Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo: Do the math – Is N300 million for Ministry of Information PR really a big deal?

by Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo

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However, a little investigation will go a long way in determining the veracity of the estimated sum. We can only ask that the Government be held accountable for every dime spent. That, not sensationalism, is what we expect from the media.
Image is an important part of life. We all know this. What we see often determines quite a lot. This is why they say first impressions last forever. The image I have in my head of a person I haven’t met in real time will depend for instance on what on things like what people say about him, what is written about him and probably what he says about himself. This is why Newspapers, Televisions and Radio station play a major role in the orientations of people, and nations.
To this end, it is no secret that Africa’s image and Nigeria’s in particularly in Foreign nations and Media is a terrible one riddled with scenes of hunger and deprivation, HIV/AIDS, incessant violence, mutiny, Rape and child molestation… the list is endless. In the past, the Average American or European would think of Africa only as poor.
Look no further than the recent Justie Sacco infamous tweet. Sacco tweeted “Going to Africa; Hope I don’t get Aids. Just kidding. I’m White”. What makes this so bad is the fact that she is a PR person (until she was sacked, she was the Communications Director, of a media brand no less) who understands the nitty-gritty of imaging.  And although she received widespread condemnation, one can only imagine the several number of others like her out there.
So because of people like these, nation branding has become important. The reputation of a nation can dramatically influence its success in attracting tourism and investment capital, exports, attracting a talented and creative workforce, Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment.
It is also referred to as Public Diplomacy and a specie of soft power which is the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as a means of persuasion. The success of soft power depends heavily on the actor’s reputation within the International community, as well as the flow of information between actors. China is a perfect example. South Africa has also deployed the Mandela brand so effectively.
So I was a little disappointed that a Nigerian media house will consider the effort of the Government at enhancing Nigeria’s image in the International community with a form of question mark. The Punch on Tuesday reported that the Federal Ministry of Information intends “to spend N300 million in 2014. on external publicity/media insertions in foreign print and electronic media in selected cities”.
The budgeted sum is to be spent on “engagement with foreign news agencies and production of specialised publicity materials for foreign audience.”
While there was no direct accusation in the report; there was an indirect questioning of the N300 million. One would have expected the Punch in its investigative journalism responsibilities to have done a simple analysis of the cost of advertising in foreign media over the course of a year and telll the reader whether the estimated sum is outrageous or not rather than leaving the Nigerian readers (who as we know are always in search of something for which to pounce on the government) guessing.
These two examples will help clear your mind as to the directions the Government intends to take in 2014.
In 2011, there was a report that the South Korean Presidential Council budgeted an estimated sum of 100 Billion Won ($81 Million) on branding in Foreign Media (source: http://knowledge.wharton.uppen.edu).
As far back as 2009, there was a report in the South China Morning Post (China’s most read National Newspaper) that the Chinese Government planned to spend 45billion Yuan ($6.6 billion) in both local and Foreign Media to help improve the countries image (source: http://scmp.com). Should we consider China’s place in the global market today, I daresay it is a worthy investment.
The N300 million budgeted by the Ministry of Information amounts to about $1.8 million. Put that side by side with the South Korean and Chinese experiments and the ambition is clear.
Let us also take a look at the advert rates in one of the most popular television networks in the World and the image of the N300 million is simpler.
The cheapest advert rate for Africa in the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is   $80 which when converted into naira is N12,784.  Most of these types of nation branding adverts run on these news networks at least once every day. Multiply N12,784 by 365 days and the result is  N4.6 million. The most expensive rate goes for $210. Do the same process as above and the annual cost is a whooping  N12.2 million (http://www.advertising.bbcworldwide.com).
Assuming the Federal Government intends to run these adverts in say 20 TV stations around the world (of course it will be more than that) and using the cheapest of the BBC rates: 20 multiplied by N4.6 million will amount to N92 million excluding tax.
Include the cost of running ads in Radio stations and Newspapers, the cost of Exclusive Interviews and printing of branding materials and the N300 million is not even outrageous.
The bottomline is simple: evidently, the manner at which the Government releases bogus and outrageous sums in budgets over the years has resulted in people lacking trust in government figures.
However, a little investigation will go a long way in determining the veracity of the estimated sum. We can only ask that the Government be held accountable for every dime spent. That, not sensationalism, is what we expect from the media.
Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo is a student of the Nigerian Law School and he tweets from @TosinFat
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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