Changing the Narrative from Bad Reputation By Suleiman Aledeh
When I took up the job as Head of Media and Communications of EKEDC I had one thing in mind; CHANGE THE NARRATIVE! How can we sell a product that some see as bad or rotten? Why do we still shout “NEPA” instead of EKEDC or any of the Discos?
I realized that we have two kinds of staff in these Distribution Companies; the Legacy Staff and the “New entrants”. We must first understand how important these two are.
1. There are key points you can’t take away from the legacy staff. Love them or hate them, their knowledge and expertise can’t be waved off. They’re still needed
2. The new ones who came in with the new investors also brought in some knowledge.
Still, the reputation hasn’t changed. Is it changing? Yes. What did we do differently with our team?
3. Follow up
Those 3 came about from our study. No human likes to being ignored! We had to look at this call for change from the angle of self. How would you love to be treated or addressed especially when you’re dissatisfied with a service or purchase?
One of the things I’ve always done is use social media when I am dissatisfied with any service provider. I do this with my bank, Internet service providers and others. They don’t like being called out in social media. Also many prefer to send complaints via the social media
We decided to stick to building that while working with the teams across the 10 Districts. Don’t forget every staff is also a customer. When there is a problem and you have staff living in that area he or she is also affected. So number 1 comes in EMPATHY.
You share in the problem. You then must ENGAGE by reaching out. Every team member has been given a phone line that has unlimited call time to do such calls. We didn’t stop there and we MUST FOLLOW UP with such customers. But because of the volume of complaints from the sector we had to again from time to time use same platforms to reach out especially when there’s a fault or in the event that there are planned maintenance…we must give the date, time and duration
These moves endeared the customers to us. The narrative started changing. How would you feel when you get a call or text from your service provider concerning an issue?
So, from about 6k plus followers on twitter, we started witnessing tremendous growth in our following. At the time I left it was over 20k and Presently over 21k.
This is simply due to the engagement and resolution of faults and complaints via the platforms
So, in addressing these faults, we also felt the need to downplay that word FAULT
Don’t forget that some of this equipment and cables haven’t been changed since the 70s. For instance, the whole of FESTAC sits on an underground cable structure. When it rains there’s usually one problem or the other. The company has been working on changing most of these obsolete and faulty parts. As an aside, it procured an underground fault detector to reduce the downtime in identifying faults.
Back to the gist.
We employed a messaging system where we highlight our strengths and downplayed our weakness
Instead of saying “The present power is due to a fault…” we will instead tell you what’s being done truly. So, we will say “The cause of the outage has been identified…” or “Our team is working to restore power to your area…” or “Our team has identified the cause of …” etc. Any customer will be interested in what you’re doing to make him or her happy. The customer is already displeased with having no power so cut the chase and speak to your resolution
We also noticed that messages dropped even in odd times like midnight. What we do is work round the clock. We ensured we had someone who must be online at all times. Again, keep in mind you can’t address all person by person. But the percentage is that we must daily get that done by 80%
Allow me to share an old note I had with my team … it also can point us to scenarios and how we managed them…
Predicting scenarios and creating effective responses
The team came up with a couple of scenarios; some generic rather than issues. We will keep reviewing them as we come in contact with scenarios. Recall how we have now downplayed the word “fault” which is as a result of the frequency of such occurrences and how we continue to manage the problem. Silence isn’t all about PR…neither is speaking… we MUST speak or “ignore” when necessary.
Meanwhile, we are recommending holding a team ideation session when next we meet with… the objective is to “gist” while someone takes notes of experiences the team has had. This will generate scenarios and the communications team would work on the responses. Beginning of next quarter may be best for this.
Suggestion (if the fault is from DISCO, maybe the technical team or relevant team should be consulted). We do this already daily. Let’s not rest on our oars. Please, look up the right pronunciation of this word “oars”.
“Thank you for sharing this with us, Dan. We are sorry about your experience and will send our technical team to assess this. Again, thanks for bringing it to our attention. For future complaints, our care line xxxxx will be happy to hear from you. Please check your DM for the next steps.” This if you recall, we have started doing. After messages go out, we add a “sign off” where we add all our social media handles and contact number. This must not be downplayed, please.
