He is a consummate writer and crisis-communicator par excellence. A distinguished public relations practitioner of sterling quality, his ingenuity has won him both local and international recognitions. While pursuing Islamic studies in the university, he took Mass Communication as an optional course – a decision that would later become pivotal to his career trajectory. Behind him are years of shining brilliantly as a public servant. The public relations expert and Chief Executive Officer of Image Merchants Promotion, Yushau Shuaib, tells Funke Olaode what spurred his interest in building a career as a publicist with a great panache.
He is one of the outstanding media professionals to emerge from the North. Through public service, he had distinguished himself and left with his head high. Yushau Shuaib, Chief Executive Officer of Image Merchants Promotions is renowned for his unique ability in his trade. Humble, quiet and unassuming, he has continued to be a shining light in his field.
Shuaib is a graduate of Mass-Communication from Bayero University Kano with a master’s degree in Public Relations from the University of Westminster, United Kingdom.
His foray into image making began in his university days, serving as the spokesperson of Mass Communication Students Association (MACOSA) and winning the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations Prize for the Best Student in PR 1992. From Bayero University where he had distinguished himself, Shuaib repeated the same feat in Asaba, Delta State where he did his mandatory youth service. Here, he won local, state and presidential NYSC awards with automatic employment as one of the most outstanding corps members of that period. He served as PRO Delta State Government House, Asaba and later became Press Secretary in various Federal Ministries including Information, Finance; Health; Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Outside the public service, several organisations have benefitted from his fountain of knowledge. He has provided advisory services to corporate organisations and consulted for critical institutions in the military, security, intelligence and response agencies, including the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), providing crisis communication services.
An author of repute, in the course of his career as a PR person and writer, he has published over 300 media articles and written books including `A Dozen Tips for Media Relations,’ ‘Financial Public Relations,’ ‘An Encounter with Spymaster and Award-Winning Crisis Communication strategies’ among others.
“Publishing has always been part of our business though we have different media platforms for different sectors e.g. PRNigeria, Economic Confidential, Emergency Digest, Techdigest, Politics Digest and Spokespersons Digest. After realising that our correspondents and desk officers cover specific sectors and projects, we find it necessary for the purpose of documentation and records to introduce the book project. Every book for the project is thematic on a central topic, subject, or message within a narrative. My recent books are also thematic especially, “An Encounter with Spymasters, Crisis Communication Strategies” and also the recent ones by our staff members, “Digital Innovation for Economic Prosperity in Nigeria” by Inyene Ibanga and “101 Fake News on EndSARS” by Dahiru M. Lawal. We currently have at least six books in the pipeline for presentation next year, God willing,” he said.
He is a recipient of several outstanding honours, especially in Public Relations. He was PR man of the Year of NIPR Kano/Jigawa Chapter in 1995, Outstanding Digital PR Practitioner of NIPR FCT Chapter 2019 and the prestigious NIPR Presidential award also in 2019.
A spokesperson with tentacles across the globe, his crafts, creativity and ingenuity have been recognised globally. For instance, through some of his initiatives, especially the PRNigeria and Economic Confidential magazine, his firm has consistently won the African PR Awards in South-Africa 2016/7, Morocco 2017, Botswana 2018, Kigali 2019 and Tanzania 2020. At the global scene, his firm remains the only PR agency in Africa to have consistently won the Golden World Award of International Public Relations Association (IPRA) on Crisis Management in Qatar 2016, Bulgaria 2017, Spain 2018, Armenia 2019 and 2020. The firm was declared the Most Creative PR Agency Worldwide 2020 by Global Creativity Index GCI and Statista, the world renowned statistics portal.
Shuaib and his outfit have continued to blaze the trail. In 2021, his firm was on a shortlist of five finalists for the “African PR Agency of the Year 2021.”
From public service to the private sector, Shuaib has remained true to himself to dealing with and solving image crises. Why did he choose this path you may ask? And why Marketing Communication? His response: “I come from a family of preachers who are advocates of moral conduct and good causes where communication is the vital weapon of persuasion through convincing narratives. Therefore, I have always admired public communicators who handle tough situations and solve problems.”
His father, an Islamic scholar and a PhD in Arabic Linguistics wanted him to study Arabic and Islamic studies so that he could also become an Imam like his grandfather. While pursuing Islamic studies in the university, he took Mass Communication as a subsidiary, optional course because of his love for writing and speaking at events on campus.
