‘Women are the greatest project managers in the world, going by the law of nature’
Mojisola Saka is a globally trained and experienced marketing and communications practitioner of repute. As the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Soulcomms, a leading Strategic Communications and Consumer Engagement Consultancy, she leads a team of expert consultants with admirable track records. Her deft knowledge of strategic communications, engagement and message planning has seen her recording great success in projects across major economic sectors in West Africa.
Mojisola is a leading woman with several caps and responsibilities, which has seen her serve on the event sub-planning committee of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) in the last five years and now the nominated representative for the Chair of the Media and Publicity Sub-Committee for the upcoming NESG 25. She is also the current and second term running Treasurer of the Public Relations Consultant Association of Nigeria (PRCAN). She is a strong advocate for continuous learning hence her facilitating several training sessions in marketing and reputation management. Her ample experiences from Advertising, Experiential/Direct /Social Marketing and Banking has also proven to be worthy assets in her career pursuits.
This resource tycoon talks about the deal and ordeal of the PR and Communications industry in this interview with Maria Diamond.
What kind of services do you provide at Soulcomms?
Soulcomms is a strategic communications and engagement consultancy firm, we started off in 2004 and we are 15 years in operation. Soulcomms initially started out as a PR consultancy and grew its extended business offering into strategic engagements in activations, events and project designs. Today, we create engagement opportunities for brands and product/services specifically in experiential and direct marketing, trade activations, visibility as well as events. We also provide Perception and Reputation management services to our partners/clients thus making us a multi-specialist consultancy firm able to provide well thought-out 360degree strategic plan from start to finish. In the 15 years of operations, we have had the privilege of the patronage of a number of organisations across the finance and banking sector to the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), public and private sector, hospitality, retail business and luxury goods and services.
Why did you decide to go into Public Relations?
I had wanted to be either a Lawyer or an Economist, and at some point I thought I could be a diplomat, but after I graduated and got a notification for a job interview, I found myself seated before an advertising agency owner. I was asked a question that in 10-years time where would I want to be and I mumbled: ‘I would want to be one of the most respected and reputable practitioners in the communication sector, specifically I’d like to practice PR’. So I was offered employment as an executive for social marketing. Social marketing for me was an eye-opener, I’ve always been a people community focused person, so having cause to work on some projects reformed change and my career started from there. As I grew and advanced in my career, I moved from social marketing to advertising, then to experiential marketing where I was responsible for quite a number of Unilever brands. My career path always sort of starts as an adventure and then consideration is given to reputation and the determination to succeed at all times. So what often starts off as an adventure ends up being a huge commitment I found myself fully into. I moved to the Banking industry and I remember telling my Business Development Manager I’m not a regular banker, I am a communications person, I can’t do this debit and credit thing, it’s not working for me, I need to go into a space that makes me thrive, so he moved me to Marketing as a Relationship Manager at First Bank where I was for a while before joining Soulcomms.
Interestingly, a few months after coming on board, the Principal Consultant decided to go start-off his own venture and I was saddled with the responsibility of managing the business. At that time, I felt I wasn’t really ready. I just wanted to be a coaster but when responsibility beckons on you, you have to take it on and it’s been a very interesting experience in the last nine years. I have indeed learnt a lot. One of my staying power has been the objective mindset and experience I’ve gathered over time and the fact that I never denied myself the opportunity of taking on the challenge when it came.
In the course of your career quest, have you ever felt unduly pressured or sidelined as a woman amidst male contemporaries?
I’ve never seen being a woman as an encumbrance. I think what has worked for me is the fact that I am a woman and by nature women are multi-skilled to do a lot of things at once with much more ease than men. I do not allow limitations take a stance in my affairs, so I have none. When I take a charge no matter how intense, I avail myself no setbacks to stopping me from achieving my potentials. Yes it’s not been a very smooth sail, but life comes with its own share of challenges and goodness. I do not get intimidated by anyone or issue. It’s about believing in yourself, trusting in the fact that you can do all you set to achieve. Being a woman is an advantage to excel because of our multitasking nature, we’re the greatest project managers in the world by the Law of Nature as God has designed. As a woman, you’re the home planner, the homemaker and manager. You’re wearing at least three caps, so being a woman works for every woman, it’s a grace given to us by God. Yes I run a business, it’s just another feather to the cap, it’s not an encumbrance; it shouldn’t be. As a woman it’s easier for you to walk through a lot of course and be different things to different people whilst you find a balance to your life.
What are the challenges of managing the company?
