Ebola. A bit of perspective.

I am writing with the TV on.  The latest CNN report is talking about U.S. President Obama’s pledge to send three-thousand troops to help fight the “deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.” 

sign

I am writing in a hotel room in Lagos, Nigeria. In West Africa.  As a veteran journalist, I know there is a tendency for the media to oversimplify.  In spite of our 24-hour-news-cycle, there is somehow not enough time to provide deep context or broader perspective on a given story.  Instead, what we get are dramatic  headlines  designed to captivate viewers  - and the notion of a virus like Ebola is certainly one that lends itself to fear.

Needless to say, I have friends who urge me in emails and on Facebook to “be safe.”  “Be careful.”

I am.

A former CNN colleague and current Facebook friend of mine now works for the World Health Organization (WHO).  She assured me that since Ebola is NOT an airborne virus, as long as I am not cleaning up the vomit or diarrhea of an infected person or touching an infected corpse, I will be fine.   I can promise you I will not be doing either.

You are right, however, that this illness is a very serious thing. As the news continues to say, this is the deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history. Liberia is particularly struggling.

Nigeria has also reported cases.  But here is the perspective I promised in my title:

According to the World Bank, there are 245 million people in the 15 countries that make up the Economic Community of West Africa .  A whopping 174 million of them live here in Nigeria.

map

The Ebola outbreak –  from WHO recent figures  - looks like this:

Guinea - 771 cases, 494 deaths

Liberia - 1698 cases, 871 deaths

Nigeria - 21 cases, 7 deaths

Senegal - 1 case, no deaths

Sierra Leone - 1216 cases, 476 deaths

That’s some 3,707 cases out of 245 million people.  

(The Democratic Republic of Congo last week reported 62 cases and 35 deaths. But they’re not a part of West Africa geographically. )

So, here in Lagos, a bustling mega-city of around 21 million, people continue to work, play and live pretty normally.

Commendably, they are also taking new precautions against the spread of the virus.  When I landed late Sunday, informational FAQ posters were everywhere.

ebola
A sample of the posters at the Lagos airport.

Immediately after disembarking the airplane, each of us passengers lined up to have a doctor shine us with a temperature-taking laser.  (You may recall, Ebola first arrived here after an infected Liberian diplomat flew from Monrovia to Lagos and collapsed in the airport.)  In addition, hand sanitizer dispensers have been added to every building lobby I enter.

The line of passengers getting temperatures taken at the airport.
The line of passengers getting temperatures taken at the airport.

Today, as reported in the Nigerian Bulletin,  President Goodluck Jonathan said there are no more active cases in Nigeria.  Yes, seven people did die, but the remaining others have recovered. He proclaimed, “ The virus is under control.”

I met up with a longtime friend last night.  John Walker and I used to work together at WTTG Fox News in Washington, DC.  Now, he’s with the Voice of America and here to train journalists at Channels TV.  I’m here working with other professional groups.  Imagine us meeting again after all this time in Lagos!

Longtime DC friends reunite in Lagos!
Longtime DC friends reunite in Lagos!

We laughed and caught up at the popular local restaurant Yellow Chilli.  The place was filled with other patrons – who watched the football match on TV and enjoyed themselves.

Before entering, each of us had had our temperatures laser-checked by the hostess.

It’s good to be careful.

Till, next time, take good care, everyone!

Copyright Gina London 2014. All Rights Reserved. 

 

 

 


Nigerian Diary: Leaving Lagos!

I sit in my hotel room with my bags all packed.  This improbable trip to Nigeria, born two years ago through a Tweet and a big dream from a remarkable Nigerian businessman named Ayo Owodunni, has come to a successful close.

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The Find Your Edge Dream Team!

He and fellow visionary businessman, Ayoola Jolayemi, their wives, the amazing support team of Ayoola's company, SwiftThink, the indomitable Richmond Dayo Johnson, and many others all helped to make this project such a resounding success.

We all believe that Mastering our ABC’s (Appearance, Behavior and Communication)  goes a long way to making a difference in our personal and professional lives  - and the world around us.

The Corporate Affairs team at Nigerian Breweries after our day-long Crisis Communications session.  A+ !!
The Corporate Affairs team at Nigerian Breweries after our day-long Crisis Communications session. A+ !!

Over the past six weeks, our Find Your Edge programs have brought communications training sessions and workshops to businesses, organizations and students.

Me giving it my all at the Find Your Edge STUDENT SUMMIT on Wednesday.
Me giving it my all at the Find Your Edge STUDENT SUMMIT on Wednesday.

And last night, two of SwiftThink’s best and brightest, Tope and Ibukun, treated me to a special night out on the town.

All work and no play...
All work and no play...

Without any instructional slide shows, white boards or case studies, we danced, laughed and sang at Isaac Geralds's birthday party.

Happy birthday, Isaac! from the ladies.
Happy birthday, Isaac! from the ladies.

An incredible evening of good fun held at “Freedom Park” in Lagos.  It used to be a prison during British colonial times, but now is a gathering place for freedom of expression.  And fun.

