Managing Director, Hill+ Knowlton Strategies, Nigeria.
Tokunboh George-Taylor is a trusted multiskilled communications professional. With a proven track record in building and managing PR businesses, Tokunboh understands the importance of a strong narrative, clear messages and a compelling delivery. Her knowledge skills of the global PR industry and key trends affecting communications practice was honed from her early start in PR. Her strong knowledge of the practice has helped shape a direction and earned the respect and trust of CEOs of big brands and editors of the continent’s busiest newsrooms. In 2015, Hill+Knowlton, a global public relations consulting company, headquartered in New York City, with 90 offices in 52 countries, expanded its African operations into Nigeria. The decision to enter the Nigerian market follows HK’s recognition of the immense economic and commercial potential of Nigeria. The increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and joint ventures in Nigeria enabled an attractive platform for H+K from which to grow and develop its client base. In a statement, Lars Erik Grønntun, Chairman and CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, noted that: “Global businesses with long-term growth strategies are focusing on the African continent. And Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, as well as a population of 170 million people which is expected to expand to 200 million by 2019. Hill+Knowlton’s presence in the Nigerian market will ensure that businesses have access to full-service communication strategies. “Offering a full suite of “of communications services including corporate communications, marketing communications, internal communications, sports marketing and sponsorship, digital communications, issues and crisis consultancy and public affairs”, the multinational PR firm deemed it fit to appoint Tokunboh Durosaro as the Managing Director, bringing over 20 years of experience in public relations, branding, marketing and advertising – locally and internationally. Prior to joining Hill+Knowlton, Ms Durosaro spent 14 years at the integrated energy group, Oando PLC, where she was a member of the Group Leadership Council. In the course of her 14 year stint with Oando PLC she was Head of Corporate Communications and successfully developed a comprehensive re-branding strategy for the smooth execution of Unipetrol and Agip re-branding to Oando PLC. She later became the Chief Corporate Services Officer. In 2011, she was responsible for establishing the Oando Foundation which supports the Nigerian government in meeting the Millennium Development Goals on achieving access to universal basic education. In her role as Director, she provided strategic direction, leadership and drove collaboration with public and private sector actors.
You’ve been at the helm of H+K since the launch of its Nigeria office in 2015. What would you like your legacy to be?
My first job was in PR, so I found my calling very early in my career and I was lucky to have mentors along the way. I want to be remembered as the Publicist that developed a PR Leadership Programme in Nigeria to mentor young PR professionals to achieve their career goals.
How have Nigerian firms traditionally approached reputation & risk management?
First of all, the Nigerian media landscape plays a huge part in brand reputation. The average Nigerian firm is quick to respond to crisis, as they value their reputation over everything, however, there is still a gap in terms of companies being proactive before a crisis happens. Brands need to place a premium on their positioning at all times.
What are some of the worst PR nightmares you’ve had to deal with?
I have dealt with various PR nightmares from wrong content being published to serious disasters that could have negatively impacted my client. However, I am glad to state that I have always resolved any client issues without any negative connotations.
Throughout its 90 years history, what has been H+K’s core? Creativity or Innovation?
Creativity is a part of our core at H+K. We are creative storytellers.
What do you make of the blur between the traditional ad agency and a traditional communications consultancy? How does H+K fit into that?
Firstly, there is no blur between the two; advertising is paid media, whilst PR is earned media. However, at H+K we believe an integrated marketing communications strategy is beneficial to any brand. So we advocate for brands to harness the benefits of each channel, which when combined together yields greater impact.
What are the new developments happening at H+K?
At H+K we are constantly innovating, telling stories, building relationships and creating engagements. Our global team also recently built an influencer engagement and media monitoring platform that helps us map and engage the right stakeholders for brands. We also ensure we balance traditional PR with online PR which is real time and has the ability to communicate client news almost immediately.
What are your strategies on the growing disruption in the strategic communications agency world?
We have learnt that it is important to communicate on a rational and emotional level. Gone are the days when you only focus on B2C or B2B, we are in a world governed by new rules and a new set of audience, therefore it is important to focus on B2Humans, as all communication is directed at humans.
Who are H+ K’s typical clients and what do they come to you for?
Our clientele spans FMCG’s, Technology firms, financial services, Oil & Gas, Sports brands, Travel & Tourism companies and Real Estate firms just to name a few. They come to us for the overall goals of increased share of voice and increased awareness, while some require our expertise in crisis management. We help our clients communicate not just what they do, but what they stand for.
When measuring the impact of content for your clients, what metrics are you looking at?
To measure the success of our campaigns, we base our metrics on the initial objective. We often look at engagement, reach, positive perception change, corporate reputation spikes and share of voice.
What big-picture goals do you hope to accomplish here?
We aim to make a difference. To give our clients and customers value for money. To achieve high level communications that impact and meet objectives and to successfully change the way the PR sector is perceived in Nigeria.
What are the biggest successes you’ve seen in this market to date?
More local organisations realising the benefits of PR.
There’s a lot of talks around at the moment on the importance of ‘brand,’ that companies in the future will be judged less on their profitability and more on their environmental and social credentials. Do you agree with this?
Yes. Brand reputation is very important as the new set of target audience focuses on the brand itself as opposed to its products or services. Having a good reputation will automatically sell a product or service.
In what way is PR changing and what trends do you see for the future?
Traditional PR is now becoming a thing of the past. PR is going more digital. Newspapers and magazines are declining. People would rather visualize, than actually read. Digital is the new norm, therefore it is very important for PR firms to adapt to these changes, or risk being left behind in an ever evolving industry.
How has social media changed the type of work that an agency like H+K does in the last few years?
Social media has changed the type of work a PR agency has to do especially with the use of influencer marketing, the use of macro and micro level influencers to sell a brand or a product. It has been incredibly effective because of the way influencers channel their speciality to reach out to their audience.
H+K works in quite a saturated market, but you do seem to strive to make yourself ‘different’ from other agencies. Is this part of a strategy to ensure success?
The phrase quality and quantity comes into play here. It is not about how much news you put out about a brand or product, but the quality of this news. Our work speaks for itself. Our clientele also speaks for itself. We aim to be the best through quality content creation, and lastly, we have the support of a vast global network.
Having experienced two sides of PR – selling front at Oando and others and as the MD of H+K – which side do you find most exciting and why?
I started my career in house, and then worked for an agency in the UK, before joining Oando and now agency again. Most definitely, the agency side of things is much more challenging, but exciting. You are working with clients across various sectors. No day is ever the same. You also have the opportunity to learn about other sectors which ultimately stimulates you intellectually.