CEO and Founder of BlackHouse Media, Ayeni Adekunle coached the 2015 MTN Project Fame contestants on the topic Artist Relations and PR. Here is what he had to tell them about perception and the media:
My name is Ayeni Adekunle and I am a PR professional. I work at BlackHouse Media. I want to spend a few minutes with you guys to talk about your image, branding and fame.
As at today in Nigeria, Project Fame West Africa is as big as it gets. If you consider the TV viewership, it will be rare to find any other platform that guarantees you the kind of audience that you can get to by being here.
If you go online, if you go to the Project Fame West Africa YouTube channel, you will find over 30 million cumulative views. What that means is that by coming here in the first place, you have already grabbed the first opportunity to be successful. Before you came here, when you went for the audition, maybe only your friends, family and your close community knew you. Now you are going to leave here with a fanbase whether you come first or second or third or you get evicted. You are going to leave here with people who are going to ‘root’ for you. What that means is that this platform guarantees to some extent some sort of foot-in-the-door for you to begin a career.
If that is so, you need to understand how the music industry in Nigeria works. This is not banking. This is not oil & gas. This is not financial services. You are going to leave here, to an industry that is not entirely structured the way it should be structured. How can you survive in that kind of Industry? There are no record labels waiting to snatch you. There are no dozens of talent agencies waiting to pick you up and take the job from where the academy has stopped and turn you into better products. There are no tours around the country that you can immediately plug into. So you are going to leave here and enter into an industry that is at best non-existent because industry is supposed to run on certain structures that are not in place here.
So how do you survive?
You are going to leave here as first, second, third. Whenever you leave this show, you are going to go into that industry and you are going to survive. It has been done before – you have case studies of winners of Project Fame and you have case studies of first and second runners up who have gone out there in spite of that chaos and done well.
So what do you need to know?
Your Public Relations team just like your lawyer should be one of the closest to you. I say this each time I speak about PR. If you are going to lie to anybody; if you are going to be deceptive; if you are going to be private; if you are going to hide stuff, the one person you do not want to hide it from is that person who is going to be in charge of managing your image.
When you are starting out young with no budget and no label, it might be your sister, it might be your brother, or it might be a journalist friend. You do not want surprises because this team will be in charge of trying to craft your messages to the public. This team will be in charge of trying to make the media understand you better. Sometimes, if you are busy and on the road a lot, this team will have access to your social media platforms. So you do not want them finding out in the media about stuff they should be defending. You don’t want somebody asking “Oh by the way you artiste was in a fight at the nightclub last night?” “Oh by the way I heard that your artiste is trying to sign a contract with this label?” And the person says “Oh no, never, we are not even talking to them,” meanwhile you were in a meeting with them last night.
“Oh my artiste was not in the club last night, she was home sleeping,” and the media runs with that. As soon as you do that once, you lead your PR team to pass out wrong information and they lose credibility with the media. Once you lose credibility to the media, it is always extremely difficult to get it back, and once you breach trust you can’t even do PR.
Q & A
Q – What About Visuals
Your music must be accompanied by exciting images. Videos are important. Today it is easier than ever before. Do not think of videos as just the 5-minute video that accompanies your music. Think of videos first in terms of the 15 seconds that you put on Instagram and Vine, then think of the video that you put out on Facebook, then the video you put on YouTube, and then think of the 4-minute videos for Trace, MTV Base, Hip TV and the rest of them.
Think of visuals as loosely as possible. If you are having drinks with your friends and you are going to push out a 5-second video, make sure it represents you because people are going to see it. Video is not just when you go to South Africa or when you call a big director and you guys get on set.
Everytime you record with a mobile phone, you are sharing content with the world that will present you in a certain way. Is that how you want to be seen. If you go out with your cap the way you are wearing it, is that how you want to be seen? If you have tattoo on your neck, is that how you want to be seen? If you sag your pants… understand that everything you say and project will form a part of what constitutes your brand.
A lot of these guys will never sit with you one on one. We all know 2Pac, we all know Michael Jackson and we all know Jay-Z. We all can tell their stories. But how many of us have ever spent time with them? We know them based on how we experience them through the media platforms that they use to engage with us.
Ayeni Adekunle is a Nigerian public relations practitioner, journalist, trained scientist and businessman – a veteran in the entertainment and PR industries. He is the publisher of Nigerian Entertainment Today; the founder of BlackHouse Media, a Public Relations firm, and ID Africa, a digital marketing agency.