Best Employees

WHAT IT TAKES: How to Get a Job in Communications & PR

Duma Works interviews Josephine Mwangi, head of Communications and Marketing at the Nailab to help you get your dream job in marketing or PR

Happy Thursday and happy belated Madaraka day!

Welcome to the latest and greatest Duma Works‘ What It Takes post, where we interviewed the lovely Josephine Mwangi, head of communications and marketing at the Nailab.

Josephine has a great background in PR, communications, interactive marketing, social media – you name it. Plus, she has worked in a large corporation, an agency, and a startup of sorts. Therefore, she has a lot to say about the different workplaces and the shifting face of marketing and communications. Josephine now works at the Nailab, which is a startup accelerator that offers a 6 month entrepreneurship program with focus on growing innovative technology driven ideas.

Because of her work at the Nailab, Josephine has experience managing multiple brands at a time – both the Nailab itself, and the startups they incubate. She has to the create a consistent brand message for all these stakeholders – not an easy task!

TL;DR

  • Communications & Marketing is a super dynamic field that changes everyday because of the rapid pace of social media and other interactive marketing
  • People pursuing this field need to be in the business of constantly reinventing themselves and their branding/communications strategies
  • Skills required: Excellent writing skills (to handle writing press releases); Excellent analytic skills (to understand based on data what content users are engaging with and appreciating); Excellent strategy skills (to understand how various media channels work together to promote a solid brand identity

So Josephine, tell me about your career journey so far.

It’s been an interesting course – I kept telling myself in school that there is no way I could have dedicated 4 years of my study life pursuing a degree in communication and not get to practice it. I had fallen in love!

My experience started off with Togo consultants where I did my internship for 3 months – it was a lot about conference management, which I knew very little of, but that is the essence of internship – to learn. It was during this process that I began to realize how the practical is so off from the theory. Communications/Public Relations is a very wide field and the big thing was that I didn’t understand as a whole what communications entailed.

I joined Gina Din Corporate communication as a client service executive knowing I was ill-prepared for the task but I love a good challenge 🙂 It was while here that I was introduced to the strategic part of communications – when you take a 360 perspective and bring together strategic communication, PR, event management and experiential marketing (mostly targeting consumers), not forgetting the segmentation of both the internal and external audiences. This was my “ah-ha” moment.

Once I understood the 360 perspective from a strategic standpoint, I could take a deeper look into how to engage different stakeholders at different levels. The proposition you have for different clients is different – the channel of engagement  you use differs. This is dictated by various factors, primary being relevance.

Then I moved to communications and marketing at Equity Bank, and I was introduced to media buying. This ideally entails identifying the advertising channels with maximum impact and minimum cost. I hadn’t done that before. Media buying meant that I had to talk to people in media houses, radio stations, and other print media channels to secure an advertising slot. Then, I worked on the ad content.  If it was on radio, I had to design a spot ad with the help of the station so that the tone was appealing to their listeners. That was very interesting for me – especially creating media campaigns around themes and translating that into print and electronic messages (60 second messages).

When I came to the Nailab, I began to see the value of all that I had learnt since I had to now look at the 360 from a brand establishment point of view. Nailab is an organization that had little exposure both as a brand and their primary customers, the startups. So I had to create my own strategy. To create the strategy, I had to understand the different brands I would be managing. So my challenge was that I had to figure out how to incorporate brand equity with startups as well as with the Nailab.

My previous experiences came with sufficient budgets. But at Nailab, I was introduced to the zero budget standpoint. I promise at some point I wanted out…..Who markets with no money?? I had to have a heart to heart with myself to convince myself to stay, and from that moment on, I developed my own motto – “Whatever the means, it has to work.” It has been an interesting process.

I have had to be innovative in my approach to marketing communications just like startups. For a very long time, people didn’t understand the essence of the structure of communications versus marketing. To many, they are all one and the same thing. Duma Works shows how to get a job in PR, marketing, communications, branding, design, and more

If you were to define PR how would you define it?

