Entrepreneur and Queen of PR, Bukky George-Taylor: On Boosting Tourism Using Communication
DOWNTOWN’s Editor, Onah Nwachukwu, and writer, Kehindé Fagbule met with the woman behind all of that as she sat at her desk wearing a maroon Renaissance Agbada in all of her poise.
Although she lived in the United States through her college days, a quick dive into George-Taylor’s life revealed that she in fact, grew up here in Nigeria. She gave the insight on that, “I left Nigeria when I was 15, right after SS 3. I lived and grew up in G.R.A. Ikeja. My mother worked for Nigeria Airways as the Assistant General Manager – Marketing. I attended Mrs. Ojutalayo’s school (Abbey Junior Mixed and Infant School), and I attended Home Science Association Secondary School.”
George-Taylor, who left Nigeria to get a degree in African American History and Women’s Studies at the University of Massachusetts, revealed that communication wasn’t the first thing on her mind. As a teenager, she wanted to become a professor and teach professionally. She explained how life took her on a different trajectory. “I did choose to study African American History and Women’s Studies with a focus on Women of Colour and the Judiciary System. While I am grateful for all the knowledge acquired in my field of study, I wish I had studied Communications. I was a 15-year-old girl in college with very little experience, and neither did I know what career path I wanted to follow. At that time, I wanted to be a professor, and the plan was to study African-American history and enrol in a 5-year degree Ph.D. program to begin teaching eventually. Life took me on a different course, and Communications found its way to my heart. A part of me is still a teacher. My Robert Taylor Media team can testify to this.”
Storytelling is important, but there are two sides to it. When we tell the story of Nigeria, especially one centred around the coming of age of a nation with huge potential, emphasis is often placed on the not-so-good parts. Think about the kind of news we consume daily, the headlines on the papers, words on the streets, and even the results on several search engine apps whenever the keyword is ‘Nigeria’. There was—and still is—an apparent need for Public Relations (PR), and S far as we are concerned, Bukky George-Taylor has stepped forward to take on the mantle, but in a rather unconventional style.
Fifteen years ago, Bukky George-Taylor founded The Bobby Taylor Company, a registered Public Relations Company in Canada. Early operations after the company had launched saw her become a stakeholder within the Nigerian entertainment scene (but not for very long); a mission she conquered, having represented D’banj, Eldee The Don, and a host of other big names in the industry at the time. But Bukky George-Taylor has grown tremendously since then. Nowadays, the serial entrepreneur who started as a publicist is now the genius behind an innovation that is bound to redefine the tourism experience in Africa.
The Bobby Taylor Company, which had penetrated the Nigerian entertainment space through the Future Award in a grande strategic gesture, has so far been rechristened Robert Taylor Media Ltd. A boutique Communications and Special Events Company located in Lagos, Nigeria. It caters to both corporate and contemporary clients and has represented some of Africa’s best local brands, and global brands looking to penetrate the African Market.
As she spoke, we could not ignore the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority sticker —an organisation based on Sisterhood that she joined as a teenager— slapped against the lid of her personal computer. Of course, she is pro-woman. Her heavy involvement in the sorority can be seen on her Instagram. In Nigeria where the concept of a sorority on school campuses isn’t exactly a thing, George-Taylor presently heads the sorority’s Lagos division. She tells us about it, “Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated is the first African-American sorority founded in the United States in 1908 at Howard University. The organisation is based on sisterhood and service to the community. It has partnered with various local communities to solve problems and provide programs of service in the United States and abroad. Some of the organisation’s notable members include the current Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, Wanda Sykes, Maya Angelou, Corretta Scott-King, the first female President of Liberia, Ella Johnson Sirleaf, and more.
I recently became the President of the first chartered chapter in Lagos, Nigeria, in June of 2021; it will be the third chapter chartered in Africa after South Africa and Liberia. This was definitely a big deal for me because I joined the sorority at the age of 18 when I was studying at the University of Massachusetts. So having joined the sorority in college and at a young age, and then being able to bring it back to my home country, is a big deal for me. The organisation definitely kept me grounded when I was in college and empowered me to become a leader and serve my local community alongside my Sisters.” With a strong foundation in the sorority and heart of the Phoenix, George-Taylor formed and registered her company as a 25-year-old. An impressive feat for a young adult who was just done with college. How could she have pulled that off? We asked to know her career trajectory; did she ever toe the line of a 9 to 5 job? She replied, “I did work 9-5. After I was done with college, I moved to Washington DC, and I worked for a law firm called Cadwallader, Wickersham & Taft for a while. I have done quite a bit of work in corporate America, actually. I then moved to Canada and started working for the University of Manitoba as the Executive Assistant to the Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba. I have also worked as an Administrative Assistant with the Certified General Accountant of Manitoba. So I did work a 9-5. It was while I was working at the University of Manitoba that I decided to resign to launch my own company, “The Bobby Taylor Company” a registered Public Relations Company in Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada.” She certainly made a good call.
