Working in communications is not always a walk in the park but what about when you have to work in a crisis hit zone? Our Comms Spotlight has first-hand experience of what it’s like to work in a region facing crisis. In the middle of all the unrest and civil disruptions, Gah Joy Defi has remained committed and passionate about delivering her best in her role as a communicator. In our interview, she tells us how she has been able to achieve this and how she has remained consistent even in the face of constant crisis.
What do you do in your role as the Communications Officer at Value Health Africa?
My job entails handling the internal and external communication of the organisation. I equally prepare and issue official correspondences on behalf of the organisation. As the Communications Manager in charge of five regional bureaus, I document and produce the newsletter with focus on visibility for Value Health Africa and her partners.
How did you begin your career journey and what are some of the factors that have contributed to your professional success so far?
As a journalist who dived into corporate communications, I have worked for a period of six years and one key motivation for picking this career path has been the love for the TRUTH. Keeping people updated with the right information has been my greatest driving force. This, given the numerous unverified and baseless information that travels fast in society.
Being assertive has laid a strong foundation for the successful career I am building. In a career as such, being nosy and a go-getter is imperative. Being observant and keen on details has also placed me ahead of so many others because strategic communication requires more than just a sixth sense at all times.
You work in a crisis zone in Cameroon. What has that experience been like in terms of delivering value in your job?
Working in this crisis hit zone which happens to be more intense than other areas going through the same ordeal requires Tact, Skill and above all God. There are places tagged ‘ground zero’ but these places are not completely eradicated which means these persons who do not have a means of movement, are in dire need of healthcare. And this is when we come in no matter the odds.
It takes bravery and love for the profession/ humanity to hear the sounds of gunshots, be caught up in-between crossfires yet put up an unweaving commitment to carry your duty irrespective of the odds.
Several times, I have had to deal with walking alone on the quiet streets under heavy rains looking down on the insecurity all in the pursuit to deliver. Being a communicator at this end of the country is a daunting task. I have also had to walk on ghost town days (Those days when inhabitants of the region are instructed to stay under closed doors or risk facing the grievous consequences of disobedience). But when my duty entails reporting these happenings, I have no choice. It all lies on the shoulders of risk taking.
Facing stiff resistance from communities is a unique aspect of working in this region. Working at a time when everybody is a suspect, people hardly ever trust communicators with complete information alongside their true identities. This is a great challenge. With the rate at which phones are hacked and reports being monitored in its strictest form, it is increasingly becoming difficult to freely give out the right information without taking a pause to rethink again.
In your opinion, what unique skills are required to succeed as a communications professional working in the middle of a crisis?
Being a complete communicator who reports, operate the camera and edit video/audio content all by yourself is a plus. These skills ensure that stories are told without delay and distortion irrespective of where I find myself.
What book, podcast or resources have been very valuable to you as a communications professional? Please share a few with us.
Health Mirror (magazine), Effective Communication (book) and Strategic Communication (book)
What professional advice would you give to your younger professional self?
I would tell myself to be intentional about reading on a variety of topics, especially as it concerns health, politics, climate change etc. in order to better fit in the world of communications which is fast evolving.