PR is more of a strategic communication process that helps build a trustworthy relationship between organizations and their desired audiences. It ultimately grows the interaction process of your product/service with that audience. PR also goes beyond what you say as an organization and you can actually rely on testimonial by a happy client/customer asserting that the “Experience” that comes with your offering is worth every minute.

What would you say your major day to day activities are?

I wake up, get to work. The first thing I do is to go through social media platforms and what the analytics are behind the posts. I also have to analyze what has been published in the mainstream media from a competitive perspective and also industry related as that helps us understand trends.

I manage Nailab the brand, as well as assist startups in creating their brand equity. One of the major things i have to do is make calls to media networks to tell them what is new and why this is of public interest. That’s media relations.

I also have to look into TechSahara, our online magazine about startups in Nairobi and ICT related business news. We started it as a platform to create a dialogue around startups and what is going on. I share a couple stories written that day on our social media to hike interest and dialogue. I also need to see if the things being published are aligning to our corporate strategy.

I never realized the strength of social media before I came to Nailab – mostly because I can do a campaign with paying almost $0.. Over the course of calling for applications for Nailab, I have only done it over social media. And every time, we get over 100+ applicants, simply from social media. That is why it is so important for me to monitor those social media platforms to make sure I either align messages to our brand (Nailab, or our startups), or speak out about something currently trending.

Editor’s note: the most important thing about social media marketing is tracking what people are clicking on! Read an article about this on our favorite social media blog, Buffer, here. Josephine works at a brand activation in Nairobi - read this interview with Josephine for the Duma Works blog to help you land your dream job.

What is the skill you need for this job that you can’t live without?

Adaptability – you need to be so adaptable. If there is one thing I have learned over the course of my career, it is that communications is not like an accounting career where everything is set and there are defined structures and methods. I mean 1+1 from a traditional viewpoint can only add up to 2 right? Communications is very dynamic.

So when I started off my career, there was nothing like social digital communications. The only thing we had was traditional channels – clients just wanted to have their stories run in the Standard, Daily Nation, etc. By the time I got to the corporate world at Equity, corporates were now talking digital because of its low barrier to entry and the interaction it offered, so I got started learning about that.

As consumers we have become attached to the brands that we use constantly and that’s why if I’m unhappy with my brand, I feel entitled to a certain degree of good treatment. Thanks to social media, I can let them and the world know I am important. Any person in communication needs to learn how to have this interaction with their virtual audience, because that could make or break the brand in a matter of seconds.

So, be completely adaptable and understand that if consumers say this channel of communication is what works – ITS YOUR JOB TO FIGURE IT OUT – and the greater questions is who is the audience on this channel and how do i speak to them in a language that relates.

Do you think PR is changing quickly over time relative to other careers?

I think PR is actually changing more rapidly than other sectors because everything is dictated by the audience. The practitioner just needs to look at behavior and adapt to that. Before, all I needed to do was get my story or print on TV and people buy – now the audience seek to understand the process so am obligated to do a Youtube video that teaches, engages and at the same time entertains so that we have top of mind recall.

So if you studied PR – structures will get defined and redefined by audience time and time again.

Editor’s note: Check out this awesome article about how to weave in social media strategy to PR strategy.

What are your biggest challenges with your role in PR?

Keeping up is so challenging! I’m one of those people that takes time to get accustomed to new things. It takes time for me to learn but I know I need to learn really fast. Sometimes I feel stuck in what I know because it works, so that’s a been challenge for me.

And with the diversity of channels of communication, figuring out how to do it all whilst keeping the message consistent for all audiences is very challenging. It really gets me thinking and makes me step out of my comfort zone. For example, if I were talking to you on a radio interview, it’s not as much about the brand, but about the experience someone has with my conversation. So I need to figure out how do I get interesting enough, but not too intrusive and also appealing enough to attract my audience.

And then I need to make sure I am tying my message to the overall message. Telling that in the most appealing way is challenging. “But I am where I am because I opted to continue learning. I remind myself everyday of things that I don’t know – so I tell myself to keep learning.”

What skills did you have to learn when you took this job?

I have refined my writing skills. To be honest, I hate writing. I love to think, and I love to develop strategies, and so I just want someone to take things from my head and write it for me. I’m my biggest critic in my writing. I usually write something in the morning and then publish in the evening because I have taken so much time reading and re-reading.

