A recent survey conducted by the Centre for Development and Enterprise has
determined that there are at least over five million micro and small
businesses in South Africa, many of which are located in the informal
sector. It is a known fact that the Global-Pandemic: COVID-19 has already
had a devastating impact on a number of small businesses in spite of the
various interventions by both public and private sector put in place to ease
the blow.

Strangé Consulting, a 100% black and woman owned (BWO) PR agency has, for
the past nine years, been fortunate enough to enjoy some stability in
business. Miranda Lusiba – the Founder of this business has attributed this
to some long-term ad-hoc and retainer clients such as Afrovation Technology
that have kept the business alive in spite of this pandemic and the volatile
economic climate over the last few years.

The agency has since inception had a focused approach – it has not only
ensured consistency in the delivery of services to all its clients, but also
kept its ear close to the ground to make the most of new opportunities that
arise. The Strangé team has always made sure that it was ready to provide PR
solutions to clients who have communications or reputation-related
challenges either on retainer or project basis.

The company has over the past eight years been steered by a seasoned PR
professional, Lusiba with 20-years’ experience in Communications, Media
Relations, Reputation Management, Media Training, Freelance Writing which
includes Content Development and Storytelling. Lusiba had to step away from
manging the Strangé business on a full-time because from May 2017, when she
was requested by the CEO of Group Africa Marketing (GAM) to assist by taking
up a three-year contract as the MD for The Grind PR (TGPR) – with a mandate
to create and implement a turn-around business strategy for the Group’s
Sponsorship & Corporate PR agency.

Lusiba says: “In my capacity as MD for TGPR, I was fortunate enough to work
in large-scale PR campaigns where clients enjoyed tangible PR return on
investment (ROI) calculated in rand values. These campaigns included the
annual MTN8 Tournament where R205-million worth of Media value and awareness
was generated (BMI) for a three (3)-month campaign and achieved over 250
free media interviews through a National Roadshows and Trophy Tours done
mainly with football legends. Another big PR project was the launch of
Yekani Manufacturing’s R1-billion world-class Smart Factory in East London.
The ROI from a PR perspective was R8.5 million of free media publicity
generated on launch day and two months post-event.”

At the end of 2019, she left TGPR because it was now in a stable condition –
the agency was not only profitable but the team that she left behind was
also able to ensure business continuity and consistently in the delivery of
high quality PR, Communications and Media Relations services to all its
clients. In collaboration with the rest of TGPR team – this was achieved in
less than three years.

Lusiba explains: “Because of lack of capacity – the time spent at TGPR meant
that I could only manage the Strange’ Consulting PR business on an ad-hoc
basis. From November 2019, I was able to go back to pursuing the Strangé
dream and my passion of not only providing high-quality PR services to our
clients, but also assisting ordinary South Africans to tackle socio-economic
issues affecting various communities such as my hometown, Queenstown in the
Eastern Cape.”

The current Strangé team is made up of a group of vibrant, hardworking and
highly experienced PR professionals with over 50-years combined experience
from various Communications and Media Relations background to best manage
the Reputation of its clients. In partnership with some of the most senior
PR and Media professionals – Mahendra Raghunath (SABC News Media
Personality) – Strangé provides Media Training services in an effort to
assist assigned spokespeople in various companies with skills on how to
handle the media and ultimately manage the reputations of the brands they
represent.

Strangé has over the past few years managed to service a number of corporate
PR clients that included: Afrovation Technology; Yekani Manufacturing;
Kingmaker Consulting – CoJ, SSETA, PPC Cement, BCL Ltd; Global Interface –
Eskom, Platco Digital – OpenView HD (OVHD); FCB Redline – IDC; Telcolink –
Cisco; PrideLife Group – DarkChild Production & TYME Bank.

However, Lusiba admits that despite all these successes – the company has
over the years experienced its own ups and downs, and this is because of the
volatile economic climate now compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Everyone
fortunate enough to service retainer clients are doing their very best
ensure that they are consistently happy with work that is delivered –
ensuring long-term and mutually beneficial business relationships.

The “new normal” is now forcing PR professionals to think differently and
adapt or die. The ability to understand the ever-changing business
challenges faced by clients has become very crucial and this means that PR
agencies need to be agile enough to respond with dynamic PR, Reputation
Management strategies that can assist them to overcome these.

“The stability of SMMEs in this economic climate is determined by the
ability to retain long-term clients complemented by regular ad-hoc projects
that can contribute positively to a healthy and steady cashflow,” she says.
That said, Lusiba points out that because of current business environment –
budget cuts from clients mean that agencies need to do what they can with
the available resources. “It is important to support our clients and let
them know we’re here for them, doing the best that we can regardless of the
circumstances,” she insists.

Keeping abreast with the trends and adapting to “business unusual” are some
of the way that can assist in ensuring the survival of many PR agencies.
Digital and online PR is an important trend to focus on and Lusiba explains
that along with her old school PR business associates have had to-learn to
apply the traditional PR principles in this new digital environment. “When
we started out, traditional media platforms were the only options out there.
That said, if you want to remain relevant, you need to understand the
digital world and how technology can be used to continue delivering value to
clients,” she says.

One of the greatest advantages of digital is that it has enabled new ways of
doing PR. Lusiba believes that currently, there is a huge opportunity to
focus on storytelling and developing newsworthy content. These stories can
be told and made accessible in real-time through various platforms that
include traditional media (mainstream, regional and community) complemented
by digital, online and social media.

Lusiba concludes by saying: As Strange, we pride ourselves on our ability to
develop compelling content and tell authentic, human-interest stories that
can be used in digital, online and social media as well. The idea that
content is king is not new – there is now a greater emphasis on developing
newsworthy content more than ever. We do this by ensuring that our clients’
stories have consequence and impact and are told from the beneficiaries’
perspective.

“This is when brand stories are told by beneficiaries on behalf of companies
– giving testimony of the difference that has been made in their lives. It
is very important for companies to avoid blowing their own horns – but
rather allow testimonial stories to provide the credibility needed by
business brands. In addition, the winning formula in our PR services also
lies in our relationships with the media and understanding what type of
stories they want instead of just writing puff pieces for clients – this
also helps to determine quality over quantity.”

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