Dancing Young Men: Heaven-Sent PR Opportunity Lost – By Azuka Onwuka

Last week, the story of two young men dancing at their duty post was a talking point. The story was that two young men, who were working for a restaurant (Chicken Republic) as “security men,” were sacked because a video showing them dancing while doing their work surfaced on social media. In the video, both men, who should be about 20 years old each, stood by the door of a restaurant in their uniform, dancing but closing the door in the process.

In Nigeria, these men and women in uniform are curiously called security people, but they are not security people in the true sense of the word. They bear no arms and cannot protect the organisation they work for against any attack. They usually work as janitors (opening and closing doors for customers) or as traffic wardens or ushers (directing customers to drive in or out safely or park their vehicles safely). They are usually lowly paid—earning as low as N20,000 to N30,000 ($40 to $60) per month. There are, however, a few well-established private security outfits that pay much better.

Most medium-to-large organisations usually need the services of these men and women to help them take care of certain things within their premises. However, most organisations don’t like to keep them officially on their payroll. Given this scenario, many entrepreneurs have set up “private security companies” to recruit young men and women for this role and send them to organisations like banks, restaurants, manufacturing companies, service firms, etc, which need them.

When the news about the sack of the young men broke, as usual, there were mixed reactions to it. Some people felt that the sack was appropriate as a way to enforce discipline. They argued that while dancing, the “security men” would not be attentive to the duties they were employed to perform. Other people argued that it was a case of using a sledgehammer to kill a fly. Their point was that the young men were projecting a lively image of the restaurant, and even if the restaurant was not happy with their dancing, a warning should have sufficed rather than an outright sack.

In response to the sack of the young men, some people announced that they would give jobs and other forms of incentives to them. What was supposed to be bad news to them turned out to be good news. In addition, the young men were catapulted from relative obscurity to the national limelight. In this age of TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and the rest, they would gain many followers and even begin to make money on social media, if they were not doing so before.

Chicken Republic issued a statement denying the sack of the young men. It said among other things: “The two security guards in the video work for … a private security company. When the management of the private security company saw the two security guards dancing in the video, they had concerns that the security officers, whilst dancing, were not necessarily conducting their duties responsibly and as such, were probably not fully focused on their core responsibility, which is, your safety and your security…. We have followed up with the security company, and they have assured us that the security guards have not been fired, have been paid their dues and have been offered some retraining.”

Many have also argued that the press statement by Chicken Republic was a face-saving measure. They noted that if it had not laid a complaint about the video to the private security company, the company would not have taken any action against the young men.

The incident was a heaven-sent opportunity for the restaurant to create positive publicity for itself but it lost it. If it appreciated that opportunity and grabbed it, there would have been no need to issue that statement to explain itself. For those who understand strategy in public relations, every seemingly negative story can be exploited by a brand to create a positive image for itself.

The moment the video of the young men went viral, Chicken Republic should have seized the narrative and used it to tell a story about the infectious happiness its staff and restaurant radiate, which makes its customers feel at home in its restaurants. The job done by those young men is taxing. For people who stand on their feet all day to be in the mood to dance is something a public relations professional should tap into for a compelling story. In effect, those young men should have been celebrated as a wonderful face of Chicken Republic, using them to project Chicken Republic as Happiness Republic or Customer Satisfaction Republic.

If Chicken Republic does not like its workers to dance while on duty, behind the scenes the company could have reprimanded the boys and passed the message around that none of its employees should be seen dancing while on duty. But while dealing with the public, it should have maintained the image of a happy organisation, a happy place to work and a happy place to visit.

This is an organisation that sells foods, snacks and drinks. This is an organisation that plays music nonstop while its customers eat and drink. Therefore, it should not be a crime for its staff to dance while doing their work.

A restaurant is not the same as a bank or an accounting firm. A restaurant is not a military barracks or a police barracks. A restaurant is also not a funeral ceremony for a young person. People go to restaurants to relax, enjoy themselves, have a date and go home. The sight of a young man manning the door and dancing once in a while cannot be repugnant. On the contrary, such an act will help to make the ambience happier and whet the appetite of those in the restaurants.

Airlines take measures to ensure that the passengers don’t deliver babies inside the planes. But any time a woman delivers a baby while flying, the airline celebrates it and makes it look as if it actually enjoys women delivering babies while on board. The airline usually showers gifts on mother and child. It publishes the stories far and wide and shows itself as a brand that is family-friendly, baby-friendly and people-friendly. Behind the scenes, the airline may issue a query to the officials who allowed such a woman with near-term pregnancy to fly.

The most loved members of the Nigeria Police Force are traffic wardens who dance while controlling traffic. They have been featured in numerous news bulletins. They are usually commended by the public and even given money. It was never the practice for police traffic wardens to dance while controlling the traffic. Somebody started it and others copied it. The image they radiate is that of people who are happy doing their work. People watch them with happiness.

In a country where the unemployment rate is very high, insecurity is high, hunger is high, unhappiness is high, petrol scarcity bites hard, a company that thinks on its feet should have been happy that something which creates happiness emanated from its premises.

Twitter @BrandAzuka

– Onwuka is a respected columnist with The Punch

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