There is a popular folk-tale from India about blind men and the elephant. As the tale goes, six blind men who had never interacted with an elephant were brought before one of the mammoth animals, and depending on what part of the beast they touched offered a strikingly different view of what an elephant was.
To the one whose hand landed on the trunk, he said, “This being is like a thick snake”. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person whose hand was upon its leg, he said the elephant is a pillar like a tree trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said the elephant “is a wall”. Another who felt its tail described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.
Despite being merely a folktale, its thrust is not lost on us; the importance of perception and proper communication for human outcomes cannot be overemphasised. Throughout history, small communities, large businesses and entire empires have risen (and fallen) based on the aforementioned, as leaders who once held sway over the hearts of their people see goodwill eroded.
If these twin goods – which are at the very heart of Public Relations (PR) – have historically been cardinal for the continuity and success of entities, they are even more important today as hitherto existing barriers are being dismantled on account of the rapid adoption of the Internet, which has democratised information and is consistently shaping perspectives.
Conservative estimates suggest that as of April 2022 there was north of five billion Internet users globally, with 4.65 billion being social media users – almost 60 per cent of all people on the earth. For additional context, the world spends more than 10 billion hours using social platforms each day; equivalent to nearly 1.2 million years of human existence.
We could go on and on with more mind-blowing statistics but the picture is quite clear: there is an enormous amount of information being transmitted globally at every given point in time, and this informs worldviews and decisions, crucial and minor. And decision-makers must be at the fore of driving said information with help from the army behind the curtain – PR professionals.
Locally, PR is coming into its own; but that has not always been the case. In yesteryears, it was shrouded in many misconceptions as a spin-machine for the powerful; but over time, it has come to be seen for what it truly is: “An essential ingredient in building relationships, preventing crises, achieving business objectives; pushing national interest, and preventing the kind of confusion that could ruin a company or lead nations to war”.
At the heart of changing the narrative has been an industry trailblazing, pan-African Integrated Media, Marketing and Communications firm with end-to-end reach across the information value chain: Ghana’s very own Global Media Alliance (GMA). Prior to its inception, most of the biggest commercial and state entities had to rely on heavily constrained in-house solutions or outsource the telling of their stories to entities with little grasp of the domestic situation, and it does not require an advanced degree in astrology to understand the difficulty with such arrangements.
The story begins in the late 1990s when the venerable trailblazer Edward Boateng sought to apply his experience as Head of Turner Broadcasting/CNN in Africa – where he was instrumental in the campaign to deregulate electronic media across several African countries to further enhance accurate information dissemination on the continent.
He sought to change the narrative about Africa, and through his ideas, many CNN programmes focusing on Africa were born. Consistent with this, he founded and led the drive to recognise and award deserving storytellers on the continent through the prestigious CNN African Journalist Awards, which has launched the careers of many prominent journalists in Africa including Ghana.
In 1998, he started Global Media Alliance in South Africa “to connect Ghana to Africa and Africa to the World”. He subsequently moved the company to Ghana in 2001 in furtherance of this drive. Here, he was joined by Akwasi Agyeman – a former banker and brilliant strategist who shared his vision.
He was later joined by his brother Ernest Boateng in 2007 – who on his own with his two Ivy League degrees from Dartmouth College and the venerated Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania had built a storied career in the international banking world, having senior management work experiences with financial giants such Chase Manhattan Bank, Deutsche Bank and Citibank across the globe.
He also served as a Director at Mastercard in New York before moving to Ghana to take on the role of Chief Operating Officer at Opportunity International Savings and Loans. Together, the trio embarked on an aggressive adventure to diversify and move the company to become the only end-to-end Communications, Media and Entertainment Company in Ghana.
Global Media Alliance has continued its evolution and firmly cemented its place as a leader in Ghana, with ownership interests in companies such as YFM in Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, Happy FM, eTV Ghana and Silverbird. Today, GMA classifies its business as an integrated media holdings and marketing communications company with a diversified portfolio covering its core competence – PR and Traditional Media, Event Management and Brands Activations, Creative Designs and Production as well as an expansive Digital Media catalogue.
The firm is the country affiliate for Weber Shandwick and Fleishman-Hillard, both top-5 Global PR firms in the world and Star Fish Mobile; and leaders in content services as well as Silverbird Ghana, operator of the market-leading Silverbird cinemas.
With more than 200 staff, Global Media Alliance has over the years served over 2,000 clients across various sectors: including Finance, telecommunications, Technology, Travel and Tourism, Healthcare, Automobile, Aviation, Energy, Food, Beverage, and Agribusiness, Government relations, and Real Estate among others.
Its impact has been felt first-hand in the areas of Strategy Development, Brand Awareness, Brand Reputation Management, Crisis Simulation and Preparedness, Reputational Risk Assessment, Governance, among others – not only in Ghana but across the African continent and beyond as it helps shape their strategy.