“In the process, I developed an interest in reading newspapers which my father bought every day. I later started admiring the writing styles. Even before I took Mass Communication as a subsidiary course. I was contributing articles to campus magazine before I later established Campus Voice Magazine monthly and Campus Express which came fortnightly whenever there are activities like politics, sports and events on the campus. So, I never had interest in Law, Accounting or any of the so-called lucrative professional courses because every organisation or profession needs a communicator. So to me, communication was, and is still, everything and I went for it,” he recounted.
Shuaib was in the civil service where he made remarkable success and at a time was referred to as a star boy, he quit to pursue his ambition. Restless and ambitious with a purpose, he admitted he had always wanted to be his own boss.
“I thank the Almighty for his abundant blessing on my career path,” he continued. I never thought of working in the civil service. I wanted to practice journalism and public relations. The NYSC honours including the Presidential award that offered me an automatic appointment in the public service changed my orientation. From 1993 when I was offered the initial appointment in Delta State Civil Service, I promised myself to spend only a few years and quit to pursue my passion.”
In 1996, when he became a press secretary at the Federal Ministry of Finance, he was egged on by his friend at FAAC News magazine, where he began contributing regular articles. “Similarly, after I left the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) in 2016, I supported my family in establishing another magazine known as Economic Confidential. I also established an online forum for Public Relations practitioners in Nigeria through a Yahoo Group known as PRNigeria,” he recalled.
Shuaib has a clear cut area of operation – reputation and crisis management services to corporate organisations and critical institutions in the military, security, intelligence and response agencies. His background in the civil service became an asset.
“Actually, the first set of clients that requested my services were in the security and intelligence sector. I am glad that I served them to the best of my ability. The contributions we made in that sector remain unprecedented till today,” he said.
A man of vision who is constantly on a mission, one of his initiatives, PRNigeria and Economic Confidential magazine, have consistently won the African PR Awards across Africa including the Most Creative PR Agency Worldwide. For him, the secret to those successes lies in the ability to face challenges and his approaches to solve crises.
“You want me to divulge the secret of the trade in crisis communication and reputation management. Pay the fees and I will do so (Laughs). The truth is that at Image Merchants Promotion Limited (IMPR), we like to take on bigger challenges. In fact we enjoy being approached to resolve crises through strategic communication. Most of the international awards are largely interested in problem solving case studies. For a crisis management outfit, it is easier to list the problems from the crisis situations that were presented to us and how we managed them. Our activities are not the routine event coverages, press release distributions etc. In strategic communication, for every event we organise and every statement we issue, there are a lot of factors and processes that must be considered before the communication campaigns.
“We were declared as the Most Creative PR Agency World in 2020 for the various campaigns we undertook that year with minimum budgets but with maximum result. Our campaigns have different objectives. Meanwhile, each of our campaigns followed the same templates from the summary on the challenges before we define the problem and list the Campaign Objectives. We have to identify the geographic location and target audiences which would guide on the tools to be deployed to achieve the best results.”
Marketing Communication in a digital world needs brilliant and talented individuals for it to survive. Shuaib is of the view that even with social media and digital innovation, organisations should ensure they have incentives that could attract and retain the best hands.
His company is huge. It has made a name for itself. To onlookers, having affiliations with foreign partners won’t be a bad idea. “We are very mindful of the potential benefits of affiliation in the PR industry. We may consider such in future. Currently we observe and operate the concept of globalisation by localising global best practices in our business that makes us compete favourably with the international PR firms and Global brands.”
Shuaib is a workaholic and he is still excited with many of the company’s recent campaigns.
“Our clients are out there. I find it difficult to pick any above others because they all have a common goal for success in their various and diverse campaigns we executed. Meanwhile, I must admit that our crisis communication campaigns are the most successful going by the dozens of awards we bagged at events hosted by the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), African Public Relations Association (APRA) and International Public Relations Association (IPRA),” he said.
In recognising role models and aspiring public relations experts, Shuaib and his team recently established award presentations.
The award presentation is a component of Public Relations, especially event management strategies.
“Having covered some of the sectors with constructive editorial and in most cases with criticisms in ensuring that best practices are observed, the other ways of acknowledging and recognising role models for emulation are mostly through awards of recognition. We started with the Campus Journalism Award which is now more popular among student writers in Nigeria. Two years later, we introduced Security and Emergency Management Awards (SAEMA) for that sector and this year we launched the inaugural Spokespersons Awards for PR practitioners and strategic communications in various categories.”
No doubt, Shuaib eats, sleeps and breathes PR through writing and speaking. “It has always been my desire to excel in every branch of Public Relations practice.”
For him, his life is not defined solely by the career path he chose. Away from practicing PR, managing crises, he still enjoys playing badminton and savouring some mouth-watering noodles at his leisure.