The Comms Spotlight: Olumuyiwa Akande, Group Head, Corporate Communications, SIFAX Group

It’s sometimes easy to forget how much change technology has brought into our world in the last two decades. Our Comms Spotlight for this week began his career at a time when press releases had to be hand delivered to news reporters but today, he employs the use of modern communication tools in his role as Group Head, Corporate Communications at SIFAX Group. In this interview, Olumuyiwa Akande takes us back to the starting point of his career which spans 18 years while also giving valuable advice to younger professionals who are building a career in Communications.


Tell us a bit about your role as Group Head, Corporate Communications at SIFAX Group.

My role is simply about compelling storytelling. I design and execute communications strategies that tell the stories of the SIFAX Group brand, with special emphasis on our corporate vision, mission, core values, products, services, societal impact, and human resources assets, among others.

This role gives me the opportunity to oversee the communications functions across the different business organisations in the SIFAX Group. These communications functions include Communications Strategy Development, Stakeholder Management, Media Relations, Digital Media, Advertising, Sponsorship, Corporate Social Responsibility, Internal Communications, Event Management, and Brand Management, among others.

By the way, SIFAX Group is a conglomerate with headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria but has business operations in Ghana, Guinea, Gambia, Sierra Leone, and the United States. The company has diverse investments in sectors like Maritime, Aviation, Oil & Gas, Financial Services, Haulage, Power & Energy, and Hospitality.


Did you always know that you would build your career in Communications? Tell us how it began.

From a tender age, I fell in love with reading newspapers and watching television and that was how the seed was planted. I am also in love with writing. My first ambition was to be a Journalist and that was where I started my career.

I worked with the defunct The Comet newspaper which is now The Nation for a few years before transitioning to a Public Relations career. I worked with one of the leading PR firms in Lagos, Nigeria – Mediacraft Associates for about eight years and rose to become an Account Director. I was privileged to work on some of the big brands in Nigeria including ExxonMobil, Diamond Bank, Avon HMO, Gulder, Amstel Malta, Heineken, Star, Huawei, Google and Starcomms.

I later moved to the client’s side when I joined SIFAX Group as the Group Head, Corporate Communications and I have been there for about nine years.


Reflecting on your 18 years of experience, what changes in the industry have surprised you the most?

The biggest disruption in the industry is technology, particularly the internet. I remember at the beginning of my career, PR executives, especially those in the media department, had to visit different media organisations with their press releases. The internet penetration was very low then. Not many journalists had an email address. So, you had to go to their offices to drop your press releases.

But the story is different today. From the comfort of your home, you can run your media campaign successfully. The consumer feedback mechanism has also changed drastically. In those days, feedback could only come through the media, particularly through the “letters to the editors” section of the press. Today, with the advent of social media, consumers now go directly to these platforms to express their views about any brand. That’s why communications professionals need to follow the trends to serve their brands well.

Let me also talk about measurement and evaluation in communication. During my early years in PR, measurement was limited to Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE), where we measured using the advertising value of published stories in
newspapers. Many things were wrong with this method, but we were stuck with it because there wasn’t any other precise and scientific option.

But the internet has come to our rescue. There are tons of measuring tools that can be deployed to evaluate communications campaigns today. Almost all social media platforms have back-end analytics that show the performance of your posts and campaigns.


Can you share some highlights you’ve experienced on your career journey?

There are many of them. I remember I was asked to manage the ExxonMobil account less than one year into my career. It was one of the biggest accounts in the agency then. I was elated because it showed the confidence my boss had in me.

My rapid promotions are also unforgettable highlights. In about 6 years of working in the agency, I was already number 2 in the hierarchy. Every time the clients expressed satisfaction with my job was also a big deal for me.

At SIFAX Group, the highlights are many. The launch of the company’s first staff magazine less than six months after joining the company. Note that the company had existed for over two decades before my appointment. Pulling this off in just six months still gladdens my heart.

From the rebranding project of the company to the launch of a new interactive website to revamping of the company’s digital platforms. Winning awards are also significant. I have had my fair share of these throughout my career.


In today’s world, it sometimes seems like there are no new ideas. How do you find inspiration?

Reading is one of my most cherished hobbies. I read a lot and gained a lot of fresh perspectives from books. I am also very inquisitive. I ask questions. This allows me to get into the minds and heads of people. Most of the time, I take mental notes when I have a conversation with people and go home to process such insights further.

I also have regular brainstorming sessions with my team. I am blessed with a crop of young and sharp Communications Specialists with different skill sets and experiences. Ideas flow whenever we come together.

My quiet time is important to me. For about an hour every day, especially in the morning or late in the night, I pull away from every distraction to engage my creative mind about any challenge at hand. It could be an official or personal
challenge. I always come up with something interesting.

Lastly, I love reading PR and Marketing case studies from around the world. This has kept me inspired through the years.


What advice do you have for young professionals looking to build a career in the industry?

1. Take relevant courses. There are many of them online.
2. Take advantage of an internship. I will recommend a Communications Consulting agency.
3. Keep upskilling. The industry is dynamic, so you can’t afford to stagnate.
4. Join a professional community like The Comms Avenue.
5. Look for a mentor or coach.
6. Network. Attend industry events.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *