big spenders like MTN and Etisalat (now 9Mobile) in the telecom sector, Unilever and P&G in the FMCG sector are ‘crawling back’, a development, he argues, is not without its consequent squeeze on the local PR industry.

Since its inaugural publication in 2016, PR industry stakeholders – practitioners, clients, investors, regulators, media and students – have come to look forward to the annual release of the report due to the useful insights that the report offers.

For instance, just as in previous editions, the 2018 Nigeria PR Report also looks at current trends, backed up by both quantitative and qualitative analyses.

Also, this year’s report is a product of online surveys, focus group discussions and individual interviews covering key stakeholder groups like agency’s CEOs, PR consultants, media practitioners and clients being served by PR experts.

The facts are presented in a reader-friendly format, employing infographics in data presentation for better understanding.

For instance, before coming out with the latest report, over 400 practitioners were surveyed, over a period of four months, with at least 25 professionals participating in focus group discussions.

“Expert opinion articles were collected from Nigeria, South Africa, Canada, the United Kingdom and the US to further enhance the report and make it professorial.

Divided into seven sections, covering various areas of interest – Research Findings,, Perspectives on Improving Nigeria’s PR Industry, Ethics and Professionalism in PR in Nigeria, Regulatory Bodies of Nigeria PR industry, Measurement in Public Relations, Perspectives from the Global PR Industry and a directory of Public Relations Agencies in Nigeria, not a few stakeholders believe that the 2018 edition  of the report has gone a long way in capturing some fundamental issues regarding the PR industry in Nigeria.

The first section of the report, Research Findings,  which is further divided into two parts, is a hugely quantitative presentation of industry facts and figures, highlighting a trend which shows more agencies in the country, recording some increase in their annual revenue.

The data shows that only 14 per cent of agencies were billing below N5 million annually in 2017, compared to the 33 per cent recorded in 2015.

The report also noticed a 166 per cent rise in the number of agencies who recorded annual revenues of  N6 – N10 million between the 2015 and 2017 data.

“There was also a 58 per cent increase in the number of agencies who earned N150m and above, when comparing the 2015 and 2017 figures,” the report reveals.

However, the report shows there were drops in the numbers of agencies whose annual revenue bands were N11m – N20m (9 per cent), N21m – N50m (16 per cent) and N100m – N150m (42 per cent) between the years 2015 and 2017. Overall, the report indicates that mid-sized agencies (billing-wise) did not have it as rosy as their micro- and mega counterparts.

It also highlights the fact that alcoholic beverages, with approximately 200 per cent increase over its standing in 2016, upstaged the banking/finance, which dropped by 11 per cent, telecoms (with a 38 per cent drop) and manufacturing (even with a 15 per cent increase) in the sectors serviced in 2017.

Over 80 per cent of respondents checked digital/social media marketing as the most sought after/offered service in the Nigeria PR industry. The reason may not be unconnected with the ease of measuring digital media results. Calculating reach, impressions and engagement on social media and online platforms is easy and the numbers are considered more accurate than those of traditional media.

On PR Spend, the report indicates that most micro, mini and mid-sized companies avoided PR agencies in 2017, leaving the space for mostly the large companies. The data shows that companies whose PR Spend were in the bands of N0 – N5m, N6m – N10m, in 2015 did not engage PR agencies for the year 2017.

“Those companies whose bands are N11m – N20m and N51m -N100m recorded a 25 per cent increase in the PR Spend in 2017,” the report says.

Providing an insight into some of the causes of the present challenge of the PR practice, the report identifies the disposition of communication managers in corporate organisations towards PR as the reason the practice remains the worst casualty of all companies’ supplies items in times of cost rationalisation.

This disposition even manifests more in these managers’ perception of the PR landscape as highlighted in the report.

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