Busi­ness mas­tery

Fa­tima Ouans­saidi (38) is a well-trav­elled TV pro­ducer, as well as co-owner and CEO of be­spoke com­mu­ni­ca­tions agency OnPoint PR, which was re­cently an­nounced as the PR firm for Jo’burg’s Global Cit­i­zen Fes­ti­val in De­cem­ber, fea­tur­ing Bey­oncé, Oprah Win­fre

Destiny - - Contents - BY Sheena Adams

You were born in the UK to a Moroc­can fam­ily. How did you orig­i­nally find your­self in Jo’burg? I was born two years af­ter my par­ents moved to London. When I fin­ished school, I did a law de­gree at Bris­tol Uni­ver­sity. Af­ter ob­tain­ing my LLB, I did a Le­gal Prac­tice Course in or­der to be­come a solic­i­tor, but never ac­tu­ally worked as a lawyer. In­stead, I joined the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Divi­sion of a nu­traceu­ti­cal com­pany in London. Af­ter a few years there, I trav­elled for a year in Brazil, came back and started work­ing for an NGO in Wash­ing­ton DC, USA. While there, I started ex­per­i­ment­ing with film pro­duc­tions with my friends. We did just our own per­sonal projects, but it led to a job of­fer from an Amer­i­can en­ter­tain­ment com­pany, Bounceback Me­dia, to help pro­duce a South African mu­sic show called O-Ac­cess. I thought: “Why not?” That’s what brought me to Jo’burg. We set up a mo­bile of­fice here, but we were film­ing all over the world for Chan­nel O. I trav­elled to Ja­pan, Aus­tralia, Los An­ge­les – the works. I later worked on Nonhle Goes to Hol­ly­wood and Harambe.

Where did you see your­self liv­ing? I al­ways aimed to live an in­ter­na­tional life, com­mut­ing be­tween all the dif­fer­ent con­ti­nents in the world. Ul­ti­mately, though, I knew I wanted to live in Africa and I think SA was the first op­por­tu­nity I got in terms of real base.

How did OnPoint be­gin? Vista Kalipa and I, as well as a third part­ner – who’s since left the busi­ness – set up OnPoint in 2010 be­cause we saw an in­ter­est­ing gap in the mar­ket for a neat lit­tle agency that did PR and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, but also brought in the con­tent field. Vista and I can laugh about it now, but there was a time when we had to send each other air­time! When we started the agency, we had a lit­tle busi­ness plan, but no fund­ing. We didn’t have an of­fice ei­ther, nor an in­come for the first seven months. I was liv­ing off my sav­ings and we were help­ing each other. We’d work on projects and peo­ple thought we were a big, for­mal op­er­a­tion, but it was lit­er­ally just the three of us. We’d hold meet­ings at restau­rants and ho­tels. To­day we have a staff of 12 – with real of­fices!

How did you be­gin to get lever­age as an agency? Firstly, we had faith that with our skills, our global out­look and our con­nec­tions, we’d be suc­cess­ful. How­ever, be­ing the of­fi­cial PR firm for the 2012 lo­cal leg of the Manch­ester United World Tour was also huge for us, as it gave us a lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional plat­form.

Ned­bank was our first fi­nan­cial ser­vices client. We pitched a small project and ended up with a four-year ac­count, in­clud­ing the Ned­bank Cup. We man­aged to tell a dif­fer­ent brand story with that. An­other es­sen­tial part of our of­fer­ing is that we have a team who comes up with rad­i­cal, in­no­va­tive ideas. We were also work­ing in the in­flu­encer space be­fore there was a word for it. Our client list cur­rently in­cludes Unilever, Makro, Po­etry and Amer­i­can Ex­press. We got the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­tract with Global Cit­i­zen through a pitch: we’re the pitch kings and queens! What I love most about work­ing with in­ter­na­tional teams is the ex­change of best prac­tices. It’s been a great ex­pe­ri­ence.

How do you keep your­selves rel­e­vant? I think the in­dus­try’s go­ing to con­tinue to mu­tate. Right now, in­flu­encers are a me­dia chan­nel all on their own, but that will change. What’s in­ter­est­ing for OnPoint is that one of our spe­cial­i­ties is strate­gic in­put – look­ing at a brand and coming up with a holis­tic com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­egy. We’re evolv­ing as an agency along those lines too. But we’re still small, so we don’t do ev­ery­thing in its en­tirety. We part­ner with other agen­cies be­cause it’s very im­por­tant to fos­ter a col­lab­o­ra­tive cul­ture in this in­dus­try. Also, many brands are open to this kind of work and to re­ally dif­fer­ent, in­ter­est­ing ideas. Slowly we’re see­ing big, tra­di­tional brands im­ple­ment new think­ing.

Are you and Vista equal part­ners? Yes. He’s a Di­rec­tor and I’m the CEO, as I’ve taken on more of a role in grow­ing the busi­ness. I’ve moved away a lit­tle from be­ing a prac­ti­tioner to learn­ing to run a busi­ness. I’ve been teach­ing my­self hu­man re­sources, tax reg­u­la­tions and even or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture, which is im­por­tant be­cause when you’re used to be­ing just two or three peo­ple, you need to cre­ate proper struc­tures as your team grows. I’m now think­ing of do­ing an MBA. I re­cently cre­ated a Strat­egy Divi­sion in the busi­ness that’s re­search­ing trends and best prac­tices; I’m re­ally in­ter­ested in see­ing where it goes.

Where do you see OnPoint in a year’s time? It would be lovely if our rep­u­ta­tion as in­no­va­tors con­tin­ued to grow and so­lid­ify. We’re start­ing the OnPoint PR Academy, through which we’d like to col­lab­o­rate with a ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tion train­ing stu­dents in PR and mar­ket­ing. What’s be­ing taught cur­rently is very dif­fer­ent from what’s prac­ti­cally hap­pen­ing. We’d like to try to change what stu­dents learn about the in­dus­try.

“We part­ner with other agen­cies be­cause it’s very im­por­tant to fos­ter a col­lab­o­ra­tive cul­ture in this in­dus­try.”

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