Spotlight: Cape Town

Mobiflock founder Vanessa Clark discusses how brands are leveraging digital communications for effective storytelling in the burgeoning region.

What's the business climate like in Cape Town?
While we were somewhat protected from the global economic recession, it obviously had some impact on Cape Town and South Africa.

We also have historical imbalances that have a way to go before being corrected, although progress is being made. Cape Town is one of the best working cities in South Africa from a services point of view.

And the amount of construction work in the central business district, as well as the renewal in areas such as Woodstock and Salt River, shows there is a lot of business confidence.

There is also a burgeoning startup community and design and creative industry, as well as exciting stuff happening from township entrepreneurs.

Do brands in the region see PR as an effective tool for growth?
Yes. Companies realize it is about telling the story of their business, as well as engaging with customers proactively.

Traditional media is taking a bit of strain, although it is certainly not to be dismissed, and radio and community newspapers are still strong. There is some interesting stuff happening in the digital media space.

South Africa has a much smaller media industry than countries such as the UK or US, so PR pros need to be creative about harnessing new channels to get their story out and are increasingly turning to digital for this.

How has the slowing economy impacted investment in the communications sector?
Retainers are shrinking and turning into project-based contracts. This unfortunately leaves less room for creativity and risk taking - unfortunately with limited resources, the safer bet is often chosen.

There are opportunities in the region for PR though, as it can achieve more with less and is seen as a cheaper option than other channels.

Check In

Cape Chamber House
19 Louis Gradner Street, Foreshore, Cape Town 8001
Tel: (+27) 21 402-4300
www.capetownchamber.com

Western Cape Business Opportunities
WECBOF Building, Cape Peninsula
University of Technology, Symphony Avenue,
Bellville South 7530
Tel: (+27) 21 951-6852/9
www.wecbof.com

Cape Times
Box 11, Cape Town 8000
Tel: (+27) 21 488-4911
www.iol.co.za/capetimes

How has digital and social media changed the industry in Cape Town?
There is currently a race to the middle, with PR and communications firms, ad agencies, and digital shops all trying to claim the Holy Grail of integrated communications.

Based on our recent ad industry awards, The Loeries (across the board) and The Bookmarks (digital only), it is the traditional ad agencies that seem to be building their digital capabilities rapidly and claiming this space.

It is early days though, and as content increasingly becomes critical to customer engagement, the PR and communications industry has a role to play, if it grabs it.

What's it like developing a local team?
With some notable exceptions, I would say the right skills can be hard to find. Good writing skills, for instance, can be rare. There is also a lack of understanding about the roles of PR and journalists as PR pros sometimes lose sight of what journalists are trying to achieve, while journalists could use PR pros more effectively, too.

How do you foresee the industry changing in the next few years?

Obviously, the rise of digital is going to have a big impact - in practical terms this will mean PR professionals need to be a lot more creative about telling a company's story.

I am particularly interested in how trans-media storytelling is going to pan out.

South Africa and Africa is a mobile-first, and in many cases mobile-only population. This dynamic is going to have an interesting impact on how PR professionals tell the story of a company.

What do you love most about Cape Town?
I've been blown away by how receptive to change Cape Town has been in the 20 years since democracy. We are definitely up for giving anything a go, whether it is getting out of our cars and onto our bikes, eating artisan bread and cheese, or launching a technology startup.

The lifestyle here is fantastic. Opportunity abounds, and, without sounding too much like a hippy, there is something special about the energy flow between the sea and the mountain region.

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