In our Headliners series of conversations, we get under the skin of PR and communications leaders around the world who have made PRovoke Media headlines recently, uncovering what they see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for the industry, where they find inspiration (and how they switch off), what they’ve learned about themselves, as well as the creative campaigns they love and the work they are most proud of.

In this week's Q&A, we chat to Ayeni Adekunle, the founder of Lagos-headquartered BHM, which last week published the first Africa PR & Communications Report

What are the greatest challenges and opportunities for the PR and communications industry over the next 12 months?

For the African industry, we are faced with a dangerous shortage of talent as well as tools and infrastructure. Of course, you can imagine how that would impact the quality of service and business sustainability. Another problem is the lack of adequate local and contextual data which we are addressing through projects like the Africa PR & Comms Report. For instance, about 74% of participants say there is a drastic drop in talent in their countries. And it is mirrored by the migration statistics in Africa. It helps raise the question of how we stem or slow down this exodus. But there’s plenty of opportunity for the PR industry to see that the trust earned during Covid continues to carry; democracies are lasting longer hence economic stability despite slow growth; and there’s increased awareness about ethics and best practice, which is helping attract international business and recognition.

What’s the best PR campaign you’ve seen recently and why?

That would be the Soot City campaign BHM ran for our partner X3M Ideas, which ended up winning them the first-ever Cannes Lion for West Africa last month. It was a CSR campaign X3M Ideas designed to draw attention to the soot issue in Port Harcourt, an oil-rich Nigerian city where flaky, black, powdery particles hover over the city’s atmosphere and settle at random due to decades of illegal oil bunkering, fracking and other unsanctioned crude oil-related activities. It was inspiring to do purpose-driven work with real impact.

What work from your team are you most proud of over the past year?

Our expansion to East and West Africa has given us an opportunity to work with The Macallan in Ghana. In June, we helped Edrington (The Macallan’s parent company) to fulfil some of its CSR objectives and worked with 50 high-value customers to plant trees at the Safari Valley Resort. And the Africa PR & Comms Report, which is our most ambitious research project ever, has given us a chance to work with 29 countries across Africa.

What have you learned about yourself over the past couple of years?

The realisation that most of my frustration came from trying to fix everything and everyone; trying to change the world. You can really only do your part while you’re here until you move on. I have been having more fun since I decided to do what I can. I’m having more fun, and honestly, I’m healthier. As someone who grew up in Lagos, a chaotic Nigerian city, and escaped to calm, peaceful Edinburgh, I’ve been surprised to discover my love for New York City which is where we’re opening the next BHM office later this year.

How do you switch off and maintain wellness?

I read everything I can lay my hands on. I’m a big fan of the Times and the FT as well as TechCabal, Neusroom and Netng. I’ve been watching a lot of television shows (Showmax is big in Africa and they have loads of originals and a huge catalogue of HBO content). I walk a lot when I’m in Edinburgh and make sure I exercise daily whether I make it to the gym or not. And don’t judge me, but I’ve been experimenting with ‘One Meal a Day’ (OMAD) for almost two years now and it's been really great!

What cultural source has provided creative inspiration for you lately?

That’ll be a couple, from Succession to The Wire and The Sopranos. I keep going back to Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, too. I’ve also been re-reading Mugo Gatheru’s Child of Two Worlds and The John Lennon Letters. On my walks, I indulge in new Nigerian pop music from the likes of Asake and Rema, as well as oldies from King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Shina Peters and Fela Kuti. And there’s also the museums – especially MOMA where I’ve been spending quite some time since I started going to New York.

If I wasn’t working in PR/comms I would be…

I was a music journalist before PR snatched me. So If I was not working in comms, I’d see myself back in the newsroom and in the field. I think I would also make a good teacher.