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Comms 254

Are you ready for the big bang of digital disruption?

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There is a natural mystic

Blowing through the air

If you listen carefully now you will hear

This could be the first trumpet

Might as well be the last

Many more will have to die

Don’t ask me why

Things are not the way they used to be

I won’t tell no lie

One and all got to face reality now.”

The foregoing lyrics of “Natural Mystic”, one of the most definitive songs by the reggae legendary group of the late Bob Marley and the Wailers, could never have been more prophetic. The world today is undergoing some of the most drastic social, economic and political changes. Nothing, and no one, seems to be spared by the unfolding scenario.

Specifically, I’m referring to the unprecedented science and technology developments that have gripped humanity. There is hardly any nook and cranny that have not been touched by some form of technological disruption. Clearly, things are not the way they used to be. Unbeknown to many of us, a seismic shift has been happening under our feet.

And, Safaricom Limited chief executive officer Bob Collymore should know. On 8th June, 2017 Collymore was at the United States International University – Africa, to deliver a keynote address at the Chancellor’s public lecture. His talk titled, “The Sound of Disruption”, brought to the fore several realities about the new world that many of us take for granted.

Collymore started by posing a question to his audience – what is the first thing that we all do when we wake up in the morning? The answer was rather obvious! The majority of respondents were in agreement that, for one reason or the other, they check their mobile phones. Barely 20 years ago, however, the answer would have been different, with each person having their own idiosyncrasies.

Yes, the ubiquitous mobile phone is now in the possession of almost every adult. But just 10 years ago, we could not have foreseen the kind and number of functions this gadget is currently performing, away from its initial role of voice and text. You can now manage almost your whole life on the mobile phone, including education, health, finances, dating, business, faith – name it.

A few years from now, you will not need a physical office location to make your billions! There will be an App for almost everything under the sun, enabling you to operate seamlessly from one function to another, using the same technological platform. With the mighty internet, you will work for your client, invoice him or her, get paid and receipt online, pay your bills, book your holidays.

Collymore compared the ongoing digital explosion to other “silent” revolutions like the Big Bang that created the world, and The Great Spark that led to the discovery of fire. He cited a few cases of what is happening, for instance, in the entertainment industry, over the last couple of decades.

At its peak in 1989, American movie store, Blockbuster, operated 9,000 stores in the US, making $6 billion in annual revenues. The company opened a new outlet every 17 hours. But in 2013, Netflix came on the scene. Instead of going out to rent movies, people could now simply stream movies from their homes. This was enabled by increased data availability, staggering growth of video content, and decreasing cost of connectivity. Blockbuster adamantly refused to adopt the new changes. Today, it is as dead as a dodo!

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Conversely, about 20 years ago, music giant Polygram ruled the music industry, when LPs and music cassettes was all we knew. But in 1998, the company’s CEO came across research that showed consumers had started buying music in a new format, the ‘CD-ROM’, which had more capacity and better definition. Consequently, he sold off his company just in time before it became redundant. The music business has since developed to an all-digital affair, with stupendous carrying capacity in flash disks.

Indeed, we are now in a transformational, knowledge-based, digitally interconnected world. Think about the following: we are creating 2.5 Quintillion bytes of data, compared to 100GB in 1992. Every year, the world is producing two million new books, 182 billion tweets, eight million new songs and 400,000 new products. Think self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, Big Data, the Internet of Things and 3-D printing, and you will have an idea of what’s coming.

So, what are you going to do, either as an individual or a company? Are you going to survive and ride the new wave to a brave new world, or will you just sit and wait to be relegated into oblivion? It’s scary, I know! What you know now could tomorrow become outdated, making you start searching for new answers. Only the brave will survive.