I have also learnt to be flexible. The amazing thing about being in an innovative space is that people do not do traditional like sit down and have meetings, not in this day and age when we have Skype. Skype used to be so informal, and meeting face to face was formal! I have had to learn how to adapt… I still have a challenge with this but what to do 🙂

What tech tools do you use on this job?

I learned using writing tools as well – like Evernote. I love that it’s cloud-based so I can access things over my phone, laptop, etc. So it makes it super easy for me. Project management tools like Trello, easy to track an issue and also who needs to action and if am a barrier why and how i need to clear. Its magical. But you need to pick what tools work for you – if you use too many, you will just be inefficient  to a great degree. Whatever works, works.

What experience (professional or academic) best prepared you for this role?

I would definitely attribute this to my former operations manager at GDCC Carol Muthaura.

It was my first year in Gina Din and she takes me to this big government meeting where I met the Minister. So we get the list of deliverables and expectations and we are to develop a strategy and a work plan. At that point, I was coming from the mindset where the boss tell you what to do, you don’t jump until you’re told to (a product from my teachers in school). I wasn’t being proactive because I wasn’t sure that was the culture.

A week later, my colleagues ask me about progress and I gave them the magical answer “Boss lady is on it.” I’ll never forget the laughter that followed the statement. That’s when I learnt if your boss invites you to the meeting, it means you are doing everything.

And that’s what I like best about the Nailab – you figure out what to do and then do it. So I’m really grateful I was taught proactivity in the early stage of my career. It also taught me to think on my feet, you don’t cry at every crisis, you fix it. Cry later 🙂

And I think the one thing Sam always says is to just do it – make mistakes, and then learn from them. That way, you wear the face of the company, and you carry the company on your shoulders. Something i learnt early on.

When I presented a strategy from the agency, I didn’t present anything substandard because I knew it reflected on me and then the company, no one wants wants a tainted image so i learnt how to give my very best. To date i remind myself I am building me, just as I am building Nailab. If Nailab is progressing, then I am progressing!

How has this job improved your professional skill set?

I’m not a really big public speaker – but being the head of communications and marketing, I have had to speak on behalf of the brand. At first, I hated it, but then I got used to it. Over time, I have gotten more comfortable because I realize I know what I am talking about.

And networking – this was always such a nightmare. You know when you introduce yourself to someone at an event and after the niceties the cricket sounds are super loud making it even more awkward? Well, being in PR they say networking should be my strength – it never was, still isn’t. But with time, I have understood the value of my networks. So awkward silence and all engage 🙂

Also, fashioning strategic communications planning – When I started out, I used to just Google “communications strategies.” Now, I internalize the situation and create a strategy that will propel the company from point a to point x – stepping back and seeing how the audience perceives the brand – and changing it to how we want audience to see us. This way, I have learnt to immerse myself in the brand and create the character that we need to relate with the audience. Learn about how Josephine thinks about markeitng and PR so you can get the skills to land your dream job

What would be the next logical career step for you based on your experience in this position?

Wow, very good question. A lot of people have asked me that – Why haven’t you set up your own PR agency, PR is about the network etc. I had never thought about it. The thing I actually want to do the most is training – training young people to use their PR career to help enhance themselves and the organizations they work with. Also how to be adaptable enough, and how to use your tools to the maximum.

So yea, I think my next step would be from a training perspective. There is still such a low understanding of PR – and the tools we can use. ie. Email marketing, communicating with audience. Media relations is the loudest branch of PR in Kenya, but it’s not all that you get from PR. If people gained a greater understanding of that, they could be better in their career.

What advice do you have for job seekers about how to apply for a role in your field?

I think my biggest advice would be figuring out – what are you passionate about? And then asking yourself why.

When you’re younger, you can be driven by sensationalism. But when you grow older, you realize what you love. Like, I got into communications because I realized that I am driven by relating to an audience. I was always doing drama festival, poetry, music festivals. By the time I was choosing my career – my dad sat me down – I told him I wanted to do psychology – he said – you know you need to do medicine for that? Then, he asked me what I have always loved, and I was like – um, communicating with people.

