Demola Akinbola is a brand and reputation management specialist with considerable experience spanning Journalism, branding, corporate reputation management, business development, enterprise change management, and digital marketing. He is the Founder and Head Steward at Brand Stewards Limited, a brand and reputation management consultancy operating in Nigeria and United Kingdom. He is also the Publisher of Ile-Oluji Times (a monthly newspaper), Who’s Who in Ile-Oluji (a community biography), and The Podium (a general interest online magazine).
Demola had successful media practice at leading Nigerian newspapers (The Guardian, Punch and This Day) from 1991 to 1996, during which he worked with different teams to revolutionise business reporting and advance the frontiers of Financial Journalism. He started his brand management career at the then Owena Bank (later Omega Bank) in 1996 as Media Relations Manager before joining Prudent Bank (now Skye Bank PLC) in 2000 as the pioneer Head of Corporate Affairs.
The British Council appointed him in 2004 as the Country Head of its Communication and Marketing function. In April 2007 when the privatization of government-owned enterprises gained momentum, he was recruited as Head of Corporate Planning and Strategy to join the new team being assembled to reposition the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company PLC (NAHCO), Nigeria’s number one aviation handling company with 80% market share.
He led on the branding and stakeholder management function which effectively complemented the Board’s vision of stabilizing and re-focusing the company post privatization and re-capitalization. Following a 2008 organizational restructuring exercise coordinated by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), his job function was expanded and re-named. He was assigned the portfolio of Head of Corporate Communication and Business Development with the mandate to continue to execute the Board’s mandate in the areas of Corporate Planning and Strategy, Branding and New Businesses.
The highlight of his achievements was the successful re-branding programme of the company which led to a change in the brand name, corporate identity and corporate philosophy of the company. In 2010, he voluntarily resigned from nacho aviance to focus on managing Brand Stewards.
Demola obtained a M.Sc. Degree in Digital Marketing & Web Analytics from Dublin Institute of Technology in 2016. He was earlier was awarded the Master of Communication Arts degree of the University of Ibadan in 1997. He had previously, in 1990, obtained a Higher National Diploma (with Upper Credit) in Mass Communication from Ogun State Polytechnic, Abeokuta.
He has published several articles and authored four management books, Building Enduring Corporate Reputation (2005), Built to Endure (2010) and It’s a BRAND U World: Personal and Reputation Management Insights for Career Professionals and Entrepreneurs (2013), and How to Brand Yourself and Your Business (2018). He is well-travelled and has benefitted from several domestic and international training programmes on Brand Management, Corporate Communications, Change Management and Organisational Strategy.
In this interview, Demola spoke about his career, his professional practice and his new project, The Podium Media.u recently on his new project, The Podium Media.
You aren't new to a lot of people who know you in the branding world, as well as through your published works. Kindly introduce yourself to those just learning about you.
My name is Demola Akinbola. I am the Founder/Lead Consultant of BrandStewards International, a brand and reputation management consultancy operating in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. I am also the Publisher of Ile-Oluji Times, a community newspaper and, of recent, The Podium Media, an international online general interest magazine.
Kindly, highlight your role as a Brand and Reputation Management Consultant.
As a brand and reputation Management consultant, my role is to partner with individuals and organisations to build and manage global, value-adding brands. I conceive, implement and evaluate strategies and plans that will support our clients' aspirations to deliver value to stakeholders in order to succeed in the marketplace.
What about your life as an Author? What does it entail?
As an author, I have five published books to my credit. As a brand management educator, my books focus on how individuals and companies can build successful brands and earn good reputation. I like to share knowledge and I have a passion for writing, hence my devotion to writing books to share my knowledge and experience spanning over 25 years
You are also a trainer …
Yes, I have been involved in training since 1998 when I led the employee engagement function at Owena Bank. I also played the same role at Prudent Bank, British Council, and Nigerian Aviation Holding Company (NAHCO). I am certified as a Trainer by the Irish Institute of Training and Development. Today, I preside over The Brand Academy, an integrated training and professional development institute that focuses on training entrepreneurs, SME operators, career professionals and others in all aspects of branding, communication and reputation management.
What do you do as an organisational change specialist?
My role as an organisational change specialist entails working on enterprise restructuring and repositioning initiatives. We work with clients to set up the necessary structures and processes needed to build an enduring organisation. We essentially work with clients from the inception of their businesses and our work includes writing feasibility studies, preparing business plans, creating the brand identity, developing the corporate philosophy, developing operating manuals, supporting in staff recruitment and training, implementing employee induction and orientation programmes developing a brand manual, marketing plan, etc.
What has been the feedback on your books?
The feedback on my latest books published in 2018 have been quite encouraging. I am happy that the books have been well-received, especially HOW TO BRAND YOURSELF AND YOUR BUSINESS. The other book, THE WINNING ORGANISATION, has also been doing well. Both books are now being updated and prepared for the international market.
Your latest project is the new online magazine that just launched. Kindly tell us about it
Yes, we (myself and my colleagues – Ayo Fawibe and Babajide Morakinyo-Alabi) have just unveiled an online general-interest magazine called The Podium Media (www.thepodiummedia.com). Our vision is to provide contents that are educative, entertaining and enlightening. We focus on development news, interviews and events. Our tag line is celebrating people, places and events.
