BD CONSULT: Integrity, Professionalism and Relationship
By Jeremiah Agada
Integrity. Professionalism. Relationship. These three words are worth their weight in gold and more. Little wonder, Douglas Adams, English writer and essayist said of them: “To give real service, you must add something that cannot be acquired or bought with money, and that is sincerity, integrity and professionalism.” In 2006, a team of young, innovative and dynamic individuals led by Tola Bademosi, a thoroughbred professional, seasoned PR and communications expert, armed themselves with these core values and birthed the agency that has come to be known as BD Consult (BDC).
The aim of setting up the agency was to provide strategic communication, public relations and events management solutions to a spectrum of organizations. It was also an attempt to bridge the lacuna in the practice and help clients tell their brands’ stories in a unique way that influences public perception favourably. Bademosi explains more: “Years ago I observed how PR people were treated compared to their advertising counterparts, and I noticed a wide gulf. I said to myself that something is definitely wrong here.”
“I needed to understand what advertising was all about so, I resigned from The Quadrant Company and joined JWT in 2004. I spent about two and half years working from an advertising perspective across various brands. Armed with my deep knowledge of advertising and the practical knowledge of PR, I thought we could offer something different, something that goes beyond the trigonometric of the minds but tugs at the heartstrings of specified target audiences. That birthed BD Consult.”
The core values of any business determines how it operates and the type of things it holds dear. For BDC, integrity, professionalism and relationships are integral parts of its operations. Bademosi gives more insight. “PR and communication is a profession where you are exposed to a lot of confidential information about your clients. This information isentrusted to you in confidence and you cannot afford to betray that trust. We have access to a lot of confidential information of various clients we have served and still serving, but we cannot share such information with a third party, it is unethical and unprofessional to do so, no matter what is at stake.”
“Even if we work with a competing brand tomorrow, by standards, we cannot share that information. Integrity remains an extremely important ingredient in this profession because we are meant to protect the integrity of our clients on a consistent basis and that is why integrity as a core value is what we hold very important at BDC.”
“On professionalism, there is a need to understand that PR and Communication Consultancy is not a briefcase profession. It is a ‘professional’ profession. What I mean by that is that the profession is not the way it is seen by some people. This is not a profession for everyone! For you to be able to practice, you need to understand that professionalism is key: professionalism in terms of deep knowledge, expertise, thoughts processing, being savvy are extremely important. You also need to be a member of the relevant professional body to practice.
“Relationship is not a core value that many people stress as we do. Like the popular African proverb that says; ‘if you want to go fast, go alone, but if your want to go far, go with others.’ In business, it’s about people, it’s about relationships. You must be a people’s person. You must know how to break barriers even when you need to deal with some difficult personalities. It’s all about relationship management. For you to be a top notch PR person, you must have great relationship skills. Relationship is the backbone of any strong business, especially in the service industries like ours.”
The operational philosophy of BDC, which is ‘strength through understanding, victory without battle’ is one, that calls for pondering. “What we found out is that we find ourselves in an industry where knowledge is key. We found ourselves in an industry where we had to meet people who have vast exposure and experiences.
“As a consultant, people rely on the information that you share with them. A perfect understanding of the issue is extremely important. A perfect understanding of your profession and the client’s expectations are extremely important. When you have this deep understanding, it adds to your confidence level and builds your inner strength-that explains strength through understanding.”
“The second part of our philosophy says victory without battle. A lot of people think that the only way to have victory is through battles (fighting). We however believe that you don’t necessarily need to go to battle before you have victory. In every person’s story of success, you will find experiences of them fighting big battles to achieve what they want. But yet for each personal story that involves fighting or hard effort, you will find yet others who had achieved the same thing almost without fighting and in the easier way.
Since that is the case, we realize that there are better and easier ways of doing things to the level where a person is able to achieve a whole lot more than the rest without any more effort. Highest strategies bring the greatest wins! The highest victories come from winning without fighting. Achieving what you want with the least amount of energy expended enables you to achieve as much as you can. In order to expend the least amount of energy required in the accomplishment of any goal, you have to take the path of least resistance. Realize that there are many ways to reach the same objective. Choosing the best way will get you the best results. For us at BDC, there are different levels of winning and we seek the best possible way.
What separates the champion from other winners is his dedication to perfection. A clever fighter is one who not only wins, but also excels at winning with ease. When your knowledge is deep about what you are doing, and you approach issues with precise strategy, you do not need to go into fights to ensure you have victory. All you need is to have an unusual analytical mind with a thirst for insight driven solution.“
The agency went on from a single client in 2006 to add many clients mostly through referrals based on the level of professional work it has executed for its satisfied clientele. In fact, 80 percent of the agency’s clientele came through referrals. This goes in line with the marketing aphorism that says that the best advertiser for your goods and services is a satisfied customer. The strategy adopted by the agency to do these speaks volumes of its successes.
Bademosi speaks, “When we came into the market, we decided to offer something different. We understood that every organization deserves to own the conversation in their industries. It is about changing the narratives of your brand and your company. This requires a deliberate approach.