Since the formation of her company in 2007, Bukky George-Taylor has also been heavily involved in the lifestyle, hospitality and media industry. It all comes full circle, and she ties it all up seamlessly. Her media involvement which had already started as far back as her college days when she actively blogged, was rekindled. Two years ago, she became a Director in one of Nigeria’s first digital publications, “The Lagos Today Newspaper” which covers stories, sights, and happenings around Lagos, Nigeria. She talked about her media involvement, “I work in the communications sector, and a huge percentage of my work is communicating with the press (Media Relations), it only makes sense to equally own a media platform and relate closely with journalists. We asked how that part of her business was doing.
“And it is going very well. ‘The Lagos Today’ is loved by locals and the diaspora.
We have a lot of subscribers, and they get their news right directly into their inbox daily.”
As far as lifestyle and hospitality go, Bukky George-Taylor did something very innovative last March. She merged hospitality and technology to provide Nigerians—and tourists alike—a solution that boosts the tourism experience in the country immensely. The result of that is the CRAWL App. George-Taylor, who defines it as Africa’s first social calendar app, further explains the invention: “CRAWL Africa is a social directory and a local tourism app that started with Lagos City and will be available to major cities across Africa. CRAWL Africa was birthed to solve a problem; navigating the social and cultural scene in any city can be difficult due to a lack of information or wrong information.
I spend a lot of my days making suggestions for tourists or advising on what’s new in Lagos or where to visit. I also spend a lot of time connecting restaurants, bars, galleries, and various places with customers. A typical phone call goes something like this, “Bukky I have tried to call RSVP and it’s booked. Help me do something, I know you can.” If I am able to help, I am picking up my phone to call the restaurant, “Hi Manny, I have a guest, she’s super important and will love to eat at your restaurant. Can you make a table available?”
So to solve all those issues, I decided to build CRAWL, which I have now trademarked the name Crawl Africa because even though we have just done Lagos, we are about to roll out Abuja and Accra fairly quickly. The app is amazing and should be on everybody’s phone. It will show you all the beautiful places your city has to offer. You can check categories like arts and culture, fine dining, beaches, getaways, etc. The app provides you photos, descriptions, opening and closing hours, accurate reservations numbers, access to Uber, and Google Maps, and can even show you what places are closest to you.
It’s perfect for anyone visiting Lagos for the first time. You get to see a real snapshot of our city. The birth of CRAWL is my way of positively showcasing our city, supporting business owners in the hospitality/social space by connecting them with potential and already existing customers.”
Lagos is a city worthy of a showcase; its beautifully diverse populace, the fast-paced nature—a walking contradiction for a city that spends a third of a quarter of its daily 24 hours in traffic, and it never sleeps. The spirit of a megacity that hasn’t quite blossomed has all the ingredients and potential to become one of the leading tourist destinations in the world. But this is not the case. When we asked George-Taylor if she is open to working together with the government to solve this problem, she replied, “I am definitely interested in partnering with our local government. I am passionate about tourism. I have won awards in the Tourism Space; my opinions have been sought in various projects centred on tourism. Partnering with the government to change the narrative of our country and welcome visitors definitely interests me. Anything to boost the tourism sector in this country, count me in.
I love Lagos, I love Nigeria. I see that despite all of the shortcomings that we have, there are also many amazing things about our country. Our shortcomings are more played up than all of the things that we have to offer as a country or as a state. I think it is important for us to realise that other countries that sound so amazing have as many shortcomings as we do, but they are in total control of their narrative, and they are putting in the work to make their country function better. We need to jump ahead of our narrative and showcase the country. We also need to fix the issues we have as well. I always preach that no amount of PR will sell a bad product. Let’s fix and then let’s sell.”
To sell anything, intentional marketing is required. Marketing is usually storytelling with conviction. But who is telling these stories? We asked George-Taylor for insights on what needs to be done to change this narrative and ultimately make Nigeria marketable. “We can change the narrative in Nigeria by putting the right leaders in place that will do the work and then re-orienting the people of Nigeria. Our National Orientation Agency needs a lot of support and government backing.
Many people focus on external communications alone; however, internal communications is equally as important, and this is where re-orientating the people comes to play. We need to learn to jump ahead of our own narrative in Nigeria to change global mindsets and counter negative stereotypes about Nigeria and its people. Various countries have Public Relations Agencies supporting their narratives, handling crises, and putting together campaigns. There are so many people and many entities doing some amazing work. We need to tell these stories.”
Conversation then shifted to tourism. Tourism is a big deal, it is how many countries in the world get most of their revenue. Although that is not the case with Nigeria yet, seeing as George-Taylor has administered the marriage of communication and hospitality to birth a tourism product in the new age, we asked her for some strategies. “I would say that we need to focus on Nigeria becoming a global destination for leisure, investment, and entrepreneurship. Ghana has done a tremendous job in boosting its tourism sector. Billions of dollars are made yearly from tourism in Ghana, and we can do it too. We have what it takes, but we must put in the work.
Our country can boast various cultural events, rainforests, savannahs, waterfalls, and other attractions.
Tourism can boost our economy; provide jobs, and so much more. While we need to brand the country and make it marketable to the rest of the world, we really need to focus on Security, Infrastructure, Technology, and Information. Heavy focus on the tourism sector by the government is highly crucial. I recently worked with the Nigerian Economic Summit Group on some recommendations regarding Communications/Marketing in the Nigerian Tourism Policy. A lot of people are working behind the scenes, and we look forward to seeing this industry boom!”
