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Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Mariaan Christian leads PR and media relations for Cisco priority countries in Africa.  She works closely with the business, marketing, and Government Affairs to shape and tell the Cisco story to key influencers. 

Originally from Cape Town, Mariaan relocated to Johannesburg 7 years ago. She is a geek mom of two princess warriors/purple belt karate kids and wife to a specialist dog whisperer. On the business side, she has 15 years’ experience in the communications industry, providing innovative and strategic expertise across B2B, B2C and enterprise technology clients. The client portfolio included Microsoft, Oracle, SEACOM, SAP,Accenture, LG and Acer – just to name a few. Cisco has always been on her wish-list of companies to work for and now… there she is.

How did you end up at your current company? Tell us about your journey to where you are today?

I started from humble beginnings over a 20 year journey from PA to PR. I was the office manager/PA at a technology PR agency, Sentient Communications based in Cape Town. My role at the time as office manager included coverage tracking, measuring PR Value (yes with a ruler) and compiling client coverage books.

Fast track two years my curiosity landed me an AE role with the agency and the rest as they say is history.  I’ve had amazing mentors over the years, each one in a craft of their own. They believed in me and was committed to invest in my development.

Technology and the ability to translate complex solutions to media and their audiences further contributed to my passion for the industry.  My 15 years’ experience in the creative, advertising and PR space afforded me a local and global platform to work on award winning campaigns with multinational companies and brands. My journey in agency transformed from implementor, manager to leader.

I joined Cisco as Communications Lead for Africa in May this year. Working with a global technology company has been on my wish list however a career in corporate was never part of the plan as I loved the agency environment.  My success in landing this role was a case of opportunity meeting preparation. Five interviews later, I would like to believe I was hired for my attitude.

Describe your job: What do you do?

My role is focused on external communications and media relations. I also work closely with the business, marketing, and Government Affairs to shape and tell the Cisco story to key influencers

 Who do you report to?

I report to the EMEAR Communications Lead.

Tell us what constitutes a typical working day for you, pre-and-post the COVID/lockdown era?

I joined Cisco during level 3, lockdown era and onboarded remotely.  A typical day includes working with the PR agency on content, media opportunities and ensuring we drive brand awareness. I have several meetings with the local and global team including the country lead, business directors, marketing, sales, internal communications, engineers, project leads and external stakeholders. I also support the global communications team with profiling our global executives and experts with our local media.

Cisco advocates work life balance. I get to be the agent of my own time, this was something I struggled with in agency when leading a team, servicing clients across various sectors and contributing to business development. My job is now more focused, I get to be present with my family and my health is in a much better place.

What are the best parts of your job and least favourite parts?

The best part for me is that I still get to own and nurture key relationships with media that I have built relationships over the years. I am energised by landing a good story that unpacks business benefit and societal impact. I am excited about the opportunity to compete with my global colleagues and showcasing the work we do in South Africa and EMEAR.

The least favourite is getting use to processes and that sometimes things just takes a little longer. I need to learn how to be patient and be kinder to myself.

How do you define and measure success? Is AVE still a thing? If not, what other KPIs do you use to measure success and convey that success to clients?

A typical PR response would be – what does success look like for the client or the business? At Cisco we no longer stuck on high AVEs. Volume in the traditional PR space, elevating our share of voice, benchmarking ourselves with our competitors and shifting brand perception is important to us. My KPI’s are measured on achieving the above however a critical part of it is to ensure we tell impactful stories, to the right audience on the right platform at the right time (very cliché right?)

What are your favourite technologies and platforms that you use to make yourself more productive and get more done?

I am going to be biased and say the new Cisco Webex features. It includes feature innovations that serve as the foundation for an inclusive hybrid work and events, delivering unmatched levels of flexibility and personalization.

The three features I love that helps me with productivity and efficiency

  1. Webex  has one app where all my meetings, calls and messages happens in one place.  I know longer need to jump around different apps
  2. There is a new option to remove background sound. Working from home has many disruptions, at times a screaming kid, dogs barking in the backyard or someone left the vacuum cleaner on. This feature block out the noise while you on the call.
  3. Webex AI adds captions to your meeting, capture meeting highlights and increase my productivity with voice commands

What PR campaigns stand out for you and what brands produce the best campaigns locally in your opinion?

In agency I have worked on many great campaigns. One that stands out for me is most recent in my role as Account Director at Clockwork, The Acer Instapitch campaign. COVID- 19 impacted small businesses significantly. As the ultimate tech for start-ups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses, Acer was in the perfect position to support people who were looking to start side hustles. So, we set out to create a campaign to empower our nation during this difficult time by giving entrepreneurs the tools they needed to bring their businesses to life. The integrated campaign included influencers, creative, traditional and digital PR to execute successfully. Over 50 budding businesses submitted their Insta Pitches, and even more people got valuable business tips and advice during the campaign. We gave these businesses, and the entrepreneurs behind them, the opportunities and resources to impact the lives of their communities and the country as a whole.Brands that produce the best campaigns locally in my view are Dove, Netflix and of course Nandos.