Letter to Dee

Dearest Dee,

It’s been a while. We don’t talk as often as we used to, and yet nothing has changed; not my admiration of your femininity, poise, wisdom, grace, eloquence and uncommon kindness, not your inexplicable fondness for and devotion to me, and certainly not our ability to talk about any and everything – when we do get to talk.

I remember the girl that I was when I first arrived Lagos. When I think of her, and then look at the woman I am today, two words flash before my eyes; God…Dee.

In May 2007 I left my little job in Warri after many months of longing for a better life. I remember walking home from work one day and, in a moment of intense awareness of the sheer ordinariness and tedium of my existence, muttering a quiet but heartfelt prayer: “God, please let me be somebody in this life.” So the next time my friend in Lagos raised the issue of relocating, I said yes without knowing how it would come about.

It turned out that saying yes to myself – yes to my potential, yes to my greatness, yes to more – was enough.

On the 4th of September 2007 I showed up ready to begin a career in Public Relations. I was prepared for work, but I was not prepared for you, Dee. When I first set eyes on you that first day at work, I had no way of knowing how much you would come to mean to me. It still amazes me how quickly we took to each other, even now that I can clearly see it was meant to be. What would a senior colleague, 11 years older than I for that matter, stand to benefit from a relationship with me?

I did not understand it at the time, but I do now. It was through your eyes that I truly saw myself for the first time. It was you who made me aware of my personal brand. My ability to look at a document and spot errors – from typos and grammatical blunders, to double spaces between words – was something I took for granted.

“It’s not about knowing English, Joy. I have a good command of the English Language myself; I was a broadcaster for almost a decade, FRCN trained. It’s the combination of language proficiency AND attention to detail. Don’t take it for granted. My husband’s company would benefit greatly from having someone like you.”

You influenced everyone in the office with your opinion of me. It wasn’t long before the MD insisted that no document leave the office without having been checked by me. You praised me publicly and corrected me privately. You gave me books and magazines to read. You gave me clothes, shoes and jewellery. You shared life experiences with me. And if that was all you did, it would have been enough.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about our relationship is the fact that you did not need that job. Oh, everybody who worked there knew that; we all realized from the car you came to work in, the clothes you wore, and the trips to South Africa and Paris for medical checkups, that you were not there for the money; but it was only later in our friendship that I would realize just how much you did not need the money.

You also did not need to keep in touch with me after you resigned to go start a family. You were no longer my boss, and even though I still wanted to be friends with you, it was your call, really. And you chose to be my friend. You chose to drive from the Island to the mainland just to take me out for starch and banga soup. You took my calls and counselled me when the need arose. When it became necessary for me to leave that office, you recommended me for a role in your husband’s company.

The pride you took in me as I grew in my new job meant almost as much as the fat pay check. You made sure to tell me all the wonderful things your husband said about my intelligence, dedication and readiness to learn new things. “He believes you can do more than research. He says he’s discussed with the Consultant to train you as a scriptwriter.” By believing in me you gave me more than a job, Dee; you gave me a sense of worth, a new career, the opportunity to learn new skills and a lifelong mentor who taught me how to write documentary scripts, and more.

You saw my gifts when I couldn’t see them, and you did your best to open my eyes to my own value. I look at my life, count my blessings, and count you 10 times.

There’s no way I could possibly recount all the things you’ve given me and done for me, and all the opportunities I have had because of you. Neither is there any way I could ever pay you back. Still, when I remember the girl I was when I first arrived Lagos, and look at the woman I am now, I purpose in my heart that I will pay. I have made a commitment to be to someone what you have been to me, God willing. I will pay it forward.




Published Articles

7 Vital Differences Between Public Relations and Advertising

Fresh graduates searching for a career, and entrepreneurs trying to promote their fledgling business, often have questions about public relations and advertising. These two very different industries are frequently confused as being one and the same. The emergence of the “Public Relations and Advertising Agency” (an attempt at Integrated Marketing Communications) doesn’t help matters in this regard.

The following are seven points that just scratch the surface of the numerous dissimilarities between advertising and public relations.

1. Free Coverage vs Paid Space

The public relations executive’s job is to get free publicity for the company or for his client; news mentions by the media for which they are not paid. By setting up press conferences, writing press releases and hosting media parleys, he focuses on establishing good rapport with relevant press people, and getting free media exposure for the company/client.

In advertising on the other hand, the company pays for advert space, and knows when exactly that advert will air or be published.

2. Control

The public relations practitioner has no creative control over how the media presents the information supplied; if they decide to use it at all. The media is under no obligation to cover an event, or to publish a press release just because it was sent to them.

In advertising, because the client is paying for ad space, he has creative control over what goes into that advert, down to the very last detail.

3. Consumer Perception

When looking at an advert, consumers know that a company is trying to “sell” a product or service, and they receive the message guardedly. Conversely, PR helps generate third-party ‘endorsement’ by independent media sources, thereby creating credibility. When someone reads an article written by someone with no affiliation to your company, or views objective coverage of your event on TV, they know you didn’t pay for it, and they view it in a different light than advertising.

4. Shelf Life

An advert generally has a longer shelf life than one press release. Whereas a PR executive can only submit a press release about a new product once, adverts can be run over and over, for as long as the company’s budget allows. A company can even buy advertising space for the same advert to run every day for a week or even months, but an editor won’t publish your same press release three or four times in their paper or magazine.

5. Different Creative Energies

Advertising executives exercise their creativity by putting togetheradvertising campaigns and material. Creative sessions to come up with attractive newspaper adverts, catchy radio jingles and inspiring TV commercials are the norm in advertising agencies.

In public relations, your creativity is exercised in the way you organize and present your company’s information to the media as newsworthy, the way you are able to generate and sustain buzz through that news, and very importantly, your crisis control skills when it comes time to save your client or company’s integrity and keep scandal from escalating.

6. Special Events: Let’s say your company, as part of their corporate social responsibility, renovates a school, provides a community with pipe borne water, or sponsors an event. Would you take out an advert praising yourselves for being such a great company? No, you wouldn’t overtly blow your trumpet that way. Instead, your PR people package it as news. They send out a press release, which the media will pick up. Beyond publishing the information, they may even cover the event and report it.

7. Writing Style: A young graduate who recognizes that they have a way with words may say, “I want a career in PR and/or Advertising.” However, many do not realize that the writing style required for successful advertising, would be out of place in PR.

An advertising copywriter is free to exercise his creativity in putting together ad campaigns and materials. Phrases like, “Act now!”, “Call us today!” or “Only the best will do for you” are all things you can say in an advertisement, to inspire consumers to buy your product.

In Public Relations however, you’re writing in a strictly no-nonsense news format. Any obvious commercial messages in your communications will be disregarded by the media.


So there you have it; it’s up to you to decide which career path suits you better, or which communication approach meets the needs of your business best.