A lawyer by profession but a Marketing & Communications Specialist by passion, our Comms Spotlight, Tobi Akinkunmi, is currently making his mark as the Marketing and Communications Manager at Universal Music Group.
While practising as a Lawyer, he co-founded a creative agency called ‘FTC’ which was predominantly focused on the development of youth focused marketing campaigns, events and artist management. He also worked at GTBank as a member of the Corporate and External communications.
In his interview with us, Tobi shares how he transitioned into comms and the lessons he has learnt from his professional journey so far.
What does your role as the Marketing & Communications Manager at Universal Music Group entail?
As the Marketing & Communications Manager, I am responsible for driving the development and execution of all marketing campaigns and initiatives with regards to Universal Music Group, Nigeria. This ranges from campaigns involving our direct signings, to our inbound releases, partnerships and collaborations.
How did you begin your journey in communications and how have you improved yourself over the years?
I would say my journey in communications has been quite unconventional. I studied Law and always imagined myself as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in the long run. However, while practicing Law, a friend and I also ran a creative agency through which I got the opportunity to work with brands such as Bacardi, LVMH, Schweppes, Uber amongst others; this was where my journey in communications began. It was only a matter of time before I was honest with myself and decided to make a complete transition into the world of communications.
I joined the Corporate & External Affairs Department at GTBank working closely with the product and content marketing team as well as the events team. From being part of initiatives such as the quick credit scheme to working on events such as the GTBank Fashion Weekend, there was never a dull moment. I also worked with the team at Ndani TV, a GTBank subsidiary, in a business development capacity.
In 2020, I jumped at the opportunity to join Universal Music Group as this role was a perfect combination of my passion for communications and entertainment.
Seeing as I wasn’t initially in the field of communications, my improvement and development has been heavily dependent on my passion and observing things around me. In today’s world, if you pay attention, you will notice countless innovative campaigns and initiatives coming up by the day. No man is an island, so as much as I can, I allow my observations inspire me and expose me to the possibilities that exist. This ranges from travelling to consuming content, to attending events etc., you never know what is out there if you don’t remain curious enough to find out and explore.
The right experience has also played a big role in my development; I’ve been fortunate to work in organisations where I’ve been mentored by people who I look up to and people who have taken a keen interest in my development.
Can you share one major challenge you have faced in your career so far and how you overcame it?
A challenge I initially faced was making the transition from Law to Communications. As you may know Law is a conventional profession which is heavily based on precedence. Over time, as a Lawyer, you grow to analyse things in a certain way as a result of the general nature of the cases you handle on a daily basis. While this is bound to make you a better lawyer, it might initially limit the way you approach things in a heavily creative field such as Communications. I was tasked with breaking out of the mold and allowing myself think more freely in order to be more receptive to creative inspiration. This surely wasn’t a one-day task but something which happened over time as I came across more campaigns and case studies, researched more and also got involved in more brainstorm sessions which allowed me feed off the energy of my colleagues.
Simply put, only a truly open mind is able to learn and create more; no idea is too crazy or outlandish, it’s the practicality and execution of the said idea that will determine that.
What are some of the key lessons you have learnt from your professional journey so far?
Hmm where do I start?
Firstly, I’d say that you’re only as good as your team and the people you surround yourself with. Any successful campaign is as a result of all the people that have worked on it, no matter how tiny each person’s contribution might have been; this is something I definitely don’t take for granted. You also never know what you can learn through collaboration.
Secondly and closely linked to my first point, networking is KEY. The value of putting yourself out there and connecting with people in your field cannot be underestimated as you never know what could come of any of the relationships you’re developing, now or in the near future.
What book or podcast has had a huge impact in your professional journey?
Ironically, the list I’m about to give doesn’t necessarily apply to Communications but my general development as a professional.
My go-to podcast is “How I built this with Guy Raz” which captures conversations with different entrepreneurs and the obstacles they had to face to get to where they are.
Some of my favourite books include, “Working on a dream” by G. Fagbure which details the average struggles and encounters professionals in Nigeria face, “All you need to know about the music business” by D. Passman which is like a bible when it comes to understanding the different moving pieces in the music industry and lastly, “The Men Behind Def Jam” by A. Ogg which documents the birth of Def Jam records as we know it today and the journey of the two founders, Russel Simmons and Rick Rubin.
Interestingly, the two music related books were books my passion led me to read prior to switching professions. I can definitely say they were pivotal in my decision.
The best piece of advice you’ve ever received from a mentor in the industry?
I’d say it’s the fact that no one knows it all, you have to constantly be like a sponge and keep soaking in knowledge and expanding your horizon. Otherwise, you’ll remain stagnant and eventually become obsolete.
Another important piece of advice is you can only get the opportunities you take. In today’s world there’s a heightened fear of failure. However, you will never know if you can get something unless you try. Although it might not feel like it at that moment, every failed attempt is a learning experience and should be treated as such.