Celebrating African PR Titans: Ijeoma Balogun, Lorinda Voges, Faith Senam, Farah Fortune and Anyiko Owoko



How did you get started in the field of public relations?

From a young age, I knew my passion was in media, fashion, beauty, and hospitality. I even ran a school magazine at just 12 years old and was the head prefect of media. Fast forward twenty years, and I took a leap of faith to start my own agency, 4Elements Media. I founded and operated a Public Relations, Influencer and Events Management Agency until August 2019. I founded Elvee Consultancy, a boutique agency specialising in public relations, influencer marketing, digital marketing, and events management. Throughout my career, I have worked with leading international fashion and beauty brands such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, DIESEL, and L’Oréal Paris, to name a few. My successful strategies, launch and influencer campaigns, and events have impacted the industry and continue to inspire me to this day.

Can you describe a typical day in the life of a PR professional?

1. Morning Routine: I start my day by meditating and journalling. These 2 hours I spend with myself set me up for my day ahead. Self-care is an essential aspect of my life.
2. After breakfast, I start my day by reviewing emails, catching up on industry news, and setting my daily priorities. I make a weekly to-do list that I filter through to daily tasks. This helps me to keep organised and focussed.
3. Client Communication: Spend time connecting with my clients, updating them on progress, addressing any concerns or requests, and ensuring that all their needs are met.
4. Strategy Development: Work on developing PR strategies for my clients, identifying key messaging, target audience, and channels to maximise brand visibility and reputation.
5. Media Relations: Engage with journalists and media outlets to pitch stories, secure press coverage, and build relationships that can benefit my clients. This may involve drafting press releases, organising events, influencer campaigns, or arranging interviews.
6. Evening Routine includes after-work breath work sessions, enjoying some alone time to disconnect and being in bed before 9h30.

Lorinda Voges

In your experience, how has the industry evolved over time?

Between 2011 and 2023, the PR industry in South Africa has gone through significant changes and evolution. Here are some key developments that I have seen that have shaped the industry during this period:
1. Digital Transformation: The rise of digital media and technology has profoundly impacted the PR industry. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok have become essential tools for communication and brand promotion. As a PR professional, I had to adapt my strategies to leverage these platforms effectively, engaging with audiences directly and generating buzz in real time.
2. Integrated Communication: The industry has shifted towards a more integrated approach to communication. As a PR agency, aligning your efforts with marketing, advertising, and other communication functions is essential. This integration allows for more cohesive messaging and campaigns across various online and offline channels.
3. Influencer Marketing: Influencer marketing has gained prominence as an effective way to reach target audiences. All my clients now leverage relationships with social media influencers and bloggers to promote their brands, products, and services. This approach has proven successful in building brand awareness and driving engagement.
4. Emphasis on Data and Analytics: The availability of data and analytics tools has enabled us, as PR professionals, to accurately measure our campaigns’ impact. This data-driven approach allows for better decision-making, campaign optimisation, and demonstrating ROI to clients.
5. Diversity and Inclusion: There has been a growing emphasis on diversity and inclusion within the PR industry. Clients and consumers are increasingly demanding authentic representation and inclusivity in communications.
6. Remote Work and Technology: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of remote work and virtual communication tools within the PR industry. PR agencies have embraced digital platforms for client meetings, media briefings, and internal collaboration, allowing for a more flexible and efficient work environment.

Anyiko Owoko Founder, Anyiko Public Relations

In your experience, how has the industry evolved over time, especially in terms of opportunities for women?

I think the Pr and Entertainment industry has evolved a lot in the sense that we now have a lot of leading women in PR and leadership positions. When I started out over 10 years ago, I didn’t have any female mentors or females to look up to in the field of PR other than Maria Mcloy from South Africa but these days, there are so many amazing women even in leadership and executive positives at various labels and music companies! It’s a great thing to witness, experience and be part of.

What motivated you to pursue this career?

I was motivated to take on PR and Marketing as a way of helping artists and my friends especially. I felt that I had the drive and passion for art and obviously the capabilities and skill made me confident to do this. I was also motivated by seeing success. From an early stage of my career. That made me want to do more and see more success stories and create bigger impact. I always wanna do better and bigger so that’s my main motivation. I wanna see what I can do with more artists and creatives. It’s that simple.


How do you handle crisis communications and reputation management as a music publicist?

I handle crisis management by first being calm and trying to come to the bottom of it. The problem is what’s at the bottom and not at the top so I am saying, I have to find a way to uproot the root itself. If you can find a way to solve that problem from the inception then the rest comes easy. But good and clear communication is very important in this case as many times miscommunications do lead to crises.  Reputation management is a day to day job and a long game. I can’t do clean PR but the artists or talent is out doing the opposite so it’s always like a two – person dance. So I wouldn’t say that I do it alone but I am great at collaborating and amplifying existing brands and talent

  Farah Fortune CEO, African Star Communications

What role does strategic communications play in your work?

