Terrorist Attacks: Marketing Tools for Public Safety

Terrorist Attacks

vprašanje: I work for an arm of the security agencies and have made a pleasant, and an impressionable, contact with you once. My question is being conveyed here for my colleagues to gain from the response of a marketing guru – How can the tools of marketing be applied to help reduce the growing security challenges of Boko Haram? – E.O.

The guru bit, I’m just realising so for the first time. Vseeno, thanks for the compliment, while the glory remains with God Almighty. Tools and concepts of marketing can indeed be applied to government’s efforts at stemming the negative impacts of the increasing activities of the Islamic militant group in Nigeria, Boko Haram.

Without highlighting further Boko Haram’s recent perpetuation of acts of terrorism (like killings in mostly the Maiduguri axis of the country, bombing of the Police headquarters and the United Nations building, both in Abuja among several others); its makeup, agitations, mode of operation and area of influence; the fear its newly found preference for suicide bombing is creating among Nigerians; international terrorist outfits it has affinity with (npr. al Quaeda in the Islamic Maghreb of north-western Africa, in Al Shabab in Somalia) are all no longer news. Marketing related efforts can be summarised in this piece through highlighting their applications to aid the government (typified by the State Security Service or SSS and the Intelligence Community) from two broad perspectives, namely (jaz) Consumer behaviour, in (ii) Promotion.

Consumer behaviour generally in marketing refers to those acts of individuals which involve buying and using (in this regard, ‘applying’ or ‘adopting’) products or services, involving the decision processes which precede and determine these acts (like actions taken during purchase or use of products, and other factors that lead to such). While I isolate Promotion (the kernel of this piece) for emphasis below in tackling growing security challenges of Boko Haram, Product here stands for “the idea, belief, and conviction that life is sacrosanct and must be preserved at all cost by all who may constitute targets of Boko Haram, and efforts applied by them to stop or eliminate this group, in its destructive path, through co-operation with relevant security agencies, for the preservation of the country”.

Before this time the perception of a ‘typical Nigerian’ has been of someone who enjoys life and would like to sustain it at all cost, not adopting tendencies towards self destruction or being suicidal, or even destroy lives of others and properties in the bid to take own life. This forms the rationale behind Dora Akunyuli’s remark, as then minister of information (in the wake of the attempt by 23 year old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to blow up a US airliner with 289 people on board on 26 december, 2009), that the youngman’s action was “un-Nigerian, as Nigerians are well known to like life. He obviously picked up this devilish tendency through exposures in other climes where he had gone for studies…”

Without delving into the essentials of consumer decision process to acquire this ‘product’ or factors which shape it, the authorities must focus on ‘moulding’ the behaviour of these consumers to suit the societal objective presently, which is obvious – To ensure that adequate steps are taken, within all communities in the country, towards preventing terrorist attacks as being kept alive by Boko Haram or any other terrorist group.

Promotion, as part of the ‘marketing mix’, is the medium or message which attracts attention to the product or service. For hints on some techniques which could be applied to achieve the above stated objective, while being mindful that the threat is no longer restricted to terrorism through assassination, armed robbery, ethno-religious riots, kidnapping by gangs or ethnic militia elements, but recent trend as spearheaded by Boko Haram. I do not subscribe to an all out national public enlightenment campaign as this may have backlash of creating unfavourable ‘shivers down the spines’ of prospective foreign investors, which Nigeria can ill afford now.

Even where the trend of attacks has been unprecedented, I wonder why public enlightenment efforts have not kicked off. Without delving into strategies and techniques for their creative, media, and production input, these tools of promotion should be applied as means of creating public awareness:-

Advertising: Television (TV) spots commercials (like the “Andrew’s checking out” commercial of the 1980s) should be in place. Radio commercials should also be applied more due to its wide coverage among the ‘grassroots’, and complimented by street billboards. A slogan such as, “Report suspicious moves & objects too” can be introduced.

Public relations: Even where terrorists rely on the media to spread fear and publicize their cause, the media on their part want to create news to attract readers or viewers and somehow stimulate an incentive to sensationalize terrorism. Vendar, the media should be used to convey what the authorities desire from steps of public enlightenment to curb the excesses of terrorists, such as through television, radio, and written press. Programme participation for TV is very essential in this regard. I was completely ‘sold’ by General Andrew Azazi’s (the National Security Adviser’s) eloquence and conviction during an interview programme of a privately-owned TV station, that if he was campaigning for an election, he got a strong supporter – Me.

Personal selling: A system of education and advocacy should be put in place through which communities and groups are informed (by agents of government) on how to cope with terrorism, to reduce irrational public anxiety, work towards strengthening the morale and sense of personal safety in the light of these threats. Aside enlightenment on what people should watch out for and report (npr. strange persons in the neighbourhood), the public should be provided with three digits toll-free telephone numbers to facilitate such.

Direct marketing: Brochures, fliers, and bus-stop posters can be used to reach communities and opinion leaders.

New media (posebej, the internet): A dedicated web site should be up and running, where information to compliment the above would be posted.

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