When Controversy Can Make, Not Break Your Brand
During the run up to the August 8th, 2017 General Election in Kenya, a Nakuru based radio station known as Ithaga FM attracted controversy when the current Bahati Constituency member of parliament, Kimani Ngunjiri, fought off his then fiercest challenger, John ‘Honest’ Mbugua in the studio. The station was to again attract controversy when many young people from Bahati constituency took to the social media and attacked the station labelling it a ‘Facebook Radio’ as they claimed its signal reception is poor in many parts of the constituency. The station proprietor, Njoroge Ng’ang’a (pictured), says such controversies only served to market his brand instead.
How did Ithaga FM came into be?
The station began three years back and was initially known as Fahari FM when I officially launched it. As many did not identify with the station, and this was impacting the business, I saw the need to rebrand to Ithaga FM and broadcasting in vernacular from Kiswahili.
The liberalization of the media saw the emergence of many vernacular radio stations. This means many would like to identify with what disseminates information in a language they are home with. When I commissioned a study and discovered the Fahari brand was not selling well based on that observation, I decided rebranding and going vernacular was the best way, and this gamble paid off.
What was the source of your capital?
I have a journalistic background having worked with different media houses in the country for a number of years. This is besides emceeing in events and giving motivational talks. The savings from these combined ventures were to see me set on own.
The station came into limelight not long ago when two political antagonists exchanged blows. Did the controversy generated somehow affect the business?
To be honest, that controversy drove the numbers of listeners a notch high as many were hearing the existence of this station for the first time. Many tuned in and business revenue went up as well. Sometimes, controversy is what sells, for, as they say, what doesn’t destroy you builds you.
Concerned citizens of Bahati constituency termed the station as one that broadcasts through a gramophone claiming it has no broadcasting frequency. More, they do not get a chance to engage your interviewees on a live chat and ask them hard questions. How did you deal with the issue?
Criticism, provided it is constructive in nature, is welcome. I hosted a delegation of young persons from Bahati to hear their views and suggestions and to map areas of cooperation. It turned out their bone of contention was their being unable to interact with their legislator during live interviews. At the end of the day, their concerns were ironed out and the very platform they negatively depicted the station is the same they unknowingly promoted it. When you tailor controversies to work to your advantage, you get more than you would were you to engage in PR stunts to limit the damage.