Lanre Alabi has over 20 years of hands-on experience in brand building & management, business communications, marketing, banking, journalism, as well as consulting. With a clear record of achievement in complex, mission-driven organizations, he is an experienced manager with a high degree of energy, integrity, and creativity. He has a marketing communications and consumer marketing background, primarily in the finance industry where he has been involved in all stages of the product life cycle – from market research and product development through to product launches. He spoke to Demola Akinbola on life at 60 and his perspectives on the marketing communications industry.
How do you feel striking a Diamond on this occasion of your 60th birthday?
I start by expressing appreciation to God who has enabled me to live to 60. He has been the source and inspiration for everything I am. I feel so great and appreciative for the privilege to make it to 60, especially when one considers what has happened and still happening. God has not only kept me alive but has also blessed me with many good things in life amongst which is good health which is very key. He has also graciously blessed me with a good family and many achievements and he enabled me to make some modest impacts in the last six decades. I still look forward to the future with great enthusiasm and optimism that God will also be there for me.
What has life taught you at 60? What are the learning points you want to share with us?
Life has taught me that the race is not for the swiftest but for those for whom God has shown mercy. I believe that in life one should recognize the role of God in his or her affairs and give Him His dues. Asides from that, a life of success is not an accident. A life of purpose must be intentional. I have learned over the years that people must plan and think strategically and be solution-driven. Life is about confronting challenges and having a mindset to move on. Nothing great is ever achieved by weak people. Everyone has the potential to be great in life but it requires sacrifice, discipline, a strong will, and the commitment to sailing through.
I also learned that life is not a solo trip. One needs the support and help of others to make it in life. Consequently, one must be firm on principles, values, and behavior that will attract good people and helpers to one. Humility and empathy will attract both the low and high people in society to you and these are the people you will leverage in life in your endeavours. Life has also taught me the importance of friendship and relationship building. It is a skill that is important to get ahead in life. One needs to value friendship and consciously build mutually beneficial relationships with many people. I have some of my friends that have been with me for over 40 years, some since our secondary school days and we are still together today. They will surely not be on the same page in terms of relationship with all of them but you must maintain the friendship.
From any privileged position you occupy, you must be fair to people and use it to assist as many people as possible. There is a need to give back. Anytime time you have more than your immediate needs, know that it is an avenue to bless others with it too. This is a lesson I learned from a tender age and I have always tried to live by it. You must consciously work to make people say ‘thank you’.
Was there a time you ever thought you would not make it this far?
My background is Islam and you know what means. God is the decider of one’s destiny. But as I said earlier, we all have a role to play in what plays out for us in life. My father is still alive in his 90s and I lost my mother two years ago. She was 88. So, nothing suggests that I will not live longer than them. I thank God for His grace and for blessing me with sound health. For how far God has blessed me in life, I thank Him. My parents inculcated in us the value of work, the spirit of excellence in work, prudent management, and contentment in life. In my career and profession, God has helped me this far and I believe many things are still unfolding.
What are you doing currently?
I am currently managing my Consulting firm, Prospers Strategy & Marketing Communications Limited which I founded in 2009. I also publish Nigeria Infrastructural Development Magazine. I organize NIDA (Nigeria Infrastructural Development Award). I am on the Board of Brand I Communications Ltd and several many media. I am also a Pastor and an entrepreneur.
What has been your guiding philosophy in life, and how have you been able to sustain it?
My key guiding philosophy is that you should not be too harsh on yourself if you have done what is humanly possible and you are yet to achieve your goal. Do not put yourself under undue pressure if things are working the other way. People should always ‘calm down’ in whatever circumstances they find themselves in. I also believe that there is nothing God cannot do in one’s life. I believe in doing good. What you sow is what you will reap.
You had a distinguished career working in various organizations. Would you like to share with us the highlights of your career milestones?
I have 34 years of hands-on experience in brand building & management, business communications, marketing, banking, high-profile journalism, as well as consulting. My rich exposure was acquired from working and training in Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa. I worked in such reputable organizations as Afribank Nigeria Plc, Vanguard Newspapers, Sunbeam Advertising, George Odia & Associates (Management Consultants) and consulted for Addax Petroleum, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and First Bank. As Business Analyst in an advertising agency, I worked on several brands including NERFUND, NICON, Guinea Insurance, and NNPC.
In my work, I value performance, prestige, variety, and affiliation. I am at my best in a creative business environment where I am a key contributor to a product development team. I bring my talents of understanding customer needs, communicating those needs to others, and translating those needs into products. I am known for being customer-focused and innovative.
As a Business Editor in Vanguard newspaper between 1992 and 1999, I was instrumental in the rebranding of the newspaper which enhanced its market relevance and acceptability and consequently improved the fortune of the organization. I specifically pioneered the annual Business Supplement in the paper in 1996 and the instant success it achieved was phenomenal. That annual publication has been elevated to include Vanguard Annual Award.
I moved from the Vanguard to the then Afribank Nigeria Plc in 1999 during its time of crisis. I was specifically hired to manage the crisis from the communication and reputation point of view. The Bank had been polarized between the management and the staff union which affected its reputation so badly. It took multiple efforts to stop the bank from being damaged reputationally in 1999. We also re-branded the bank and managed its reputation to emerge as one of the preferred banks in Nigeria and won several awards for it. We succeeded in taking the bank to the capital market for public offer twice, and on each of the occasions, the bank’s shares were oversubscribed.
What have been the high and low points of your life?
Achieving the impossible was the highlight of my carrier. First in Vanguard, through the development of a product, I improved the marketability of the Newspaper to the banking industry in particular, and the financial services industry in general. Before that, Vanguard was branded a pure human-interest paper. Secondly, at a time the Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks (ACAMB) was practically disintegrating, I led the association (for 4 years) with a clear vision for the overall direction, strategy, and success.
The Association became a vibrant and successful body of Communications and Branding professionals. The Association is widely respected in banking, PR, and advertising circles. I am a bold change agent with a track record for driving progress via collaboration, collegial management, and inspiring consensus. Thirdly, with strong and bold communication, I led the communication team that confronted the hostile takeover bid of Afribank Nigeria PLC by a competitor
Who is Lanre Alabi? Which words best describe you?
I am a family man, liberal, and very independent-minded. I hold no grudges and believe in hard work, excellence, and God. I am also a strategist, humanist, and contented and I believe in fairness and justice.
PR remains relegated to the background in public administration in Nigeria. How can this anomaly be addressed?
The commitment of stakeholders is very key in taking the PR profession to the level it ought to be like in the other professions. First, the professionals themselves need to position the PR industry by being professional in their dealings and practice. They should position the business as partners in the business of their clients and not just consultants. They should be able to demonstrate results and evaluate their contributions to the discipline. Also, they should ensure strict compliance with the ethics of the discipline and ensure disciplinary sanctions are applied to the violators. This will help in sanitizing the discipline.
The Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) should work with employers of labour to engage only certified professionals in the field. Training should also be taken as a priority by the professionals so that they are on top of their games when pitching for jobs
How can PR practice be enhanced in Nigeria?
The vacuum for PR to fill is enormous. From companies to governments to institutions, to politicians, I believe none should be allowed to interface with the public without the advice of PR practitioners. Commitment to professionalism and respect for the ethics of the profession is very essential.
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