The National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) is like a city on the mountain that cannot be hidden. As a single -mode Open and Distance Learning (ODL) institution, NOUN's activities must be publicised using all available means. To ensure this is done, NOUN's management, in its wisdom, created the Directorate of Media and Publicity (DMP) in the university with clear mandates.
The directorate is mandated with the duties of creating, projecting and sustaining the image of the university through various activities with its stakeholders both internally and externally. It ensures that the activities of the university optimally reach concerned publics through the traditional and online media.
In addition, the directorate uses various forms of media and communication channels to build and maintain the reputation of the university. It also provides information to serve as a link between the university and the public.
Moreover, it also liaises with corporate bodies, private and public organisations and stakeholders to effectively promote Open and Distance Learning (ODL) not only at the local and regional levels, but also on the international arena, as well as promotes NOUN products and services through newsletters and traditional/online media.
To ensure the above mandates are carried out to the letter, the DMP headed by a seasoned media practitioner, Malam Ibrahim Sheme has been carrying out a series of aggressive media campaigns to showcase NOUN’s activities to its numerous stakeholders.
Like an extended family, NOUN is an institution that has Study Centres in all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. And to publicise the NOUN activities in these Centres, NOUN, through its DMP, created regional media offices in each of the six geo-political zones in Nigeria to co-ordinate media-related activities.
Media campaign is a coordinated marketing effort aimed at reinforcing business goal using one or more media platforms. NOUN has goals as captured in its mandate. And these goals, which translated into various activities, must be made known to the public, hence the media campaign.
To achieve the desired result with regards to the media campaign, the DMP uses all forms of media channels to reach its target audience. These include traditional and the new media, including magazines, newspapers, radio, television, websites and social media platforms.
NOUN, since inception has been involving the media in its activities. The institution has been involved in several media campaigns in order to showcase the activities of NOUN and what it has to offer and to win the minds of people to the institution. The norm was to produce newsletters which were distributed to various offices and to visitors who paid courtesy visits to the university. However, it was discovered that this mode of information dissemination wasn't enough as it puts a limit on the number of people that could access information on NOUN activities.
The use of the social media in this current dispensation has become almost inevitable when it comes to passing across vital information; especially one aimed at reaching a wide audience. Social media platforms have almost replaced the traditional media in spreading daily news stories, which is why one finds that even newspaper houses have gone digital.
Consequently , the introduction of social media has helped the DMP to create both physical and online visibility for NOUN. With NOUN’s presence on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram and YouTube, the directorate has been able to post stories almost on a daily basis about the activities that go on in the university. This has made both students and prospective students of NOUN to have a sense of closeness to the university as they engage in a lot of the stories being posted by liking, commenting and reposting.
Through this means, NOUN has bridged a communication gap between management and staff of the university as every member of the university can be heard. The lengthy process of having to lay complaints to management and get feedback is now a thing of the past as everyone can express his or herself via these platforms.
The benefits of using new media are numerous. Apart from bridging the communication gap between the management and its stakeholders, it has created awareness and projected NOUN positively to the public.
The use of the social media has not only helped in creating visibility online for the university; it has also helped the university in being able to evaluate how it is seen in the public eye. This helps the university to know which areas it needs to focus on when it comes to improving on the services being rendered to its students and other stakeholders.
Clearly, NOUN has done an impressive media campaign. NOUN has a functional directorate which publicises NOUN activities through magazine publications, interviews and documentaries.
The DMP coordinates all media-related activities of the university, especially ceremonies like Convocation, Matriculation, public and inaugural lectures, Faculties and other activities. It also co-ordinates information dissemination about the mission and vision of the university and carries out advocacy in various forms through the distribution of publications and adverts.
It issues press releases about the institution’s events/activities to the mass media, administers the NOUN News group on Telegram and serves as the watchdog of the university (intermediary between the institution and the general public).
The DMP also places unsolicited and solicited information in the traditional and new media and operates a wholly dedicated NOUN news website at: www.nounnews.org.
NOUN is comfortably present on all the popular social media sites, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Telegram.
Despite the above exploits, NOUN, like Oliver Twist, needs more publicity. This view is synonymous with the call of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Malam Muhammed Musa Bello, during the NOUN’s presidential visitation panel meeting held at his office, recently.
While encouraging NOUN management to do more in the area of publicity, Bello tasked the university to give more publicity to the activities of the institution. He said: "With the right publicity, it will become clearer that NOUN is a full-fledged quality university. We know you are; because you are residing in Abuja, but it’s important to make it clearer so as to distinguish your outreach from the not so reputable institutions’’.
Bello called on NOUN to leverage on its enormous potentials in boosting access to the university education by reaching out to more Nigerians through a robust publicity system.
Without an iota of doubt, NOUN has been showcasing its activities to the public as there is adequate coverage and publicity, thereby creating both physical presence and online visibility. However, all hands must be on deck to do more in the area of publicity as suggested by the FCT Minister.
At this juncture, the immortal words of the former Abbess of Port-Royal Abbey in Paris, Jacqueline-Marie Angelique Arnauld (1591-1661), readily come to mind. She said: "Perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing things extraordinarily well".
* Ene Edoka is a staff of the Directorate of Media and Publicity, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN)