Scaling the heights of PR
Money will come to those who can show they have what it takes to succeed, says this notable publicist
Many corporate companies rely on publicists to communicate messages to their stakeholders and clients. Whether through crisis management strategies such as media releases, press briefings or interviews, or through product placement and events management, publicists are expected to use their influence to communicate messages about brands and/or their clients.
One person who has scaled the heights of this profession is Matlapulana Ragoasha, the head of publicity for free-to-air television station e.tv.
City Press had an opportunity to speak to the talented public relations practitioner and get her thoughts on why PR has become so important for organisations and brands.
“All brands have a story to tell about who they are. As much as advertising and marketing have a role in selling a product or brand’s image, the work of publicists is to create a brand narrative – a story that communicates what the brand is about,” she says. The Polokwane-born Ragoasha has come a long way since her early days as an unpaid PR intern at the Film Resource Unit in 2005.
She says she had to read up about the South African film industry and get into the head of the organisation’s CEO, Michael Auret, in order to prepare herself for her new role as an intern responsible for getting local films such as Mapantsula, Fools, Drum and other politically heavy titles reviewed by film writers. She has since worked for numerous PR agencies as a publicity assistant for projects such as Africa Unite on Bob Marley’s 60th birthday celebrations in Ethiopia – an opportunity she got while pondering her next move after spending her first six months at the Film Resource Unit.
Speaking from her modest office at e.tv’s premises in Hyde Park, Ragoasha recalls with passion her early days and subsequent journey to becoming the leader of the station’s publicity department.
Growing up with two brothers (one older and one younger) and her teacher parents, a career in humanities was not encouraged.
Even without a passion for mathematics and a love for science, she had to fulfil her parents’ wishes by taking on a more respectable career in biotechnology, which ended in “total disaster” – all she managed to do was fail all her first semester modules at the then Pretoria Technikon, now the Tshwane University of Technology.
“I then decided to do a computer course for the remainder of the year. Even with that, I knew deep down that I was a university student, so the following year I went to Rand Afrikaans University to do journalism.”
After studying journalism for two years, she again realised that the field of “churning out stories” was not for her, so she quit journalism for corporate communication and brand communication. This is where she caught the publicity bug in earnest.
“I felt I was more suited to speaking to people and needed much more creative freedom in my work because I wanted to tell my stories and influence people to write about my stories, rather than being the one to chase after stories.”
Having worked for a dozen other PR agencies, such as Total Exposure, Ragoasha says she finally got an opportunity to work in a corporate environment when she was given the e.tv job.
She says she has never felt more at home than she does now.
She started as publicist for the then new soapie Rhythm City. She never complained, even while juggling the demands of being a leader and being a publicist for the youth soapie, and at the same time easing into her new title as head of publicity.
She encourages young people who want to become publicists to distinguish themselves from the rest and be willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. “For anyone starting at the bottom, I tell them it is not time for money yet. Money will come to those who are prepared to stay above the rest and show that they have what it takes to succeed.”
Having started as an intern herself, Ragoasha says every year she fights to have at least one young person join her team of determined publicists. It is, after all, how she started her prosperous career. STAND OUT FROM THE REST Matlapulana Ragoasha started her career as an intern and is now the head of publicity for e.tv