Bidemi Zakariyau is the Founder & CEO of LSF|PR – A full service public relations consultancy in Lagos, Nigeria with core competencies in corporate communications, consumer and lifestyle brands. Bidemi handles the day–to-day management of LSF|PR and currently leads her team in creating communications strategy for the consultancy’s clients. Her work includes advising clients on entry strategies into the Nigerian Market and ongoing corporate reputation building efforts. In 2015 she was recognised as one of the leading female entrepreneurs under 25 in Nigeria by SME100 and in 2016 was awarded The Future Awards Africa Prize for media enterprise. Bidemi is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association and sits on the Board of Réle Art Gallery.
You are a founder of a successful and growing PR firm. What is PR and what is its real value?
Public relations is the way organisations, companies and individuals communicate with the public and media and its real value is story telling. PR creates, informs and shapes the perspective of all stakeholders through story telling.
In a fame-obsessed world and people craving PR, what’s the way to make PR be a force for good rather than the spin, negativity and shallowness that some have come to associate it with?
Professional and personal ethics plays a very important role. PR firms and practitioners need to consistently train their teams to ensure that their work is socially responsible and that providing value with integrity, honesty and trust is at the core of their work. PR companies also need to be accountable by having parameters and metrics in place to guide their activities.
You describe yourself as resourceful and inspired by solutions. What’s your approach to problem solving and what’s the most taxing problem you’ve solved?
My immediate approach to problems is to always get on with it and find a way to get things done regardless of the challenges. I focus on the end goal. In regards to the most tasking problem I’ve solved, I don’t think I can identify a particular one. I work in an environment where I go through challenges every single day, from lack of infrastructure to HR, to outright ridiculous client requests… I can go on and on but I get through each day knowing full well that the most important thing is to focus and deliver great results at the end of it all.
You also pride yourself in what you call an ‘‘Unrivalled ability to understand client objectives’’. Client and customer service standards today have never been lower. If you could enforce penalties for businesses that have shoddy client care, what would that be?
You find that there are instances where the customer is actually wrong. I’ve seen customers disrespect service providers and vice versa but everyone needs to have mutual respect for one another for things to work and function properly. This is one thing that definitely has to be determined on a case by case basis. Once sanction cannot apply to all.
What are some of the other basic things about running a business that people tend to ignore and why are those important?
Business ethics and character. Character is very important in business because it sets the tone for how your business operates. When considering character and the impact it may have on business, it’s important to examine the core values often related to character. This includes operating in a trustworthy manner, demonstrating respect at every opportunity and taking responsibility for your actions. Beyond these, showing concern and doing the right thing, even when difficult, represent characteristics found in individuals living and operating in an ethical manner. This has a ripple effect on teams – if staff teams are not led in an ethical manner then they will take it that it’s okay for them to do anything without thinking about the consequences.
I understand you hire only women. Is that true? Why’s that and what have been the benefits having an all female team?
The stats are clear. There are less women in the work place in Nigeria and Africa as a whole and fewer opportunities available to women than men. I’m doing my part to change the numbers. Women for so long have been marginalized in the work field – women who, in all likelihood, had what it took, who were diligent and competent. There is also evidence that shows that promoting women’s access to employment can unleash a strong force for innovation, productivity, and economic growth. And I believe this is my own little way of writing a new narrative, of saying that women who are competent and hardworking must be given a chance. It is something everyone should be conscious about. An all female team is amazing: we understand each other, have similar problems and issues in our personal lives so it’s easy for us to open up to each other and talk about these issues amongst ourselves without feeling judged.
You left London to return to Nigeria, a country buzzing with creativity and enterprise but not known to be easy when it comes to running a business and making it successful. What were your thought processes in coming to that decision?
I honestly wasn’t thinking; I was at a point in my life where I had to decide if I was going to sink or swim and I had to make that decision very quickly. I had to grow up very quickly and take my life into my own hands. That was it for me.
You’re still very young. When you think about the long future ahead of you, what do you see as your larger purpose and how are you advancing it?
My larger purpose is definitely impacting the lives of people as I grow; to learn in order to teach and inspire. I’m consistently developing myself and growing in every aspect of my life. I want to build LSF|PR into a company that outlives me, focusing and bringing my other visions and business ideas to life. Generally, I would like to build sustainable businesses and brands that will continue to address issues that affect us in the country and on the continent.
What are some of the ground rules and principles you live your life and run your business by?
Know your values and value them. Building a business is a lot of work, and focusing on the vision for the business can feel like a waste of time. A lot of times you are likely to be pulled in different directions, losing focus of your core values. It’s important to be guided by principles and operate by those principles. I’ve learnt so much about this from someone who inspires me – Ray Dalio, the founder of the largest hedge fund in the world. He acknowledged the importance of being guided by principles – “Principles are ways of successfully dealing with the laws of nature or the laws of life. Those who understand more of them and understand them well know how to interact with the world more effectively than those who know fewer of them”.
What do you look for in a good friend and why are those attributes important?
Honesty and trust – it’s important to have people who can tell me the truth around me. People who can tell me when they think I’m doing something wrong or going in the wrong direction.
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