Media awards for journalists have become a ritual on both the local and international scene, with laurels being given annually to winners in the print and electronic media. As the 2011 edition of the Nigerian Media Merit Award looms, Raheem Akingbolu writes on how the exercise has helped in sustaining standards in the industry
In recent times, submissions for awards have provided opportunities for journalists to measure their performance and quality of work. In Nigeria, aside the Nigerian Media Merit Award and Diamond Award for Media Excellence (DAME), which are the two most respected awards for recognising the work of journalists, there are others sponsored annually by corporate organisations like Nigerian Breweries, CitiBank, Promasidor and Friesland Campina to reward excellence in the industry.
Speaking at the 19th edition of the Nigerian Media Merit Award at the Nike Lake Resort Hotel, Enugu, last year, the chairman of board of trustees of NMMA, Alade Odunewu, said that the annual awards for media professionals was aimed at promoting excellence in the media and also to foster unity amongst media institutions and the society at large.
On the international scene, there is also the CNN Multichoice Award which started in 1995, with its own awards instituted for the whole of Africa. From the beginning, the organisers have clearly stated that their mission was to encourage, promote and recognise excellence in African journalism.
In one of its statements, the group wrote of its motivation as coming from one of its regional director, Edward Boateng. It wrote: "In the early 90s Edward Boateng, then Regional Director of Turner Broadcasting (CNN's parent company), was travelling around the African continent on business. During his travels he became concerned about the lack of respect journalists received and he decided to try and help them gain recognition for their hard work and commitment."
A similar award is the Diageo Africa Business Reporting Award, which was instituted in 2004 to recognise journalists and editors who provide high quality coverage of the business environment in Africa.
Beyond its mission to reward excellence, NMMA has suddenly become a unifying force as the organisers now rotate the award ceremony around the geo-political zones of the federation.
Odunewu explained in an interview recently that the first 10 editions were held in Lagos where there is a large concentration of the media, but that at the investiture of former President Olusegun Obasanjo as grand patron of NMMA, he suggested that the event should rotate to the states.
For many journalists, who have been consistent in submitting entries for the award every year, it has been discovered that many do so because they hope it would help in opening doors for them in advancing their careers. Also, some had expected that it would add to their Curriculum Vitae and, or even help in getting better employment and in attracting scholarships for them.
There are yet others who believe that submissions for such awards were their own way of trying to build confidence in the profession. On the one hand, they believed that winning the awards will give them more confidence in doing more difficult and unique stories. On the other hand, they felt that even when they did not win, they got a sense of accomplishment that they rubbed shoulders with the best as a measuring rode. They maintained that in whichever way, the awards would spur them on to aim higher in subsequent works.
Mr. Ademola Adedoyin, managing director of Messages, a public relations outfit, which twice won the Energy Correspondent of the Year at the NMMA, said the thought that he was competing used to gear him up while writing in those days to be factual and thorough. "Winning the NMMA is no small feat, it was one of my landmark achievements as a journalist and till date, I still appreciate the award. In view of this, I will urge the organisers to sustain the standard to enhance international respect," Adedoyin said.
Another former winner of the award, who is currently the Commissioner of Information in Ogun State, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu attested to the fact that the award encourages professionalism. Olaniyonu, who had in the past won the Political Reporter of the Year, said that it was always the target of up-coming journalists, when he was growing up on the job, to win either the CNN/Multichoice Award or NMMA because of the respect they both command.
A total of 471 journalists sent in 726 entries for this year's edition of the award ceremony, which would be hosted by the Ondo State Government. Chairman, panel of judges for this year's edition, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, who disclosed this recently, added that they would slug it out with each other in 49 categories.
In preparation for the award, the Ondo State Government has set up a local organising committee, headed by the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, with a view to ensuring a hitch free event.
Speaking on behalf of the organisers at a press briefing in Lagos last Tuesday, the general administrator of the award, Mr. Eniola Ashaolu said since the event was a media event, it had become imperative for media owners and other stakeholders to be co-opted. To this end, he disclosed that the president of the Newspaper Proprietors' Association of Nigeria, Mr. Nduka Obaigbena, has been penciled down as one of the people that would give keynote address at the ceremony.
Meanwhile, the Award Nominating Panel, which is the body responsible for recommending nominees, has been changed to Panel of Assessors. Besides, five new trustees have been appointed to the board. They include Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Alhaji Bello kankarofi and Professor Ralph Akinfeleye, among others.
Now That La Casera is Ten
When it was launched 10 years ago, none of the existing beverages or their promoters saw it as a threat. In name, personality and approach to the market, La Casera, from the stable of Classic Beverages Nigeria Limited, didn't pass any message of a brand that had come to change anything in the market. It came humbly with little or no advertising support but relied on direct marketing and street hawking.
Ten years down the line, the brand has not only got a story to tell but has successfully challenged the status quo and put market leaders, including Coca Cola on their toes. Two things that made its journey in the soft drink market easy lie in its unique taste and pioneering appearance in PET bottles, that could be taken away and disposed-off by consumers.
As a result of this, members of the public, who were on the go were quick to shift their loyalty to La Casera, while in transit. Unfortunately, the taste, which later became a selling point, was at the initial stage criticised as unfriendly. Then, it was common to hear some consumers complained that one easily reached the point of satisfaction, when it has not been consumed to the last drop.
But in the last few days, handlers of the brand have begun to roll out the drums to mark its 10th anniversary celebration. The high point of the ceremony was the launch of a new bottle, which was conceived to revamp the brand and makes it more attractive.
Over the last ten years, La Casera has wormed its way into the minds of consumers and has built strong brand equity through various consumer engagements and trade support programmes. The Apple flavor, which is the flagship brand of the stable, has garnered and maintained its position as one of the leading brands among consumer soft drink choices, experiencing strong demand and visibility nationwide. La Casera is available in Apple, Cream Soda, Classic Cocktail and Spanish Pear flavors.
Since its introduction into the market, the company has built an effective business relationship with its trade partners by helping them to make profits whilst also rewarding their efforts. Recently at the 2011 edition of the Dealer's Conference, the company rewarded over 214 dealers with 65 cars including overseas trips, while others won prizes like laptops, computers, and motorcycles.
As part of its goal to connect with its consumers and add value to the environment in which it operates, the company has been in the frontline of supporting beauty pageants in Nigeria since 2007, by crowning its brand ambassador known as Miss La Casera. It also utilises this platform as a corporate social responsibility vehicle to reach out to the less privileged and the needy in the society.
Classic Beverages Nigeria Limited has been partnering with the Silverbird Group, to promote the Most Beautiful Girl Beauty Pageant in Nigeria (MBGN). This fascinating deal involves a cash prize and lots of other benefits from the company. The reigning brand ambassador and current Miss La Casera 2011, Miss Nwando Ebeledike who was crowned in June 2011, is a graduate of the London Business School.