With Public Relations and Marketing becoming key functions in organisations, the Windhoek Observer (WO) this week caught up with Margaret Kalo (MK) to discuss her views on the professions, her career and what is expected for one to successfully carryout the roles.
WO: Who is Margaret Kalo?
MK: I am a Namibian female with a passion for Public Relations, Marketing and Sociology. I am a former journalist and Public Relations Officer (PRO) with more than 12 years of experience and have an eye for detail.
During my free time, I do interview coaching for new graduates to boost their confidence in preparation for job interviews. I love good food and enjoy travelling. I am a wife and a mother of two.
WO: How did you end up in marketing?
MK: My curiosity in media and communications started already in primary school. Being a village girl, I used to imitate nbc anchors, who used to read the news. I knew exactly that communication would be my career path.
I then studied Public Relations at the University of Namibia (UNAM) and worked as a journalist and producer for One Africa Television before I joined the Public Relations domain.
WO: What are some of the growing trends in the marketing industry?
MK: I would say mobile and social media marketing are currently on top of the agenda. In today’s age, most of the people around the globe are using growing opportunities to market their products and services through online and social media channels, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
WO: Do you think all Public Relations or Marketing graduates should be registered as specialists like any other fields such as Health Officers?
MK: Definitely yes, and in fact there is PRISA Namibia. However, PRISA Namibia is very South Africa centered. Therefore, Namibia should establish its own independent body for professionals, so that current and upcoming Public Relations, Marketing and Corporate Communication Officers can actually benefit from the money they spend for registration and affiliation.
WO: What does it take to be a Public Relations specialist?
MK: Public relations specialists must have exceptional writing, speaking and interpersonal skills.
They need to be forthcoming, accommodating and persuasive at the same time. Excellent problem solving, organisational, and time management skills are also imperative. PROs also need to be prepared to work overtime if the need arises. You should be self-confident and it does not harm to be courageous.
What is required from you as a PRO is to create and maintain a favourable public image for your organisation. You are responsible for your organisation’s PR and media strategy; you will write tons of media releases, plan and execute campaigns and outreach programs, and raise funds for your organisation.
You also help top executives in drafting speeches, arranging interviews, and maintaining other forms of public and media liaison.
Public relations specialists are responsible for favourable communication with the public, including consumers, investors and reporters.
At all times, PROs have to keep the public informed about their organisation’s activities. In many instances in Namibia, PROs also handle internal communications, such as staff newsletters, and they may even assist financial managers to produce the organisation’s Annual Report.
WO: What is the state of the marketing field in Namibia?
MK: Namibia has not yet mastered the integrated marketing tools such as social media marketing. I say this because one will find organisations that do not have existing social media platforms or tools.
Although at this point in time, businesses are becoming aware of the importance of marketing, the marketing environment is still at a developmental stage.
However, this may also be due to the generally small economy of the country and the current economic crunch in particular.
WO: Do you think marketing practitioners or PROs get the recognition they deserve?
MK: I would say no. There’s a lot of work that goes behind the scenes when putting together marketing or PR activities, however, at the end of the day it’s only the end result that is seen. Secondly, marketing budgets in Namibia are very limited, which is an indication that marketing and PR practitioners including their departments, do not receive the recognition they deserve.
In other countries, this is definitely different. There is still a prevailing and clearly wrong belief among Namibian organisations and institutions that PR is not really very important.
WO: Have you ever had to handle a social media crisis? What did you do?
MK: No, fortunately I have not yet encountered this problem.
WO: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
MK: Difficult clients as well as slow flow of information. Sometimes you need to meet a deadline, but the information you require to complete the task at hand is not yet available to you.
WO: Do you see media practitioners as partners or threat?
MK: The media are our eyes and ears, and I respect them very much. They are our partners who keep the public informed at all times. PROs and media practitioners need each other. However, we also know of each other’s different roles.
Media practitioners know that PROs use creative storytelling in order to gain public exposure and achieve their organisation’s goals, while PROs know that media practitioners may confront you with inconvenient questions in order to get a complete or even breaking story.
PROs and journalists use the same abilities and tools, only slightly differently. At the end, however, we are two sides of the same coin called information and need to respect each other.
WO: Do you have a specific strategy to handle the media?
MK: Yes, first and foremost by continually keeping in touch with them, sending them solicited content and praising their achievement as individuals or as a collective team. Alienating media is not in any organisation’s interest.
Disagreements or grievances have to be addressed openly and resolved proactively. Trust and mutual respect are key to any PROs success in dealing with media.
WO: How do you handle pressure?
MK: First and foremost, time management is key in times of high stress/pressure. I love to keep my to-do lists in a way that I can tick off what’s done and keep track of my schedules.
As much as I may be under pressure, I would like to think that having an understanding that some things can’t be completed in a day, allows me to strike a balance between healthy and unhealthy pressure. You have to learn to prioritise. It’s OK to not do everything at once, but that doesn’t mean you should stop pushing yourself to do the best in what you do, at all times.
I train my mind to remain positive and see the good in every situation. Not only does this helps relieve stress and from feeling unfulfilled, but it also gives me the confidence I need to perform my duties.
WO: What is your favorite sport and team?
MK: My favourite sport is football ... watching it on TV, of course. Even though Namibia did not qualify for this year’s World Cup, the Brave Warriors remain the team of my choice; they deserve a big push and support. Peter Shalulile, Sadney Urikhob, Petrus Shitembi and Chris Katjiukua unseat me whenever I watch them play.