Lebo Madiba has headed up three public relations agencies in her career.
She has close on 15 years experience working as a communications professional and has been involved in providing strategic counsel , government relations and reputation management services to some of the country’s blue chip companies. Her earlier posts include that of Communications Specialist for FNB Internet Banking. Lebo has been paramount to the conceptualisation and implementation of some of SA’s most memorable campaigns for clients such as Faritec, Bonitas Medical Fund, Albany Bakeries, SABC 2’s Strictly Come Dancing, National Empowerment Fund, Grindrod Bank, Novo Nordisk, UBS and Ericsson South Africa amongst others.
Lebo has a broad network of media and business contacts maintained through her career. She offers clients a rare mix of business and media insight which ensures that she is able to offer strategy that resonates both with client’s business objectives and media agendas. She was recognised by the Mail & Guardian Newspaper in 2007 as one of “100 Young South Africans you must Take to Lunch”, has judged the annual ADmag Awards which recognise excellence in magazine publishing and is a regular guest lecturer at the University of Pretoria.
What does your industry do?
There are different levels to public relations but the crux of it is that the PR industry is responsible for managing the brand images and reputation of the clients they represent. PR’s role is important in building and maintaining relationships between an organisation and its target audience. It is about studying public perceptions and working through various channels and platforms to position clients/organisations/companies.
This positioning often based on set objectives – PR helps businesses/organisation communicate their business objectives e.g.
- Brands create awareness of their products and services e.g. the recent Cell campaign
- Politician attract votes, create an image and raise money
- NGO talk through the media to gain funding and sponsorship
- Personalities/Celebrities speak to the media about their new projects
Other roles of PR include media training – PR training the client on how to interact with media to gain the best results and crisis communications which entails managing any bad coverage that may appear in the media about the client. In these kinds of situation PR creates crisis management plans to help clients respond quickly and effectively without damaging the clients reputation.
What do you do on a daily basis?
A day in the life of a PR consultant is very unpredictable. It can go from having a status meeting with clients, a media interview, a brainstorm session with the team, a pitch presentation, a launch function, dinner with clients, but on average activities that can happen on any given day include:
-Getting to know and understand the media
-Compiling media lists – to ensure that all media releases are targeted at the relevant media
-Be able to distinguish the difference between a business story and an entertainment story and how to target the various media
-Setting up “get to know each other” /meet and greets between the client and the media as a way to build/create relationships
-Writing press releases on behalf of the clientand sending them out to relevant media
-Setting up interviews between the client and the media. This is in the form of pitching stories to the media
-Helping the client in prepare messages they want to communicate to media prior to interviews
-Media lunches mostly used for product launches
-Media briefings and conferences used for breaking news and other important news
-Press kits/media kits are prepared for such events which are either presented to the media in folder
How To Get In
The general rule is to study towards Degree or Diploma courses in the field of Communications i.e. Communication Science, Journalism, Media Studies, Public Relations.The industry is such that it requires people that have drive, courage, determination, and passion. It is the passion and the drive that often determines how easy or how difficult it is to get into the industry. It requires individuals who have got a flair for creativity and enthusiasm.
Although it looks very glam(arous) to most, it is a business and requires educational knowledge of writing, project management skills, an eye for spotting communication opportunities for clients – it also requires individuals that are aware of their environements, who read and consume a lot of media via online, print(newspapers and magazines) and broadcast (tv&radio). Building credibility takes time - it is worthwhile to work voluntarily or to job shadow those that are in the industry to build skill and experience.
I had always had passion for reading and for community work – I had just finished my second year of studies and was looking for opportunities for my third year in-service training (practical training). While flipping through a magazine (Cosmopolitan) I stumbled upon an article in the movers and shakers section, the article was profiling two young women who were making waves in jobs. They were part of an NGO - the Young Women’s Network at the Joint Enrichment Project (JEP)
I got so inspired; I looked up their contact details and managed to speak to them on the phone and literally begged for them to take me in as an intern and even offered to work for free. It was the best year of my life! Got involved in everything that I had started, because they are /were an NGO there was a lot in the field of communications that didn’t do. I got to introduce a few new things and really grew in that year.
An opportunity came up when the Gauteng Legislature invited the JEP to be represented on a task team that was to organise the first ever Young Women’s Parliament in 1999, I was chose to represent the organisation. I worked with big names in the industry in creating and putting that event together, I chose to be part of the media relations team in the task team. It was a huge opportunity for me, one that I could use to sell myself to prospective employers.
If you are hungry to work in the industry you have to show your drive and passion, but also be in a position to offer yourself/services for free if it means your will gain good experience and learn skills that will sell you for the future. As much as you the industry is about “selling” your clients, to get into the industry and progress in it, takes a lot of selling yourself as well. This was 1999 and I made R850 a month! But it got me in.
What Is the Career Path in Your Industry?
There is lots of room for growth whether you work in an agency, corporate of government position. In a PR agency opportunities are that you start as an intern. These are often not permanent positions; a temporary position is based on how best you perform in this role.
The next level is an Account Executive – manages mostly the distribution of media releases, preparation of media lists, compilation of coverage (publicity) reports etc. You then progress to Account Manager – Manages the day to day running of the client business, liaises with the client on a daily basis, writes media releases, forms and maintains media relationships. Starts playing a strategic role of writing strategy documents and giving strategic advice to clients
Account Director – Manages the team and their delivery. Is responsible for writing and guiding client strategy, relationship manager, high level media relations, is responsible for drawing up budgets. In charge of all implementation. Can progress from this level to Business Unit Director if working within a big agency that has a number of teams. In these kinds of agencies teams are broken down by the portfolio they handle i.e. government/consumer/technology. The Business Unit Director would then foresee and run a portfolio. Other roles can include Media Relations Specialists, Project Managers, Managing Director, PR Strategists, etc.
How Do You Keep Ahead in The Industry?
The key thing is to know where your interest and passion lies. It is a wide industry offering opportunities in various industries from sports, arts, entertainment, corporate, government, consumer and community. To keep ahead those in the industry need to have an aptitude for business, an eye to spot opportunities, creativity, lots of talent, selling and networking skills and a desire to be different.
Keep ahead of the trends i.e. Social Media via twitter and facebook and other trends that influence how PR works and does business.
Knowing who’s who and how they influence the client’s business
By being ahead of the trends and knowing how to apply them.
What are the opportunities for young people to get ahead, be recognised by key players/decision-makers in the industry?
The opportunities are endless, some you have to carve and create for yourself. Aim to be an achiever and do your best to be noticed, dare to be different. Focus on how you package yourself in every way when approaching key players and decision makers. When applying for a position, get as much information about the company so that you sound like you know what you are talking about in an interview. Let your application sell you, and make your application seem targeted – don’t sent an email to 5 agencies all at the same time. Chances are that they will not get back to you as the assumption is that others will pick you up. PR is a very personality driven industry, bring out the person in you and talk like you were born to be in this business