PR Force to be reckoned with – Determined to survive during and post COVID-19
A recent survey conducted by the Centre for Development and Enterprise has determined that there are at least over five million micro and small businesses in South Africa, many of which are located in the informal sector. It is a known fact that the Global-Pandemic: COVID-19 has already had a devastating impact on a number of small businesses in spite of the various interventions by both public and private sector put in place to ease the blow.
Strangé Consulting, a 100% black and woman owned (BWO) PR agency has, for the past nine years, been fortunate enough to enjoy some stability in business. Miranda Lusiba – the Founder of this business has attributed this to some long-term ad-hoc and retainer clients such as Afrovation Technology that have kept the business alive in spite of this pandemic and the volatile economic climate over the last few years.
The agency has since inception had a focused approach – it has not only ensured consistency in the delivery of services to all its clients, but also kept its ear close to the ground to make the most of new opportunities that arise. The Strangé team has always made sure that it was ready to provide PR solutions to clients who have communications or reputation-related challenges either on retainer or project basis.
The company has over the past eight years been steered by a seasoned PR professional, Lusiba with 20-years’ experience in Communications, Media Relations, Reputation Management, Media Training, Freelance Writing which includes Content Development and Storytelling. Lusiba had to step away from manging the Strangé business on a full-time because from May 2017, when she was requested by the CEO of Group Africa Marketing (GAM) to assist by taking up a three-year contract as the MD for The Grind PR (TGPR) – with a mandate to create and implement a turn-around business strategy for the Group’s Sponsorship & Corporate PR agency.
Lusiba says: “In my capacity as MD for TGPR, I was fortunate enough to work in large-scale PR campaigns where clients enjoyed tangible PR return on investment (ROI) calculated in rand values. These campaigns included the annual MTN8 Tournament where R205-million worth of Media value and awareness was generated (BMI) for a three (3)-month campaign and achieved over 250 free media interviews through a National Roadshows and Trophy Tours done mainly with football legends. Another big PR project was the launch of Yekani Manufacturing’s R1-billion world-class Smart Factory in East London. The ROI from a PR perspective was R8.5 million of free media publicity generated on launch day and two months post-event.”
At the end of 2019, she left TGPR because it was now in a stable condition – the agency was not only profitable but the team that she left behind was also able to ensure business continuity and consistently in the delivery of high quality PR, Communications and Media Relations services to all its clients. In collaboration with the rest of TGPR team – this was achieved in less than three years.
Lusiba explains: “Because of lack of capacity – the time spent at TGPR meant that I could only manage the Strange’ Consulting PR business on an ad-hoc basis. From November 2019, I was able to go back to pursuing the Strangé dream and my passion of not only providing high-quality PR services to our clients, but also assisting ordinary South Africans to tackle socio-economic issues affecting various communities such as my hometown, Queenstown in the Eastern Cape.”
The current Strangé team is made up of a group of vibrant, hardworking and highly experienced PR professionals with over 50-years combined experience from various Communications and Media Relations background to best manage the Reputation of its clients. In partnership with some of the most senior PR and Media professionals – Mahendra Raghunath (SABC News Media Personality) – Strangé provides Media Training services in an effort to assist assigned spokespeople in various companies with skills on how to handle the media and ultimately manage the reputations of the brands they represent.
Strangé has over the past few years managed to service a number of corporate PR clients that included: Afrovation Technology; Yekani Manufacturing; Kingmaker Consulting – CoJ, SSETA, PPC Cement, BCL Ltd; Global Interface – Eskom, Platco Digital – OpenView HD (OVHD); FCB Redline – IDC; Telcolink – Cisco; PrideLife Group – DarkChild Production & TYME Bank.
However, Lusiba admits that despite all these successes – the company has over the years experienced its own ups and downs, and this is because of the volatile economic climate now compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone fortunate enough to service retainer clients are doing their very best ensure that they are consistently happy with work that is delivered – ensuring long-term and mutually beneficial business relationships.
The “new normal” is now forcing PR professionals to think differently and adapt or die. The ability to understand the ever-changing business challenges faced by clients has become very crucial and this means that PR agencies need to be agile enough to respond with dynamic PR, Reputation Management strategies that can assist them to overcome these.
“The stability of SMMEs in this economic climate is determined by the ability to retain long-term clients complemented by regular ad-hoc projects that can contribute positively to a healthy and steady cashflow,” she says. That said, Lusiba points out that because of current business environment – budget cuts from clients mean that agencies need to do what they can with the available resources. “It is important to support our clients and let them know we’re here for them, doing the best that we can regardless of the circumstances,” she insists.
Keeping abreast with the trends and adapting to “business unusual” are some of the way that can assist in ensuring the survival of many PR agencies. Digital and online PR is an important trend to focus on and Lusiba explains that along with her old school PR business associates have had to-learn to apply the traditional PR principles in this new digital environment. “When we started out, traditional media platforms were the only options out there. That said, if you want to remain relevant, you need to understand the digital world and how technology can be used to continue delivering value to clients,” she says.
One of the greatest advantages of digital is that it has enabled new ways of doing PR. Lusiba believes that currently, there is a huge opportunity to focus on storytelling and developing newsworthy content. These stories can be told and made accessible in real-time through various platforms that include traditional media (mainstream, regional and community) complemented by digital, online and social media.
Lusiba concludes by saying: As Strange, we pride ourselves on our ability to develop compelling content and tell authentic, human-interest stories that can be used in digital, online and social media as well. The idea that content is king is not new – there is now a greater emphasis on developing newsworthy content more than ever. We do this by ensuring that our clients’ stories have consequence and impact and are told from the beneficiaries’ perspective.
“This is when brand stories are told by beneficiaries on behalf of companies – giving testimony of the difference that has been made in their lives. It is very important for companies to avoid blowing their own horns – but rather allow testimonial stories to provide the credibility needed by business brands. In addition, the winning formula in our PR services also lies in our relationships with the media and understanding what type of stories they want instead of just writing puff pieces for clients – this also helps to determine quality over quantity.