Coffee break with Roz

Roz Thomas, the Managing Director for H+K Strategies in South Africa, shares some insights into the South African media environment and her excitement about becoming a fully-fledged H+K Strategies office.

Tell us a bit about H+K Strategies South Africa.
Before we were acquired in August 2013, we were known as Corporate Communications Consultants, a predominately B2B agency known for high-level strategic counsel, issue management and long relationships with clients. The company was established in 1989 and in this time we’ve developed very strong capabilities in financial services, professional services and more recently information and communications technology.

In the last few years, as the world’s perspective on Africa has changed, we’ve seen many multinationals look to enter South Africa, and much of our work has involved building media profiles for these organisations. We’ve done, and continue to do, a lot of hub management work for multinationals on the African continent. We also represent South African giants including the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

What’s the business environment like in South Africa?
South Africa’s economy is the largest in Africa — closely rivalled by Nigeria — accounting for 24 percent of its gross domestic product. The country has some very established sectors, including mining, telecommunications, financial services and agriculture. There’s a ‘can-do’ attitude and energy that makes South Africans excellent entrepreneurs and business leaders.

With well-developed infrastructure, sound legal ...

and banking framework and relative ease of doing business, South Africa is often the first port of call for international businesses with African aspirations. Likewise, many South African businesses are eyeing the continent’s burgeoning middle class for their next wave of growth.

Yet despite a sophisticated business environment, business leaders find this to be a challenging environment in which to operate. Growth is constrained by bureaucracy and government policy, which is often deemed out of step with business. This is further exacerbated by a fundamental disconnect between management and labour. This is especially apparent in the tough economic times that we’re currently facing and also not surprising in an unequal society where a quarter of South Africans live on less than .25 per day.

Tell us about the South African media environment.
We boast a vibrant, sophisticated albeit small press with high standards of journalism and production. With a good quality of living, political stability and good facilities, South Africa is also where most international media organisations set up their African bureaux. We have a national broadcaster, a handful of large media organisations and a thriving trade press.

Our news appetite is undeniably local, perhaps due to our years of isolation, and international news — unless it’s a huge story — is not well covered. We often have to work quite hard to find the local angles and relevance together with our international clients.

What do you expect from being part of a global network?
As an affiliate agency to H+K Strategies for 14 years, we’ve enjoyed an incredible exchange of knowledge and the chance to work on some great projects. While we are very proud of the advisory work we do at the C-suite level, this latest change will allow us to broaden our service range and enter new sectors.

We’re really fired up by the chance to learn more, build our revenue and staff numbers and contribute to broadening the firm’s presence in Africa. We truly believe that Africa offers huge growth for the company and look forward to working with the global network and our other H+K offices on the continent to realise this potential.