When I was contemplating the PR column for this #Womensmonth the first thing that came to mind was to focus on the challenges women experience in the PR profession. However, when I thought about women I’ve come across over the last 20 years – some underdogs who have excelled in the PR space – I changed my mind and decided to recognise them instead.
I am a proud product of KwaKomani High School and Queenstown Girls’ High – a small town girl who was able to achieve the goal of becoming a managing director in a PR firm before the age of 40.
One of my mentors, Peta Heidenreich, contributed immensely to my career achievements. I met Peta early on in my career – she was a co-partner at Frank Heidenreich Consultant (FHC) – a PR agency I worked for which focused on providing communication services to IT clients. This PR giant taught me the basics of writing a great story just two years after I had finished my diploma.
In spite of all her responsibilities as the MD in the company, she was patient enough to take the time out of her busy schedule to mentor me and for that I’m eternally grateful. In my three years of working at FHC, I was always in awe of how great Peta was in PR and in business as a whole and it was evident at client presentations that I was not the only one. She always left clients amazed by the exceptional PR ideas that she came up with to assist them to overcome their business challenges.
As my career progressed, I started meeting other amazing PR professionals who included Hulisani Rasivhaga who is originally from Venda. We did our national diploma in PR together at now Durban University of Technology (DUT) and then again, we were coincidentally in the same class when we did our B-Tech degree at University of Johannesburg (UJ) once we had both started working in Jo;burg. Our paths continued to cross because I replaced her at Absa Gauteng’s regional office as a communications manager when she moved to Absa’s communications department at the national head office. I’ve watched her progress and flourish in corporate PR over the years, and I’ve always been impressed by her work ethic and dedication.
While at Absa, I also met another PR trailblazer, Thembakazi Skenqa, who at the time was the communications manager at Absa’s Limpopo regional office. She is originally from Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape and has, over the years, managed to achieve so much in the PR space that she progressed to the position of vice president of PR for Absa Africa. While I was the PR manager for MTN sponsorships I met Helga Klizanie, the owner of Khanya PR. She is undoubtedly one of the PR gurus in the art sponsorship space.
Recently when I was the MD of the GrindPR (TGPR)– a sponsorship and corporate PR agency, I met Bontle Tsikwe, another small-town lady from Taung in the Northern Cape. She was referred to me by Hulisani and I was immediately impressed by her credentials and personality. I then decided to hire her as my second in charge in 2018. During my tenure at TGPR which ended in November 2019, she more than impressed me with her amazing attitude and her drive to excel in everything she did. When I left, she was able to take over my role and has been doing an amazing job since.
Over the years, I’ve also met some young women with whom I worked and mentored because I was so impressed with their attitude towards their work. I’m now very proud of the kind of PR professionals they have become. They include Rositta Mbanze, Tumi Tawana and Nombuso Kunene.
What these young women, and my fellow old-school PR professionals have in common is how hard they work, their positive attitude towards their work, their impeccable work ethic and proven records of excellence. It is important to note though that we were all lucky enough to have met people who were willing to mentor us into the kind of professionals we are today. This is what I wish for every young, aspirant PR professional out there, because I truly believe a little bit of help goes a long way.
Miranda Lusiba is the founding director of Strangé Consulting – a boutique PR agency specialising in communications, freelance writing, media relations, reputation management and media training.