So he said – ‘You don’t try to fix dogs’ legs – you have always tried to communicate through art, poetry – so that’s what you’re passionate about.’ And I thought to myself – man, this man does know me. And that’s how I got into what I loved.

Whatever career you want to get into – make sure you do an assessment to see what you are passionate about it and that you are not just listening to external influences.


Thank you so much, Josephine, for your time and insights!

For me, this interview was very helpful to understand the role of someone in communications. The thing I learned that I didn’t know before was that communication is PR, marketing, social media, and strategy all in one – at least from a managerial perspective.

If you are going to be working in a bigger company, and coming in from an entry level, chances are that you will plug into one of these functionalities – either you will be writing press releases, designing print media, managing social media accounts, etc. When you want to progress to management, you should be able to understand and/or execute on all these different functions.

Great! So here is what you should do now:

1- Subscribe to this blog if you are interested in getting alerts when we publish these awesome interviews and other helpful articles, like how to improve your soft skills

2- Sign up for Duma Works if you are looking for a job or trying to advance your career

3- Send me an email (arielle@dumaworks.com) if you are interested in sharing your professional journey with the world!

4- Leave a comment below if you have any questions or comments on this article. We want to hear what you’re thinking and help you apply this article to your career

…Until next week!

Advertisements

What It Takes to Be a Human Resource Manager

Photo credit: Zafarani Mansurali

Photo credit: Zafarani Mansurali

This week for Duma Works’ What It Takes blog series, we interview Beryl Opar, the HR Manager at Kopo Kopo.

This interview is particularly interesting because as HR, Beryl not only gives advice about pursuing a career in HR. She also has general advice for applying to jobs in general! #job #gatekeeper

TL;DR

  • Many HR professionals are actually formerly from/obtained their first degree in the customer relations, psychology, commerce, marketing or other related fields
  • HR admin tasks are becoming more automated – to position yourself, focus on becoming more strategic
  • Your work ethic and attitude can land you in a job even if you didn’t study the relevant course work
  • Network, network, network! It helps you stay ahead in your field and also get connections to job opportunities

Tell me about your career journey:

I studied and got a masters in Business Management at Warwick Business School in the UK.

HR wasn’t actually my first career choice. I thought I was going into finance/economics or development work!

While job seeking, I got a temp role at Macmillan Publishers in NYC. I was helping with CV mining and interviews. It was supposed to be a three month gig, but then a position opened up in HR – it was a department of 10 people, servicing approximately 3,000 employees and I was handling benefit coordination.

Why do you think MacMillan hired you for HR if that wasn’t your field?

Probably for my work ethic. I wasn’t the best hire if they were looking for an HR qualification. But when I was there, I worked hard, I had a good attitude (I’m told), I was eager to learn, and always delivered.

And you moved back to Kenya…

Yes, I missed home and could see opportunity here – I could see more development and infrastructure in Nairobi, and wanted to take advantage of being young and able to relocate easily.

So I moved back in February of 2012 and that’s when my job hunt began. It’s not fun, I know how it feels. It seems to take forever. I did consultancy jobs here and there. I worked with Kimberly Ryan in Upper Hill. I also did a consulting gig for an insurance company and a solar company – helping them become compliant with their policies and handbooks.

So what does your day to day at Kopo Kopo look like?

I would call myself a generalist at Kopo Kopo. I am responsible for a lot of things.

At the moment, I’m doing a lot of recruiting – from looking at CVs to making a job offer and everything in between. Also, we are expanding into a few other countries which means project managers often need help with work permits/visas and health insurance etc. in other countries.

What are your biggest challenges with CVs?

The inability for people to translate their achievements onto paper. They don’t know how to stand out, to highlight relatable and transferable skills – especially candidates right from school.

What do you look for when hiring other HR people?

For an HR person applying for a job – I would focus on their unique skills, their ability to learn and their attitude. You can easily get your diploma in HR – it only takes about a year. For me, it’s more about professional skills e.g. are you innovative, a team player, a problem solver and someone who takes initiative.

