Guest 02: Mbacham Santher Emene, co-founder of ImageNation. She is a Multimedia Communicator with a knack for Public Relations. 

For the second article of the series “Impact of the health crisis of Covid-19 for professionals and agencies of communication, events and public relations in Cameroon”, we receive Mbacham Santher Emene.

She has served Cameroonians via the education sector, fostering the teaching and learning of Mathematics differently in the last 3 years at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. She also currently serves Cameroonians via a PR agency, she founded in 2017 with friends, Imagenation, which has as aim to elevate Cameroon’s image via a number of campaigns, brand activation activities and brand representation and reputation management. 

"I also have to mention here that Communicators and PR pros who work for organizations/companies, most importantly, have to carefully craft and dispatch messages that cater to the needs of employees, stakeholders and their publics."
Santher Mbacham
Co-founder of ImageNation

How are Cameroonian communication and public relations professionals faced with the crisis?

I would love to applaud my colleagues for Now we have to distinguish between two types of Communicators. Communicators and PR professionals who work for companies, Communicators and PR pros who run agencies. I would love to applaud my colleagues for doing an excellent job in keeping the public informed and up to speed with COVID-19 pandemic related-news. Your tenacity and pivotal role in flattening the curve, cannot be over-emphasized and for that, I say thank you.

The aforementioned group whom I call « Les Stars du moment » more than ever has had to devise strategies and carefully crafted organizational responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. I also have to mention here that Communicators and PR pros who work for organizations/companies, most importantly, have to carefully craft and dispatch messages that cater to the needs of employees, stakeholders and their publics.  

Added to this, is their constant search for innovative ideas that are adapted to the digital world to keep their publics, and stakeholders informed about the pandemic. They are also tasked with migrating physical events unto the digital sphere, hence the rise of webinars via Zoom et al. This group, I will say has been slightly affected by the crisis but their digital prowess and overall know-how has been enhanced. Moreso, their roles in organizations are more than ever being appreciated not as after-thoughts but as strategic tools in advancing their organization’s agenda.

The latter group, the Communicators and PR pros who run agencies, have suffered and are still suffering from major business setbacks. Those experiencing the most setbacks are those into events and we all know the reason why. For those who mostly carry out digital activities, might be slightly affected with the crisis. For those whose activities were offline and required physical presence, they have had to migrate unto the digital sphere, activated their creative geniuses, and have come up with content for their client that has drawn, draws and will draw attention, increase engagement with their publics and enhance  the  organization’s brand profile.

How have you reacted to this health crisis in Cameroon with your stakeholders (collaborators, employees, partners, clients)? What methods have you put in place?

Yes, I have. The first thing we did was to touch base with them to know how they are doing. Next up, we came up with proposals to help them best respond to their publics during this pandemic and also find ways to stay in touch with their public, stakeholders and staff.

What was the financial impact of the crisis on your activity?

OH BOY! It was a blow to our activities especially that we were on our way to becoming a household name in the industry. Most of our activities were event-centric and required a lot of gatherings, like brand activation events, conferences. Etc. So, this literally hit us hard.

How did your customers react at the time of the crisis (breach of contract, postponement of campaigns, dismissal, etc)? How did you support them during this period?

Most of them reacted on postponement till further notice because these are events that had already been factored in their calendar of events and approved by hierarchy.

Which company has marked you in its way of communicating during this crisis and particularly during the period of containment?

There is an audio-visual company many do not know about, Afam Company. This guy and his team single-handedly went out and about in Yaoundé and documented 50 individuals, educating the masses in 50 different local languages on the pandemic. His videos have been bought and used by so many NGOs , and ministries etc. This for me is genius and I see everyone doing their fair share in ensuring the messages are accurately told but individuals have done more to communicate on the pandemic on the social networks.

What communication and public relations advice would you give to an advertiser (public, private or para-public) wishing to relaunch its activity?

Start by identifying problems and challenges faced by ensuring your employees, stakeholders and public are keeping safe and are in the right frame of mind to work, invest or consume your products or services. Take it slow, rebuild that connection with them, through every communication means necessary, ensure they understand what the stakes are post-COVID-19 pandemic. This is the most important step before.

"More than ever, CEOs have begun getting up close and personal with their staff due to the weekly virtual meetings and calls. This relationship if translated into the workplace, will improve on staff performance."
Santher Mbacham
Co-founder of ImageNation

Will this crisis change your sector and the way you communicate?

Yes, it will. I think CEOs and those at managerial levels understand the unequivocal role of Communications to their businesses, especially when it comes to crisis communications. You know before, Companies will always look at communications as an after-thought rather than a STRATEGIC tool in fostering their agenda and increasing profit margins. A clear example is when there are budget cuts, the communication department suffers most because none seems to grasp its pivotal role. Crisis communication will be the biggest industry grower, it will force Communication pros to lean on foresight and anticipate and be ready for the worst. 

Also, many Communicators or PR pros who stubbornly refused to incorporate the digital sphere in their activities, have now understood its futuristic importance. Even more so, is the creativity it ignites which is and should not to be under looked. 

Another thing the crisis has changed in the way we communicate is the relationship between CEOs and their staff. More than ever, CEOs have begun getting up close and personal with their staff due to the weekly virtual meetings and calls. This relationship if translated into the workplace, will improve on staff performance. This is an excellent positive in terms of employee relations that CEOs can leverage to grow their businesses.

How can your agency be useful to society today?

My agency plays a pivotal role in shaping and changing narratives that foster nation building through a host of communications activities for individuals, companies and NGOs etc. Whatever projects we embark on, must positively impact Cameroonians, must spark a conversation that leads to change, and must sell Cameroon positively to the world.  I always say, without its people, Cameroon ceases to exist. What makes Cameroon, Cameroon, are its people and we have as obligation to serve the people in all we do. Our agency’s usefulness, lies in our name, Imagenation. We are Cameroon’s Image and so heavy is the head that wears the crown of positively selling our image to the world via storytelling.

Imagine the world of communication and public relations in Cameroon after the crisis:

It will be better, more valued and will grow exponentially and I cannot wait to see what my colleagues and I have in store for Cameroon.

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                                                                                      Par Elodie MBIDA