In a bid to continually provide our client’s with communications solutions, we hosted a focus group dubbed Bloggers Breakfast with the aim of talking tech with Kenya’s top bloggers and freelance writers. Our aim was to gain some valuable insights, the latter of which is life’s blood of our line of work; because not only are we in the business of creating solutions but we are also meant to ensure that those solutions are based on deep insights otherwise they will not achieve client’s agenda and/or resonate with target audiences.
Incidentally, you might think that our work involves writing press releases, organising press conference events, engaging media, providing photography & video coverage, posting designed memes on social media, and you would not be entirely wrong. However, more of the work we do is invisible and takes up a majority of our time. This kind of work revolves around reading page upon page of long, jargon filled strategic and policy documents from which we extract context and content. It involves spending late nights going through tonnes of image and video footage, shot over weeks and months, to extract less than 3min of compelling content that best captures the client’s agenda. It also means connecting and managing relationships with media contacts across the continent, which is actually a vital part of our mandate, considering that we are now in the age of a revamped modern day Pan African movement, it is important to talk about what our clients are doing in the African context.
Yet while we seek to play in the continental landscape, it dawned on us that there remain smaller but more impactful media players who are very critical in addressing the communications needs for both our clients and the audiences that follow them. They might not belong to the big, well known media houses, you might not find them on the list of top media personalities, and they might not be doing this as their full time job but at the end of the day they run channels and platforms that can be used to educate and engage a larger demographic of people who are interested in content that matters and has a direct impact on them as individuals. The era of mass broadcasting without catering to the individual needs of the viewer/reader/listener is fast fading.
In our realisation of this, we invited bloggers and freelance writers interested in the areas of Tech, ICT Policy, Data Privacy & Protection, Online Security, Digital ID, Social Media Taxation among other topics for a breakfast meet and greet. The agenda was to familiarise ourselves with what our guests were interested in and also to brief them about a client that we wanted to work with them on. The breakfast event was hosted at Lava Latte, one of Nairobi’s newest IG ready spaces but with great food to boot.
Eight attendees graced us with their presence and most importantly their thoughts. As you would expect from any ‘coming-together’ of young creative minds, 70% of the time was spent discussing and trying to solve world problems while 30% was spent on the topics set in the agenda. Overall, the discussion extended from the 2 hours planned, but apart from having prior commitments to attend to, it didn’t seem to curtail the vested interest in the ongoing discussion.
In our view, after the informative morning spent, we got to understand that topics related to Tech, ICT Policy, Data Privacy & Protection, Online Security, Digital ID and Social Media Taxation will not have ready uptake from writers and their platforms because they are viewed as not juicy or relevant enough for their readers. It was pointed out that a majority of Kenyans do not seem to care about their online safety or on matters related to data privacy and protection, in the same way their Western counterparts do. It might be in large part because it was felt that people don’t experience data breaches/online insecurities as individuals, the way a street robbery would, but that it affects a large group of people in one amorphous geo-location. In any case, considering the state of the economy, people would rather worry about more pressing issues.
In the wake of Facebook and their Cambridge Analytica issue, there has been growing skepticism about the true intentions of organisations that purport to push agendas such as cyber security, data protection and privacy. We were asked questions like, What’s their catch and end goal of those putting out their stories and information? Isn’t everyone collecting data anyway and doesn’t that data make our online experiences better? Can we instead talk about how Tech is widening socio-economic gaps rather than making them better? Despite these tough questions, there remained strong optimism that organisations, through their agencies, would come clean about their true intentions of putting out certain information to the public. A suggestion was made to provide raw data/information alongside press releases/statements so that the bloggers and writers could decipher for their readers what would be of importance and relevance to them.
We got to understand that the bloggers and writers know their audiences and are keen on not having them lose interest. They shared simple filters asking if the story takes their readers through a real experience or if the information shared is factual. They all agreed that in the era of fake news it would be detrimental to them and their platforms. Simply put anything unverified does not get published.
Finally, we also got to appreciate that despite their interest in tech and related topics, each platform retains their own strong focus ranging from social justice, creative writing, lifestyle, education, experiential and analysis. Our job as an agency representing organisations is to give the bloggers and writers verified information, and give them leeway to take an angle of their liking to tell the story.