Friday, August 8, 2014

SPI course shows new ways of doing communications work

By Ettioné Ferreira

Government communication officers from across South Africa have praised a course they attended at the Sol Plaatje Institute (SPI) for Media Leadership recently, saying it had capacitated them and exposed them to new ways of doing work.

The course, held at the SPI in July, focused on a range of strategies which government communication officers need to use in their work to communicate better and more effectively with their various constituents and on how to manage and lead their organizations in a rapidly changing media landscape.

“I studied for four years but within the few days I have been here (at the SPI), there’s a lot that I’ve seen and I now notice that it is so imperative that one keeps on studying, one keeps on refreshing and refreshing,” said one of the participants, Manelisi Ntsodo, who is the media co-ordinator for Parliament of South Africa in Cape Town.

Ntsodo graduated with a BA degree in Journalism and Media Studies from Rhodes University, the home of the SPI, in 2003. Ntsodo handles media accreditation during events at Parliament.

The communications manager of Buffalo City Metropolitan, Keith Ngesi, said: “This course is going to capacitate me; the content I’m getting here I’ll be sharing with my team.”

He spoke after attending only a few days on the five-day accredited and certificated course known as the Government Media: Essential Tools for Editors and Journalists.

Ngesi also has strong ties with Rhodes University, where he did a journalism course with the East Cape News Agency endorsed by Rhodes in 1994 and 1995 and worked closely with Radio Grahamstown. Ngesi has worked as a communications manager for six years and has also been a producer and presenter of current affairs programmes for the SABC for 12 years.

Ngesi says that it is very different working in government compared to the media industry. “Government media is different (because) there are a lot of legislative systems and processes that we operate under and we are obliged to follow.”

Ntsodo adds: “(In government) You don’t have as much freedom to write about what you think… you must make it a point at all times to abide by [the code of ethics]. You can’t just write something you want to.”

The Makana Municipality communications officer, Yoliswa Ramokolo, was also on the course. She has a BA (Hons) from the University of the Western Cape and joined Makana in June 2013. “I’ve learned so much that I didn’t know before… there will be some changes in my office now. Now I will be able to deal with the media in a better way than before,” she said.

She regards her position to be of strategic importance to the Grahamstown community. “It is very important to communicate the work of the municipality and to bring the people and the municipality together so they will be able to work together.”

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What does it take to make it in digital marketing?

Before I got into digital marketing I was an accountant. Yup, I was one of those little boring men in grey suits stuck behind a desk armed with your calculator. Yes it was rather exciting and I enjoyed the first year. The challenge wore off eventually and it became the same old thing. I had fun. I dabbled in a bit of hair modelling which raised a couple of eyebrows at the office.

Anyway back to the point. I walked out of accounting and into the digital world, which was super exciting but extremely challenging, purely because I technically had no idea of what I was doing. Luckily I learn quickly, because if I didn’t, I would be in accounting writing about this as a failed venture.

So what does it take to be successful in digital marketing today?

Instead of babbling on endlessly, I have broken down this post into bullet points for ease. I have a few things that I believe one would need to survive, or at least make it in the industry.

Stay determined

I personally believe that anyone aspiring to get into digital needs to have determination. Without it you would fall short. It is the basis of who we are today. The reason I say this is because the industry changes so fast that you have to constantly learn and evolve. Clients can be chaotic and all over the place, demanding ridiculous results. Your boss will want the best out of you and in order to get through all of this you need to stay determined.

Learn, learn and learn some more

The next skill is the ability to learn. The ever-changing nature of the industry we have to stay on top of it all. The only way we can do this is by learning new things every day. As an SEO Strategist I am learning to code in PHP so that I can take my technical skill-set further and actually understand how the web works.

Obviously you do need to learn and keep up to date with the latest developer concepts, but it helps you to achieve even greater results.

Don’t be afraid

There have been plenty of times that I have been scared to try something new because it might fail. That’s something I had to overcome. So what if you screw up? That mistake is an opportunity to learn.

If you think something might work out well, just try it out It could be one of the greatest things you have done and lead to massive returns on that concept.

We simply cannot afford (yes I used a meme there) to let our fears take over when it comes to digital. The industry would die if the scared didn’t try. But in all honesty, mistakes are where we learn our biggest lessons and can lead us to achieving greatness down the line. Go BIG or go home, it’s that simple..

Think outside the box

In every job or career, there are best practices or guides but there is no set way of doing things (unless you’re an accountant). You cannot think big because it doesn’t work. In Digital we have to.

Our clients expect that of us. They want the idea that is going to push them ahead of their competitor. Look at Zillow and Trulia, the two biggest property portals in the states. They battled it out and those agencies had to think outside of the box to try one up the other.

Sadly they have “merged” and are now striving towards one goal. But back to the point: you cannot rely on best practices or rules if you want to really get somewhere. It will put you in the box of normal and the last thing you want to be is normal.

By now you are probably getting tired me, so I thought I would lean on other digital marketing specialists to add their thoughts.

I contacted Julian Mountain, Head of Digital at Saatchi & Saatchi Synergize, as well as Anton Koekemoer, a digital specialist, to get their thoughts and insights.

I put the following questions to them and these were the responses I got:

What got you started in Digital? Name some of the hardest lessons you have learned the hard way? Do you have any advice on what skills/characteristics an aspiring digital marketer should have? Where do you see digital/SEO going over the next five years?

Julian Mountain:

I started in 2005 at a paid search marketing affiliate agency generating leads and sales for eBay and Expedia.

Always set daily budget caps when setting up Adwords campaigns. Always check country targeting when setting up Adwords campaigns – the default used to be targeting planet earth.

Make sure you include developers in project briefings and scoping as early as possible.

An inspiring digital marketer needs to be CURIOUS (understanding new tools, products, downloading and playing around with new apps). ADAPTABLE (the role changes all the time based on new products, platforms, devices). A budding strategist needs to have an Appreciation for ART and SCIENCE.

I see the term digital falling away. It will no longer be just a silo-ed word / channel or activity.


I started out as a developer and saw that it’s not only about developing awesome websites and applications, but about getting people to website. Build it and they will come is a thing of the past and so it’s the same as having a Ferrari with no petrol to drive around. Digital marketing was the next logical step to take.

Digital marketing isn’t easy and it’s not for sissies. Yes you will find many “social media gurus” and self proclaimed experts online, but do they actually understand how to work out the true ROI of social media and other digital marketing methods? It comes with years of experience and in digital marketing, there are many snake oil salesmen. There are plenty of them in it for a quick buck. Do some research on your side on who to trust with digital marketing.

It’s difficult to say because I’m working with many talented individuals from all walks of life. I come from a strong programming background and must admit that it has helped me tremendously with some tough choices, especially with technical SEO.

It’s an ever evolving medium and will continue to change. Many SEO methods that used to work five years ago, don’t anymore. To stay ahead of the game, you need to constantly check what is happening online and how you can better your SEO/digital marketing strategy. Specifically in regards to SEO, semantic search is starting to play a huge role especially with the knowledge graph integration on Google and how search is adapting to our needs.

And that is what it takes to get by in Digital. It’s all hard work but boy there are some amazingly fun times and the effort is worth it. I wouldn’t go back no matter what. Then again, I wouldn’t go back to hair modeling either.

This article was first published on memeburn.