How did you end up at your current company? Tell us about your journey to where you are today?
My professional journey and career started in 2010 when I joined Volkswagen Group South Africa as a graduate trainee in the Group Communications Division, fresh out of university. This ignited my exposure to the world of communications. From internal to corporate and product communications, I was exposed to the varied portfolio of newsletters, employee engagement initiatives, intranet systems, media engagements, events, press releases and the overall role that strategic communications plays within an organisation. Being part of the Volkswagen Group, my career journey then covered the Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles brand in which I looked after the Events and Sponsorship portfolio and later with the Audi brand where I held a position as Special Markets sales consultant, looking after key rental and government customer accounts up until my current role as Public Relations Manager. I have held my current role for the past four years now. It’s been an interesting and fulfilling professional and personal journey for me, one which has allowed me the awesome opportunity to be exposed to various areas of our business, all of which has had an element of focusing on a communications skill set in some way or the other.
Which level do you occupy within the business? Who do you report to?
As the Public Relations Manager for Audi South Africa, I report into the Head of Marketing, Product and PR.
Tell us what constitutes a typical working day for you, pre-and-post the COVID/lockdown era?
I don’t think that there are many communication based jobs out there which have the comfort of a standardised or “typical” working day. I rely a lot on structure and self-organisation to get me through a “typical” working day, just because there are many factors, topics and organisational elements which can pop up at any given time. Which keeps me on my toes! Generally my role requires coordination and collaboration between our various agency partners on product and brand campaigns which have a PR link or support to them, so there’s a balance of general administration to my role as well as creative brainstorm and collaborative planning. On the other hand, a lot of my time is put into the preparation of media engagements and activity to support upcoming product introductions. I am also leading Audi’s electric vehicle strategy as our brand embarks on launching our range of e-tron models into South Africa next year, so a lot of my time during the day involves workings around this strategic project. Yes, the COVID pandemic has changed a lot of how I get through a typical working day but in the spirit of new ways of working, innovating and changing gears, my daily tasks do involve a lot of virtual meetings, balancing a working from home routine as well as engaging with my fellow marketing, product sales colleagues in the office on a flexible basis, so that I am keep up-to-date on important business topics and situations.
What are the best parts of your job and least favourite parts?
The joys of my job comes from the personal fulfilment that I achieve in working with a highly skilled and knowledgeable team – from our agency partners to my fellow colleagues within Audi South Africa. I feel truly grateful to be exposed to, to learn from and to work with great people. Which I feel is quite important in my professional role. Within the PR space, a lot of my tasks, activities and actions involve an element of collaboration with other stakeholders so I am very much reliant on others to carry out my daily functions. I also enjoy the fact that the Audi brand truly has great products. Our vehicles are true representation of progressive mobility, and I love being exposed to all that our product offers. I also enjoy the objective which my role fulfils in keeping a relevant conversation alive for the Audi brand and the delight of finding opportunities to achieve this. I guess the downside to my job is that PR holds only one piece to the bigger organisational puzzle, which does involve quite a bit of administration and operational tasks.
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?
There isn’t one specific measurement to communication performance that we measure. We do combine a series of measurement factors to determine success and feasibility for our communication activities. Yes, AVE and PR value is one of the factors to determine relevance and comparison to publications but we also use various local and global tools to determine Audi’s share of voice, tonality and reach of our product, brand and corporate communication efforts. Overall, our key KPI’s are focused on building the Audi brand’s image, likeability and loyalty in the South Africa market in which PR and communications has a significant role to contribute.
What are your favourite technologies and platforms that you use to make yourself more productive and get more done?
My go-to tool right now and which I could probably not live without is Whatsapp – its so much just part of our daily lives, and work communications now that everyone is working remotely. It keeps me in tune and in touch with various teams and topics on a day to day basis. Skype and Microsoft Teams have humbly allowed me to engage with my colleagues, agency partners and media stakeholders during these current times and Microsoft One Note has kept me organised and structured in terms of priorities and tasks on a daily basis.
What PR campaigns stand out for you and what brands produce the best campaigns locally in your opinion?
I am a lover of a good story and a good conversation! Brands who do this well and maintain a feel-good or inspirational story to their brand building and PR efforts get my vote. Within our space, Audi has just recently launched a podcast series with Radio 702 and radio host, Azania Mosaka which features a series of inspirational and insightful conversations from various local change-makers, innovators and pioneers in our country. These individuals are driving progress within South Africa around future oriented initiatives and have partnered with Audi to position the introduction of our electric vehicles and the future of mobility, which is due in the coming months. More about this campaign, can be found here: https://www.702.co.za/features/505/future-is-an-attitude-presented-by-audi
Our sister brand, Volkswagen does an equally good job in creating standout marketing and communication campaigns which have a great theme of storytelling. The brand recently celebrated 70 years of existence in South Africa and the experiential work which was put out by the team in exposing local motoring media to the many heritage models (both on the Audi and Volkswagen brands) that were manufactured right here in South Africa was a special and unique PR moment.
Outside of the automotive industry, I love the PR work which is put out by Nike. As a fan of the brand, I enjoy the inspirational story-telling that Nike puts out with their global and local brand ambassadors in aligning to local brand relevance and their ethos. Its moving, heart-warming and hits all of the right themes in a consistent manner.
What are the main differences between the strategic communications needs of a business operating within the automotive industry compared that of any other sector like FMCG or big tech?
As much as there are the obvious product differences between industries, the role of strategic communications is actually quite similar between different industries. Looking at Audi for example, our corporate, brand and product communication themes no longer just focused on the vehicle. Topics around technology, design, digitalisation, sustainability and performance are all significant to the future of our brand and business hence the related topics and projects aligned to these themes have allowed synergies and collaboration across industries. Strategic communications has provided that golden opportunity to piece the synergies and collaboration together. For example, the future of mobility is evidently focused on e-mobility and autonomous driving and all that it will offer. It’s not just about the sustainability topic but it’s also about a new outlook on performance and design as well as digitalisation. Audi has recently unveiled the Grandsphere concept car at the 2021 IAA – the future of luxurious private travel. The Grandsphere offers Level 4 automated driving which turns the interior into a spacious sphere of experience without a steering wheel, pedals, or displays. And the front seats become a first class lounge with maximum space, freer views, and access to all the functions of a holistic digital ecosystem. Our future of mobility is becoming so much more with the advancement of digitalisation, digitalisation, performance and sustainability that the role of communications has great opportunity to allow for standout and integration of these themes.