On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic. In March 2021, a year later, Janssen’s single-dose vaccine is added to a long list of vaccines already available in the West and Asia. On the continent, South Africa is set to produce vaccines and the regular deliveries made possible by the WHO COVAX initiative are making headlines. This information makes it possible to calmly consider the recovery of the economy despite some dysfunctions in places, especially in Europe. The crisis of confidence is the biggest challenge of the recovery and to meet it, it will imperatively require professional, human and permanent communication.
The Edelman 2021 Trust Barometer found that Nigerians trust civil society organizations more, with companies coming in second. Next, most Nigerians express distrust of the media, and the world’s lowest trust index for government is 24%. However, Nigerians largely trust their ’employers’, which reveals that they expect business leaders to be more proactive and expressive on societal issues (92%) and to undertake positive change (79%). ) rather than these initiatives coming from the government. It is important to analyze the data from Nigeria with caution. Indeed, the figures of the Afrobarometer study indicate that in 18 African countries (covered by the study, Editor’s note), generalized confidence is extremely low: Only 12% of people questioned on the 2019-2020 wave think that “most people are trustworthy ”. In the previous wave 2016-2018, they were less than half (46%) of citizens to trust their elected leaders, and the average trust in the president was 52%, 43% in parliament and local governments (regions, municipalities, etc.). Citizens were more likely to trust their non-political leaders, especially traditional and religious leaders (57% and 69%, respectively).
Analysis of this data reveals not only a deep crisis, but also a real opportunity to build a better future by communicating effectively with clear and organized messages. The public sector (government) is the most affected by this crisis of confidence with very low scores all over the world. Yet he is the one whose action is essential for the future of our communities. States need the confidence of investors and partners, of citizens, but also of businesses. This confidence is essential for mobilizing resources inside and outside, enforcing health standards, educating on social issues or promoting national laws and guidelines. Many states have bet on tourism in recent years through investments and strategic plans, there is no doubt that the success of this plan requires the confidence of tourists.
Companies, for their part, emerge from all these studies, reinforced by public confidence, the consequence of more social missions, but above all of a significant investment in their communication. Communication budgets before the pandemic were on the rise. In our region, advertising spending in Ivory Coast is constantly increasing according to data from Médiamétrie. We can also read in the results of these studies, the new expectations of public opinion: commitment to social issues, better crisis management, traceable and eco-responsible products and services. Very commercial communications will need to evolve towards more informative and interactive communication in which public opinion can become an ally and a source of information.
Non-governmental organizations, through their “concrete” actions and their direct contacts with the populations, enjoy a high level of confidence. It should be emphasized, however, that today there could be great risks linked to the polarization of the world, to the information explosion which increasingly lifts the veil on funding and can raise questions. Crowned with this confidence, NGOs are capable at their level of relaying messages from populations to leaders, but also partly guaranteeing a kind of citizen watch.
Finally, major topics such as vaccination, digital transformation and disinformation require the participation of all stakeholders in building public opinion for better consideration of communication tools. In a region where the population is young and access to the Internet is increasing, traditional communication mechanisms must be supplemented by better mastery of the dynamics of social networks. It’s about innovating in design and now more so in delivering the message. It is important to improve the monitoring and listening tools of these platforms to stem coordinated campaigns with the aim of harming the relationship of trust and therefore the social contract by which our communities are linked.
Our commitment at Opinion & Public is to build real confidence in public opinion for organizations in Francophone Africa whether public, private or non-governmental through positive stories. This results in a constant updating of our understanding of opinion through own or syndicated studies, the design of analysis models and the implementation of strategic communication models compatible with the realities of our region, but supported. by the expertise of BCW. We are thus partners of studies such as BCW Twiplomacy, Brand Africa 100, Geopoll COVID Impact report, Report on Consumers of Financial Services in Côte d’Ivoire. Our ambition is to participate in the revival of the economy in Francophone Africa by highlighting an essential profession, but so often reduced to a form that can only produce mixed results, unsuccessful or incomplete.
Mariam Essahih is Clientele Director at Opinion & Public, a public relations and communications firm based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast and affiliated with Burson Cohn & Wolfe, member of the WPP group. She manages the Business portfolio and is responsible for the Brand, Social Media and Influence departments. She is a member of the UK Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA).