by MarkLives (@marklives) Every month we ask a handpicked selection of PR execs to each select ONE feature, news article or research report (accessible online) that they believe their peers would benefit from reading. Next up are Jessica Whitcutt Yellin, Michelle Cavé, Tanya Kovarsky and Maciek de Waal-Dubla. Cian Mac Eochaidh also gives some insight into achieving a level 1 BBBEE rating. Bond, connect, engage, involve, join — welcome to The Interlocker!

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Jessica Whitcutt Yellin Jessica Whitcutt Yellin’s pick

The game has changed: stop managing issues, solve them!

This superb piece by Christiaan Prins on IPRA’s website speaks to the very heart of how I believe the communications industry needs to transform itself. The days of ‘spin’ are dead and buried, and to succeed into the future it’ll be far more important for us to have an MBA than a little black book of media contacts.

Expectations of society are that business, global corporates especially, have a moral obligation to ‘fix’ the mess they’ve largely created. This means that. when the skeletons in the closet come clanging out into the open, the comms team needs to not only have a seat on exco but has to have the internal political capital required to get that exco to fix the problem, rather than just issue statements and try and squash media coverage. Of course, ideally, those lurking reputational risks should be proactively addressed and resolved so that the crisis never hits, and that requires focusing the C-suite on a purpose higher than profit!

The game has changed and for communications professionals to remain relevant we need to be relevant!

— Jessica Whitcutt Yellin (@JNMYellin) is an industry veteran & the founder of It’s a Shovel


Michelle CavéMichelle Cavé’s pick

PR pros, beware of busywork masquerading as “essential skills”
Agility PR blog

It’s no secret that PR is a busy job so. when I came across this article about the suggestion that PROs further upskill themselves to include additional expertise in graphic design and light HTML coding, I was interested to read the case made against it. While I recognise and support the need for constant professional development in this field, particularly in a modern technology-driven age, we alone cannot be the master of all.

This piece challenges the updated list of essential PR skills, suggesting that we concentrate on what we do best; abandon unproductive tasks to ensure that we have more time to become experts at the skills that matter most; and rather employ the services of highly skilled professionals who specialise in graphic design and coding. By remaining focused and refining our fundamental PR skills, we can concentrate on these truly essential PR tasks, which are further unpacked in the article:

  1. More persuasively make the case for bold creativity
  2. Out-argue the lawyers
  3. Client relations
  4. Setting the stage for a story
  5. Write better headlines
  6. Figure out what makes buyers tick—and when
  7. Demand generation
  8. Measure results

— Michelle Cavé (@brandfundi) is a PR consultant & the founder of Brandfundi


Tanya KovarskyTanya Kovarsky’s pick

A colleague’s advice for new PR graduates
PR Daily

Who would you rather get your financial advice from? Someone who drives a luxury car or someone who’s still driving the same car they had at varsity 15 years ago? I know who I would pick because, if someone can seemingly get their financial wellness together, then it’s likely they’ll be help me. too. And who would you rather get your PR support from? Someone who is constantly negative on social media and who can’t, from appearances, get their stuff together, or someone who seems fairly sorted and upbeat?

We know that, by now, what you put online matters, and that recruiters and talent teams look as closely at your tweets and Insta stories as they will your CV. As a PR practitioner, who’s tasked with looking after someone’s brand and reputation, it matters even more that you tend to your own brand and reputation. PRing yourself well is good ‘advertising’ that you can do the same for others. And, even if it means not tweeting complaints to brands or posting those pictures of that cool bar tabletop you danced on, it’s better to be seen as a fun – but not party-hardy — and upbeat person. You can still keep it real, be authentic to yourself, and PR yourself as you would a client, putting your best foot forward.

— Tanya Kovarsky (@tanyakovarsky) is the head of content & PR at K2 Communications


Maciek de Waal-DublaMaciek de Waal-Dubla’s pick

Superior digital public relations trends to advance your brand

I always feel a bit anxious when the topic of “digital” PR is brought up, particularly when discussed in conjunction with “traditional” PR, because, ultimately, as the communication landscape continues to evolve, the idea of something being purely one or the other doesn’t exist. In the same way people stopped referring to “new media” because, well, it was no longer new, we have to start seeing PR as more than a press release, or a social post, or just a simple, single piece of content.

