No 'Eish' moment when doing business in Africa- well it depends who you know

Media in Rwanda are easy to work with and they are more likely to attend a media launch if there’s some degree of government involvement. A PR campaign in Zimbabwe will require planning well in advance as the execution phase may take longer than expected – for some reason things tend to move slowly in this market. Kenya is the opposite; the country has an advanced media industry which employs very astute journalists who know the difference between PR fluff and the ‘real story’.

These are just some of the insights one musters from working in various markets across the continent. Contrary to popular analysis or opinion, reaching out to media in parts of Africa is not as complex as it’s made out to be.

Media have news rooms, telephone lines and access to e-mail; these are just some of the essential tools needed to ensure your message gets across in preparation for your story to be covered. Despite this, the most important element is to ensure you have on-the-ground representation. Compiling a media list and sending a press release to media will not do the trick, because:

  • Language can be a serious barrier; it helps to have someone who can liaise directly with media on your behalf, especially in countries where English is not spoken.
  • Press releases may need to be translated; this will ensure coverage in non-English media.
  • News Clip does not track media outside of South Africa, especially broadcast and print so it’s important to have someone the ground who will gather all the clips for you.
  • Things work differently in certain markets, in Rwanda when inviting media to an event they have to be given transport money or else they will not be able to attend. This is not bribery; the publications are merely under resourced.
  • Never over emphasise the importance of the story on the basis that it’s being launched by a South African company – they don’t care!

From the above laundry list, it’s quite clear that insider knowledge of how media operate in parts of the continent is a must-have. Relationships are also quite important, but it does not end here; a degree of cultural empathy is appreciated, it’s a clear indication that some research was done prior to engagement.

Fleishman-Hillard has a number of clients whose operations cut across all corners of the continent, and distance has never been an obstacle because we have learnt how media in these markets operate. The presence of representatives in a specific market is an additional layer to ensure client receives service on a personal level. In Rwanda for example, where Visa is very active, FH always deploys someone on the ground to ‘hold the client’s hand’ during media events.

It’s without doubt that FH has very good knowledge of media beyond South African borders; this comes from years of undertaking projects in Africa. But things change, and because we prefer having our finger on the pulse, our extended network across Africa places us on the front foot as we are able to deliver to client upon request.

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