Mr Aliu Akoshile, the Group Managing Director of Folio Communications Plc, publishers of Daily Times newspapers, in this interview with a team of journalists, revealed what he has been doing to rebrand the media organisation.
What is the idea behind the recent launch of a rebranded Daily Times?
The rebranding was predicated on the realisation that, at a stage in the life cycle of a product, there would be the need to re-jig it.
This can be attributed to changes in the ecosystem, that is environmental conditions, or certain internal degeneration that would have taken place, especially for a brand that is inching towards a century.
There is no denying the fact that a product must experience certain modifications in its architecture or physiology. It is also true of human beings when we advance in age.
Therefore, the objective was to ensure that the Daily Times – Nigeria’s oldest surviving newspaper – is repositioned to overcome the challenges of the new media ecosystem and also be able to optimise value, both for the society and the shareholders.
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As you know, the publication was 94 years old in June; and this is about the fifth time or so that the masthead would be changed. The underlining basis is that at critical times, a product manager must know when there is the need to rejuvenate a brand. This is very necessary, more so, now that we are talking about a product that is heading towards the centenary. Our mission is to begin in a modest way, the process towards the centenary celebration of the Daily Times, by placing the readers or consumers at the centerpiece of it all. Of course, we have to start with the basics, which is typography of the mast, as well as the layout and design. Then all other things will follow, as we move ahead.
Would it be correct to say that this decision was based on research findings; or was it just by the assumptions of the management?
Yeah, it can be both ways. If you are managing a product, first of all, you have a better knowledge of it, based on the fact that you are the one getting feedbacks from the public on a day-to-day basis. You are also monitoring the performance of the product, which is another way of feedback. But beyond that, we made a conscious effort to poll opinions of critical stakeholders. Basically, we took decision based on internal and external validation of the need to rebrand and reposition the products.
How total would the rebranding be?
Let me also say the new process we commenced is not only about the product, it is like the process of transformation, the renewal of both the corporate and the products. Recently, a new Board of Directors was constituted for the company. The seven-member board is chaired by Mr Sam Worlu, a distinguished diplomat and former director-general of the Voice of Nigeria (VON). Secondly, a new Editorial Board was also put in place. It is composed of very sound academics: 11 of them – seven professors, three PhD holders. We also have the Editorial Board adviser, Professor George Obiozor, an eminent diplomat and former director- general of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA). We plan to have two or three advisers at that level.
Our new structure projects the group, as well as subsidiary companies and products. And we are hiring competent staff into various roles and raising the standard in the industry.
We are strategically reactivating the products. The flagship title, the Daily Times, is the primary focus. We changed the masthead to a classic typeface in burgundy colour. The inner pages are all reflecting the new design. That implies that the entire product is being rebranded.
I must emphasise that internally, we are also ensuring that our processes, values, culture, everything has to change. We have designed new policies, which are being implemented from top to the bottom.
Our ultimate goal is to present the Daily Times brand, even though it is the oldest in the industry, as a credible voice and project its traditional reputation as a fearless and authoritative newspaper.
We plan to execute the rebranding in phases. This is just the beginning.
What new values will readers derive from these moves?
Ultimately, the process itself is tailored at putting consumers in the proper perspective. We live in an era where fake news has become the new normal. Our paper, which has lived through different phases of our nationhood, is a mature publication that everyone should have total confidence in.
Our readers will definitely be getting lots of value because we are not limiting our contents to the hardcopy. As we speak, we have a virile online presence: www.dailytime.ng that is actively engaging the youths. We have a mobile app that enables people to consume our contents on the go. So we are moving ahead of digital disruption and adapting to the new normal in news gathering, processing and consumption. We have captured all these in our growth plans and would be deploying them to offer value to our readers and clients.
Daily Times also rebranded about a year ago, is it not too close to embark on another programme like that? What are the implications?
What we did about a year ago wasn’t really rebranding. We only identified some quick wins that would give us the leverage to offer new incentives to the public and take some values. We tweaked the layout slightly without necessarily changing the design. What we did is not similar to what we are doing now. If you see the layout and the design we have done, you will see that it is totally different. It is also unique in the media industry today. You can see that the masthead has a lot of air around it. What we did last year was like a teaser, in advert campaign parlance.
Would you say the rebranding had any consideration for COVID-19?
There is no business in the world today that is not responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has changed the face of business, in many instances. It has altered so many things permanently. That is why the concept of the new or next normal has come up. The way of doing things has changed. You can see that even the press briefing I addressed yesterday was virtual, unlike in the past when you had to invite people to a conference room, and all that. People linked up from all parts of the country. That is the new normal.
We started our rebranding before the advent of COVID-19. I mean the idea started before COVID-19, it is coincidental that we now have to start the process. The benefit also is that the pandemic has introduced new dimensions into our initial thought process. Now, we focus more on the concept of distancing. Ordinarily, we would invite people to come and unveil the new masthead, but it was done digitally.
As I said, COVID-19 has impacted businesses all over the world. It has affected the way marketing communication is being projected in the last few months globally. Now people have to make purchases online and physical stuff are bearing the brunt. Even as little as consumer items like foodstuff, everything is being ordered online now. You need some fish, tubers of yam, or whatever, you could place order online and it is delivered to you. Of course, for marketing communication, the threat is there. But with innovation and creativity, there is always a way out on solution. The market is not closed. It is just that you have to respond swiftly and in such a way that the clients see value in what you are doing.