Strategic communications play a crucial role in my work in regards to public relations, (PR) by helping organizations effectively communicate their messages to key stakeholders and the broader public. It involves developing a planned and coordinated approach to shaping and managing an organization’s and individuals’ reputation, enhancing its relationships with various audiences, and promoting its goals, objectives & achievements.

Here are some key roles that are strategic and important to me & what role communications plays in PR in general:

  • Reputation management
    Message development
    Stakeholder engagement
    Media relations
    Crisis communications
    Digital and social media
    Internal communication
    Overall, strategic communications

What skills do you believe are essential for success in the field of PR?

Success in the field of PR requires a combination of technical skills, interpersonal abilities, strategic thinking, Communication skills, Media relations, Strategic thinking, Problem-solving, Creativity, Digital literacy, Relationship-building, Research and analysis, Time management and organization, Cultural competence & contrary to popular belief, Integrity! While these skills are essential for success in PR, it’s also important for us PR professionals to continue learning and adapting to new industry developments, as the field is constantly evolving with emerging technologies and communication trends.

What are the major challenges you have faced being an African woman in PR?

My major challenges that stand out to me specifically within my company over the last 15 years have been, Gender bias and stereotypes. In general, I have faced gender bias and stereotypes in PR. This has manifested in various ways, such as being underestimated, facing prejudice in decision-making processes, or encountering difficulties in advancing to leadership positions even outside my normal work scope.

Also Limited representation, as an African woman I find many women underrepresented in leadership roles within PR agencies or organizations. The lack of diverse representation can create barriers for career growth and impact the perception of African women in the industry. Cultural expectations and norms have also influenced the experiences of African women in PR. Balancing professional aspirations with cultural expectations related to family and societal roles can create unique challenges, such as managing work-life balance or navigating cultural biases.

Lack of networking opportunities has also been quite a challenge for me. Building professional networks is crucial in PR, and I’ve faced challenges in accessing networking opportunities due to limited representation and exclusion from traditional networks. This used to affect my ability to establish connections, find mentors, and advance my career. Due to my tenacity for a seat at the table, I eventually built my own table to counter this specific hinderance.

Overcoming stereotypes as an African woman in PR has encouraged my need to overcome perceptions and biases held by others about my capabilities or qualifications. Therefore, I have spent a significant amount of time disproving assumptions and consistently demonstrating my skills and expertise to gain respect and recognition. This is time consuming, and I could have used the time elsewhere more effectively!

It is important to note that experiences and challenges can vary significantly depending on individual circumstances, geographical location, and workplace culture. Many organizations are recognizing the value of diversity and inclusion, and efforts are being made to address these challenges and create more equitable environments for women in PR.

                                                                         Ijeoma Balogun
                                                                    CEO, RedRick PR

In your experience, how has the industry evolved over time, especially in terms of opportunities for women?

There are a lot of female trailblazers in the PR industry, and it’s exciting to see that number consistently growing. In terms of opportunities, I am really encouraged by the communities and associations that have been set up to support PR professionals in general, like The Comms Avenue, and for women specifically the Nigerian Women in PR Association, set up to advocate for and provide resources to Nigerian women working in PR & Comms.

How do you stay up to date with the latest industry trends and advancements?

I like to believe I have a learner DNA which is also part of our company culture in addition to agility, which both require being in the know of latest trends and advancements. It’s a lot of intentional reading and active researching. In addition, I find reports on industry activities in the continent very beneficial. The recently launched Africa PR & Communications Report is an absolute gem.

What advice would you give to young women considering a career in public relations?

Lead with excellence and be receptive to feedback. Excellence can never be ignored. You will not get everything right, feedback is necessary for growth. Seek feedback and embrace feedback.

Faith Senam Ocloo
                                     Founder, Women in PR Ghana and CEO, E’April Public Relations

What’s the most interesting part of practicing PR as a woman in Ghana?

I think for me it is the opportunity I get to connect with several other women in the profession. Being a woman practicing PR in Ghana has been a great experience so far especially now with Women in PR Ghana organization. It has created a community for us to connect, network and learn from each other which will mean you are most likely to have a female colleague to run to when you need someone to bounce off ideas with.

Have you ever had to deal with gender inequality and how did you handle it?

Interestingly no. Since practicing over a decade ago, I have had no issues around gender inequality in my professional life. That said, I have rather been exposed to the fact that we’ve had few women in leadership positions and in the board room and I made it my mission to create a platform that will highlight the works of women and give them the needed visibility and support. This way, we will have more representation and a voice to get push more women into strategic positions across various sectors in the country.

What’s your first response whenever a crisis occurs?

My approach will be to pause for a second and not have to react based on the issue or crisis at hand. Then think carefully about how to approach or handle the issue which will mean referring to your crisis plan and responding accordingly in a timely, responsible and polite manner.


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