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PUBLIC RELATIONS

How Covid has shaped a new PR reality in Africa

By our News Team | 2022

PRs must do away with a one-size-fits-all approach when working within a continent as dynamic and culturally diverse as Africa. 

Traditionally, public relations has followed a fairly formulaic structure. PR practitioners were tasked with crafting a compelling press release, pitching the press release to a list of key media, and following up with said media until they secured their client coverage. 

To keep things interesting, every so often they’d plan a launch event or function to drum up extra media interest. 

While these PR tactics still have a place today, the advent of digital technologies, exacerbated by the pandemic, has changed the role of the communications practitioner in the most profound way. They are no longer just an intermediary between the client and the media; instead, they are now expected to be written, visual and audio-content creators.

Public Relations

Photo by Nappy from Pexels

Given the shrinking and under-resourced media landscape across Africa, it’s the natural evolution of the public relations industry to step in and fill the gaps that media outlets struggle to fill themselves.

However, to do so successfully, PR leaders need to do away with the outdated one-size-fits-all approach, especially when working within a continent as dynamic and culturally diverse as Africa. 

‘Owned media’ is on the rise 

Among the key trends we are seeing shaping PR in Africa is the rise of ‘owned media’. This refers to platforms that are owned or managed by a company themselves – such as their website, blog posts, podcasts, social media accounts and newsletters. Unlike media publicity, owned media gives the company complete control over what content is published, which is advantageous in the age of fake news. 

Since growing access to digital technologies now gives African brands the opportunity to interact with their target audience in real time, it has become a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to ensure their content is placed directly in front of their audience. Covid-19 has made the business environment hyper-competitive, so companies are eager to know that they are speaking directly to their customer with their PR efforts. 

Having the benefit of being able to craft very targeted content means that owned media platforms are fast gaining recognition as prime lead generators. For example, company blogs are said to drive up to 55% more visitors to a company’s website, according to marketing software product developer Hubspot, with some even going on to earn influential status. 

For instance, in 2021 the Kenyan-based corporate learning organisation, African Management Institute, was listed as a top 20 business blog to follow by Feedspot, the website content-reading platform. And when the African Blog Awards came on the scene, First National Bank in SA received recognition as a leading finance blog.

What this tells us is that, for the PR professional, it’s no longer just about writing a standard press release and hoping that it will stick. To meet client expectations today, PRs need to know how to capture a brand’s tone of voice across various owned media platforms and create quality content that speaks directly to an audience.

To read more of this article, go to page 28 of the latest issue (Issue 1 2022) of Strategic Marketing for Africa, the magazine of the African Marketing Confederation. You can access the Digital Edition here.

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