The writer is a communication consultant and public policy analyst. [email protected]

[crp]

Stephen Ndegwa is an experienced media practitioner specializing in thought leadership. He has written for various media houses and publications, both locally and abroad. Ndegwa is also a strategic communication expert, with skills across the public relations and marketing mix. He is an author, blogger, poet and university lecturer in communication. Email: [email protected] FB: Stephen Ndegwa Twitter: @Ndegwasm

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Comms 254

Citizen TV finally receives brand recognition

The widespread impact of Citizen TV on audiences struck me in the mid-2000s when I had a job that entailed travelling to far off places in the country

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When Citizen TV first appeared on our screens in 1999, I must confess that I was not impressed. Sorry! May be due to its small beginnings, the station seemed like a hurried job, simply aimed at pampering someone’s bruised ego. It looked like a last ditch effort by its founder Samuel Kamau Macharia, whose previous businesses had been sabotaged by retired President Daniel arap Moi’s government.

But alas, I was wrong! Almost 17 years down the line, the TV station has proved its critics wrong by being the leading broadcasting house in the country, in terms of both reach and revenue. So much such that it was recently named Kenya’s ‘Brand of the Year’ during the fourth edition of the prestigious World Branding Awards held mid this month in London.

Seen as the ultimate global brand recognition accolade, winners of these awards are judged through brand valuation, consumer market research, and public online voting. Seventy percent of the scoring process comes from consumer votes. Citizen TV was ranked among other national winners like Qatar Airways (Qatar), Samsung (South Korea), Adidas (Germany) and Amarula (South Africa).

The widespread impact of Citizen TV on audiences struck me in the mid-2000s when I had a job that entailed travelling to far off places in the country. I remember people watching Citizen TV in the unlikeliest of places in both North Eastern and Nyanza provinces, where the station was already popular barely 10 years after its initial launch.

Related: Jeff Koinange’s huge salary threatens to bring down Citizen TV

Later on it struck me that Citizen TV had managed to shed off its association with ethnicity. Basically, what has grown the station over the years is its localised entertainment shows and innovative news and programming. Citizen has always been a trend setter in Kenya’s broadcasting industry. Its managers have not feared to experiment with new formats and content.

A major lesson in Citizen TV’s win is the need for authenticity in our brands. Rather than copy foreign ideas, our brand managers should strive to create household names that resonate with the local market. Who would have thought that “Papa Shirandula” and “Inspekta Mwala” would have such a massive national following? Good job!

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Comms 254

Brand Kenya takes a beating as political tension escalates

Kenya is fast garnering negative publicity arising from the September 1 Supreme Court decision that ruled the country must go back to the presidential polls in 60 days

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For local lovers of soccer, and East Africa as a whole, the month of September ended on a shocker. After two years of anticipation, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) dropped the bombshell. Kenya will not host the Africa Nations Championships (CHAN) 2018, after all. The unfortunate news must also have reverberated globally across the sporting world.

It was not totally unexpected though. According to CAF’s statement, Kenya’s general unpreparedness for the tournament, coupled with the current precarious political climate caused by an ugly electoral standoff, resulted in this unfortunate decision by the premier continent’s soccer governing body.

Kenya is fast garnering negative publicity arising from the September 1, 2017 Supreme Court decision that ruled the country must go back to the presidential polls in 60 days. By a majority, the judges quashed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election for a second term, citing certain electoral irregularities and technicalities by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

CAF’s devastating news comes in the wake of a gradual dwindling of Kenya’s economic fortunes since the country went into elections campaign mode earlier this year. Although the Central Bank of Kenya has reassured us that the economic fundamentals are still strong to support sustained economic growth, the political undercurrents are threatening to tear this assertion asunder.

Ultimately, what is the import of all these, one may ask? It is about Brand Kenya. Now, think about leading consumer brands in the world like CocaCola, Microsoft, Samsung, Nike, Google, Apple, McDonald’s et al. The common denominator among them is that they do everything possible to protect their image in order to maintain pole position in the market. That is why they dedicate millions of dollars annually in advertising and marketing.

Related: ‘Githeri man’ brand endorsement shows dearth of authenticity in local advertising

But the latter is not sufficient for a brand to sustain global market leadership. Consumers, partners and other stakeholders are always keenly watching the ‘behavior’ of the brand. For instance, a whiff of scandal usually leads to jitters in the stock market, while consumer watchdogs warn of class action to protect consumer rights. That is why no amount of public relations by Kenyan sporting authorities and other leaders could whitewash the fact that our preparedness for CHAN 2018 was mediocre, to say the least!

