Gina Din-Kariuki, CEO, Gina Din Corporate Communications

After a more than 12 year relationship, Gina Din Corporate Communications (GDCC) has decided not to pitch for the Safaricom PR account sending the giant communications services provider’s top brass into a spin. Through a statement, the company has announced that it will not be pitching for the account.

GDCC’s founder and owner, Gina Dina Kariuki, said:

“Although our current business relationship may be over, we have developed personal relationships and a strong brand affiliation with the Safaricom team during our tenure as their communications agency. We part ways in the very best of circumstances, with nothing but satisfaction and pride in what we have accomplished together. Simply, the time has come for a fresh set of people and ideas to carry the Safaricom brand forward and for all of us at GDCC to take on a new set of challenges.”

Rumour has been doing rounds in the PR circles over the position of GDCC as PR agencies were invited to bid for the lucrative account. Gina Din and Safaricom have indicated that the decision is mutual though there are reports which indicates that there are deeper issues which might have prompted Gina Din not to pitch despite not being barred from contesting its position.

Commenting on the development, Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore said:

“Gina and the team at GDCC have done a terrific job of integrating themselves into our business. They truly understand our brand and our industry. Their ability to think out of the box has given both organisations a chance to successfully navigate unchartered territory and gain valuable experience along the way.”

Since November 2011, sources at Safaricom have indicated that the account might be split-up since not many of the so-called PR agencies might be able to fully handle Safaricom while maintaining other clients.

DOWNLOAD Gina Din PR Statement

Spliting the account might be just the biggest mistake Safaricom will ever make. Imagine Gina Din running Safaricom’s corporate account while another agency is running the CSR arm like Safaricom Foundation. So let us think of a situation where Safaricom decides to increase its tariff citing all manner of challenges. The other agency running Safaricom Foundation account announces a donation of Ksh 40 Million to a football club. This will be chaos.

Only EABL split its account after 12 years with Tell-EM. And if you ask insiders if has had a strong PR since the split, most will tell you that EABL has suffered a great deal with the company’s position now just a shadow of its former self.

The other mistake Safaricom will ever make in chosing the PR agency to handle their work is to give it to ScanGroup. The problem is that of the 10 strong PR agencies in Kenya, 8 are under the Scan Group. Any of the agencies taking the Safaricom account will just be monopolistic in the country and will never be a positive for Safaricom.

Gina Din was great as an agency and Safaricom loved them because the company has its own fully functional media centre with very experienced personnel. So Safaricom can be running a Live financial reporting while another team is with Gina Din team in Lokichogio handling the CSR while a third team is with Safaricom Live team in Eldoret. None of these so-called PR agencies can boast of such power.

Safaricom might have decided to push Gina Din out of itself in a smart way after some bloggers accused Gina Din and Bob Collymore of not being fair but the truth is that Gina Din has been a core part of Safaricom’s achievement in the 12 years. If the company was with a different company, the story might have been different if you ask many insiders.

There are claims also within Safaricom that key “untouchable personnel” who are in marketing, advertising and PR might have pushed Gina Din out-of-the-way.

Safaricom used to pay Gina Din PR a retainer of Ksh 1.8Million with average monthly payment to Gina Din averaging around Ksh 2.2 Million. In some occasions like the connected Kenya summit or Lewa marathon event where key PR executives from Gina Din are required by Safaricom to stay out is when the account used to gross anything above Ksh 3 million. Claims of Gina Din being paid up to Ksh 8 million are “wildly exaggerated’, according to a source at Safaricom.

It will also be very interesting to see what Safaricom will pay the new agencies since with the fortunes at their current level, it will be so hard to convince the company’s board that a higher fee to an agency will make a difference.

With the exit of Gina Din, Safaricom has also seen the exit of Senior Manager in-charge of PR, Washington Akumu and Wachira Kang’aru. Sources close to the two key PR executives indicate that they might have been pushed out-of-the-way with Washington reportedly feeling slighted and after a junior and inexperienced Victoria Kaigai appointed to be his boss through a position created just for her. Washington resigned from Nation Media as a Business Journalist which would have seen him be in a much more senior position now.

The source also indicates that Washington and Wachira felt that Safaricom added no value to their resume with not even training or secondment for skills development from Safaricom. At his position, Washington might have thought that he was going to drive strategy at Safaricom while in the real sense him and Wachira were reduced to doing menial PR jobs best suited for junior employees.

The two joins Cleo Mbeo and Regina Nyuguto as some of the key personnel who have been pushed out of Safaricom by Wangari Murugu and other senior executives who have a godfather in Chairman, Michael Ng’ang’a and view Bob Collymore as a very weak CEO. Key sources indicates that Safaricom cannot match its peers on employee benefits with most of the key senior staff now feeling wasted and over used while the “company does not upgrade you.” Wangari Murugu’s sister, Fiona Murugu, is also said to be a key middle level employee in the company.

A former staff at Safaricom who left before Washington Akumu joined the company said, “Safaricom does not know what valued Washington was to them, and it will take them not long after his departure to realise that”

Victoria Kaigai writes the “Female Speak” column in Saturday Nation and formerly handled KQ and Shell Kenya PR. Most of her peers are at a loss to what value she will bring into Safaricom PR.