Lolade Nwanze is an accomplished print and digital journalist, media administrator and communications professional. Her experience includes working in audio-visual production, consulting and in-house & agency PR. In 2018, as the only female leading Nigeria’s biggest digital newsroom, The Guardian Nigeria, Lolade led ‘The Guardian Nigeria’ to become the first winners of the Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge in West Africa, winning $250,000 in prize money to build news products. A well-sought after newsroom operator and media professional, Lolade has conducted media training and workshops for corporates, journalists and journalism students, on Digital Transformation, Fact-checking and SGBV reporting. Lolade has been interviewed for her work in fact checking by CNN and DW among other media. She currently lives in the United Kingdom with her family and works as a Senior Account Manager at Wimbart, a boutique B2B Tech PR agency.
Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
How did you get into PR/communications?
Studying Mass Communication at a Journalism Institute means I was exposed to PR as a facet of mass communication similar to print, broadcasting and advertising in the classroom. Writing was my happy place and newspapers were sacred, so I took to the high-pressure newspaper newsroom and unavoidably interacted with publicists and PR handlers either inviting me to pressers, events, or pitching to me. Soon, popular figures in the sector I covered in Nigeria, were approaching me to handle their PR. Of course I couldn’t be tainted by such ‘unserious’ work so I’d make recommendations to a number of colleagues running PR as a side-hustle.
Fourteen years later, after practising in print, digital, broadcast and advertising, it was time to take on communications and public relations. I started in a consulting firm, moved in-house, and now I’m back in an agency loving B2B tech PR.
What do you love about your job?
It’s the challenge – no two days are ever the same. Living in the UK and still being able to do meaningful work on my continent – Africa – is a great thrill for me. I’ve always loved tech and interacting with big tech/media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Google during my days as the head of The Guardian Nigeria digital newsroom in Lagos, made me dream of working in these companies. At the time I moved to the UK, there were no tech PR agencies in Nigeria so I didn’t imagine finding myself at one. Working at Wimbart affords me the opportunity to shape the African narrative, amplify and deepen the conversations on African startups, and promote direct foreign investment to my continent, and that’s so satisfying. I love the fundraising announcements as much as the crisis communication and the storytelling. Telling the stories of startups in emerging markets, global VCs and PE has broadened my knowledge of the tech ecosystem and I’m absolutely thankful for that.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of my courage to leave a very successful career and comfortable life behind and move with my young family across continents to start all over again.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
That even for the greatest genius, starting all over again in a new culture is hard and filled with phases of self-doubt and near-regrets. But with tenacity and the right community, the sun will shine again.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Celebrities like Elon Musk and the Kardashians show how powerful the PR machine can be – for good or bad.
What skill do you think every PR/comms person has to nail?
The art of persuasion.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Twitter (nope, not calling it X), because where else can you find quality conversations without people trying too hard to be professionals or funny?
What’s your favourite podcast and why?
The Daily hosted by Michael Barbara of the New York Times. It was the first profitable podcast and showed me the future of media. It made me take podcasting seriously as a medium of influence.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
This is a really tough one. How does a PR pro answer this without ruffling feathers? My favourite journalist at the moment would have to be music critic Joey Akan. Joey’s mastery of the Afrobeats culture and the work he does to ensure the history isn’t lost in today’s popular wave is enviable. Joey provides the backstory to every afrobeat movement ensuring that credit is given to those due – love it!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Everything good will come. It helps me remember that life is in phases and nothing is permanent.
Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2023 so far?
The hard-to-top yay for 2023 (fingers crossed) would probably be singer Rihanna’s half time show at this year’s Superbowl. While her performance was sloppy (sis could barely move her body due to the bulge), announcing her pregnancy and topping up her red lippie mid-show with her Fenty, and then releasing superbowl-themed products in the same week was a wild masterclass in leverage.
A PR campaign that was dead-on-arrival for me was the BBC’s thoughtless response to Gary Lineker’s tweet on the government’s immigration/asylum position; the unforeseen walkouts that followed, and the subsequent impact on sports programming on the channel. The BBC tried to walk back the situation a bit too late and got criticised by many for their unprofessional treatment of Gary.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
Introduce affirmative action at sector level that allows better visibility for BME Pros thereby triggering organic conversations in the media to attract more BMEs in the sector.
Lolade was awarded a place on The Xec. Leadership Scheme for UK-based Black, Asian, Mixed Race, and Ethnic Minority PR and comms pros. She is part of the class of 2024.