1. What do you find most challenging about the communications industry right now?
The communications industry needs to live up to its own potential! Whether we choose to call ourselves reputation managers, PR practitioners, marcom managers or integration specialists we have the potential to be a crucial part of any and every board of directors, yet I still hear PR people name themselves as the “poor cousins”.
After attending the 15 October 2015 launch of #JumpstartZA, an initiative within PRISA which focuses on the 20 to 30-something’s in the industry, it is crystal clear that there is a loud cry for changes in the PR industry to happen quicker and in a more collaborative and integrated fashion. The up and coming generation of PR professionals is itching to get stuck in but they are facing a wave of resistance from a contingent of more conservative professionals, unwilling or unable to embrace changes that are well overdue.
We have pockets of excellence in the industry as is evident by our South African grown Atmosphere winning in the Financial Services and Investor Relations category of the recently held IPRA (International Public Relations Association) Golden World Awards for their Sanlam One Rand Man campaign. If we look at the PRISM awards, Loeries and Discovery Sport Industry Awards it is clear that the communications industry knows how to get it right. The challenge is encouraging an industry-wide move to more integrated and engaging PR.
2. What is the biggest trend you have grappled with that has transformed your business in recent times?
The biggest trend is the need for a multichannel approach where the communication is integrated across all channels, both internally and externally.
To accommodate this trend the transformation within join.the.dots has been more collaboration, an opening up to other organisation’s contributions and a lot more integration meetings!
3. What makes you excited about the industry?
What makes me so excited is that here is so much scope for communication professionals! A student graduating now has enormous scope for specialisation as well as the option of broadening their horizons. The world is your oyster if you’re starting out in this industry, much more so than when I qualified in 1989. The opportunity to learn is endless and no-one can say that our industry is boring as it is changing so rapidly that we’re having to stay in touch all the time.
I cannot say after 26 years of being in the industry and a PRISA member that I know it all. In fact in some ways I’m disadvantaged when compared to the 20-somethings who see no obstacles and who only see opportunity!
4. How can media relations be improved upon?
A lot has changed with the media and yet nothing has changed at all. Media relations rely on relationships, trust, and mutual understanding as much today as it ever did. The difference now is that many journalists need to not only think of their story and the accompanying visual. Now visuals are no longer photos but video, audio needs to be part of it and “if you could please give me an infographic that would be useful thank you”.
For success, media relations is in need of more collaboration yet both the media and the communicators have less time which often results in relationship breakdown and mutual dissatisfaction.
5. What advice would you give young public relations professionals entering the industry now?
I would say to young public relations professionals entering the industry now – “Your time is now!” Take your intuitive knowledge of technology and apply it to communication, harness your enthusiasm and don’t let the old fogies shoot your creative thinking down. You’ve got the chance to make an impact on our world from within the communication industry – go for it!
6. Do you feel the industry has kept pace with the massive change in digital marketing and media transformation?
We have pockets of excellence in the industry where agencies and corporates have embraced the disruptive changes brought on by digital marketing and media transformation. If we look at the PRISM awards, Loeries and Discovery Sport Industry Awards it is clear that the communications industry knows how to get it right. The challenge is that many in the industry have stayed in comfort zones which are still working for the moment. There will come a time soon where the industry as a whole will demand change as profits decline and operating costs increase.
With digital subsuming practically all comms channels (other than good old human face-to-face contact), PR and communication are growing in influence and we are moving to the top table in the corporate world. The truth wants out, digital developments are enabling it, media have transformed to expose it and consumers – especially the millennials – want it. If we don’t keep pace with the massive change we will become irrelevant.
7. What is the next ‘big thing’ in PR that you foresee?
I attended the IPRA (International Public Relations Association) World Congress recently and throughout the two days of listening to international speakers there were consistent themes:
- Leadership, passion and awareness from the top are key to the success of all organisations. With this comes the necessity for open and authentic communication.
- Creating a better future for all, everyday, is key to your business’ sustainability – you have to walk the talk. Communicating what you’re doing is critical, but doing it more so.
- Tell stories, but you need to do this across all platforms with consistency and with authenticity and a strong visual component.
- Stand out – don’t reject the crazy idea. The successful campaigns and businesses are being bold, brave and disrupting the norm. This is the marrying of innovation, operations and communication across the organization.
- One size fits all is out, Personalization is in. Make customers feel seen, loved and appreciated. Be honest and authentic but most of all see them as individuals with individual needs.