Industry Interview: Lerato Songelwa On The Satisfaction Of Achieving Brand Purpose Through PR

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Lerato Songelwa, Deputy Managing Director at Hill+Knowlton Strategies (H+K) South Africa.

In our exclusive Modern Marketing Industry Interview series, Deputy Managing Director of H+K Strategies, Lerato Songelwa, discusses how her 13-year long career in Public Relations (PR) has been hard work, but very fulfilling as she sees different brands reaching their goals and re-aligning their purpose.

Getting into PR

Songelwa mentioned that she was very fortunate to have studied PR as she loves it. ‘I am a go-getter. I love new challenges and get bored with doing the same things. So I really needed an environment that spoke to who I am as a person and an environment that matched my personality. It was also very important for me not to be boxed in – I really needed something where I could make my own mark as an individual. PR is ideal because no two days are the same. I also enjoy the fact that there is a lot of human interaction, and you get to build new relationships, build your network and to socialise.’

Industry-related changes

When Songelwa started in PR, it was very traditional and involved compiling press releases, selling stories over the phone and organising events and launches. Over the years, a lot has changed on a global scale. ‘We are now adapting to technology with more access to the online space. We moved from bloggers as the main thing to influencers and are now tapping into the digital sphere as an agency. We are in a period where we need to look at where the world is going and adapting to that change accordingly.’

Notable industry trends

Songelwa said that data continues to be big in the PR industry because everything they do is informed by data, whether it is insights or how they measure their results. The understanding, interpretation and analysing of data enables them to come up with the best solution to the problem they are trying to solve.

‘The ever-evolving technology means that we need to evolve our skills. With all this discussion around the Fourth Industry Revolution, 5G and Artificial Intelligence, we should not be left behind, and because we work across all sectors and industries, this means whatever affects those industries essentially affects us. We, therefore, need to provide the best solutions to our clients.’

Songelwa also mentioned that the media landscape is changing and has shrunk, with many publications shutting down. ‘A lot of journalists are crossing over to the PR world. This is great and there is enough room for all of us to cement ourselves, but with everything shifting in the media landscape, we need to be more creative in how and where we sell our stories and if that relates to the objectives of the business.’

What have you enjoyed most about working in this industry? 

‘Sometimes the solution to a client’s problem is not really a service or giving an interview. It might be a little shift and changes that they might need to make inside their organisation, and that is what we help clients unpack. So I really enjoy having those tough discussions because it is very fulfilling at the end when you see the results. It is also fulfilling when you see your client in a very difficult TV interview and you can see how your coaching has helped them handle themselves in that situation.’

Watch the rest of of the interview below, where Songelwa discusses her hobbies and interests, executing a successful campaign and keys to being successful in the PR industry. 

Songelwa’s favourite campaign was the launch of the Head and Shoulders African Scalp Care Range. ‘It wasn’t only about the product itself and what the products can do, which is great, but because we now had a product that specifically addresses black people’s hair issues.’

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