Imagine Kenya as an international brand, which we are. First, we are well known and feared internationally for our athletic prowess. By default, Kenyan athletes usually win most long distance athletic international meets, both at an individual and national level. Secondly, Kenya is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa. Our weather, wildlife and beaches are a veritable attraction for those seeking where to spend their money in leisure.

Quite often, you come across a foreigner describing Kenyans as warm and friendly. We know of expatriates who have worked in Kenya and found an excuse to stay on. The general good-naturedness of Kenyans is a strong attribute of Brand Kenya and the contents of her ‘soul’. Another aspect that identifies Kenyans is the citizens work ethic and industriousness, both at home and overseas. Our human capital and resource is renowned globally for its high value delivery. That is why various Kenyan professionals are in demand, with individual Kenyans excelling in many fields.

However, let me reiterate that for top brands, perception about their products or services is as crucial as reality. You cannot blow hold and cold at the same time, and expect people to have total confidence in your brand. Therefore, no matter how hard we work at marketing Kenya, our actions as a country must bear the hallmarks of decisive and united action towards meeting our national goals.

Currently, heightened political tension is the notion trending about Kenya. The world is viewing Kenya as a potentially dangerous country for one to visit or do business with. The direction which we are heading does not inspire confidence in those who would like to invest their fortunes on our soil.

In the last five years, Kenya’s reputation index and inspiring force had gained equity, cementing our already growing status as the region’s economic powerhouse. This was both a cause and effect of increasing visits by global leaders like American President Barrack Obama, Pope Francis, Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Facebook Founder CEO Mark Zuckerberg, pop icon Madonna and, recently, Alibaba Group Chinese business magnate Jack Ma. The associated branding voice was settling us square in the global map.

Kenya’s brand equity is critical for both present and future investments. Even as we squabble internally, let us not let water from our dirty linen washing machines to flow into the international arena. We should take a cue from countries like Egypt and Israel who continue to receive millions of tourists every year amidst the perennial dread of terrorist attacks.

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Comms 254

Equifax hack raises pertinent questions on safety of personal data

Even without hacking, credit card skimming is still big business for cyber criminals.

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ICT experts advise consumers to be proactive in securing their personal or credit activities and online information.

It is something that we do on an almost daily basis. We fill in online forms for various purposes. In today’s digital world, we are always online paying bills, applying for jobs and other career opportunities, purchasing various goods and services and so on.

According to the Communications Authority of Kenya, the data/internet market in Kenya has been growing steadily following increased demand for Internet services and reduced cost of Internet enabled devices. In the third quarter of the year 2015/2016, the country registered a growth of 8.5 percent in internet/data subscriptions to stand at 21.6 million up from 19.9 million subscriptions recorded in the previous quarter. Subsequently, the number of estimated internet/data users grew by 7.8 percent to stand at 31.9 million users.

We do not have a choice, really! For example, the Kenya Government’s eCitizen portal is now the only avenue through which you can access certain services in the public sector. From your date of birth, family history, education background and finances, it is now all online. Depending on the diversity and extent of one’s activities, your whole life history is scattered all over the Internet in the form of data.

While many organizations promise confidentiality and non-disclosure of their clients online private data, the danger that the latter can easily fall into the wrong hands is real. For instance, banks in Kenya are losing billions of shillings every year through online banking fraud, usually perpetuated by insiders. The same goes for insurance companies.

Indeed, you should be very afraid. Equifax, one of America’s three major credit reporting agencies, mid this year was a victim of a security breach that exposed, and potentially compromised, personal credit information on millions of subscribers. It was discovered that hackers broke into Equifax and accessed consumer data for 143 million Americans.

READ: How hackers can access your Whatsapp and Telegram account

The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. And they also grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada.

Analysts observed that the hack was a goldmine for fraudsters, who could use the massive amount of social security numbers and financial account information to defraud account holders, including stealing medical identity.  Sadly, according to Equifax, the breach went on unnoticed for six weeks, from mid-May through July, 2017.

According to media reports, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey called Equifax’s breach “the most brazen failure to protect consumer data we have ever seen.”

Several other states and the Federal Trade Commission said they had opened investigations into the matter. Members of Congress also demanded criminal investigations and a full accounting of what happened.