No, Isaac did not bring me up on stage. Oh, yes he did!
No, Isaac did not bring me up on stage. Oh, yes he did!

Thank you, gentlemen, for all your hard work during our Find Your Edge project, and for taking care of me last night.

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Thanks, gents!
Thanks, gents!

And thank you Isaac, for your incredible voice that you so freely gave last night AND at the Student Summit on Wednesday.

Check him singing live my favorite song: "Ijebu Girl!" below!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P66A8OBs_h4

Thank you again, Ayo, for dreaming such BIG dreams. And thank you, Ayoola for putting the business wheels into high gear.  Thank you, Folake and Seyi for being so supportive, sharp and caring. Thanks to everyone of you dear hard workers at SwiftThink.  This is only the beginning!

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Ayoola and me before the start of the Student Summit. Dream BIG people!

As I prepare to get on the plane this evening that will take me back to the United States – which I haven’t visited in three years -  I’ll be remembering all the inspirational experiences and new friends I had and met here in Nigeria.

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Faces of inspiration at our Student Summit this week!

I’ll be looking forward to seeing my husband and daughter whom I haven’t seen since I came here, 34 days ago.  I’ll be thinking of my dear mommy whom I haven’t seen during the whole time I lived in Tuscany.  And I also can’t help thinking about the people who yesterday boarded Malaysian Flight 17 only to meet with unexpected and preventable tragedy.

Nigerians often tell me how much they love life.  Last night’s birthday party certainly demonstrated it in a most joyful way.

Party! :)
Party! :)

I love life too - and want to savor and embrace every second of it because as we all know, life is fleeting.

Let’s encourage one another and unapologetically dance, sing, laugh and celebrate every moment that we can.

I love you, Lagos.  See you soon.

Baci!

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All rights reserved.

 


Nigeria Diary - The key to success in communication is: Preparation

Today, after I finished swimming my laps in the hotel’s lovely pool here in Lagos, I relaxed by flipping through the pages of this month’s Harvard Business Review.  (What’s your relaxation magazine of choice?)

The pool at my hotel here in Lagos
The pool at my hotel here in Lagos

I usually find all the articles so relevant, but one in particular leaped out of the pages to me.

A great call for communications training in this month's HBR!
A great call for communications training in this month's HBR!

The CEO of Zoetis (which is a recent spin-off of Pfizer, and now the world’s largest animal health company) gives a compelling first-person account of the two-year preparation and intensive training he undertook before he embarked on his top management role.  He paid for a former CEO of a big European company to aggressively mentor him and he paid for two years of communications training.

TWO YEARS OF COMMUNICATIONS TRAINING? Wow. That is real dedication and commitment.  I read further.

Juan Ramòn Alaix was already a successful general manager with Pfizer before being tapped to head the animal health business.  But he was also self-aware enough to recognize that as CEO, he would have even greater responsibility to communicate strategy to the outside world, “including the media, analysts, and investors.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OclPEwZrPuo

The many places where strong communications make the difference

Alaix writes that he had to learn to be comfortable and engaging:

  • Giving TV interviews
  • Speaking with the print press
  • Delivering keynote addresses
  • Talking with small groups
  • Meeting one-on-one with key investors
  • Handling earnings calls
  • Responding to key stakeholders Q&A

Getting expert feedback is critical

The communications expert Alaix hired sat in on both smaller meetings and larger town hall meetings - and"provided a lot of feedback."  Feedback that Alaix was eager to accept and apply writing that he was “challenged to think differently.”

Don’t forget Non-Verbal

Alaix also applauded the work the trainer providing by focusing on non-verbal communications, speaking simply about complicated uses and paying attention to pacing while speaking.  All critically important.

Dedicate time to properly prepare

Not only did Alaix spend two years of his life - on top of his regular Pfizer duties - preparing for his upcoming role as the Zoetis CEO, he also testifies to the amount of time he dedicates to prepare for any significant speaking opportunity:

“Before I did my first TV interview.. I spent more than eight hours doing mock interviews… by the time I gave the first road-show pitch to investors, I’d rehearsed it at least 40 times.”

Incredible.  But not surprising.  In today’s global marketplace, where almost anything you say can be instantly online and rewatched a thousand times, to NOT be able to communicate engagingly and effectively is a true liability.

This CEO’s embrace of improving communications makes for a terrific lesson.  No matter where you are in your career, a commitment to improving and polishing your communication skills is key to you and your organization’s continued success.

On Saturday, when I met a group of impressive ladies from Nigeria's WISCAR organization (Women In Successful Careers), I spoke that it is never too soon - or too late - to refine these skills.

 

WISCAR

So, what are you waiting for?  There is no time to lose.

I am in Lagos, Nigeria with my local partners Amplio Consulting and SwiftThink Limited for the next three weeks - conducting a series of communications training sessions for leading businesses and other organizations.  It is not too late to meet me for a consultation.  Please reach out!

In gratitude,

Gina