Philosophers define praxis as the theorization of practice and the practicalisation of theory. Exactly that is what Kabir Dangogo has done in his book, Beyond The Banking Hall. Dangogo in the 245-page book with the first 17 pages being for the credits, brought out how the theories or principles of public relations were turned into practice in banks thereby bringing up new vistas to the practice.
The book with 13 chapters started with From Journalism to Public Relations. In chapter two, Dangogo discussed Understanding Public Relations with Banking on Public Relations being the third as Handling the Bank CEO covered the fourth chapter along with The BON Voyage in chapter five which is followed by The Union Bank Case Study. Chapter seven is entitled Working with Union Bank CEOs. Chapter eight is Handling the Financial Community as Employee Communications and Bridge-Building is discussed in chapter nine. Chapters 10, 11, 12, and 13 are on Engaging with the Media, Corporate Marketing Communications, Government Relations, and Managing Professionalism respectively.
In the first chapter, Dangogo detailed how he started career as a teacher before moving to journalism through the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and later New Nigerian Newspaper. At the NTA where the author said his experience was largely smooth, rich and professionally rewarding, was involved in many things including events management, teaching and programme production as well as directing.
Hear him: “while at NTA, I also handled programmes production and directing. In between, I did some on-air work, including being the anchor person for NTA Verdict 83. I also participated in the NTA Verdict 79 with the late Senator Adamu Augie who was the chief anchor person at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) studios in Lagos.
After he transferred his services to the New Nigerian Newspaper (NNN) on January 2, 1985, the fire-brand in him as a journalist came to the fore as was the case with Lagos Weekly Times, later changed to Lagos Weekly Record formed on May 3, 1890 by Liberian-born businessman, John Payne Jackson. His son, Thomas Horatio Jackson later edited the newspaper after his father’s death. Dangogo’s fearless journalism at the NNN as was the case of Lagos Weekly Record got him into troubles with the power that be. It was not surprising that his detention by the authority at an army cell at Tego Barracks in Apapa where he spent the weekend of January 15, 1988, was not reported by the paper he edited. What an irony of life. His resignation from the NNN was more or less a good riddance to bad rubbish before being engaged by the United States Information Services where he cut his public relations teeth after disengaging from the Kaduna Polytechnic that offered him a stop-gap job after the NNN experience.
In the second chapter, Dangogo admonished public relations practitioners to understand that the difference between success and failure is the ability to communicate clearly and effectively and that a practitioner’’s messages should aim at influencing audience attitudes, opinions or behaviours rather than simply sending out press releases merely to increase the number of times his company gets mentioned in the press.
In the third chapter Dangogo examined the history of public relations in the banking industry in Nigeria. The examination took him to First Bank, Union Bank, United Bank for Africa, Afribank formerly International Bank for West Africa. The chapter also analyses banks slogans, banks’ branding, banker’s image, bankers’ code of conduct, bank fraud, and the race for capital. The following chapter tutored the practitioners on how to manage the CEO. It is a common saying in the corporate world that manages your boss. Dangogo has spelt out how to do it through different cases. In chapter five, The BON Voyage, the author showcased his experience at Bank of the North (BON), where he spent his first five cumulative years in public relations. The voyage at BON included how he professionalized the department, promoted the bank and managed crisis for the bank. The Union Bank Case Study continued in the same stride with The BON Voyage. Strategically, Dangogo, noted that the bank was very serious on financial public relations, media relations, crisis management, internal communication and community relations. The same, he said, the bank did to internal and external image surveys to keep track of the perception of its various publics and effectively used its unique customer care programme to enhance service rendition.
Continuing in the Union Bank experience, the former teacher shared his experience in working with different Chief Executive Officers of the bank including CEOs Muhammed Imam Yahaya and Godwin Oboh. He equally compared the styles of both. He submitted that while Yahaya was formal in his approach having come from Savannah Bank, Oboh,a UBN-grown CEO was informal.
Chapter eight gave the details of how to handle the financial community. He defined financial communication as the promotion of a company’s performance, behaviour and strategies to its shareholders.. The highpoint of the chapter is the difference between investor relations and financial public relations. Usually, practitioners have used the terms interchangeably, however, Dangogo drew the thin line difference between the two.