Along the way, it has helped clients devise some of the most important interventions in CSR, which has yielded life-altering initiatives – especially in the areas of healthcare, education and sustainability in the communities where their clients operate. During the height of COVID-19 global pandemic, the company provided crucial strategic and advisory interventions which led to some clients adopting COVID-19-friendly communication tools and practices.
Awards and Recognition
GMA’s undisputed impact has seen it formally recognised by industry observers and its peers on a consistent basis. The countless awards include:
- Institute of Public Relations (IPR) Ghana Awards – Best PR Agency for 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2020
- IPRA Golden World Awards – 2017 and 2019.
- Ghana Events Awards – Best Event Company of the Year 2019.
- Marketing World Awards 2018 – Innovative PR Agency of the Year.
- Best Employer Brand Award at HRD Congress 2017.
- 2014 Media Winner of Africa’s Titans Awards by CEO Communications awarded to founder, Edward Boateng.
- 2013 African Business Leader of the year award to founder Edward Boateng by African Business Magazine and IC Publications.
- Honorary award for contribution to Media Excellence at RTP Awards 2013.
- PR Consultancy of the Year 2013 awarded by the IPR, Ghana.
- The only company from Ghana to be nominated for the Award for Environmental Sustainability at the African Business Awards 2012, organised by the African Business Magazine and Commonwealth Business Council (CBC).
- CIMG Media Organisation of the year 2011
- CIMG Emerging Brand of the Year 2010
- 3G Magazine Award – Media Excellence Award, 2009
- CNN MIA Award in Athens, 2006
World PR Day 2022
As the world commemorated World PR Day on July 16 – a date inspired by American PR expert Ivy Ledbetter Lee, born 145 years ago (July 16, 1877) and regarded as one of the forebears of modern public relations – seasoned experts agreed there is an urgent need for professionals furnished with the right skills and bound by a unifying global agenda to propagate the ideals of PR and cut through the clutter in an ever-increasingly saturated information economy.
This view is shared by none other than the Group CEO of Global Media Alliance, Ernest Boateng, who says this year’s theme, ‘Trust, Truth and Transparency’, encapsulates the ideals espoused by his Group.
On the eve of the celebration, he explained that these virtues coupled with the diverse international experiences of its principals, a strong corporate governance structure and a deft recruitment strategy have helped GMA not only rise to top of the food chain but also cement its position there.
“We have a very strong governance policy, with a diverse board made of up key people from across various industries. We try to get the best and brightest, in line with one of our mantras of ensuring excellence in everything as, ultimately, our people are our biggest resource and our ambassadors. So, we focus on recruiting the right people; a diverse set of people focused with intellectual curiosity, willingness to learn and having a ‘human heart’ as we are a people-centred business,” he says.
“We strongly believe in capacity building, and whether people join at entry level or mid-career we equip them with all the tools required to, first, grow as professionals who can execute their jobs to ensure that the highest standards of client expectations are met and maintained.”
On how the PR landscape has changed, he says rapid digitalisation has transformed the space but also heightened the need for dedicated PR professionals to constantly evolve as the industry transforms itself. He adds that PR professionals must be agile in their adoption of new technology.
“For companies that operate in this space, you have to make sure that the tools you use to tell your story are adapting to changes and trends. As a forward-looking communications company, GMA has evolved with trends in the industry and we have invested and developed a very strong digital arm – the Digital Innovation centre, which I dare say is one of the strongest on the continent, and we have a team that is very strong in the digital media space.”
The Global Media Alliance boss believes that success comes in various forms, and thus helps clients build trust with their target audience and achieve their derived goals as well as receive the necessary returns on their investment. “For us, we operate behind the curtains and we might be behind the ideas and execution; but once our clients achieve their objectives, we sit back and know that our work is done.”
On misconceptions about PR, “People who do not fully grasp what PR does take an antagonistic view of the value of proper PR. That should not be the case, because at the end of the day we drive sanity in society. Without PR, and the right PR, there would be lot of chaos in the world. Ultimately, PR is communication; the right kind of communication. GMA is driving a change of these misconceptions”.
On themes which will define PR over the next decade, he is convinced that Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) as well as rapidly changing social-enabling technology will be at the forefront of business and PR transformation.
Ernest Boateng advises clients to incorporate ESG strategies in their long-term planning. “As the world is evolving rapidly, I believe emphasis on the environment, sustainability and governance will be maintained. It is our duty to not only have our clients aware of it and mouth it but also practice it, as there will be no hiding place. Technology will continue to define all spheres of human engagement, and PR is no exception,” he added.
On what the medium-term future holds for Global Media Alliance, Mr. Boateng says GMA will continue striving for change one client at a time.