Three years have gone like a flash. In one moment, I’m being ushered in as president of PAMRO (Pan African Media Research Organization) and in the next I’m delivering my swansong.
However, one thing that caught my attention was the different reasons why executives attend the All Africa Media Research Conferences and especially the three types of people who register for the event.
The first segment consists of people who pursue knowledge the way pigs pursue truffles. They are acutely and genuinely interested in media research and all the intricate details that are bundled with that kind of concentration. They are supremely intelligent and leave the rest of us mere mortals in awe when they get into their groove.
It appears to me that in order to achieve this type of heightened brain activity one must make major sacrifices in life and in this instance they seem to have decidedly dropped social skills from their repertoire – they tend to be intensely awkward among crowds.
Even though they always insist on making presentations they mostly look like they’d prefer to drink raw eggs than stand on stage and take us through their carefully crafted PowerPoint presentations.
Don’t get me wrong, they are especially adept at what they do, and the research industry should pay homage to their efforts because we are indebted to them for pushing the boundaries of media research in Africa irrespective of the operational challenges in the region.
The second group of people are those that are exclusively driven by commercial interests. They come to protect their turf and they make no pretense about it. Some are accompanying their clients with deep pockets and swarm about them all day fending off research executives from competing outfits.
Others want to control the conversation about research in Africa and will force themselves into any discussion about the direction that we should face as an industry in general.
These people tend to occupy high offices in their firms, unlike the first group which is made up of middle management, and when they throw themselves headlong into a particular course of action, people usually get out of their way for good reason.
However, it is with this bold and callous approach that they are able to get clients and investors alike to deposit substantial amounts of Shillings, Meticals, Rands and Kwacha into the research industry, and you know it’s that type of paper that makes the world go round.
The third type of executive offers some relief because the other two types create a saturated atmosphere that is best taken with a pair of painkillers. They have an innocent and positive outlook to research and in one hand they want to learn from the purist or mercenary counterparts. On the other hand, they are in their element when it comes to the auxiliary events like the sponsored cocktails, gala dinners and sightseeing afternoons.
Watching them present is like watching Formula One racing. You hope that they will make it to the finishing line without incident, but you don’t mind if they run into some trouble – in spectacular fashion. On one occasion we witnessed a researcher of the purist sort mercilessly tearing into a bright eyed and bushy tailed junior executive because the content of their presentation wasn’t deemed worthy. We felt sad for the presenter, but like the Formula One enthusiasts, we just got our car crash.