Joyce Onyegbula is a seasoned corporate communications strategist who has worked with leading brands such as Lafarge and Greenwich Bank.
Onyegbula’s proven ability to deliver commercial and operational goals through integrated communication strategies has made her a notable name in the industry.
Business Elites Africa sat with Onyegbula on career-building and winning communication strategies for scaling brands.
BEA: How did your career in Corporate Communications begin. Is that what you have always wanted to do?
Joyce Onyegbula: I have always been a creative at heart. As a child, I would read novels, short stories and poetry. Then I will try to write my own stories from my learnings. As I grew older, I used writing to destress. In fact at some point in my life, I wrote more than I spoke. I found it a lot easier to articulate my thoughts on paper than talk about it.
As I ventured into the world of work, I naturally gravitated to areas that allowed me to leverage my creative side. I also volunteered for causes that strengthened my communication skills. I honestly do not think being in Corporate Communications is coincidental; rather I think it’s just answering an innate call. It’s in my purpose, I will say. It uses my gift to shape brand narratives, support worthy causes and honour the world with my best self.
BEA: Have you had moments you doubted your career choice?
Joyce Onyegbula: Yes, there have been many moments I thought I was headed in the wrong direction. Pivotal moments when I felt completely vulnerable and unsure. Points when I even doubted my ability to make a positive impact and lasting change in shaping brand narratives and enabling business outcomes through communication strategies. What has helped me, though, is that I keep a journal and a gratitude manual.
This helps me keep my career journey in perspective and reminds me of how far I have come in spite of the headwinds. Additionally, I have a close-knit support system that includes family, friends, mentors, cheerleaders and advocates who “have my back” and keep cheering me on even when I literally want to “throw in the towel”.I call them “my tribe”. They help me remain focused when doubt comes knocking. All these, plus the undeniable possibilities available to brands when they appropriately leverage communication strategies, keep me persistent in my career journey.
BEA: As a marketing communications expert, what strategies will you deploy for a failing brand?
Joyce Onyegbula: My starting point will be to re-assess product-to-market as well as the timing of product deployment. This is premised on the understanding that brands exist to offer solutions. So if the proposed solutions aren’t meeting a need, then, of course, the brand may fail. I will subsequently review product differentiation. Important questions will include how this product is necessarily different from the competition and the unique value proposition. Additionally, I will review touch points the brand had previously leveraged. Were those touch points actually in sync with the target demography? I will also obtain market insight/ competitor intelligence to better understand their positioning strategy, which may have given them an edge over the failing brand. Armed with information from the aforementioned information, I will revisit the overall brand strategy to reposition the brand to gain inroads into the market. If, however, available information shows the brand has no real sustained value to the client, my advice will be for the business to pivot and do a complete brand “makeover”.
BEA: What are the challenges you’ve surmounted in your career?
Joyce Onyegbula: The career journey is replete with its fair share of ups and downs, and mine is no exception. When I ventured into the world of work, I was very young, and it was quite an issue to a number of prospective employers who felt I was still a tad too “school girly”…….(smile). I have had the privilege to work across sectors like manufacturing, information technology and services, aviation, and knowledge management, among others, and because these sectors are very different, navigating my roles in these spaces provided very challenging opportunities to learn, grow and add value. I have also had a stint as an entrepreneur, and that too came with its fair share of challenges, from sourcing operating capital, prolonged wait for clients to pay, vendors sometimes cutting back on credit facilities to manpower gaps. In all, it’s been a richly rewarding journey, and I remain grateful to have walked these pathways. It has given me depth and a healthier paradigm in my career journey.
BEA: Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently from when you started?
Joyce Onyegbula: Very early in my career, I was more comfortable writing than speaking. So I could sit in meetings for hours without saying a word. In retrospect, I realised I missed out on a number of opportunities as my introverted nature was misinterpreted. With the benefit of hindsight and given what I know now, I think I would not have missed some of those opportunities if I gave voice to my thoughts in meetings. I should have stepped out of my comfort zone and aired my views. Today, even though I am still deeply introverted, I express my opinion on issues clearly. I take up my space and give voice to my thoughts persistently but thoughtfully.
BEA: How do you deal with failure?
Joyce Onyegbula: Failure is a critical part of human existence that has great lessons to teach us if we pay attention. For me, I acknowledge failure and give myself time to process the experience. I then take learnings from experience for continuous improvement and focus on improving future outcomes.
BEA: What are the high points of your current role?
Joyce Onyegbula: The opportunity to leverage communication tools to enable financial solutions to reach a wider audience and, by extension, improve the trajectory of both personal and institutional finance is the biggest motivation in my current role. It is a role that helps me shape outcomes that have far-reaching implications for the financial well-being of Nigerians.
BEA: In your opinion, what are the qualities a good entrepreneur must possess?
Joyce Onyegbula: A good entrepreneur must be able to communicate effectively. To win in business, you need people, and you have to be able to convince them to journey with you by communicating a compelling vision. A good entrepreneur must also be resilient. Entrepreneurship is replete with twists and turns. However, a healthy dose of resilience is required to surmount the challenges of building a lasting enterprise. You must also be willing to take calculated risks to push the frontiers of the business.
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