Africa’s leading women in PR and Marketing
The communications landscape in Africa is changing and even more so in 2020. Women currently dominate PR across the globe, and this has been a growing trend in the last decade.
From America to Europe and Africa, there are more women than men in PR and Marketing. According to data from a 2014 study by Bureau of Labor Statistics (US), women make up 63 percent of public relations specialists and 59 percent of all PR managers. Other estimates such as a study from PR Daily suggest that the female percentage is closer to 73, or even 85 percent.
It’s Still a Boy’s Club
Although women dominate PR and Marketing, it is contrasting to note that majority of the top positions are occupied by men. For example, from 1963 to date, the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) has produced 13 presidents and all have been men. The current president of the African Public Relations Association (AFPRA) is also a man, and this is most likely represented across the continent. Why is it that an industry that attracts more women than men still finds it challenging for women to rise to the top? A quick look at some of the biggest PR & Marketing firms or the corporate communications departments of some of the biggest organizations in Africa will confirm this.
Even though she agrees that a great number of the major PR and advertising agencies in Nigeria are run by men, CEO of Glam Brand Agency, Bola Balogun does not see it as a challenge. According to her, “doing business in Nigeria is a challenge in itself and both women and men face these challenges”. She however believes that Nigeria is one the best places for a woman to thrive in business, and thinks it is a “fantastic environment to do PR, especially now with all of the interest the country is getting from top international organizations.”
Director of Strategy at Wax Print Media Ghana, Muhammida El Muhajir echoes Balogun’s sentiments. She believes that the communications industry is thriving for women; however, “some clients underestimate your talent and expertise as a woman. They can second guess your suggestions without any justification” she said. “I also find that there are times that clients want to actually pay you less or expect that you should be satisfied with what they offer even if it is below your standard rate,” Muhajir says of challenges women in PR & Marketing face.
Cannibalism is the biggest challenge women face in the industry, says MD of Deefrent Ltd, Adebola Olomo who runs a PR & Marketing agency in Nigeria and Ireland. She explains that “because of the way the market is designed, a lot of men don’t think that they can show their weaknesses to the women.”
Stating that in the situation whereby the man has an “ask” or a reward for awarding a contract like a scratch my back, I scratch yours scenario, they would rather give it to the man who they feel can keep their secrets or won’t see them as weak for asking for kickbacks. They see the men as their counterparts and comrade at arms but not the women. In her words, “Until we start to see a lot of women become decision-makers and those women support other women, we might have to continue fighting for our place.”
It’s Getting Nichier
As communications evolve in Africa, niches have become more popular amongst PR & marketing professionals and from all indications, it will only get nichier. In contrast to the broader solution services provided by older agencies, contemporary professionals are more focused on providing niche services and driving thought leadership in their chosen areas. A major determinant of the area of specialization is demand. Bola Balogun’s Glam Brand Agency now focuses mostly on beauty PR because of the demand. “Beauty has become such a big deal with a lot of the international brands coming to Africa and that has become a big part of our business” she says. With brands like the L’Oreal Group – Lancome, Maybelline, Yves Saint Lauren, and more in their kitty, Glam Brand Agency is arguably Nigeria’s number one in the beauty PR space as they are behind the PR and strategy of all the major beauty brands entering Nigeria and some of Ghana.
Diane Apoti, the founder of Nairobi based PR consultancy, Diane Apoti PR, says the vacuum in the industry inspired her niche. Years back in a previous interview, Apoti shared that after she did a campaign titled “100 Days of African Fashion and featured clothes from 100 different brands across the continent, it exposed a vacuum in the industry” noting that there was no agency focused entirely on fashion publicity and marketing at that time.
Communications Manager for Ghanaian-German Centre for Jobs, Migration, and Reintegration (GGC) Mina Okuru’s niche area was inspired by her passion for research and strategy, stakeholder engagement and crisis management. “I’m very passionate about them because I feel they are almost always kept at the backburner until something happens and I want to change perceptions about how people use strategic communications in the achievement of corporate goals.” She says.
With a clientele that includes Dangote Group, Lagos state, Frist Bank Nigeria, The Experience Lagos, and more; Adebola Olomo’s agency focuses on corporate organizations, the public sector and events. Her niche was informed by the opportunities she got when she just started out. After building expertise in these areas, she got more referrals for jobs in these categories.
Elizabeth Osho head strategist at So.Me Solutions corroborates Olomo’s point stating that they were naturally drawn to their niche after running successful campaigns in it. “We use influencers which have become our forte. Creating and executing special events, the personal touch/networking is also something we have the knack for” she explains.
Whether they are starting their own firms or earning their place at the top offices, African women are taking the bull by the horn and creating space for themselves in PR and Marketing. Understanding that no list is perfect, it is important to add that this list does not speak for all the PR and Marketing women in Africa. Rather, it represents a good chunk of the whole – women who have been in the industry for many years to early players making their mark, covering small, medium-sized and large sized organizations.
Africa’s Leading Women in PR & Marketing in no Particular Order
MOLIEHI MOLEKOA (SOUTH AFRICA)
Managing Director, Magna Carta
Moliehi Molekoa works as the Managing Director at Magna Carta, responsible for the overall performance of the business and also manages the firm’s Africa network and building capacity within the agency partners in 18 countries.
With a career spanning almost 2 decades, Molekoa has worked on several global accounts including The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, Standard Bank, World Economic Forum, Africa Progress Panel, African Leadership Network, Vodacom Foundation, Samsung Africa, Microsoft and many more. In the years she’s been in charge of the Africa division, Magna Carta agency has been named African Consultancy of the Year 2016 & 2013 by the Holmes Report.
BOLA BALOGUN (NIGERIA)
CEO, Glam Brand Agency
Bolanle Balogun’s company, Glam Brand Agency provides brand strategy and Public Relations solutions and also works to assist brand entrance into the Nigerian market. She specializes in premium, luxury and niche brands within the fashion, beauty and lifestyle industry.
Balogun is also the creator and producer of Glam Report TV and founded Glam Networks – a fashion and lifestyle television production behind top shows which aired on MNet. She has executed projects for Herrera Confidential signature fragrances, Hairfinity products, Maybelline New York, Emmaus Beauty, and most recently Lancôme Paris: My Shade My Power Campaign.
NKIRU OLUMIDE-OJO (NIGERIA)
Head, Regional Marketing & Communications at Standard Bank Group, South Africa
Nkiru Olumide-Ojo has two decades of experience in Strategic Marketing and Corporate Communications Management, working with multinational and national brands in Nigeria and some African Markets. Her work experience spans across various sectors including Financial Services, Aviation, Telecommunication, and the Oil and Gas sectors.
An expert reputation and crisis communication manager; Olumide-Ojo currently works as Executive Head, Regional Marketing and Communications at Standard Bank Group South Africa. She holds board level experience having sat on the boards of Stanbic IBTC Trustees Limited and CMC Connect Burtson Masteller.
ESTHER A. N. COBBAH (GHANA)
Founder & CEO, Stratcomm
Esther Cobbah is an award-winning communications consultant and qualified Gestalt facilitator. Cobbah is the founder and CEO of Strategic Communications Africa Ltd (Stratcomm Africa), a communication and reputation management agency based in Ghana, which has served more than 150 local and international clients. With over 30 years’ experience in the communication field, she currently serves as a board member of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA). With a keen understanding of the value of effective communication processes for national development, Cobbah has a track record of providing effective communications strategies to promote innovation and enhance public awareness. In 2016, Stratcomm was awarded the IPRA United Nations Award for Public Relations and Sustainable Development at the IPRA Golden Globe Awards for PR Excellence.
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