What is a skill you can’t live without?

If I had to pick one, I’d pick people skills – I am dealing with people all the time.

In HR all employees are basically your clients – from entry level employees to board of directors to C level management. If you have good people skills – it works.

What skills have you learned on the job?

I have had to learn employee relations and negotiations. For example, I look at benefit plans and negotiate with vendors to get the best “bang for the buck”.

How have you learned all these skills?

I have an amazing mentor – she is a Director of HR with 15+ years of experience. I am always calling to ask what to do and how to do it. I am also constantly reading up on trends/ best practice and I am in the process of obtaining my HR certification by September 2015.

What tech tools do you use at work?

We use all the Google apps and Google Drive. LinkedIn for recruiting. We also use Trello, Survey Monkey, and Excel (specifically pivot tables) among others.

What experience best prepared you for this role?

All my previous work experience – including that one Summer I took a job as a Starbucks Barista in New York City.

My Masters in Business Management also helped me understand basic financials, measuring corporate performance, strategy analysis and dealing with people in organizations. This has enabled me to think strategically, as an owner of the business.

At the moment I am studying for my HRMP examination, which is administered by HRCI, and I’m learning a lot.

How did the role improve your skill set?

The role definitely made me step outside my comfort zone. I do things like work on HR policy documents, performance management, budgeting, and create training plans – The best way to learn is by doing!

What is your next career step?

I would like to continue doing more strategy and ‘big data’ in an HR capacity. I try to see where the HR industry is heading and position myself in a way that I am a global and regional business leader in my field. I always try to think 5-10 years ahead for my career.

I see HR changing a lot – HR professionals are moving away from administrative tasks – in fact, admin work is being taken over by computer applications and software. I want to focus more on HR strategy, so I can have an opinion in the board room.

What is your advice to job seekers?

Network, network, network! It’s a hard market and unemployment is so high. There are only a few really good roles. Go to meetups, seminars, and conferences to find out what opportunities are available.

Actually, the way I found out about my current job was by telling everyone in my network that I was looking for a job in HR. Finally, one of my friends connected me to Kopo Kopo.

You should also set yourself up as the best qualified candidate. So if you can, get all the relevant qualifications you can afford.

Lastly, you should definitely tailor your CV. At least based on what I’ve seen – people aren’t researching the job well and just sending blanket resumes everywhere. It’s not always the best strategy.

I know it’s hard – I job hunted for a while. But do targeted research and target the top jobs you want. If possible, get to know what pain point the companies have and see how you can fill it with your experience, skills, certifications, etc. That way, in an interview, you know how to really stand out and how to contribute to the company.

Thanks so much for all your insight, Beryl! I hope this is helpful for both people trying to get into the HR field, and those trying to go from HR executive to manager. Remember, if you are looking for an HR role, make sure to create your professional profile on Duma Works so we can alert you with any job openings.

Stay tuned for next week’s publication of What It Takes, and as always, leave your comments in the comments section below if you have any questions or comments.

You can also check out last week’s edition of What It Takes, where we interviewed Mugethi from the iHub, and she told us all about her career and what it takes to be a Community Manager.

Introducing our “What It Takes” Series

Find a job with Duma Works

What’s in a Name?

What do you wish you knew when you were applying for a job?

If your answer is: “What does this job title really mean?” then our latest “What It Takes” series is right for you.

The Problem

What do you typically do when applying for a job?

Usually you would first look to see what the skills requirements are on the job description, and learn about the company. The problem is that many job descriptions are not very original or descriptive. You see a lot of “team player” and “3 years experience in…” Job descriptions don’t always give insight into what your day to day tasks would be, or what things you will learn in this position.

Still in school?

This series is still for you.

We have also talked to tons of students (secondary school and college/university!) who wished they knew more about jobs so they could make a better decision when choosing a career path. As you can imagine, if you don’t know anything about what you would do in a certain position at a company, it is very hard to decide if that role is right for you in the future.

USIU students signing up for the DUMA Job network

Where Duma Works comes in

At Duma Works, we have spent the last 2 years working with young professionals around Kenya to help improve their chances connecting to the right job.