Let us think of a local scenario. Imagine someone hacking into the server of the Kenya Revenue Authority or the National Social Security Fund. These are some of the databases where you expect to find personal data of millions of Kenyans, especially financial and social, respectively. An expert information and communication technology expert can easily manipulate this data and siphon a lot of people’s money for his benefit.

Worse still, consider someone hacking into the database of one of the leading credit card companies in the country like Barclaycard or Kenya Commercial Bank. Such a person can duplicate the credit accounts of thousands of people, and make purchases that the genuine account holders are unaware of. Even without hacking, credit card skimming is still big business for cyber criminals.

SEE ALSO: Annual judgement day for PR industry

Kenya is a high risk country for this kind of diabolical schemes. There are a few cases of Kenyans in the diaspora, particularly in America and the United Kingdom, who have been arrested and prosecuted for siphoning social security and pension funds from their legit beneficiaries. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before the chickens come home to roost, if you know what am saying!

Kenya’s Data Protection Bill has been pending enactment for a few years now. The Bill provides for protection of personal information by enforcing the constitutional right of a person not to have information relating to their family or private affairs unnecessarily required or revealed. It embraces the principles of data protection such as necessity of collecting information, data subjects’ right to access information about them, and obligation to ensure information is accurate, updated and complete.

Constant monitoring

One of the biggest nuisances in the country is companies selling their online databases to marketing firms. Many people can attest to receiving a text message from a pitching for a product or service, and wondering how the company got your name and number. Unfortunately, you cannot trace the genesis of this kind of leak. Even if you did, suing them for breaching confidentiality clauses would be impractical.

Ultimately, ICT experts advise consumers to be proactive in securing their personal or credit activities and online information. This includes constantly monitoring their accounts for unusual activity. Red flags on fraud or identity theft include incorrect personal information on one’s credit report, and inquiries from companies one has never contacted.

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Comms 254

17th annual judgement of the PR industry

Entries are open to members and non-members from business enterprises, associations, private and government bodies, and students pursuing PR studies

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The comprehensive awards seek to create a platform that showcases leadership, service and knowledge in the industry.

The Public Relations Society of Kenya (PRSK) has released timelines for entries for the 2017 PRSK Awards for Excellence. According to a press release from the industry’s body, the awards ceremony will be held on 17th November, 2017. This is the 17th year since the awards were established in the year 2000.

There are 13 categories for the awards. These include Consumer Relations Campaign of the Year; Crisis and Reputation Management; Financial Communication Campaign; Internal Communication Campaign of the Year; Media Relations Campaign of the Year; Public Affairs Campaign of the Year; PR Event of the Year; Social Investment Campaign of the Year; Public Sector Campaign of theYear; New Media PR Campaign of the year; Not for profit campaign of the year; Best Corporate Publication and; Young Communicator of the year.

There are also two honorary awards. These are the PR Golden Honors Award (PR hall of fame given to an individual) and the PR Shepherd Honors Award (recognizes organizational support given to the PR industry).

Entries are open to members and non-members from business enterprises, associations, private and government bodies, and students pursuing PR studies. The awards reflect the level of competitive services offered in the Kenya PR and communications industry.

READ: Young practitioners take over PRSK leadership
SEE ALSO: PR industry needs thorough cleaning
READ: PR and marketing pays better than sales

The comprehensive awards also seek to create a platform that showcases leadership, service and knowledge in the industry. Basically, it is all about promoting the practice of PR in the country by setting certain benchmarks. Therefore, it is expected that current entries should show a marked improvement or shift from the previous years.

Every year, unfortunately, the awards do not end without controversy, amidst accusations that the winners and judges belong to certain cliques or cartels. This would be extremely unfortunate, even if there was an iota of truth in it. It would be a great disservice to creating an environment where genius of innovation and creativity is recognized, regardless of where it emanates.

Further, PRSK must aggressively seek sponsorship for the awards in order to make submission of entries free. The high charges in entering various categories may be a deterrent in attracting individuals and organizations that have great potential. Meaning that only those with the money, no matter how uninspiring, might see the light of day!

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