Disruptions in PR have created more dynamism among players – Isah Ismail, GM, Bifocal Communicatons



Mr Isah Ismail who is the General Manager of Bifocal Communications Limited based in Abuja is a thoroughbred public relations, reputation and perception management professional. Through excellence and dedication, he is at the helm of affairs of one of the leading PR and advertising agencies in West Africa. In this interview with Adetunji Faleye of BrandImpact (, Amechi Obiakpu of Espinews ( and Godwin Anyebe of Consumers Assembly (, all of MediaConsortium, he talks on disruption in the PR industry, the performance of his agency, Bifocal Communications Limited and sundry issues in the IMC industry. Except:   


Given the level of disruptions in the system, is the PR sector getting enough patronage?

Public Relations practitioners are well aware of disruptions in the marketing communications industry and PR remains a key offering by practitioners in the communications industry. Hence, the disruptions have only created more dynamism among players in terms of formulation of strategies and execution of communications campaign for different brands and clientele.


How much share in your view can you say the nation is missing from not patronising adequately the PR profession?

As a nation, Nigeria’s communication and destination marketing strategies have been rather haphazard, opportunistic and accidental. The problem began is not the lack of expertise even in both the government and the private sector, we (Nigerians) have been victims of our own poor articulation of national priorities and that has continued till today and could likely outlive the next national government. We lose a lot in revenue and so much more in perception as a result of the country’s inability to build a robust structure for the articulation, projection and promotion of a national public relations and advertising campaign that will profit our country and its citizenry. We are losing enormous revenue in destination marketing and also losing our goodwill and international reputation in the committee of nations. No, doubt, PR is a key element of growth in the communication industry and needs to be supported to contribute adequately to the growth and development of the Nigerian economy.

In your opinion, giving the way the IMC space is evolving, how relevant is the PR profession in businesses today? 

The IMC space has evolved so much that the lines between advertising, marketing and public relations have become blurry in recent years. What is equally important is the increasing level of complementary admixture of the IMC tripod of advertising, marketing and public relations required to deliver compelling and successful communications campaigns around the world. Reduction in marketing budgets has also brought about combining the forces of advertising, marketing and public relations to win in the market place. Today, there is hardly an agency that is not open to or already practicing a mixture of the IMC offering in their pitch presentations and actual execution of communication campaigns. However, PR remains largely relevant because when it comes to deployment through the media, even a compelling advertising piece may require a conversation on social media or some form of stakeholders’ engagement to penetrate the right channels and achieve targets.


Journalists are seen as PR professional so much so that they seem to be getting appointment in PR units by politicians at the expense of PR practitioners, is it a case of trust or who can do the job best?

One of the critical skills in public relations is writing. Perhaps a number people who require public relations practitioners these days have realized that not many PR practitioners who are sound in strategy can put a great piece together in writing. As such, that may be responsible for the preference for journalists, most of whom are writers and have extensive contacts in the media which is another key requirement in public relations engagement.  My advice for journalists who find themselves in public relations or communications position is that they need to do much more than writing by investing time and resources in understanding the rudiments of public relations strategy and building capacity in ideas and relationship management, understanding expectations of key stakeholders in the society as it were.


APCON recently launched Advertising Industry Standard of Operation and there is a section in the document which talks on pitches where brands are mandated to pay certain amount to agencies they invite for pitches. Can this be applicable to the PR industry as well?

Yes, I do agree we need compensation for appearance at PR pitches. It is unfortunate that brand owners take advantage of ideas presentation and fail to reward agencies even where their ideas are taken and implemented. As such, pitch fees should be a precondition for appearance at pitches by PR agencies in Nigeria.


What is your projection for PR industry on one hand and advertising in the year 2022?

The industry would most likely witness some growth in terms of revenue in a late rally towards the 2023 general elections and beyond the inauguration of the next national and state governments in 2023.


Kindly tell us some of the public relations and advertising campaigns Bifocal Communications Limited deployed in recent years and how effective are they to the brands?

As an agency, Bifocal Communications is the lead communications consultant to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and this has been the case since 2017. We have led communications campaigns both in strategy and media buying in the 2019 general elections and staggered elections in different states of the federation. In terms of voters’ education and mobilization in the country, we have done well but we should expect more from our client as we count down to the 2023 general elections.   We have also been successful in our partnership with the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster management and Social Development among other clients in the MDA space.


What distinguishes Bifocal Communications from other agencies in the country?

We are proud to say that we have been consistent in terms of our strategic partnership with our clients and we have remained profitably so for nearly 25 years.


How is your agency leveraging on digital to remain relevant in a fast-involving industry?

We are in an industry in which one can’t afford to be a bystander. That is why we have keyed into digital media and we are already leveraging our experience to expand our scope of our solutions to clients and partners. Digital assets have become part of all our campaign proposals to clients and prospects and the Abuja marketing communications space is catching on well despite not being among the early movers.



What should we be expecting from Bifocal Communications Limited in year 2022?

More wins and many more wins with our clients.


What is your projections for agency for the next 5 years.

We see ourselves growing steadily and building our audio-visual production capacity and more growth in media ownership.


What is your advice to the young people who want to start career in public relations or advertising?

This is an ideas business that is propelled and sustained by networking. Do not fall short on these but sound education and robust exposure remain key to the personality of the marketing communications practitioner of all generations. More so, you must be a relentless learner. If you like be a jack of all trade and master of all because opportunities would come from everywhere in every corner and everytime.





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