We have also spent incredible amounts of time talking to employers and really digging deep into job descriptions they have for open roles so we can make the best match.

Team on balcony copy

We have learned a lot in the last 2 years and want to share this knowledge with you.

What to expect

For this series, every week we will be interviewing professionals and getting to know the “behind the scenes” of their role. We will talk to people of all professional backgrounds – from customer care representatives, to Django developers, to operations managers.

Every company is different, and has a unique need for each job they hire for. However, hopefully these posts will give you some overall insight about specific roles that you are considering or pursuing or switching into for your career.

Help us help you!

1. Subscribe to our blog to stay updated about new posts we write – Knowledge is power!

2. Please let us know in the comment section below if there is a specific job position that you are interested in learning more about. We will try to cover all the requests we get!

3. Make sure to share these posts with your friends – life is better when both you and your friends are happily employed 🙂

4. Get excited about our post on being a Community Manager coming this week!

10 Things Not To Do; When You Get To Work after the #MatatuStrike

Its a huge productivity drain when you have to get to work late after being stuck in traffic for a long time or when you have had to walk to work after the Matatu strike. Here however is a list of 10 things that YOU SHOULD NOT do at work after such an unfavourable morning.

  1. Don’t complain about the #matatustrike endlessly to everyone including your boss/interviewer. While everyone may be understanding and sympathetic at first, everyone has been through it too and there is nothing unique about your experience therefore ranting over and over is unacceptable.Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 5.25.12 PM
  2. Don’t forget to wipe your dusty shoes. It is not a badge of honour to walk into offices in dirty shoes.Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 5.25.04 PM
  3. Don’t stamp your dusty shoes endlessly like a rabid elephant. Its rude.images (1)
  4. If you work at city council, don’t tell people you were late to work because of traffic…it was your sick grandma. This is about loyalty.images
  5. Don’t ask for a raise because you spent all your cash on a piki piki (bike) to get to work.1-R-rwVR048NVFow0HAKhyyg
  6. Don’t yawn with your arms stretched out, especially if anyone is in smelling distance of your armpits. The sweat patches are unsightly enough, do not make it worse.Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 6.16.39 PM
  7. If you are cursing Kidero on Twitter, make sure he is not your boss, especially if you voted for him. Also, dont tweet about how bad your boss is or how you hope they are also in traffic.6bf45ee8ea95b1be529930399707af83231176690435478a59488e74836afec9
  8. Don’t use the office sink as your shower or hand drying as your blow-dryer. Its weird and disturbing.Valentine in the Bathroom Sink
  9. Don’t forget to check in the mirror to ensure your make up is still intact. Yes women! You dont want to go into meetings looking like the joker.The-Joker-the-joker-30677826-1533-805
  10. Don’t tell the interviewer/client that it is sweat stains on your CV/brown envelope…If anyone asks, it’s coffee. Yes, the struggle is real.Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 5.25.32 PM

Looking for the Best Quality Candidates? Look at your Networks!

Studies have shown that the best candidates for that new job opening come through your referral network (by 64%!). Why is this true and does this signify nepotism?

These are three main reasons why professional recommendations lead to the best candidates:

1-    Trust

If a colleague is recommended through the trusted people in your network, chances are that you can trust someone they recommend. After all, honesty, integrity, and moral character are some of the key determinants of a good worker.

2-    Culture

Your working style is often directly connected to your personality. The lasting connections you make in your professional life speak to who you are and how you run your company. Someone recommended to you by your network of colleagues will be more likely to fit into your unique company culture.

3-    Qualifications

Your colleagues know that when they refer a friend or another colleague through Duma Works, or any other social job networks, they are responsible for the actions of their recommendations. Therefore, you can trust that your colleagues will have your best interest at heart (and their own!) and only recommend people they know are qualified.

Nepotism is a problem in society but has no connection to a professional recommendation. Nepotism is solely a personal connection – not professions. In nepotism, a person is recommended because of their family or need for a source of income, not their abilities, experience, or skills.

Visit http://www.dumaworks.com, and visit the Social Network page to leverage your professional network to connect with better jobseekers, or work opportunities.