My PhD thesis is an interlink between my passion, professional experience and current trends in the creative industry- Morolake Dairo

Morolake Dairo completed her PhD recently from the School of Media and Communication at Pan Atlantic University in Lagos. As a marketing and brand communications professional, she found joy and passion in passing down real industry experience in the classroom. She spoke to AC on her new feat, what assited her to pull through the rigour of combning full time work with study. Here are the excerpts…

AC: Congratulations on your recent feat of achieving a PhD. Could you please tell us about yourself?

MD: Thank You. My name is Morolake Dairo and I recently completed a PhD in Media and Communication from the School of Media and Communication (SMC), Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos, Nigeria. During my Master’s degree programme at the same school (SMC), I had the opportunity of being lectured by facilitators who lectured part-time and had a full-time job in the industry. I found the possibility of passing down real-life knowledge and experience to students very interesting. In addition to that, I have always been interested in research. And so alongside my full-time career in marketing and brand communications, I decided to pursue a doctorate to explore the possibility of a dual career in the marketing communications industry and the academia.

AC: What was the focus of your PhD research and what were the insights from the study?

MD: My PhD research is focused on city branding and fashion cities. My thesis is titled “Branding cities: Investigating the classification of Lagos as a fashion capital.” I have always been interested in the fashion industry. In fact, in my early life, I had a fashion label, Sisi Jhara. I knew it was important to focus my thesis on something I was passionate about. So my thesis is an interlink between my passion, professional experience and current trends in the creative industry.

City branding is an evolving phenomenon and you will find that in the world of today, where we all operate in a global and digital village, branding is now being embraced by city administrators to attract talent, residents and tourists for both social and economic benefits. Some cities employ fashion activities, tourism and city infrastructure to remain relevant in the global sphere.  This is still an area that seems untapped by the African region. My study examined the positioning of Lagos as a fashion capital by investigating the brand identity, brand reality and brand image of the city from the perspective of various city stakeholders. In achieving the objective of my research, I conducted a survey involving about 750 Lagos city residents and also had in-depth interviews with some Lagos-based fashion designers. There was also the need to analyse the digital platforms run by the Lagos city administration, as city branding also includes the digital identity of the city on social media platforms and websites.

Insights from my thesis revealed that from the perspective of Lagos-based fashion designers and city residents, Lagos has multiple city brands because of the diverse population and multiple interests available in the city. The analysis from the officially owned digital platforms of Lagos city on Instagram also revealed a weak digital branding strategy for the city, rather most of the posts were focused on the announcement and celebration of city infrastructure. As a city with demographic diversity, it is recommended that the long-term brand plan for Lagos city must embrace multiple interests that include entertainment, music, business and fashion, supported by the necessary infrastructure and driven by collaborative efforts between residents, industry stakeholders and the private sector.

AC: From your profile, one can easily see that you have extensive industry experience. How was it on the PhD programme with a full-time job?

MD: I must confess that was no easy feat. It meant a lot of sacrifices and a rigid schedule. Academic work happened mostly in the evenings and weekends and during holidays. Annual leave days from my corporate work was dedicated as time for my academics. So it was quite intense. Unlike other levels of tertiary education, where you have to attend classes and submit assignments frequently, the pace of the thesis is mostly determined by the determination of the student and the support of the thesis supervisor. So that was a wake-up call for me. But I’m so glad, I finally made it through with help of family, friends, classmates and the school faculty.

AC: What are your low and high moments on the study?

MD: The low moment for me was when I lost my mother in 2019. She has always been a top supporter of any of my crazy pursuits. I didn’t think I could combine grieving with school and a full-time job. At this point, I must confess that I almost gave up. However, I picked it up about 8 months after and committed to finishing the journey with the support of friends and family. The high moments for me were really at the beginning and the end of my study. In the beginning, it felt like a golden dream worth pursuing, but of course in between the beginning and the end of the journey comes the sleepless nights, imposter syndrome, self-doubt, painful feedback sessions, personal loss, fatigue and relationship challenges. In the end, I felt like a victor, after effecting the changes to the internal review sessions that never seemed to end. Getting the invitation email for my thesis defense was the icing of the cake for me. I couldn’t believe I had written over 300 pages of a thesis. My first thought was “So I can finish this PhD?” (Laughing).

AC: It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. How many people did it take to produce your PhD? What are your words of gratitude to them?

MD: I have a whole army behind me and I call them Assistant Doctors because we all achieved this PhD together. God is the commander of this army and honestly, I doubt I could have finished this without him. I also had such a supportive supervisor, Dr Austin Nweze and my class coordinator, Mrs Ijeoma Nwachukwu.  The institution, Pan Atlantic University, School of Media and Communication were also very supportive in ensuring from start to finish. Thanks to my classmates and fellow PhD Students from other sets whose humorous memes and messages fueled me during the weary season. Many thanks to my family and friends for their patience (I can’t recall how many events and hangouts I had to reject and postpone in the bid to manage my time efficiently) and support on all fronts – financially, emotionally and spiritually. I can’t thank them enough. If I had the chance to give a proper acknowledgement speech, it will take hours amidst a lot of tears and laughter.

AC: With your rich industry experience and a PhD, what is next on your career trajectory?

MD: I am looking for opportunities where I can merge the best of both worlds – advance in my career in the marketing communications industry and also contribute to knowledge through facilitation and research. I also look forward to a situation where I continuously contribute to policymaking in the African creative industries sphere through actionable research and government participation.

AC: Thank you for your time.

MD: It is my pleasure.

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