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Interview with Joanna Gow speaks on growth of marketing and public relations industry

By Frankline Sunday | October 6th 2015 at 10:31:24 GMT +0300

Kenya’s marketing and public relations industry has witnessed great growth over the past decade, as growing demand from new corporations, small and medium operators, and Government agencies creates new opportunities. Joanna Gow, the managing director of Professional Marketing Services (PMS) Group, a marketing communications agency, spoke to Business Beat on the industry’s evolution, and the opportunities that exist in a digital and social age.

What is driving the growth in the number of communications agencies in the country?

Increased competitiveness, ease of doing business and high foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into different sectors has increased competition among consumer-facing companies. These factors are giving rise to fast-growing, high-potential medium-sized businesses that can compete with multinational corporations. This in turn has created a market for agencies to cater to the growing need for brand positioning and marketing communications services.

We have seen Government agencies, ministries and counties taking up marketing and communications services. What has this meant for the industry?

Devolved governance and increased inclusiveness necessitate the need for the Government to engage and communicate effectively. Its increased use of communications services, shift to digital platforms and increased spending on public projects has also created more opportunities for PR and communications.

Are there any differences between handling a Government account and a private sector one?

We are currently working with a number of Government entities in their rebranding processes since they now understand the need to refresh their brands with new ideologies and values. I must say there is a big shift in mind-set within Government, and it has come to understand the importance of communications and PR.

On the other hand, private sector players have been doing this for years. Because of their knowledge and understanding of what communications can do for their bottom lines, they tend to be more demanding.

What do private and public sector players need to know before enlisting the services of a communications firm?

They will need to have a clear brief on what their entities need, their objectives, and budgets for a campaign. You might have brilliant ideas, but they would amount to nothing if a campaign stalls midway over budgetary constraints.

There is also need to give an agency the freedom to implement its creative and communications strategies. A growing challenge for agencies, for example, has been that anybody with a Facebook page or Twitter handle considers themselves experts in social media. The truth is that it requires the right strategy and messaging to successfully integrate social media into an overall campaign, and it takes a lot of work and expertise to have it bring a return on investment for a client.

Why, in your opinion, are Kenyan agencies losing large accounts to South Africa or the UK, and what can PR managers do to stem this trend?

It could be due to a number of factors, including the perception that we do not have capacity in Kenya, which is not the case. There have been major high-budget creative campaigns whose strategies have been developed and executed by Kenyan agencies.

While I am not faulting foreign agencies, with all due respect, they do not have the insights on the needs of Kenyan people that a local agency would have.

Even if they send people over to study the market, they miss the authenticity of living with and among Kenyans that produces nuances that have informed some of the biggest and most memorable campaigns from local firms in the recent past.

What would you say are some of the trends we need to focus on going forward in Kenya’s advertising industry?

Digital advertising is increasingly accounting for the larger portion of the advertising portfolio for Kenyan agencies and advertisers. Content marketing and conversion rate optimisation were the top two digital marketing priorities for 2013-14, followed closely by social medial engagement.

Data and analytics are also top priorities for marketers. This is driven by the search for ways to understand customers, how they are consuming content, and how to monetise this consumption through paywalls and advertising.

‘Big data’ is the biggest game-changing opportunity for marketing and sales, and companies that know how to use big data have outperformed in their respective markets and created competitive advantages.

Mobile will also remain key in interacting with the African consumer — close to 70 per cent of African consumers are comfortable with mobile advertising, and spending in this sector is expected to be close to 25 per cent of Internet advertising by 2017 in Kenya.

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Marketing and Public Relations PMS
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