Our airports, for instance, are the first point of calling anyone has with our country, and yet, it’s not very friendly. How do we make it more welcoming for tourists, we asked.
“When you walk into other airports, you see a fine representation of the country you are visiting. Everything you need to navigate the city can be found at the airport from car rentals, hotel information, and even an information desk where you can ask questions or ask for assistance. We sadly do not have an information desk at our airport with trained personnel who are courteous and can sell the city to a first-time visitor.
You cannot even find friendly signs welcoming you to Lagos.
It should not be a difficult experience for anyone visiting Nigeria for the first time. Why do we have to know somebody in Nigeria to navigate? We can decide to visit many countries without knowing a soul residing in that country and enjoy touring that country. You can find information on the city you are visiting online; you can plan your entire visit and see the city’s experiences. We need to get there. People should be able to visit Nigeria and find relevant information easily.”
One of such things to help would be a website for the state; as we spoke, George-Taylor mentioned her experience searching for a website. “I tried to visit www.lagos.com and found a US-based jeweller store. Yikes!”
But she hasn’t given up hope. “I am, however very optimistic. I know it can be done. And I want to do my own part, which is why I have curated CRAWL. You can read about a dangerous Lagos, those are the kind of stories that we hear in mainstream media, but when you open the CRAWL app, you will see all the diamonds in the rough,” she concluded.
One can only hope that Nigeria continues to grow as much as George-Taylor has over the years. On the 26th of April this year, she turned 40, and with her company, the Robert Taylor Company clocking its 15th-anniversary this September, we shifted the spotlight onto her professional life. When asked what she would hope for the Robert Taylor Company, she said, “I would hope that Robert Taylor Media continues to build leaders. Good leaders build other leaders and not followers. I would hope that we continue to provide excellent service to our customers.”
She proceeded to highlight the differences that have come with maturity in both her company and personal life. “I would say that my company has more structure than before. It has evolved from just a communications agency to a Creative and Strategic company. I am proud of this, and it took a lot of learning, implementing, and adapting to get the agency to where it is now.”
In terms of her personal life, she had this to say, “As a person, I will say that I am more intentional about many things. Personal Development is extremely important for me. I spend time reading and attending virtual classes, programs, and conferences as well. I am particular about women-led conferences as it gives a more realistic insight to navigate through life and career.
I am also more intentional about enjoying life. The older we get we learn how fickle life can be. People have come and gone and so every day counts now more than ever. Happiness, peace, and a healthy balance between work and my personal life are most important to me.”
The perks of prioritising one’s peace and happiness cannot be overstated. As at the time of this interview, it was a week ago, that the entire country heard the shocking news of popular gospel singer, Osinachi Nwachukwu’s passing. The gospel of peace has been turned up a few notches. We asked Bukky for her take on the tragedy, to which she replied, “She was my favourite. I’ve seen a lot of people say, “oh why didn’t everybody do something?” Trust me, when someone is in an abusive relationship, there’s absolutely nothing you can tell them until they are ready to move on; until they are ready to heal, and until they are able to identify that where they are isn’t good for them. When you are in an abusive relationship, you are almost in a cage. I personally don’t believe that there is anything anybody could have done because these abusers are extremely calculated and are good manipulators. Many women try to leave their abusers but are drawn back due to broken self-esteem, psychological trauma, the kids, and many other ‘excuses’. It’s not an easy place to find yourself. I feel like everyone needs to normalise therapy. There’s such a stigma around therapy, and there shouldn’t be. Having someone you can talk to with an objective opinion that even also understands the psychology of abuse is extremely important. We have amazing organisations like WARIF, Cece Yara, and then digitally, Betterhelp.com. We also need to be kind to people; a lot of people are going through a lot. It cannot be easy.
At the end of the day, Sister Osinachi’s life and death touched many people in different ways. She gave a lot of women voices that had been silenced by abuse for so long. She remains a hero in my books. May her soul rest in peace.” As we wrap up the interview, DOWNTOWN’s Editor welcomed George-Taylor to the ‘fourth floor.’ With a facial expression that screams ‘jolly!’ she said, “Yes, the big 40. I don’t feel 40 at all. They say your age is whatever you feel your age is. I feel strong, confident, and very alive. I am grateful to God.”
When asked what she is looking to gain in terms of being an entrepreneur at 40, what other projects she is hoping to take on, and what the future holds, she responded, “I want to give back and share my wealth of knowledge and this brings me back to teaching/ mentorship. I look forward to this. I recently wrote a book called Born to Stand Out – a guide to personal branding, which our agency offers as a service. I am excited about this as well. I am also excited about Tourism for Nigeria. We have a lot of people putting Nigeria on the Map. From Art X to Lagos Fashion and Design Week to The Flytime Music Festival to Alte Fest, and so much more. It’s just time to tell our stories to the rest of the world, and I want to be a part of that.”
And if there is anyone capable of doing that, it is the Queen of PR, and maybe of tourism, soon, Bukky George-Taylor.