If the Disco is not at fault, again as advised by the technical team, perhaps this would be fine:
“Thank you for sharing this with us, Dan. We are sorry about your experience. Our technical team has advised that you check XXXX. If the fault persists, reach our care line xxxxx. We will be happy to hear from you. Please check your DM for next steps. Again, thank you for bringing this to our attention”.
*Tips to help you stand out*
1. Speak courteously and clearly. Speak slowly and sometimes softly
2. A lady whose turn it was while I was at the Island District(during the customer service week), was skipped because she was on the phone. Once she was done, we apologised to her and said to her “sorry ma’am. You were still on your call when it was your turn, that’s why we asked the next person to approach the desk”. She was shocked and happy. Kudos to the Customer Care agent and the PRO. They were both on call that day. This gladdened my heart. We MUST watch out for the tiny details, ALWAYS.
3. We must speak in low tones around the premises. This practice will become second nature in no time. I was once shocked at a District. The shouts from staff outside were deafening and we had to come out to ask that they keep it low. I’m told that’s how it is in the mornings before they set-out.
4. Let your face and voice glow when a customer walks in. An old man said to a staff when he walked in “you’ve been the mystery voice calling me to ask if my meter has been fixed…” The man was just thrilled about the follow-up. He had a lot to say and I was happy he was given a listening ear. Let’s keep this up and kudos to Island team where this occurred.
5. We don’t have a toll free line. But let’s consider our CUG as a form of toll-free. Use it. Follow up. Call back. You will marvel at the joy and happiness you’d create. The PROs can testify. See everyone as IMPORTANT and give your best treatment.
6. Watch less of tv. Shocking right? If you must watch, soak up yourself in the news channels. You can never lose out by being informed. Read stories and links shared especially about the sector and company. We know sometimes we are ok by merely reading the headlines. The body may have what can make or mar us.
Allow me to remind you of some characteristics of a successful PR professional
• Flexibility. It’s difficult to come up with a career that demands as much flexibility as public relations. In my first visit to Agbara, I observed we were just speaking in the English language. Just as I was sharing my concerns with a colleague, a lady stood up and said the same thing. This is where an aspect of our being flexible comes in. Next time, we should speak in Yoruba or in Egun languages. I am excited my colleague has assured me we will explore this in places where such is needed.
• Meticulous learning. Becoming a well-rounded PR person is not a walk in the park…
• Collecting information…
• Seeing the bigger picture…
• Building relationships…
• Strong writing skills…
• Honesty… are all important to becoming a worthy professional.
Allow me to share this I found long ago while studying… *Some Skills you Need for a Career in Public Relations and Media*
• Honesty. In public relations, your reputation is key…
• Knowledge and research…just like what we are doing here.
• Relationship-building skills. Never underestimate the power of networking. Keep building and you’d marvel at what this can do. Also, stay in touch! Don’t call or reach your contacts only when you have a problem.
• Multi-tasking in a high-pressure work environment. No gainsaying the fact how much or how far this can go. Learn to work with your phone because it’s the only device that’s ALWAYS with you. I learnt this long ago. Sadly, I now look at my laptop with disdain. Oops!
• Attention to detail. Another trait.
• Adapts to change. This applies to us all. Our job here isn’t even 9-5! We work round the clock. I see us all. Keep it up. Rewards won’t miss you.
• Strategic thinking. The trick for me is I do drop notes or lines when I have the wave. Go back to your jottings and think them through. You will be shocked it came from you. I sometimes marvel at what I’ve penned down. Don’t kill the “Big Guy” in you. Feed it and grow it…and you will grow too.
• Social media savvy. If you’re not the oldie and you think you don’t need this, then hold on to your job and pray. The new world means you must be there. Today, to get a United States Visa, you must provide your social media handles. If President Trump is active and busy, then why not you. Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Be there!
Just as in life, it is in our job. Not all PR professionals are created equal.
Many people claim to be great at PR, but not everyone truly is. Genuinely talented PR pros have a few specific qualities that the average person doesn’t. They know what stories to pitch, their press releases are top-notch and they have media connections to spare because they’ve worked on building relationships, rather than blasting pitches. I said to a team member last week.
