Could you ever imagine one of the most prestigious business magazines covering a story on the project you are managing? Not just one magazine, The Economist, but also eight other well-known media such as Die Zeit – the most read German weekly magazine, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Business Green and eWeek UK, just to mention a few, were joining the press trip to visit both SAP’s Shea and Cashew project sites in Ghana.
This was my first experience with any press and my role was to represent SAP’s sustainability social project. What a great honor! I prepared my presentation material thoroughly for the journalist briefing in Accra. The press coverage of the Shea project by these well-known press agencies was a great opportunity for the business development of the StarShea Network.
I flew down to Accra from Tamale with our Planet Finance partner to join the journalists arriving the same day from Europe. The next day was scheduled as a press briefing day where we presented the projects and demoed the technology used in both the Shea and Cashew projects to the journalists. We ended the day with a sightseeing tour of Accra and a group dinner. Early next morning at 4 AM, as a group of about 20, we headed to the domestic airport to fly north to Tamale and visit the project sites. Luckily, there was no big incident this time - except 3 hours of delay due to a malfunctioning speedometer.
<<< 4AM wake up call...all are too tired...>>>
The journalists first visited the office of our development partner, Planet Finance Ghana in Tamale and got educated on the topic of micro financing. Then we visited the town of Janga, by a chartered mini bus, well stocked with lunch sandwiches we pre-ordered, to witness our mobile technology in action in the real setting. (See the Evan Walsh’s blog on the visit to the Janga Town for the detail. http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2011/09/29/the-road-to-janga-town/ ) During the two hours bus ride, I sat next to Patrick Lane from The Economist, who missed our full day briefing session due to a late arrival, and I made sure to brief him on the Shea project because I really hoped that my favorite business magazine would cover the impacts of our project.
When our bus arrived in Janga, I introduced the journalists to our field officer who took us to the village chief’s house for a curtsey visit while asking for “permission” to visit his village. Then we gathered under the big communal tree where the women were waiting for us and the journalists got an opportunity to ask questions about their experience, their work and their thoughts on technology. The visit to the village helped the journalists understand the environmental context and challenges we were facing and to appreciate the technological innovation and its impacts. The journalist from FAZ told me that the most impressive thing for him was seeing the smartphone sending data in the middle of nowhere. Somehow it all seemed very surreal to him. I sensed lots of excitement from the group and was quite satisfied with the outcome of the press trip.
We came back late to Tamale for some local cuisine. The more cautious people, like myself, stuck with vegetarian fried rice called jollof or noodles, while some of the more adventurous ones ordered the traditional fermented dish eaten with hands, Banku, which made one of the journalists sick all night. After the nice dinner, all the journalists and the team was exhausted from the extra-long day, yet very charged by the “once-in-a- life-time” experiences that would stay in their memories forever. Feeling these special shared moments, I said my goodbyes to them, hoping to keep in touch. After this first experience with the journalists, I realized that even journalists are just normal average people like us. Contrary to my expectations, most of them seem to be introverts. I guess that is why they chose to observe and write about people’s stories. Lying in bed, reminiscing about the day’s advents, what the journalists might write about and how their opinions could impact these types of projects, I fell asleep again with a big smile on my face.