STEMMING THE TIDE OF FAKE NEWS

The advent of the Social Media in the information exchange dynamics of our society has thrown up a phenomenon of fake news and hate speech, two monsters which have capacity to destroy society if not put in check.

Voluble comments have been generated in recent times by media analysts, government actors, professional and social groups on the challenges posed by these twin evils.

Apparently worried by the destructive tendency of fake news and hate speech, most especially as regulatory interventions are, for now, not available, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has spared no moment in campaigning against the use of both in traditional and social media. As a step forward, he, recently charged the directors-general of agencies under his Ministry to gird their loin for a ‘War’ against fake news and hate speech in their respective areas of authority.

Fake news is a brand of journalism which fabricates materials to perpetuate a preferred narrative suitable for political, financial or attention-seeking gain”. It came to spot light in the November 2016 Presidential election in the United States where clearly several people were unintentionally sharing articles full of misinformation. Advertisers also fell in line, using fake news advertently or inadvertently to amass media audience to the benefit of brands.

But it is not only in the US that fake news has played out. It has always been applied by competitors to de-market rival brands. Politicians have used it to run down the political assets of known figures. On many occasions in some time past were some political figures rumoured dead where in fact they were hail and hearty.

Nigerians are fresh with the Monkey Pox hoax which set all of South East and parts of South South of Nigeria in a pandemonium.

A major off shoot of fake news and probably hate speech is information vacuum. Nature abhors vacuum. Whenever and where ever there is a vacuum rumours or fake news fills it up.

To combat fake news circuit: public officers of government should be proactive in information management. Information managers or brand strategists should review all social media platforms to correct misinformation. Specialized information officers should be engaged to analyze and correct fake statements. Brand managers should create reliable and honest content true to their values.

Managers should build relationships over time and do not rely on one blogger or thought leader to promote the brand. Constant monitoring of the brand is required to forestall fake news sources and detect crisis situation in advance.

The integration of fact checking into Facebook’s publication platforms is on the way forward to identifying and reducing misleading spam posts in the news feed.

The original intention of social media networks was not to damage reputation but build it. Social media content creators and users must therefore exploit the positive values rather than the negative.

NATION BRANDING: STRATEGISTS SEEK WAYS FORWARD

Brand Strategists are fully aware of the economic value of brands and therefore manage them carefully. It is clear that a good brand name, be it product or corporate creates benefits to the bottom-line. Similarly countries desirous of survival in a competitive economic and political order must make deliberate and strategic efforts to cultivate positive image.

It was on this premise that marketing communication practitioners, entrepreneurs, officials of some government agencies, some present and past ministers etc got together recently, at the Oriental Hotel, Lekki, Lagos to brainstorm and share ideas on ways forward in projecting Nigeria as a brand.

The participants got together under the platform of a national branding conference, theme “A Catalyst for Development and Growth” organized by Brandzone Consulting to generate discussion on building a strong, positive and unified narrative of Nigeria which all citizens can be proud of and be identified with.

The conference highlighted Nigeria’s diverse development and growth endeavours in such areas as mining, agriculture, travel, hospitality, globalization, SMEs as economic growth engines, entertainment, media, fashion and lifestyle, all of which have recorded significant development, portrayed positive stories and growth opportunities for the nation.

It also explored the role of citizens in promoting the Nigerian national narratives by imbibing positive mind sets, promoting strong positive value systems and demonstrating love for the nation.

A key note address was presented by Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, Chairman, First Bank Nigeria Plc who reiterated the inherent values of a positive brand stressing the benefits Nigeria stands to gain with positive perception amongst the global community.

The first Plenary titled: Beyond the Age of Oil: Finding Growth Opportunities in Diversification explored the abundant opportunities in such fields as tourism,Hospitality, solid minerals mining, taxation etc. The participants noted that the capacity of Nigeria, given its abundant human and material resources, was being undermined by poor perception of her as a bad brand in the estimation of the international community. Branding is therefore required to bring up her areas of strength to counter the poor perception.

Facilitators of this session included: Dr. Andrew Nevin, Chief Economist, PWC West Africa; Dr. Okey Enelamah, Minister of Trade/Investment (represented); Senator Niyel Imoke – Former Governor of Cross River State; Dr. Kayode Fayemi – Minister of Solid Minerals (represented); Dr. Oby Ezekwesili – Co-Founder, Transparency International and former Minister of Solid Minerals and Mr. Abubakar Sule - Executive Director, Sterling Bank Plc.

The second Plenary titled: From Local to Global: Harnessing Growth Opportunities Through Brand Export assessed the performances of Nigerian Brands that have developed capacity to operate in the international markets. Such brands as Dangote, Zenith Bank, UBA, GTBank etc were cited. A representative of Dangote Group, Mr Dare Ojeikere, who was a facilitator in the plenary narrated his company’s experience in operating in the international arena. He made the participants to understand that playing in the international markets required vision and a great deal of determination to succeed in the face of all odds.

Facilitators of this session included: Chizor Malize – Managing Partner, Brandzone Consulting LLC; Hajia Lami Tumaka – Director, External Communications & Technical Cooperation, NIMASA; Dr. Sean McCoy – Group CEO, HKLM; Dare Ojeikere – Chief Marketing Officer, Dangote Group; Olusegun Awolowo jnr – Executive Director/CEO, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, represented and Lampe Omoyele – Managing Director, 141 Worldwide Limited

The third Plenary: Breaking New Grounds: SMEs as Economic Growth Engine

In this plenary, the facilitators who are mainly operators of small and medium enterprises narrated their experiences in operating in the Nigerian environment. Key issues raised include: difficulty in securing start up fund from banks, harsh operational environment, power shortage and counterfeiting of their products. Their narration was that it is extremely difficult to navigate a business from start up to maturity and transit to medium scale in Nigeria. Those of them who managed the process had a lot of story to tell.

Facilitators of this session were: Ndidi Nwuneli – Co-Founder, AACE Foods; Tara Fela – Durotoye – Founder/CEO, House of Tara International; Toyosi Kolawole – CEO, Audeo Clothing Limited; Seyi Abolaji – Co-Founder, Wilson’s Juice Company; Sadiq Abubakar – Managing Consultant, KRC Consulting Services Limited; Kyari Abba Bukar – Chairman, Nigerian Economic Summit Group

The fourth Plenary: The Business of Entertainment Maximizing Opportunities in Entertainment, Media Fashion and Lifestyle was anchored by players in the entertainment industry in Nigeria. The session brought to the fore the potentials of the industry in Nigeria which could be exported to add to the brand Nigeria.

The facilitators were: Femi Osinubi – Partner/Head, ICT & Entertainment Group, PWC West Africa; Omoyemi Akerele – Founder & Artistic Director, Style House Files; Atunyota Akpobome – President, Ali Baba Hiccupuray3rd; Obi Asika – Founder & CEO, Dragon Africa and Biola Alabi – Founder/MD, Biola Alabi Media.

The second day of the conference was a workshop. Participants were grouped and assigned topics relevant to Nation Branding to discuss and make presentations to a larger group.