Constance Rudo Makoni is our Comms Spotlight for this week and she shares her love for Communications and career growth in her interview with us. Constance began her career in mainstream media but pivoted to a Comms role seven years ago. Constance is the Corporate Communications Manager at Cottco.
How did you begin your career in Communications?
I branched from mainstream media into communications seven years ago. It was a very intentional move as I had gained enough experience as a journalist and believed I was well-balanced to become a communications professional. I took a deep dive and became the Deputy Director, Public Affairs within the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare where I was entrusted with advising the Minister, Permanent Secretary and Senior Management on media and communications-related issues among other duties. I had to rise to the occasion. It was such a huge role that demanded adjusting and reconfiguration. I had to upskill on many fronts.
Further, my emotional, political, intelligence and creativity quotients had to be in check. I quickly learnt to be a critical and forward thinker, to be a leader and chair cross-cutting sessions and to embrace meticulous planning and coordination. I surrounded myself with experienced and well-grounded mentors from diverse backgrounds including the uniformed forces, corporate and NGOs who were ever ready to help me navigate the terrain. I kept on challenging myself to perform better and with each media briefing, press statement, exhibition and high-level event I gained confidence. I vividly remember how satisfied I felt when speeches I wrote were read word for word. My word! What an amazing feeling.
I also owe my early days in communications to a Leadership that believed in my capabilities and mentored me until I found balance. Looking back, I marvel at my experience in government. It was the perfect training ground. The exposure and experience gained from that position opened many doors in my career.
What do you do as the Corporate Communications Manager at Cottco?
My current role is an exciting one. I have Internal and External Communications, Branding, Social Media Management, Events Management, Stakeholder Engagement and Management under my purview. Being the brand custodian and spokesperson of such a large and well-established organisation is also among my responsibilities. Cottco has diverse stakeholders, that include the rural communities where its operations and footprint are quite strong, the Government, the banking sector, local and international lint buyers, ginned seed buyers, transporter and service providers. My team and I are tasked with framing messages that speak to each stakeholder effectively. Our organisation recently embarked on a rebranding exercise and it is incumbent upon me and my team to ensure the new strategic intent is well understood by all, particularly the rural communities.
The industry has been rapidly impacted by technology in recent years. How do you stay ahead of the ever-changing communications landscape?
They say evolve or perish and in this technology era, I am constantly on a quest to find out what’s new in the industry. I am an avid reader and am constantly on a quest to find out new and trending information that improves my performance. I also attend workshops, network with industry peers, liaise with my counterparts in ICT to try and find out how I can stay ahead of the pack.
What are some key lessons you’ve learned along your career journey?
1. Velocity – Time is of the essence in communications, I have learnt to place emphasis on speed and direction in everything I do. This is something I picked very early in my career particularly working with high-level officials who expect their teams to think on their feet. Speed only is dangerous; it has to be fortified by direction.
2. Veracity – I am a sucker for authenticity, immersing myself in everything I do forms part of my habits. In our field, it’s critical to be accurate, truthful and reliable. I have learnt that when you are authentic you don’t just go with the flow! You set your own pace and win without shrinking yourself into other people’s shadows.
3. Variety – I have learnt to have options. I am a solutions person and my team knows whenever we are faced with a hurdle, we discuss the solutions first and totally dwarf the problem. I enjoy having a variety of options, it gives me peace to know that if this route does not lead me in the direction I want to go, I can always take another safe route to the same destination.
What improvements would you like to see in the Communications landscape in Zimbabwe?
Renowned Entrepreneur and Business magnate, Sir Richard Branson, is on record for saying his Communications Official is the most highly paid employee in his organisation. This comes from the understanding that the communications job is critical in reputation and perception management. In Zimbabwe, I long for the day when Communications professionals are given their rightful place at the table and commensurate remuneration. Just like other professions which have set remuneration structures, communications professionals need to set their own standards and be recognised among other professions.
What professional advice would you give to those reading this?
Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity! I encourage whoever is reading this to prepare and be very intentional about the direction they want to take in life. Go out there and show up with so much confidence and self-belief.