Ahmed Kotb is an Egypt-based journalist, communications and PR professional. He has years of experience cutting across institutions and organisations.
We caught up with Kotb, who provides deep insights into what it takes to excel in Africa’s public relations space.
BEA: What was it like handling communications and PR for Ahram Canadian University?
Ahmed Kotb: I started working at Ahram Canadian University at a time when there was a great shift in higher education in Egypt. It was a time that private educational universities were striving to gain public trust as entities that could deliver high-quality education equal to that which can be found in the best public universities.
Hence, there was a need for a communication and media relations strategy, beginning with a strategic message development that included strong content generation and public relations efforts to engage the public and stakeholders.
These efforts included special events that engaged current and potential national and African students, local and international partners, meetings with different media outlets, and writing press releases to convey necessary information about the latest projects, initiatives, and achievements.
BEA: What’s the most unique thing about PR in Africa?
Ahmed Kotb: Africa consists of 54 countries, each with its unique media landscape. This is due to the diversity in media ownership and the availability of unpaid and paid coverage depending on each market.
Some areas in each country enjoy access to Radio, TV, print and internet, while others don’t, and localising media content is harder in Africa than other continents due to the different views and interests in each market’s unique culture.
Cultural differences and rapid technological and economic growth in Africa are very important to take into account in any communication strategy, making the need for quality public relations essential.
Africa is filled with opportunities for communications and public relations with its rapid economic and social development, but only for those willing to adapt to the local needs and approach the market accordingly.
Public relations in Africa needs to take into account the interpretation of local people, find the right language and tone, and address their specific needs wisely. Thus, employing local talents would sometimes be more effective than just hiring a foreign consultant, which is something that can often work elsewhere.
Understanding the diversity in Africa with its various ethnic groups, especially cultural and religious practices, is very important when planning a campaign to make sure no one is offended and to stay socially responsible.
Caring about reputation is extremely important in Africa, especially with the ongoing changes and growth potential of many African countries.
Political, cultural, and socio-economic issues in Africa are complex and diverse. A careful understanding of these issues will contribute to the effectiveness of public relations objectives.
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BEA: Do you see a common ground for journalism and PR in Africa?
Ahmed Kotb: Partnership and rivalry define the relationship between journalism and public relations in Africa. However, highlighting key differences and similarities is important.
Although they both gather information to present to the target audience, their motives can differ. Journalists don’t focus specifically on a particular target most of the time, as they think of the direct interest of the public when they publish their work. On the other hand, public relations practitioners have a specific goal, such as convincing their target audience of an idea, brand, product, or service.
One of the main differences between both professions is objectivity. Although sometimes we see journalism take a stance on a certain issue, the norm is that an objective approach should always be taken. Public relations on the other hand are normally subject as convincing the target audience with an idea, brand, product or service is the ultimate goal.
However, both professions share the need to communicate properly, research and gather information that is relevant to the target audience and attend to their needs, and have good writing skills.
Journalists and public relations professionals in Africa both constantly communicate with the public and tell their stories while building credibility and trust with the audience. They both also try to present their information in a stable way to deliver the message effectively and avoid confusion.
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