(by Rinsola Abiola)
“New Media” is defined as the means of communication which requires the use of digital technology, and is often used to refer to the internet and all online communication platforms. New media includes – but is not limited to – various social media platforms such as Facebook and twitter, video platforms such as YouTube and even search engines like Google and Bing, and of course, the blogs which we have all come to rely on as the first source of (oft-inaccurate) breaking news. From the afore-mentioned, it is evident that while “Social Media” refers to internet-based platforms for social interaction, “New Media” consists of social media and a lot more.
The last administration presented Nigerians with a lot of New Media awkwardness; from ridiculous claims that “Goodluck Jonathan brought Facebook to Nigeria” to Reno Omokri’s falsification of evidence against then Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, it is a rather unfortunate fact that the practice of being a New Media Aide has been tainted in quite a bit of infamy.
However, in line with the APC’s slogan of “Change”, the online community may hope for a professional new media aide who will have a high regard for ethics. The aim of this article is to explain what exactly a new media aide ought to do and be, in order to give Nigerians an insight into why the position needs to be filled, and of course, to prove (beyond reasonable doubt) that the last administration made a mockery of it all (pun not intended).
Why the President Needs a New Media Aide
Media is broadly classified into two main categories (at least, for the purpose of this article). These are Mainstream Media [which is further split into electronic media (TV and radio) and print media (newspapers and magazines)] and New Media (previously explained above).
The President kicked off assembling a good media team by appointing Mallam Garba Shehu, who did a brilliant job as director of media and communication during the presidential campaign, and Mr. Femi Adesina, whose commitment to the Buhari Cause has been absolute. These two men are seasoned media practitioners, having garnered extensive experience and built a formidable profile in print media (Both have, at different times, served as Chairman of the Nigerian Guild of Editors).
Some argue that both men are present on social media and could, therefore, also execute the duties of the new media aide. While this is in line with the need to reduce the cost of governance by pruning the number of appointees, it does not put the enormity of the task that adequate media representation is, into consideration. It would be difficult – and that is putting it mildly – for one of these men to take on the portfolio of the new media aide and the reasons are as follows;
- With a third of Nigeria’s population being active on the internet and various social media platforms, the new media aide would need to be fully dedicated to engaging the people, disseminating information and managing the image of the President and the Federal Government online. This is a task one simply cannot blend with other demands from the mainstream media (i.e. print and electronic).
- The New Media aide would have to be a young person or one who is extremely skilled at communicating effectively with this demography (this is not as much a discriminatory measure, as it is about having a representative who can “flow” with the online community, which is made up mainly of young people). Having a duly appointed new media aide would also go a long way in letting young people know that they are valued enough to have someone dedicated to communicating with them via social media channels that they feel most comfortable with.
- Whoever fills this position would have to be proficient with new media, not just know how to tweet or post a message on a Facebook wall, but also have knowledge of social media analytics, measure the impact of campaigns when necessary, know how to create and administer surveys, know about content generation, how to use Google+, YouTube, GoogleAds, relate with bloggers, coordinate campaigns……the point of all this is to show that new media is an entirely different ball game from mainstream media, and someone who knows the rudiments is required.
- Also, Media Relations is a broad sphere of activity and the requirements are vast. An excellent media team is one which is made up of the best hands – experts in their various fields.
As stated earlier, the past administration did quite a lot to taint the office of the new media aide with infamy. Thankfully, this is a dispensation of Change, and for the benefit of those who have been misled into thinking that a new media aide is the government’s e-henchman who is to block people en-masse, have minions threaten them for having dissenting views and fabricate evidence against whistle-blowers, the true “job description” of the new media aide is briefly explained below;
- The primary responsibility of the new media aide is to implement the online phase of the media plan (the media plan is the blueprint which the media unit works with, and its aim could be anything from “build confidence in the government” to God forbid, like the old administration, “further piss already-pissed-off Nigerians off”). What this implies is that with every tweet, Facebook post, YouTube link and Re-tweet, the new media aide must keep the President’s image and how every action would reflect upon it at the back of his or her mind.
- The new media aide must take advantage of the interactive nature of social media, and not only disseminate information, but respectfully interact with the people (without which that government would not exist), gauge responses to government initiatives and formulate comprehensive reports in the process. The latter part of this is essential because communication is not quite complete until that exchange of information and feedback has taken place. The new media aide is the government’s eyes and ears, the link between the government and the streets, and it is imperative that this person communicate effectively with and for both the government and the people.
- The new media aide should be professional; cool enough to handle the barrage of insults that will most definitely come without using phrases like “nattering nabob of negativity” on Nigerians who are totally within their rights to lose their cool.
- The new media aide must be direct and straight to the point; honest enough to gain credibility, while being tactful enough to use reassuring words. It is the duty of the new media aide to make every Nigerian with a contribution feel valued, to douse tensions and turn even the most cynical to believers.
- The new media aide must be able to communicate the government’s initiatives to the people via concise and meaningful articles, and break these down into even more concise tweets, infographics and Facebook posts, as required.
- It is the duty of the new media aide to keep the people informed, to keep them up to date about every step taken regarding the issues which concern them.
The last dispensation was the era of nasty media aides who falsified evidence, trended offensive hashtags and told barefaced lies against other citizens on television. This dispensation will do better.
Rinsola Abiola, a PR consultant, served as PRO of the All Progressive Youth Forum (APYF) from 2013-2014, and is currently the PRO/Secretary of the APC Young Women Forum (APC-YWF).
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