Luckily, the traits that every top-notch PR professional possesses can be learned. If you’re new to the profession, or just simply looking for tips to improve, then this post is for you. Endeavour to learn about some of the characteristics that can make the difference between a PR rep and a PR pro. They’re different. If you can succeed in this sector, then it will be a walk in the park anywhere else!
Are You a Modern Communicator? Try these for size…
1. Always Ready
The best PR pros are ready by monitoring opportunities with always-on technology. Armed with a smartphone, iPad and/or laptop, they can track the channels that matter most:
• Email alerts can notify you of important company messages, as well as opportunities through Help a Reporter (HARO), and Google alert.
• Media monitoring helps you track all of the news that’s important for your industry. Thanks to our formidable library team
• Social monitoring enables you to tap into opportunities when trending topics match your companies services.
One never knows when a high profile contact will be made or an unscripted moment of PR gold might happen, so make sure you have the right technology at your fingertips. Don’t mind me. Buy a good smartphone. You’d thank me later. No shades(hahahahahaha)
2. Audience Minded
PR pros have to know the customer base in order to determine the best types of stories to tell. Even so, not every tale will do. Having a nose for news and what consumers want to hear will help drive client coverage.
Even when pitching journalists, keeping the audience in mind is key. The news hook should be clearly stated. If the journalist can’t determine what your news is, how can you expect him/her to want to cover it? Your pitch should also be conversational. Don’t use jargon, it will prevent you from connecting with the journalist you’re targeting and the audience you hope to reach. This is why today we gift you one trick we have been using; write our release in a news format!
3. Great Storyteller.
This is one talent of a PR that will always ring true. Fantastic stories draw people in and stick with them long after they’ve moved on to something else. It is great to have a tale to tell, but a great storyteller can make almost any narrative seem interesting. Even when you seem to digress for effect or humour, ensure you come back strong. This can work wonders in meetings, especially with aggrieved individuals or communities.
4. Persuasive Prowess.
PR experts have to be able to do more than find interesting tales and tell them well, they have to be able to sell the narrative. The best PR pros can define a story, write it and present it in such a way that news agencies and other communications organizations pick it up and distribute it to a wider audience.
5. Connection Cultivator.
A good PR person will find the journalists and publications that are most likely to report on news within their specific clients’ industries. PR pros know who’s covering what and don’t waste their time trying to talk to the wrong people.
A targeted media database makes it easy to find relevant influencers. For example, the Disco doesn’t just invite anyone. We have those covering the sector or those whose passion it is around our sector on our speed dial. Try to find reporters who have recently mentioned selected keywords on Twitter or in their reporting when trying to build your database.
6. Punctuality Matters.
The media world is driven by deadlines, deadlines, deadlines! Being late can mean the difference between flying through the window of opportunity and crashing into the glass. Once PR pros agree to a deadline, they must move heaven and earth to meet it.
7. Willing to Learn.
PR pros who don’t make it a point to learn how the public relations world is advancing can expect to find their phone ringing less and less often. Today’s best PR people not only grasp the importance of social media strategies and mobile web, but they are also always looking towards the horizon to see the newest ways of reaching their audiences. Hey, even when the ball comes on your “personal line”, be honoured. Take it and answer.
8. Detail Oriented.
In this field, accuracy means everything. Good PR pros have developed methods to ensure their stories portray a positive image, while also containing accurate information. Don’t spread fake news by pitching a half-baked story! Make sure your own sources are reliable before you pitch journalists.
Globally, 75 per cent of journalists say that ensuring content is 100 per cent accurate is most important for their organization. Never drop a lie. They will find you. If not now, later.
9. Adventurous Attitude.
PR pros are confident. They don’t just seek out the same handful of media outlets, they also think outside the box. They take calculated risks in order to launch the organizations they represent into greatness. Consider other opportunities beyond traditional sources. But don’t forget to carry your supervisors along.
Podcasts, blogs, social media influencers and YouTubers are all new areas worth exploring for new PR opportunities.
This isn’t a comprehensive list — there are many ways to improve as a PR pro. Keep your skills sharp and don’t be afraid to try something new.