Rasheed Bolarinwa, an experienced Public Relations and Brand Management professional, is the Head of Corporate Communication, Skye Bank Plc and the Secretary General of Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks (ACAMB) in Nigeria. In this interview with Vincent Utere and Nsikak Daniels, he shares his thoughts on the challenges of new communication platforms, contributions of ACAMB to the banking industry in Nigeria and on other Public Relations issues.
- You are Head of Corporate Communication, Skye Bank Plc. How would you describe your role?
My role encapsulates a whole lot. But principally, I am the image custodian of the bank, covering product, service and corporate dimensions. I handle everything that has to do with the image of the bank. I speak for the bank, where necessary, with the responsibility of explaining to both internal and external stakeholders issues of primary concern and attending to enquiries from the media and other stakeholders both home and abroad. It is a huge responsibility. But, to the glory of God, we have been able to give it our best shot.
- Are unique techniques required when practicing Public Relations in the financial sector?
What the financial sector relies on mostly is trust. As a PR person in a financial institution, part of what you bring to the table is your media contacts; goodwill and knowledge of the media industry. Beyond that, you must be abreast of developments in the financial industry. You must relate with relevant departments within your institution for information to enable you function effectively when the need arises. Whatever information you receive should be processed and presented to stakeholders rightly through the media in a way that is easily understood and usable. You must also be abreast of what is going on at micro and macro levels; same goes for conversations on your brand in the digital space. And when there are issues, you need to come out forcefully and timely to explain to stakeholders. No unique PR techniques are required, but understanding of the unique circumstances in the financial industry when applying the usual techniques is crucial to success.
- What are the latest PR trends in your industry?
The latest trends generally seem to be specialization with strong emphasis on challenges posed by digital and social media intrusion, and the need to leverage it maximally to optimize and accentuate visibility and enhance equity. Digital PR is coming out very strong. As a PR or Communication practitioner, you must be abreast of the tools and also develop the required skills set in order to confront the emerging threats. The power of communication has moved into the hands of media consumers. There is little or nothing brand custodians and those who manage the image of corporations could do to prevent people from discussing, and, in extreme cases, attacking their brands. What you could do is to be on top of the discussions; do lots of social listening; nourish and sustain your contacts so that you can act swiftly to protect your brand and manage issues when the need arises.
- Do you see these new communication platforms as presenting specific challenges to the banking industry?
Yes. Today, the first thing an unhappy customer in your banking hall would do is to go on Twitter and report whatever he is unhappy about. And you just can’t imagine the reach of such comments. Now, your social listening skills have to be on high alert, and monitoring mechanism and process of the digital platforms have to be very strong. You must have a robust digital and social media desk that picks up what is going on in your digital and social space at any given point in time for immediate action and management. Managing communication and protecting your brand is now a 24/7, 360 degrees job.
- You left some footprints in the insurance sector. Tell us more about it.
Before insurance sector, I worked in the media for almost a decade and had a short stint, 10 months stay in GSE sector. But working in the insurance sector was a defining moment. In fact, I am always nostalgic whenever Cornerstone Insurance is mentioned. I was there for five years and four months. And within that period, I was able to oversee two critical milestones – the consolidation of the insurance sector and the arrival of a new investor,African Capital Alliance which bought controlling stakes leading to the major rebranding of the underwriting giant.
The company sent me to the United Kingdom for a high level Brand Management Training to equip me with relevant knowledge and skills to oversee the rebranding project of the company. I came back to oversee the process which was handled by an international firm. It was an enriching experience.
During the consolidation exercise, the PR strategies we deployed germinated, and we had an oversubscription for Cornerstone Insurance shares. As a matter of fact, the Nigeria media, through the Guild of Editors, ranked Cornerstone Insurance as the company with the highest visibility at the time. And this was largely driven in-house under my leadership. We never hired an external PR agency. Everything was done in-house through the Corporate Communications; and later, of Brand management department, as the department was renamed. Cornerstone Insurance played a very big part in my career development.
- Is PR practice in insurance and banking sectors the same?
I would say that the width and depth of the practice in the banking sector is higher than in insurance; perhaps, largely due to the size, depth of budget available to the former. Besides, the value C-suites in banking sector attaches to PR is higher than their counterparts in the insurance sector.
- You were recently appointed Secretary General of Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks (ACAMB). How do you cope with the demands of your job and that of the new appointment?
ACAMB was set up in 1996 by the Chief Executive Officers of banks to protect the reputations of banks by engaging stakeholders, resolving issues that may arise therefrom and helping them understand the workings of banks in order to win their understanding and support. It has the backing of Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria.
My position in ACAMB does not affect my job in Skye Bank Plc. It is not an executive job. Every bank is represented in ACAMB’s Exco. I am only privileged to be the Secretary General, and I’m happy to play my part to justify the confidence my colleagues have in me.
- A recent report ranks Public Relations as the 8th most stressful job in the world. How do you manage stress to cope with the rigours of your job?
I am passionate about and I enjoy what I do; aside the fact that I’m blessed with a robust team which makes my work easier. I rest when there is time to do so. I strive to manage my time well. I create time for my family. Most of all, I create time for strength-building, engaging in aerobics exercises such as jogging and cycling.
- That brings us to another important question. We discovered recently that you were highly celebrated by Oshogbo Affairs Forum. Tell us more about your engagement with the forum.
I love my town, Osogbo very much. A friend of ours floated the idea, invited me and few others.We signed up and came on board same day to form an umbrella body of professionals who are indigenes of Oshogbo in order to make our little contributions to the development of the town more enduring outside our individual supports to our respective extended families. And on February 4, 2017, this year, the Forum was born.
I have tremendous love for my town. In my faith, the love for your town is a part of godliness. So, we felt we needed to give the body a strong push from the little time that we don’t have. And I must say that I have been overwhelmed by the love I’ve received for my little effort so far. I could only assure them of my availability whenever I’m called upon.