The Comms Spotlight: Kevin Johnson-Azuara, Chief Marketing Officer, Nigerdock

Many Communications professionals dream of reaching great heights in their career. Our Comms spotlight for this week is doing just that. With close to 20 years of agency and in-house experience in the United States and  Africa across diverse sectors including Maritime, Healthcare, Agriculture, FMCG, Oil & Gas, and Technology, Kevin Johnson-Azuara has a lot of wisdom to share. In his interview with us, he shares some advice for building a solid career.

How did your career in Communications begin?
I was on the pathway to becoming a lawyer, but my penchant for writing and public speaking made me gravitate towards Public Relations. So, I initially worked at several globally renowned agencies for a few years before switching to the corporate/client side over a decade ago.

Your underlying goal as a practitioner is to always communicate clearly, and create emotional experiences that drive stakeholder participation, and I am beyond grateful for the cross-sector experience and knowledge I have garnered from sectors such as Oil & Gas, Maritime & Logistics, Technology, Pharmaceuticals, Finance, and Agriculture.


What do you do as the Chief Marketing Officer at Nigerdock?
My primary purpose is to craft compelling narratives focused on Nigerdock’s vision, strategy, and impact. It is also my job to inspire a culture of idea expression, originality, collective trust, and invention which motivates the Marketing and Corporate Communications team and all employees to effectively collaborate organisation-wide on initiatives to continuously improve our brand equity, visibility, and reputation.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced on your career journey and how did you overcome it?
Inertia. Most individuals face the stagnation conundrum in various stages of their career, and the typical fight or flight response is to look for a new challenge or work environment. Also, coming to terms with how thankless and selfless your job as a Marketing professional can be.

To counter, I focused on making my own luck, and luck is ideally the convergence of opportunity and hard work. I kept honing my craft, being inquisitive, networked intentionally beyond my job functions and sectors, and actively sought opportunities to become a better practitioner and professional focused on creating inherent value.


What is the best career resource you have watched, listened to, and/or read?
To build out an illustrious career you must first aspire to be a good person, regardless of your position, because your words and actions influence and impact so many people. I am an avid reader, and I would suggest a few books that highlight purpose, opportunity, and legacy: The Alchemist, When Breath Becomes Air, Shoe Dog, and The White Tiger. These are all amazing reads and great for anyone looking for a semblance of discovery and direction in their personal or professional lives.

For more career-focused literature I would recommend, ‘First You Write a Sentence’ and ‘Creativity Inc.’ as well as Adidas’s recent ‘3 Captains. 3 Stripes. 4 Cups.’ campaign celebrating the South African Springboks’ recent Rugby World Cup triumph.


What major highlights from your professional journey can you share with other professionals?
I have been privileged to enjoy a multi-industry experience across several continents and there are three inflection points that stand out in my career. During my early foray into high-level agency work, I conducted daily early morning media monitoring at 6-7 a.m. in the Ogilvy PR New York Office. That “alone time” afforded me the opportunity to quickly grasp the importance of audience psychographics, research, structure, detail, and being sector agnostic.

Another highlight would be the successful rebrand of Oando Gas & Power to Axxela, which I led. For such a niche market, significant 360 Brand Strategy and Management had to be implemented to build up Axxela’s new corporate image. Becoming Nigerdock’s Chief Marketing Officer is testament to my career progression, and hopefully an inspiration to younger practitioners who want a long-term career in the field of Marketing and Communications.


What advice would you give to younger professionals who aspire to be where you are right now?
Learn the paradoxes of life (The Growth Paradox, The Constant Change Paradox etc.) and your raison d’etre, which translates to your ‘reason for being.’

As a creative mind, you must constantly push beyond your comfort zone by seeking inspiration and motivation. Research campaigns, quickly adapt to marketing trends and apply as necessary, read extensively to expand your knowledge base, vocabulary, and comprehension of terminology. Travel to better understand other cultures and value systems, volunteer to appreciate humanity, and have dialogues with your mentors often for varying perspectives.

All of this will significantly impact your approach to work, and your colleagues may use terms such as ‘early adopter’ or ‘change agent’ to define you, but as exponential opportunities collide with your invaluable experiences, always remember that your success is more about the valleys you overcome than the peaks you attain.


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