Brand ambassadors need more than words to promote Nairobi

Congratulations to you because your city has been ranked the third best city to visit in 2017 by the British travel publisher Rough Guides. Coming after Paris, France and Isfahan, Iran, the report mentions our greatly endangered Nairobi National Park as one of the major sights that travelers need to visit, and to be sarcastic, maybe they will also enjoy the view of the Standard Gauge Railway construction over the most unique natural feature we have.

When CNN called our country a hotbed of terror in 2015 they experienced the wrath of our potent Twitter community that displayed not just the ferociousness of a woman scorned but an admirable love for country that made us proud. The furor dubbed #someonetellcnn resulted in a senior executive of CNN being one of the 1.18 million visitors to the country in that year, when he came to personally apologize to Uhuru Kenyatta and the citizens of Kenya for the faux pas.

However, as much as we have the most vibrant social media community that is able to define our passion and articulate our aspirations, being a true ambassador of Brand Kenya will require more than lip service. It requires an embodiment of our national values and conscientious action, and we also need to make it extremely easy for our people to be action oriented brand ambassadors by clearly pointing out the things that we want them to do.

What ever happened to those signs around the city that I remember form the eighties which told us what to do, such as ‘do not litter’ or ‘be courteous on the road’ or ‘post no bills’ (which was later butchered to ‘no posters’ to leave no room for misinterpretation). The point is that if the administration wants the support of the residents then they must invest in communication that spells out desirable behavior and use both the carrot and the stick to reinforce it.

‘Don’t drink and drive’ campaigns should not just be a Christmas season affair because the message is relevant throughout the year. Road safety public service announcements that illustrate how to use our roads or new features in our highways can greatly reduce both traffic jams and road accidents alike. There are not many countries that have worse driving etiquette than Kenya but you can draw a direct relationship between the countries that air road safety public service announcements regularly and the quality of their driving. I remember seeing a sign at a Chicago church that said ‘honk if you love Jesus, text while driving if you want to meet him’.

Talking about traffic, Nairobi is sweeter today because street vendors are now selling sugarcane to drivers and their passengers. Not only do they provide refreshment for those stuck in traffic, but sugarcane juice also has the added benefit of cancer prevention due to its alkaline nature. We admire their entrepreneurial spirit and the way that they have recognized a market need, building a business around it. However, their operations leave a trail of rubbish that litters the city roads as mountains of sugarcane peels appear around their wheelbarrows, and the happy drivers chewing away spit the pulp out onto the roads in a Hansel and Gretel kind of way. Communication to both the vendors and the road users can fix this.

Nairobi is one of the few cities I know where you see horses trotting in neighborhoods with children and their riding instructors from informal riding schools dotted around the upmarket suburbs. It is a sight to behold because the horse is a beautiful animal. The problem though, is that these horses are not toilet trained and this I came to discover while jogging early one morning in the neighborhood when I accidentally stepped into horse dung. I think the budding entrepreneurs can figure out a way to manage this issue should they be compelled by the authorities or neighborhood associations.

The presence of the police around the city is reassuring because they act as a deterrent for the antisocial and criminal elements in society. However, sometimes the different uniformed officers seem to have overlapping roles as over the weekend I heard about diplomatic police manning roadblocks and checking vehicles for their roadworthiness. Shouldn’t they be in the embassies and consulates keeping our diplomats safe and secure? I’m led to assume that it is the January ‘dry spell’ that has motivated their actions.

At a recent inquiry one of the commissioners was so amazed by how policemen had managed to acquire substantial wealth, claiming that this was done through running small cabbage farms and and other side hustles. He said that their proven ability to generate incredible returns from small businesses elevates our police department to the level of the Ivy League innovation hubs!

Being an ambassador for any brand or organization requires more than just words and should be backed up with action and follow through to get the best results. It takes an investment in communication by the administration to drive desirable behavior, and conscientious effort from each one of us to improve the quality of life and stay at the top of the cities to visit in 2017 and beyond.


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