Running a business can be as pretty as it can be challenging. It’s nice when you make money but the bar keeps getting raised by the day, and you want to bring a difference. So the challenge for me is ensuring that we constantly remain on top and above the game. There’s always something new, we’re thinking differently and better. One of our working mantras for 2019 is to say to ourselves, good is not enough if best is possible.
What do you plan to do differently as a resource venture in 2019?
We’re working on quite a number of projects. We’re expanding into driving leadership on different fronts, which we hope to bring sustainable impact within and outside of the industry. Presently, we’re at a planning stage which would see the light of the day in a couple of months and we have extended offerings that would support the sector in which we operate, in terms of annexing potentials, actualising it and facilitate dreams which we convert to reality for people within the sector and outside of the ecosystem extensively.
How do you deal with competition in the industry?
I think competition is good for business, I see my glass half-full rather than half-empty. It hurts when you lose to your colleague in the pitch, but I’d rather lose, if losing would be an option, to a professional than a quack. You can’t have everything, you can’t do everything, and we’re in a space where we should actually be driving for collaboration and alliances. So I don’t really see other players within the industry as competitors, I think we’re more of collaborators.
As someone who has worked within Nigeria and West Africa, what’s your take on the Public Relations industry all the way?
I’ve had the privilege of working in Senegal and Ghana, the difference is that Nigeria is a lot more larger in terms of the space from the cultural point of view, we are faster-paced than Ghana and Senegal. But it is the same in terms of practice, principles of operation, whether it’s the consumer or client. What you bring to the table is informed by how advanced the setting is.
How lucrative is the PR business?
I think that is subjective and functional because it is quite an unregulated space in terms of pricing. It is based on what is perceived as due. In all, it could be a profitable venture.
In the next 10-years, where do you see yourself?
I would have retired from Soulcomms, moved into a different space of related link actually. I’m moving on to International Diplomacy and Relations. I would also get into some conflicts resolution practice. I would be a Nigerian and global citizen of repute in diplomacy and international relations because it would give me a larger space to bring my expertise on strategic communications and engagement; it’s a wider space with a lot of diplomacy and tact. It’s also informed from a social value and impact point of view, things keep happening around us that could have been resolved by engagement. And again from the social impact point of view, I am sentimental to the woman, so I want to create a space for women to live, thrive, grow, blossom because in any conflict everywhere in the world, women and children get affected the most and for me it’s a social cause. So I want to make an impact socially and have people attain their potentials.
Tell us your experience as a member of the publicity planning sub-committee of the NESG?
NESG is a collaboration of the private and public sector which was set up about 26-years ago. Basically it was to help chart the course for Nigeria as we went back into democracy following the prolonged years of military rule. At that time, a profound cause for charting the economy of the country was needed to ensure that Nigeria grows at good enough pace for economic advancement. So at the NESG capacity, we find leaders of different economic sectors coming together to volunteer their time and service to the country in advancing the economy, because at the end of the day, the businesses will only succeed if the economy remains a viable space.
You’re obviously a go-getter, what drives you to crave success and get it?
I don’t know if I have risen and broken the glass ceiling yet because every time there is a ceiling above the ceiling. I think it’s just for the fact that I can’t afford failure and my reputation is involved. I feel obliged to my team members, I have to ensure that their interest is priority; I need to be sure that what I’m doing is beneficial to me and others. So that is what keeps me going. Finding the balance is key, also your support system is what informs your success and my team members are my support system, which is why we go all the way.
Who is your role model?
Oprah Winfrey, she is not cosmetic about her life experiences, she is a realist and not colour-coated. But locally, Dorothy Ufot, she is a Senior Advocate Of Nigeria (SAN) and internationally reputed. She inspires me because I’ve seen her win, I’ve worked with her a couple times and she is relentlessly determined to succeed. When she sets her mind to something, she does it and well too. When you see a woman who treads the ground that men dread and stands tall all the time, you give it to her.
What’s your advice for women who are striving to make head-way in life?
I think for any woman, first thing first, you don’t have an excuse for failure because God has naturally blessed us and if you look around, the men are beginning to watch their back and there are more women leading now than the days of our parents. Perhaps because the world is focusing now on gender equality, but I think it is for the single fact that more women are succeeding and inspiring others. Female business leaders really have no excuse than to be determined to succeed. And it need not come at a compromise to your morals or value, because whoever will buy you for the good in you would do and even at a premium. How do you relax with the many caps you wear as a career woman?
I’m a travel and social bird. I do not compromise my holiday, I try to take my holiday twice in a year just to shut down and breathe, though I still work but my pace is slower. I can also be a retail therapist because I do a lot of shopping. I may not necessarily buy all the time but I shop to calm my nerves. So whether the holiday is to Saudi Arabia, UK, anywhere, I always try to find a balance.
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