Catching up with award-winning lifestyle journalist and the Founder/ CEO of Redrick Public Relations, Ijeoma Balogun was a fashionable and intellectually-charged experience. She got candid about the importance of internships, having a career plan, and being a part of the growth of the Nigerian Fashion Industry.- RACHEAL ABIRIBA

You knew early on that you wanted to establish a PR company. How important is having a career plan to shaping one’s path?

I know quite early on, but the plan was not to set up a company right out of university; that was not my career plan. The plan was always to work in a Communications/PR company for a few years and branch out at a later time but things worked out differently, and, I believe, for good. So while I think it is great to have a career plan all mapped out, it is also important to be open and flexible.

How were you able to transition from being an employee to a business owner?

My father was an entrepreneur. From an early age he taught me how to file documents, sign cheques, keep a petty cash account amongst other things, so I was exposed to some aspects of running a business, but you are never really prepared for that transition. I equipped myself through lots of reading and consulting with people who were successfully running businesses. Knowledge is such a powerful tool and being aware of your shortcomings and seeking help – you can’t know it all.

How important were internships to your career growth?

Internships are very important; you’re able to get your feet moderately wet and define a specific career path for yourself. I started working at the age of 18 and even when I went off to university, I was still working remotely, building the BellaNaija style team. It was this work experience that affirmed my interest in Communications/PR in addition to various summer in.

How do you handle discriminations in business, based on age and gender, to maintain your stands and values?

My standards are my standards and same applies for my values. I was brought up to believe that they are non-negotiable under any circumstance. With regards to age and gender, I allow my work speak for itself, clients want results ultimately and my ability to deliver is all that should be considered and if it’s not about that but something else, then we are not a right fit for each other and that is ok.

Do you have any mentors or women in business who inspire you?

I have two amazing mothers who inspire me every day. My mother who rose to the pinnacle of her career heading HR for one of Nigeria’s biggest organisations and my mother-in-law who after taking time off work to raise her kids, bravely went into the workforce again and eventually started her own company. I admire how they have been able to achieve a successful work- life balance. In addition, I have a lot of informal mentors who inspire me in so many different ways. It’s great to learn from their wealth of experience in business and in other facets of life generally.

How were you able to see an opportunity for PR in the fashion industry?

Every business in almost every industry requires PR. Fashion is no different. Redrick PR started out in the fashion industry and soon expanded to the lifestyle segment. Today, we are considered a linchpin in the lifestyle industry. In addition, we’ve grown to offer CSR & corporate strategic communications via our sister-brand Redrick Impact Communications.

Having worked with a large number of fashion businesses and organisations, how do you feel about the growth of Nigerian fashion?

I started my career as a fashion journalist, so it has been interesting to observe how the landscape has changed over the years. The conversation now is how do we get the fashion industry to a position where it can play a major role in our economic climate – to create jobs, wealth and contribute to the nation’s GDP? It’s a process, and platforms such as Lagos Fashion Week and Style House Files are heralding this agenda through initiatives that aim to support and grow the industry.

In this social media age, have the available social platforms contributed to your success? And how effective has that been for you?

Social media is now at the centre of business in the 21st century. Having a social media presence is imperative for every business. It has become a near-indispensable hub for promotion and networking across a number of industries. When utilised strategically, conversions occur. We’ve had a few clients come through social media.

Do you feel that your presence on social media has contributed to the growth of your personal and professional narrative?

Social media provides an outlet for people to control their own narrative, tell their own stories, which is amazing! For a PR practitioner, I have what most people would consider a conservative approach to social media with my personal brand, but I am also very aware of how effective it is in growing one’s personal and professional narrative.For me it’s a conscious effort to strike the right balance, and utilize Social Media to contribute positively to the growth of my narrative.

What is the implication of your appointment as Client Director of Nigeria’s branch of Celebrity Services Africa in pushing Nigerian fashion, art and culture to the global community?

Offering opportunities to access global markets to Nigerian businesses and talents in different industries – rntertainment, food & beverages, fashion & lifestyle and sports. The partnership offers Redrick the opportunity to present local & multinational companies with resources and a pool of talent from around the world.

With the growth of individuals contracting PR firms for their personal brand needs, is this a flash-in-the-pan trend, or one that is here to stay?

PR for individuals has always existed. In corporations, this is called CEO Profiling, building public perception around the leader/ leadership team. Celebrities as well as public figures across various fields work with publicists to manage their image.Now that the barriers to entry to becoming a public figure have been dramatically reduced with the advent of social media pages and influencers, who become brands that require PR, it has become increasingly popular. It’s not a fad, it’s here to stay and rightfully so.

What are some of the key lessons you’ve learnt so far?

To be dedicated to the journey, to know your path and stick to it and to learn to block out the noise.

How can SMEs in the fashion industry take advantage of the benefits of PR, especially on a limited budget?

Digital is a recommended avenue with a limited budget when done strategically, also investing in harnessing and growing your owned media channels.

What tips can you give on how to survive as a new PR firm doing business in Nigeria’s fashion industry?

Stay focused and keep pushing. Learn to manage client expectations – this is very important, you always want to be in a position where you exceed clients’ expectations.

This interview was first published in Genevieve Magazine September Issue. Click HERE to purchase.

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