By NBF News

Advertising has lost its magic wand -Egbas, Managing Partner, Trucontact Limited

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

He said he was a real street boy. He will not wish our youths to experience his kind of rough upbringing. Maybe that is what inspired his desire for success and love for community development aimed at transforming poor domains and helpless unprivilege individuals for the better. Today, the Public Relation (PR) Consultant sits tall on the corporate social responsibility crusade. Mr. Ken Egbas is better dscribed as Nigeria's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) pilot.

For three consecutive years, he has ensured proper practice of CSR as he scores and rewards performance of Corporate Nigeria on CSR. Meet Ken Egbas. He speaks passionately on CSR and its benefits to brands, communities and the nation at large.

Could you tell us a little bit of yourself -your education, interests and past work experiences?

My name is Ken Egbas. I am a public Relations practitioner.  I am the Managing Partner of Trucontact Limited, a PR agency based in Lagos. I am a chartered member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).

I also hold a post graduate degree in Marketing from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I have worked on various campaigns with different brands and government as well. My mainstay is innovative strategy as well as tactical implementation of concepts using PR for maximum advantage. I am not only keen about concept, but also very studious of its source - which is precept.

My areas of interest are research, reading, sports- especially football, and in my spare time I spend time writing. These days I'm drawn a lot into poetry. I have two books that I am about to complete. The first is titled: ' Tears from a Rose'- it's from the story of my life really.

My life on the streets, I grew up on the streets. I had a really rough upbringing where my father was largely absent. And with all my mother could scrounge on a daily basis, you would classify us as being very poor. When I read President Barrak Obama's dreams of my father, I think the book has that kind of slant.

The second is titled: 'The Moral Responsibility of Business in Society'. I should get them published later this year. I hope I can do that. My major area of interest in life since I found the reason for which I was born, is through my rising up in the morning to my going to bed daily, to be a difference maker with everything in terms of ability that God has blessed me with.

Looking for money has never been one of my priorities in life. Rather, I look forward daily to doing God's will so that I can fulfill my potentials and meet God's purpose for my life. That for me is the definition of a life of significance that most times overshadows the emphasis on success by any means necessary that the world so believes in.

What led you into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

It started from the concept of the type of Public Relations company we wanted to bring into an already saturated PR consultancy marketplace. We of course, knew that we could not compete with the established brands in the markets being new ourselves. So what we did was take a telescopic view of the future PR marketplace demand in Nigeria juxtaposing it with trends evolving in Europe and America and other advanced markets as well.

And one thing we did know back then was that consumerism and the attendants rights were going to gain the ascendancy, and also going forward, that will throw up a closer look at issues of how corporations do business, the ethics they adhere to or fail to comply with in the course of their pursuing profitability and also the impact of all of these on the chief sustainer of the cycle of life- the environment or earth.

That is why when you look at Trucontact vision statement, it reads - to building leading and sustainable brands and organisations where economic and professional growth is matched by corporate social responsibility. That shows that it wasn't an area we chanced our way into. I also guess that is why when you look back the last four years, there in no company that has done as much as we have in promoting CSR and all its tenets, while making organisations in Nigeria understand that good CSR may be the best means in the future to communicate brand or organisational truths, values and ethos. You need to see copies of the Nigeria Social Enterprise Report- A compendium of best practices in CSR in the last four years to further buttress that point.

What is Corporate Social Investment (CSI)? How is it different from CSR?

I think what happens is that when there is a new norm; people have the tendency to get carried away by nomenclature, thereby abandoning the real substance. There are also the tendencies to use definitions to confuse issues. Corporate Social Investment refers to economic investments of an organisation or company that can bring about social changes of supposedly great proportion. A company might set up a factory, and in the course of that generate employment for natives, and also create an environment that can sustain other commercial or profitable activities. The company could be said to be driving change, but profitability may still be said to be a big part of the mix. Ideal CSR could be briefly defined as a commitment to improve community well being through discretionary business practices and contributions of corporate success. Going by this definition, profitability is not in the mix even though it is possible that there develops an emotional attachment from communities that receive from brands or organisations.

Some people say that CSR has been taken over by corporate organizations and marketing firms. They say it's a huge money building operation. How true is this?

Well, I think it would have been a good thing if all corporate organisations got involved in CSR. But that really is not the case. In many cases, we have organisations running promotions where one person buys one and gets one free and they call that CSR. There is nothing more laughable than that. But beyond it being funny, it also shows the level to which there is a lack of institutional knowledge about CSR. That itself is also understandable since CSR is a new and evolving field. That doesn't however justify the organisations lack of interest in reading up fact or looking at best practices around or in advanced climes. To answer your question more directly, it is true that there is a lot of marketing promotions going on. But those are not CSR. Are they making money from it? Possibly. But surely, that is not CSR.