So, we came in and prided ourselves as the professional storytellers. For every brand we handled from that time up till now, they own the conversation in their respective industry. The ideology is about how you ensure that your brand or company’s story is channeled through the right perspective for people to understand what you stand for.It is not enough to shout every time through advertising without a compelling story about what you stand for and why the consumer or customer should take you serious. At BDC we try to understand the stories you are selling to your audience before we come up with solutions for various communication challenges. If your story is not persuasive and convincing enough your audience will walk away.”
Asides from these, what also gives the agency an edge is its quality service delivery in record time. He says, “The problem many clients have with agencies is the turnaround time. It is a challenge not only with the marketing communication industry but also with most service-oriented industries.
“When clients have a problem, they need solutions but they need these solutions quickly. That is where we have an edge-quality service delivery with speed. We don’t joke with speed. That has marked us completely different. If you give us a brief, we understand that you need possible solutions within the shortest turnaround time.
Among the agency‘s rich bouquet of PR services are communication strategy development, advocacy, media relations, crisis management, CSR Initiatives, government relations and event management and planning. In all these, it has excelled in executing campaigns that have become compendiums of referral and academic studies across tertiary institutions in the country.
One of such most recent executions is the La Casera Fresh New Look campaign it handled some weeks ago. The campaign according to Bademosi, was to ensure the positive narratives about the brand is sustained coupled with the increment of real apple juice in La Casera as reflected on the PET bottle. The Fresh New Look campaign has so far contributed to the increase in positive perception held about the brand. It therefore comes as no surprise that the brand is making a comeback to the highways as the ‘King of the road’ faster than projected by brand analysts.
Through share determination and relentless efforts, BD Consult prides itself on the strength of its perception management skills. A remarkable campaign by the agency in this regard was a novel campaign it executed for Cadbury Nigeria for its Bournvita brand in the Eastern part of Nigeria few years ago. There was an issue in the eastern market thathad to do with the way the brand was perceived, which slowed down sales as revealed by an extensive research conducted by client.
Saddled with the responsibility of correcting that negative perception, BDC deployed the stakeholders’ engagement tactics in what it termed the ‘Eastern Invasion.’ The aim of the invasion was to strategically engage key gatekeepers who influence consumption decisions, which includednurses, mothers and teachers in the Eastern part of Nigeria. The invasion was hinged on a seminar tagged Bournvita Nutritional Seminar. This involved visiting health centres and schools, sensitizing key gatekeepers on nutritional benefits of Bournvitain all the eastern states and within a space of twelve weeks, sales of the brand skyrocketed. Following that feat, the agency got a commendation note from the parent company in UK.
For an agency that has done this much and parades clientele such as Lafarge, The La Casera Company, Indomie Instant Noodles, Power Gas, PZ, Cadbury, UAC, Ceader Micro-Finance, Reckitt Benckiser, Atlantic Shrimpers, Nobel Carpets, etc. to mention but a few, its near obscure notice in the market despite its rich array of clients, awards and recognitions is but a deliberate tactic from the agency. “While we are deliberately not your average agency, which jumps at every publicity opportunity, it is a deliberate effort on our part to remain an underdog in the market. Our focus is on our clients and not us, this strategy has worked for us.
“We would rather work behind the scene and see our client’s brands shine out there. This is because the publicity it is not about us, it is about our clients. As long as the clients are happy, we are happy too,” he said.
“80 percent of our businesses are based on referrals, while we have won some businesses though pitches, most of our businesses come from referrals. We do some very confidential campaigns and also engage government on policies issues when it affects our clients. We have handled several issues management and agenda setting campaigns that have gotten the attention of government (federal and states), the Federal Executive Councils, etc. Policies have been changed and reversed because of these campaigns. When you do these kinds of high level campaigns, the best you can do is to ensure you have a good head on your shoulder.”
As far as CSR is concerned, BDC has proved time and again that it understands the Nigerian dynamics;terrain and what constitutes good CSR practice in Nigeria. The agency collaborated with one of its clients, Indomie, to birth one of Nigeria’s most innovative children – centric CSR initiatives-The Indomie Independence Day Awards for Heroes of Nigeria (IIDA).
“Working in conjunction with the client, we came up with this initiative in 2008. We thought about doing something different from what others are doing. While others were focusing on giving awards to the high and mighty in the society, we thought about how to seek, identify and celebrate heroic children who have exhibited acts of bravery but not celebrated and relegated to obscurity. Indomie, being a child friendly brand decided to make this initiative its flagship CSR activity among several others.
The agency has always been serious on the training and retraining of its people. It therefore came as no surprise in 2015 that two of its young team members, emerged winners of the Nigeria PR Young Lions competition, where the duo went to represent Nigeria at the Cannes Lions Festival in Cannes, France. For Bademosi, even though they send people out regularly for trainings, he maintains that the best form of training is done internally in form of knowledge transfer programs.“We believe strongly that people development remains the backbone of every business. If you don’t develop your people, then there is no way the agency can move forward because you cannot be everywhere at the same time. Training is a critical element for us, Bademosi reiterated.”
In 2015, Tola Bademosi was awarded the PR Personality of Year (PR Category) by the Nigeria Brand Award and in 2016, a UK based magazine, Corporate Vision Magazine during its annual African Corporate Excellence Award, awarded BD Consult as the Best PR & Communication Company in Nigeria.