Bidemi Zakariyau Akande | Innovator 25 EMEA 2022

Bidemi Zakariyau Akande

Founder & CEO


“When thinking about innovation, think about how you want people to feel."

In the last year, pan-African full-service PR agency LSF PR has expanded across sub-Saharan Africa winning prestigious clients accounts including BetKing, Audoimack and Africa’s biggest e-commerce platform Jumia. 

At the helm is founder and CEO Bidemi Zakariyau Akande who has already steered the agency to be one of the fastest-growing in Nigeria. She brings more than nine years of experience at agency leadership level, and this year she was recognised as one of the top 50 PR professionals in Nigeria and one of the top 50 women in marketing and communications – and she’s sat on the SABRE Awards jury three times.

Born in Nigeria and raised and educated in London, Akande studied law and began her career with an internship, but her sharp fashion sense quickly saw her find a side hustle as a stylist. She pitched a comms strategy to a client whilst on a styling assignment and LSF PR was created on the spot.

This June, the LSF team under Akande was named PR agency for the UN’s International Telecommunication Union’s World Telecommunication Development Conference, held for the first time in Africa. 
How do you define innovation?
Having a strategic targeted approach to change something that's common or a long-standing process by improving it.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
Volkswagen ad break race game

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Nike, Microsoft, Shopify, Fenty

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
I started my agency at 23, while in law school. At the time, LSF was focused on serving fashion brands and lifestyle brands, over the years, I've built LSF to become a leading PR agency serving Corporate, Tech and Consumer brands across Sub-Saharan Africa. The journey over the last 10 years has required constant innovation, especially with the work that we do, to get where we are today.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Rihanna, who also happens to be my favourite artist. I personally connect with her journey, because I've seen this musician build an innovative business empire. With everything she does, whether it's cosmetics or beauty products, a recurring theme is inclusivity and self love. When you look at her product campaigns, wether it's beauty or lingerie, you’ll often see nontraditional representation, and it's all very authentic and not the way other brands scramble to be inclusive because it's a good way to market your products or services to consumers.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Taking time out to rest and good sleep.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
When thinking about innovation - think about how you want people to feel

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Editor at a lifestyle publication

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
I love a good documentary or book about women in business and leadership positions. A good read or watch is always a reminder that I can achieve anything. I'm currently reading "My life in full, work, family and our future" by Indra Nooyi (Former Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo)

How would you like to see work culture, and the role of the office, evolve?
Find opportunities where others see challenges, and don't be afraid to do things differently.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
Research suggests organisations that elevate and prioritise diversity experience higher rates of consistent and successful innovation. This means that it's important involve the entire team in the DEI work being done in the workplace, and it's important that everyone's voice is heard. This will help everyone feel like a valuable part of the team and that their opinions matter.