The Podium went live on September 2, 2019 as an independent, general interest magazine with a vision to celebrate the best of humanity. We are a human development media institution founded on the principles of excellence, integrity, professionalism, and respect for the individual. Our Vision is to celebrate outstanding people, places and events.
The Podium Media seems to see you going fully into online lifestyle and news Media?
Well, I have been involved with “hard news” for decades. I started my journalism career as a financial journalist. My romance with business and finance news continued during my stints as the brand manager of Owena Bank and Prudent Bank (later Skye Bank and Polaris Bank). It’s time to do something that is not too hard. So, apart from lifestyle, The Podium Media features contents on events, entertainment, personal finance, politics, sports, management, etc. We are not strictly a breaking news website in the traditional sense, although we do have a lot of news contents presented as special reports and features. We focus more on the news behind the news, dwelling on the implications of news as it breaks.
What prompted your foray into online media practise?
My colleagues and I have a combined journalism experience of close to 70 years. We are all graduates of Mass Communication and we are passionate about the profession. So, we see opportunities to carve a niche out of the online journalism space, we see opportunities to further professionalise online journalism, we see opportunities to become a global online media conglomerate.
What are the challenges?
I was trained not to see challenges, but to identify hidden opportunities in any situation or circumstances. We are prepared for the task ahead and, God willing, we will pull through and make our mark.
How has traffic been on the site?
Traffic to the site has been busy, quite surprisingly for a site that is barely one month old. I attribute this to the quality of our contents, the news treatment, our language, and the pedigree that my colleagues and I bring into this new project.
Do you see The Podium Media getting as big as some established sites in Nigeria presently?
It will get bigger and better than them by the grace of God. That is the vision, that is the plan. To be a global leader in online magazine production and presentation. We are not competing with them, but we have a point to prove that we have what it takes to be the market leader.
What do you think about the regulation of online Media?
Regulation of online media is desirable so that we can have sanity and decency. Because of the potency and potential power of online media assets, some level of regulation, not censorship, will be useful. Entry requirements should be well-defined and strictly adhered to. There should be a code of ethics and there should also be sanctions for any deliberate and unrepentant breach of the code.
As an entrepreneur, what's the business landscape like for Practitioners?
The Nigerian business landscape is replete with opportunities. There are limiting factors though, but with focus, tenacity, consistency, creativity, resourcefulness, and innovation, the Nigerian entrepreneur will survive and blossom. Of course, the God factor is the most important. He is the one who can bless our efforts.
What's your motivation in business?
My motivation in business is service delivery and ultimately value creation. I like to be a solution provider for my clients, and I like to be the go-to person for creative brand and reputation management solutions that positively influence the bottom line. I am also motivated by the desire to be a pioneer and be a pathfinder. That is the same motivation that birthed The Podium Media. My quest for excellence is insatiable; I keep pushing and pushing.
And in life?
My motivation in life is God. I am assured by the fact that since God is God and He reigns in the affairs of men, all will be well. I am never fazed by challenges or difficulties; I usually draw inspiration to overcome from God. I am also driven by the passion for putting smiles on people's faces, leaving them better than I met them. In addition, I know who I am. I know what God has deposited in me in terms of skills and talents. With that, I am motivated to confront any challenge with the positive expectation of succeeding.
How do you maximise your time with your involvement in many projects?
Well, by my training I have developed a knack for working strategically. There is never enough time for anyone or for anything, but with focus and prioritisation, it becomes easier to do many things. In addition, all the projects I am involved in are complementary, I mean they revolve around marketing communication which I will humbly say is my area of specialization. I function with little or no stress in the branding and marketing communications arena. I am gifted by God in that area, I have been well-educated academically and professionally, I have been well trained in Nigeria and overseas, and I have had very useful hands-on experience in the area.
Where do you see The Podium in Five Years?
By the grace of God, and the support of our readers and advertisers, The Podium Media will be a reference point in online magazine, especially in the areas of special reports, events coverage, and in-depth interviews. In five years’, time, we will be among the top three global sites for people-focused development news.
Any plans to write more books?
Sure! I am currently working on a book on Digital Marketing Excellence. It will be released in 2020 by God's grace. My target is to publish one book every two years. If God gives me the enablement, I will forever write books because knowledge is power.
Tell us a bit about your personal life.
I am the last child in a family of seven. I was born and raised in Ibadan, Oyo State but I am an indigene of Ile-Oluji, the headquarters of Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo Local Government area of Ondo State. I am married and blessed with fearfully and wonderfully made children.
How do you relax?
I relax by watching football with friends, exercising, and socialising because of the nature of my job. I like to interact with friends, exchange notes, share experiences and crack jokes.
What will you like to tell your family, friends, and clients?
I want to thank my family, friends, associates, clients and partners for their prayer and support thus far. I am a product of grace and I have enjoyed the goodwill of the wonderful people God has positioned in my life. I want to assure all of them that I will continue to make them proud.