Enitan Kehinde | Innovator 25 EMEA 2022

Enitan Kehinde

General Manager & Lead Consultant 
BlackHouse Media 


“No-one knows the industry like us, we alone know where our pain points are and we can utilise innovative solutions to optimise."

From humble beginnings as an intern, Enitan Kehinde has worked her way up to lead the UK operations of Africa’s first global integrated communications company BlackHouse Media (BHM). This year, she scooped PRovoke’s Young Changemakers Award, emerging top of the field across APAC, the Middle East and Africa and earning praise from judges for her purpose-driven work aimed at building the global PR and comms industry. She’s the first African to take the accolade.

Before heading up the UK division of BHM, Kehinde worked as lead consultant on the agency’s FMCG portfolio driving accounts for clients including Coca-Cola and Heineken, and leading a team of 10 across corporate comms and brand PR.

Kehinde is also lead co-ordinator of World Public Relations Day, a BHM initiative which kicked off in 2020 and celebrates the industry globally, and convenes WIMConnect, a support group for young women in marketing communications launched during the pandemic. 
How do you define innovation?
Innovation is a new idea or method of doing something. using novel ideas, creativity, and new technology to optimise the traditional way of solving problems, building businesses, running a company or generally doing anything.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
I absolutely love how ID Africa was able to tell the story of Africa’s biggest reality show till date - Big Brother Naija (BBNaija). After six seasons, 120 housemates on the show, millions of views across several countries, over a billion votes, and millions of fans across the continent, the agency opted for a documentary that told the story of the hugely successful show through the eyes of the producers, housemates, and sponsors. That, for me, was creative storytelling beyond the usual releases and feature stories. Another campaign that comes to mind is Heineken’s biggest UCL Trophy Tour yet in Africa. With tour stops in Nigeria, Mozambique, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, featuring Clarence Seedorf, the first and only player to have won the Champions League with three clubs, the tour included an Inspirational football match with the national U-23 football team in Addis Ababa, a Heineken-branded aircraft, a friendly match featuring Africa’s biggest celebrities in music and football; Davido, Darey, MI, Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha, Taribo West and Daniel Amokachi. Coming out of the pandemic, the beer brand found the perfect way to connect with Africa’s estimated 300 million African football fans. Amazon's holiday ad in 2021, “Kindness, the greatest gift”, also really moved me. Not because I could identify with it but because several other young people worldwide would most likely have. It touched on a pressing issue, and it was totally relatable. Skittles’ “apology tour” to make amends for taking away the beloved lime flavour was very creative. It showed that the brand listened and gave consumers exactly what they wanted.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
For agencies, there are quite a few. There is X3M Ideas (X3Mideas.com) which has won several international awards for its creative work across Africa; OneWildCard (OneWildCard.com) a design or branding firm that interestingly combines intuition, culture and intelligence, to create some of the most interesting content I've seen in a while; 7evenInteractive (7eveninteractive.com) one of the most innovative full-service marketing communication agencies I’ve come across; BHM for all the interesting work the team and I do for our clients and the industry; ID Africa (idafricans.com) because of how it uses media and marketing communications expertise to tell the most important brand stories in Africa; Plaqad (plaqad.com) for its use of technology to solve some of the biggest problems in the PR and comms industry; and Magna Carta (magna-carta.co.za) which is building one of the biggest PR & Comms networks in Africa, with footprints in over 18 countries and counting. For brands, I particularly love the significant work African telecommunications giant MTN (mtn.com) has done in the continent in recent years as it has been very effective in changing narratives and setting the right agenda and Nike because they’ve done some of the best marketing I’ve ever seen.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
I find that my very first year in PR, 2016, as an intern in BHM, was one of my most innovative. I co-authored the BHM Guide to Public Relations (bhmng.com/bhm-guide-to-public-relations/), a 138 paged interactive digital book that contains tips, tools and tricks for everyone interested in Smart PR. I also came up with an idea to optimise the business’ expense request process, which was very exciting for me as a newbie just wanting to simplify the process.

2020 was another innovative year for me because I led the team that executed three industry interventions by BHM: World PR Day (wprd.app), Global Day of Influence (globaldayofinfluence.com) and BHM Media Intervention Program (MIP). World PR Day has now held for two consecutive years, attracting over 10,000 professionals from over 20 countries and six continents.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
That’ll have to be Ayeni Adekunle, the Founder and CEO of BHM. Being my boss, I’ve had a front-row seat to all of Ayeni’s inspiring, creative and sometimes eccentric ideas, and I have worked with him to execute quite a few of them.
How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I stop myself from thinking completely, and instead, I focus on a comedy/drama series on Showmax, take a long walk, or just take a quick nap. By the time I come around, I just know when it’s time to pour myself back into my work.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
We need to find a way to stay ahead of the curve. It’s not easy as things are ever-changing, but with technological advancements, we need to start asking ourselves how we can build and create tools to help make our jobs easier.

At BHM, we have always experimented with innovation and technology. We were the first Nigerian PR agency to develop an app in 2014 when most agencies were just getting on social media; we built The Nigerian Twitter Map (twittermap.ng) in 2015; we have also built out a first-of-its-kind ecosystem of partners and providers, called PlaqadM; a social listening tool which helps brands, agencies and individuals track, measure and report their social and web-based campaigns real-time, PlaqadIQ; and PresOfis which is essentially a news release and media relations service for the African continent. We might not always get it right, but we always try to make sure we’re ten steps ahead with the goal of helping build out the industry we all want and love. We also need to avoid complacency. If we’re the ones grading ourselves, there’s a possibility to think we have it all together until some young lads in Lagos, Seattle, DC, or Nairobi come up with some artificial intelligence or blockchain technology that makes the bulk of our services redundant.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I would be a content creator, a project manager or a journalist (my parents are major influences when it comes to my interest in journalism. My father is a veteran journalist and magazine publisher, and my mother worked in media for many years). I love content in whatever form, and I am absolutely great at managing projects. I am a sucker for processes.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
I am in love with the podcasts "A Leader Like Me" with Advita Patel and Priya Bates and “Woman Evolve” with Sarah Jakes Roberts. Three books that caught me by surprise this past year were “Will” by Will Smith, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith and “Finding Me” by Viola Davis.

I also find myself going back to listen to some of my favourite episodes of the #FuturePRoof podcast as Sarah and Stephen Waddington always seem to have a tip or two to share.

Finally, The Woman King movie and the King of Boys (movie and series) are such remarkable stories that I believe every young black woman must see. They’re life-changing.

How would you like to see work culture, and the role of the office, evolve?
One big thing for me that I am currently experimenting with my team is the absence of work hours. One thing the pandemic blessed us with was breaking the chains that tied us to unrealistic norms.

At BHM UK, we don’t have a 9-5 culture. Your deadlines, commitments and lifestyle help determine your working hours, so I have noticed colleagues working through the night and sleeping during the day, colleagues working from the beach, and others being more present with their families, and I love it.

Another thing I’ll love to see is custom-made performance evaluation metrics for each employee. No two employees are the same, so we shouldn’t have the same expectations for them both. At BHM UK, I have built a performance review system that considers each employee's level of expertise, the length of time in the company, the exact tasks they’re given each week, reverse training and self- taught modules to build exceptional performance. While I have great case studies, I also have exceptions for which this system hasn’t worked quite well, and I am constantly optimising until we have a perfect model.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
The PR and communications industry is in a vantage position as we can work to help those that care to understand the issues that matter, help minorities have a seat at the table, and provide the kind of support our clients and partners need to be and do better.