Scal­ing the heights of PR

Money will come to those who can show they have what it takes to suc­ceed, says this no­table pub­li­cist

CityPress - - Careers - SIYABONGA SIT­HOLE siyabonga.sit­hole@city­

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

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’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 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

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