That’s what this article lands beautifully. Although it speaks to trends — and we all know that trends come and go — what’s really key here is that as the communications landscape has changed to herald the advent of digital; PR hasn’t lost anything but rather gained more channels to really speak to the consumer. PR needs the power of digital (and the channels) to tell a cohesive and multilayered brand story.

So, what should brands be thinking about when it comes to PR and their digital presence?

  • By brands investing in gaining a solid digital footprint, this allows PR to leverage channels and content to tell the story of the brand.
  • PR and digital can be a powerful duo in closing the loop on communications and content by telling compelling stories that rise about every other brands noise.
  • Digital has the means to provide rich data that can provide insights that can be leveraged through PR to talk about topics that matter the most to a brands’ consumers.

— Maciek de Waal-Dubla (@maciekdubla) is the agency brand director for Digitas Liquorice


Cian Mac EochaidhAchieving Level 1 BBBEE

In the following Q&A, director Cian Mac Eochaidh gives some insight into how Tribeca Public Relations has been able to achieve its Level 1 rating in its 2018 BBBEE verification audit.

How important is it for PR agencies to ensure compliancy and why?
Cian Mac Eochaidh:
PR is an important component of South Africa’s marketing sector and the economy at large. The industry’s transformation at all levels is vital, not just to be more representative, but so that the industry has a diversity of voices and perspectives. A homogenous, unrepresentative industry will always struggle to tell deeply insightful and relevant stories, and an agency that falls behind in efforts to transform will feel this shortcoming in its bottom line in the long term.

How does the BBBEE rating criteria for PR agencies work?
CME: PR agencies in South Africa are measured against the Marketing, Advertising and Communications (MAC) Charter. A revised MAC sector BBBEE code was published on 1 April 2016, and applied with immediate effect to all marketing, advertising and public relations companies. Under this code, Tribeca is defined as a Large Entity due to our annual turnover being above R10m.

How did the new MAC sector code impact your BBBEE process?
The MAC sector code introduced new compliance requirements and significantly higher targets and point allocations for certain elements, compared to the generic Qualifying Small Enterprises Broad Based Scorecard under which Tribeca was previously audited. Our new BBBEE strategy was significantly more extensive in order to address every aspect of the business and find new ways to stimulate transformation and accelerate opportunities for growth and diversity within the company and our industry.

How do you identify partners and what objectives must be shared to ensure a successful working relationship?
Relationships and entrepreneurship are core elements to Tribeca’s business success. We identified suppliers, clients and individuals who share these values and, with that as a starting point, we determined which potential partners share similar goals and objectives with us. We are fortunate to have been exposed to a network of partners who are as passionate about entrepreneurship — particular black female entrepreneurship — as we are.

Is the PR industry, broadly speaking, ready for the MAC Charter and the impact it will have?
The transformation of SA’s economy is an ongoing process that will continue for future generations before we have a truly equitable society. It will take just as long for the PR industry to transform, and the MAC Charter is one of the first policies attempting to facilitate that process. As with any new policy, there will be some flaws but, with experience and real-life insights, these will be refined and amended to produce a practical roadmap to our common goal of transformation.

What was the most-challenging aspect of your BBBEE verification process?
To be very blunt, the devil is in the detail. You need to have [a] deep knowledge and understanding of the MAC sector code, each of the six elements within the code, and each of the 17 sub-elements and 40 sub-indicators across those six elements. Quite often, companies that have done great transformation and social development work do not secure a high BBBEE rating simply because they have not understood the specific details in and of the MAC sector code.

What was the strongest element?
We contributed the most in the area of enterprise and supplier development, which was supported by work that we were already doing with various suppliers and clients for whom we provide various forms of support and investment. These were projects we had already taken on as part of the normal running of our business, rather than new projects started for the purpose of compliance.

What is your single most-important recommendation to agencies still on their transformation journey?
Do not approach your transformation strategy as a journey of compliance — embrace it as a journey of purpose and contribution. It needs to be a journey with the aim of making a meaningful impact/difference within the larger environment and community in which you operate in, and all with a long-term vision to make positive changes in peoples’ lives.


MarkLives logoLaunched in 2018, The Interlocker is a monthly newsletter (available as a regular column on MarkLives, too) in which we ask a handpicked selection of PR execs to each select ONE feature, news article or research report (accessible online) that they believe would benefit their peers to read and why. Sign up here!

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