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Appraising Adeniyi’s strategic media engagement for Nigeria Customs transformation

Media relations in Public Relations is about building relationships with members of the press. It refers to the mutually beneficial relationship between journalists and PR…

Media relations in Public Relations is about building relationships with members of the press. It refers to the mutually beneficial relationship between journalists and PR professionals. According to Obrien, A (2014), media relations is the systematic, well-planned, cooperative relationship and company interactions with journalists and the mass media, including television, newspapers and the internet.

Experts believe that media relations help build credibility, establish relationships, and manage crises. The practice shapes views, opinions and influences how members of the public perceive an entity. Positive media coverage can lead to increased support from stakeholders, while negative coverage can have the opposite effect.

To develop a successful media relations strategy, organizations must establish their communication foundation, define their messaging, and model their approach based on their target audience and the appropriate media outlets. In crafting the strategy, it is essential to start by defining the mission, core values, goals, and what your target audience needs to know.

Establishing messaging involves highlighting product or service benefits, showcasing your organization’s uniqueness, and finding ways to convey your message clearly and memorably. Consider who you’re trying to reach, where they can be reached, channels that best connects with your audience, the type of content, and the frequency of communication.

For a government agency like the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), tasked with the critical responsibility of securing the nation’s borders and facilitating trade, there has been a developmental and thoughtful style under the leadership of Acting Comptroller-General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi. One key element contributing to this transformation is the strategic use of media relations.

Since assuming office on June 19, 2023, he has embarked on a journey to improve the service’s efficiency through partnerships, cutting-edge technologies, including AI-driven solutions, and innovative initiatives that will shape the future of customs operations. His collaboration with experts seeks to help make decisions that will advance trade facilitation, bolster security, and enhance operational effectiveness.

The Ag. CGC’s 100-day expedition has underscored an unwavering dedication to unlocking the full potential of the NCS, which is founded on his agenda of fostering Collaboration, Consultation, and Innovation. Adeniyi has harnessed the power of media relations to enhance the functioning and the image of the service, while strengthening its relationship with the media.

In this era of 24/7 news cycles, where information spreads faster than wildfire, managing media relations becomes an art in itself; organizations need to position themselves at the epicenter of public interest. The media helps an organization or a leader to grow in different ways, thus it is important to identify media contacts for timely communication about their activities.

A former Customs Public Relations Officer, the Ag. CGC understands the importance of forging alliances with the media and does not shy away from the press. He long opened lines of communication with journalists and news outlets, ensuring that accurate information flows. Regular press briefings is the norm, with journalists getting firsthand brief of NCS operations.

Within a few days at the helm, Adeniyi convened a meeting with Customs Area Controllers in Zone ‘A’ and the Guild of Editors in Lagos on July 16, 2023. The parley laid the foundation for a more cordial partnership between the service and the media. The chief hailed the remarkable progress made by the customs over the years and expressed the desire to further join forces with the media.

“We are open to working with partners in bringing more comprehensive reports to let Nigerians know what our challenges are, what the gaps are, and what we can do to bridge those gaps to improve border security,” he said. This statement reflects willingness to keep the public updated; it demonstrates a recognition of the media’s role as a vital conduit of information.

In his remark on behalf of his colleagues, President of the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), Eze Anaba aptly characterized Adeniyi’s approach as a “refreshing development”. Emphasising the positive impact of such interactions, Anaba assured the customs of support from the association and harped on the use of key tools for effective channeling and media engagement.

Adeniyi also met with Public Relations Officers in Zone ‘A’ and maritime journalists in Lagos where he reiterated his commitment to transparency and strategic alliances. “I will open my doors to you; it’s going to be an open governance system. You will have the opportunity to contribute to the directions in which the customs would go while I am in charge,” he promised.

A notable achievement of the Ag. CGC’s leadership is the reinvigorated cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Transport to address the issue of port congestion. The Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Magdalene Ajani, and her team paid a visit to the Customs Headquarters in Abuja on July 6, 2023, to reaffirm their unwavering zeal to partnering with the NCS.

Reacting to Adeniyi’s call for urgent actions aimed at creating sufficient space at the ports, Ajani confirmed that the overtime cargo disposal committee was working to implement policies that will decongest the four major ports. She emphasized the significance of a sensitization exercise among stakeholders and members of the ports community.

The Customs chief also visited PRNigeria’s Abuja office where he acknowledged the firm’s fact-check reports somewhat influenced how his organization engages with social media users. “If you are talking about an award-winning master strategist, the name Yushau Shuaib comes to mind. There are a lot of things we can learn from him and benefit from working together as mutual partners in progress,” he noted.

Adeniyi is also consulting on matters of national security and the porous nature of the borders. On July 11, 2023, he visited the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, in Abuja, where he called for a joint approach to holistically tackle the menace of smuggling. His proactive engagement with the NSA demonstrates readiness to do all that is possible to protect the borders.

Furthermore, the Ag. CGC recognizes the immense influence social media wields and has deployed more hands to manage the service’s social media pages. He similarly encouraged the personnel to engage with citizens online, transforming an institutional façade into a human connection. To him, trust can be built with every post, tweet, comment and feedback.

As the Customs helmsman continues to build these bridges, it is expected that the service will not just be a symbol of security but a beacon of transparency and accountability. His journey with the NSC will be an epic tale of how effective communication can change the narrative as well as become a blueprint for leaders in navigating the turbulent waters of modern media.

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