PR ExpertSpeak: Evolution from public relations to reputation management is key
Vincent Magwenya, CEO of Pan-African reputation agency Magna Carta, said that PR agencies must bring their capabilities from around the world and the rest of Africa into Mauritius and also use them to build the reputations of Mauritian brands and institutions in the rest of Africa and the globe. (Image: Company)
Vincent Magwenya, CEO of Pan-African reputation management agency Magna Carta, spoke to AfricaMoney on how the agency has contributed to the growth of the PR industry in South Africa, and in the rest of Africa. He noted how Magna Carta transitioned successfully from a PR agency, often synonymous with events and publicity, into an end-to-end reputation management consultant. Our PR expert also highlighted the importance of walking the client’s reputation journey as true partners, from assisting them with navigating complex policy and regulatory environments to finding new ways of engaging consumers in digital platforms.
Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview:
What are the key achievements of Magna Carta since it started operations?
Our achievements span a 20 year period from the time the business was founded in the year South Africa attained democracy, to the current period, as we evolve our service offerings to match the changes taking place in the communications landscape. Outside of business growth, winning blue chip clients and being recognised by our industry peers through multiple awards, I believe the achievement we are most proud of is our contribution to the growth of the PR industry in South Africa and the rest of Africa. In the service of our clients and in the development of talent, as Magna Carta, we have made a small contribution to the growth of our industry.
Magna Carta has been named African PR Agency of the Year in 2013 in the authoritative international Holmes Report. What are the key factors that contributed to this achievement?
The combined factors that contributed to this milestone are factors that remain core to our business and clients. Our ability to retain client relationships over a long period of time, coupled with our significant presence and strong capabilities on the ground in many parts of Africa were key contributors to us receiving the Holmes Report award. Retaining key client relationships like the Standard Bank Group, for example, has not only contributed to our growing bottom line, which is a factor considered in the Holmes Report award, but has also afforded us the opportunity to evolve our service offering in a manner which extends beyond Standard Bank and benefits other clients as well, thereby contributing to a faster pace of business growth, which is another key factor for the Holmes Report.
Now that Magna Carta Reputation Management Consultants has expanded to Mauritius, making it 16 countries in all where it has a presence, what do you believe is the future of reputation management on the continent, and especially in Mauritius?
The future of reputation management in Africa is in our hands as practitioners to determine. As the economy of Mauritius and that of the rest of Africa continues to grow, the demand for Reputation Management services and support will certainly increase. More especially, as we evolve our service offering to be more than just scoring publicity for clients and their events, into a full reputation management scope, that becomes a critical business tool for success. We have to walk our clients’ reputation journey as true partners, from assisting them with navigating complex policy and regulatory environments to finding new ways of engaging consumers in digital platforms. In this journey, we must be constantly by their side searching for better and better solutions, expanding our services in order to provide support that matches all of our client’s pressures and aspirations.
As CEO of Magna Carta, what are the projects you are contemplating to drive innovation and growth on the African continent?
Firstly, in view of our evolving service offering we have re-positioned our business from a Public Relations service provider, often synonymous with publicity and events, to a Reputation Management Consultancy that delivers an end to end reputation management solution. In that regard, we have successfully launched new services such as Investor Relations and Public Affairs. Increased access to broadband connectivity across the continent has presented us with an opportunity to expand our digital PR offering and cover the full ambit of Online Reputation Management. Central to all this is the training and upskilling of our practitioners, a process we have started in partnership with our global affiliate Ketchum. We started the training program in South Africa and are now in the process of extending it to the remaining markets we have a presence in. Incorporating global best practice into our daily work will ensure continuous innovation and growth.
Can you elaborate on the new processes and products that Magna Carta is devising to assist organisations and individuals in managing the new media environment?
The first key area that we have identified in the new media space, and continue to improve on, is collection of data in a timely and accurate manner. Recognizing the frantic speed in which information flows online and the contribution of data in the formulation of communications strategies, it is vital that our data collection and analytics capabilities are constantly sharpened. We have also designed a suite of online products to assist clients in understanding their online environments better in terms of profile, risks and opportunities to have an online presence consistent with the brand’s personality and aspirations.
Good crisis communication is essential for companies. What are the key elements of good crisis communication and how can companies reduce the reaction time to get their message out?
There are a number of interventions and processes that we deploy in support of our clients with respect to crisis communication management. We believe that top leadership of organisations remains an essential element to effective crisis communications management. Because with the strong presence of leadership, organisations can plan and prepare better for a crisis, more importantly, execute timely during that pivotal moment. Our view is also supported by research that is conducted annually by our global affiliate Ketchum, the Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor, which shows a very high number of the people surveyed around the globe preferring leaders that are present during a crisis, take full accountability and are open to admitting mistakes. With strong visible leadership giving direction, everything else falls into place with regard to preparedness, planning and flawless execution.
What would be your advice to Mauritius in order to improve the value that is placed upon PR and reputation management in the island economy?
Mauritius is a global and African center for trade. The manner in which Reputation Management is practiced has to reflect that strategic positioning of the market. The skills and the services that we provide must be in line with the overall positioning of the country. We have to bring our capabilities from around the world and the rest of Africa into Mauritius and also use them to build the reputations of Mauritian brands and institutions in the rest of Africa and the globe.
Finally, can you give us your views on how vibrant the PR and reputation management market in Africa is, and especially in Mauritius?
The vibrancy of our industry that we see in Mauritius and the rest of Africa is in line with the economic growth explosion that is being experienced Africa wide. Our fortunes are very strongly linked to the general performance of economies and businesses as well as the state of the media. Furthermore, as our operating environment changes with the incorporation of digital I see our industry going head to head in adapting to these changes, which is encouraging and can only mean continued growth of our industry and our respective businesses in Mauritius and across the continent.