He noted that financial public relations ensures that company information gets communicated to the stock market, investors, financial analysts and the financial press while investor relations is the management of relations between a company and its shareholders, usually through the company secretary or the registrar.
On internal communications, the author in the ninth chapter entitled employee communications and bridge-building enjoyed public relations manager to always carry the staff along because nobody can do a job properly unless they know the background to its, he submitted. While paraphrasing Tony Greener in the book, Secrets of Successful PR, the author observed that internal communication helps to facilitate the management of change and motivates and gives incentives to employees. It also gives them a sense of belonging and helps them to understand “ and integrate with “ the organisation culture. Ultimately, this is what equips employees to deliver the organisation products and services.
On community relations (bridge-building), he underlined the challenge facing the practitioner to be the task of convincing his or her organisation to focus on tangible community development projects that can bring a good reputation to the organisation “ as opposed to projects that are of no consequence but in which top management may be interested.
The next chapter gave the tit-bits of media relations. He identified the usual clash between the public relations man and the media as a function of the clash of the headline and bottomline. While advising against brown envelope, he urged the practitioner to be professional in his dealings with the media. He also hinted that the practitioner should let his management know that he can not guarantee that a story will appear on the front page, that there will not be bad press and that journalists by nature are suspicious people. However, Dangogo noted that with professional handling of issues, the public relations manager will enjoy his media relations activities.
He proffered a golden rule. This is that the practitioner must show the media that he cares. And if he can not provide an answer for a question, he should be forthright.
On corporate marketing communications in chapter eleven, Dangogo revealed that presently as both an advertising and public relations executive, both functions have many in common but urged the practitioners to be distinguished in events management. Government relations, he noted is central to business growth and noted that any business that distance itself from government does so at its own peril. This was buttressed by the position of Alhaji Aliko Dangote, President of Dangote Group which he underlined. Equally, he urged practitioners to build trust with regulatory authorities so that in times of need, they will not be found wanting.
The last chapter is on managing professionalism. Dangogo charged public relations practitioners to manage their departments budgets very well as a great step towards professionalism. Also, the author noted that the public relations team should be well built for efficiency.
As the company is being managed, he urged the practitioners not forget to manage their own career and quoted the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, United Kingdom when managing your department in the best interest of your organisation, you should not neglect to manage your own career in your own best interests. The chapter ended with the story of the Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks (ACAMB) which Dangogo was its first president.
Well written prose, however, the book could be edited to moderate what appears to be indirect self-praise singing of the author. It is expected that if the book will be edited, it will detail the place of the apartheid South Africa in the history of the public relations department of Union Bank which had its name changed from Barclays Bank as detailed by Orraca-Tetteh in his book, Public Relations: A New Approach.
Also, one expects that the author being a trained teacher and an academic will provide a good bibliography. Apart from the fact that the bibliography was not well arranged, it also did not include all books consulted like Tony Greener’s book, Secrets of Successful PR credited on page 158 but had no space in the bibliography.
The book also have no space for those President of the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN), Emeka Maduegbuna called portfolio consultants in his lecture at Lagos State University in 2005. Maduegbuna defined portfolio consultants as those in-house managers who also have consulting firms thereby transferring what should have gone to consultants to their sister companies. May be it does not exist in banking on public relations. What about the seeming clash between consultants and in-house managers that Dangogo said in is remarks at the 1998 ACAMB programme on managing a bank’s image that consultants come in the first instance to show they are there to assist but in the long-run create the impression that your management does not have confidence in you?
Nevertheless, the book was rightly captured by Kaye Whiteman in his back-page comment that the author said it like it was. It is a must read not only to public relations teachers, students, and practitioners but also CEOs, management students, teachers, practitioners and consultants as the book being a praxis will help all to really understand public relations. This confirms the position of Mohammed Haruna in his own back-page comment that public relations is a powerful tool that the boss of any organisation will ignore only at his or her own peril!
One expects to see this book in international circles/libraries as another contribution of Africa to the genres of public relations literature as already done by Wole Adamolekun, Kunle Ogedengbe, and Y.A. Shuaib in far away library of the CIPR in London.
Kunle Ogedengbe is a Nigeria and United Kingdom-trained public relations specialist, and strategy practitioner.