Dedicated, creative, committed to growth…these are just a few words we can use to describe our Comms Spotlight for the Week. A Public Relations and Communications professional with vast expertise, Diana Obath has been on an exciting professional journey. In this interview, she talks about how she started in the field and what she does to stay motivated when those challenging times come knocking.
You’ve been handling Public Relations at Multichoice Kenya for over 6 years. Tell us about what you do in your role.
The main goal of my role is to create, sustain and maintain a favorable image for the organization. I am able to do this through my day-to-day activities which include aligning the communications strategy to the ever-changing customer needs, putting together corporate and publicity events, developing communication for customers, managing and maintaining relationships with all stakeholders including the media, trade partners and even internal staff.
How did you begin your career journey?
I started off my career on a journey of discovery, trying to find a path that would interest me because I had studied both Public Relations and Electronic Media while in school.
My first job was an internship as a radio journalist working at the editorial desk and reading news. I quickly realized that it was not as exciting for me as it had seemed when I was in school. I then moved into public relations working as a Communications Officer in a PR and research firm where I worked on events and contributed to communications research for clients. I spent one year there and then joined a music, TV and film production agency.
I enjoyed the hands-on nature, speed and rigor of the TV production business and spent a few years on the job where I learnt most of what I know about production today. I also developed a lot of patience and learnt professionalism while in that role because productions, especially for TV and live productions leave little room for error. The long hours required in the production business were hectic and I had to move into another job where I could balance career and family.
I found myself back at a PR agency where I worked as a Senior Consultant, developing strategy and advising clients on how to solve communication problems across different sectors. It was in this role that I knew I was made for PR and Communication, and I have spent all the years following growing and mapping out a career in Public Relations to date.
What do you do to stay ahead of trends and remain relevant as a professional?
Reading has helped me stay ahead of trends and learn new things every so often. I am also a curious person who likes to try out what I discover. Once I come across something new, I spend a lot of time researching and experimenting on it, trying to find out where it has worked and in which organizations it has been successful.
I also read a lot of case studies where I am able to see how to structure communication and apply principles of communication in varied contexts.
I spend my free time taking a lot of online courses to advance my skills and knowledge in PR and related fields such as traditional and online marketing. These courses are not all necessarily paid, as I have found some free resources to be quite useful.
Writing has played a big role in helping me stay ahead of trends. I am a columnist with a leading magazine publication where I mostly write about progression within the communications sector. This has forced me to stay ahead of the trends so that I am able to put together thought leadership pieces that can invoke discourse and inspire PR, Communications and Marketing professionals into advancing the profession.
Professional activities and networking have also been important for me as would be for any other professional to remain relevant in my field.
What keeps you motivated on the days that are challenging and hectic?
The PR and Comms profession has some very intense days. No two days are the same on this job and staying motivated is very important for me.
– Exercising helps me stay motivated and gives me the energy I need to face hard days. I exercise almost daily as it helps refresh my mind and particularly my mental focus.
– Keeping a positive mindset also works especially in challenging situations. You will not always have someone cheering you on, so you have to learn to maintain an optimistic mindset and work towards your best results.
– Prayer time and meditation also keeps me motivated and inspired to go through hectic moments. Meditation and reflecting on past performances helps me unlearn and learn new ways of doing things. Spending time in prayer helps recharge my spirit.
– Spending time with friends, family and sharing experiences with other professionals has also been useful for me to refresh my mind and even find solutions to some challenges and experiences that may seem difficult.
In what ways would you like to see the PR and Communications profession improve across Africa?
The profession has already come a long way but there is always room for improvement. The role of PR is often misunderstood in many organizations and for this reason, its impact has been downplayed even in situations where PR would have solved many problems for the organization.
PR is a management function and must be viewed from that standpoint for it to be beneficial to any organization. Many organizations did not realize the role of PR until the pandemic when they were completely unable to communicate to their customers or field questions from the press on various issues.
In Africa, most organizations have elevated sales and marketing more than PR while PR and Communications is a critical support to these other professions. Organizations need to view PR as a function of management for them to benefit from the impact of PR.
PR professionals also have a role to play in how they execute and apply themselves while on the job. Understanding that PR is different from journalism, HR or even marketing is important for professionals so as to achieve the outcomes expected in the career.
The industry must grow to a level where certification and accreditation is required of PR professionals so as to elevate the profession. Most other careers need their professionals to have licenses, certifications and accreditations to be considered for any job openings. PR is yet to attain that status and has many people working and operating as PR professionals who are not necessarily creating the desired communication impact that would be seen if we had qualified and certified professionals in these roles across the continent. If this can be done, the profession would attain more respect and an even higher status.
What advice will you give to your younger professional self?
Be patient with yourself. Go where there are the best opportunities for you and speak to a career coach if you can. It can save you time and help you discover where your true passions lie. Never sell yourself short even if you are a young professional.
The Comms Spotlight is a weekly segment where we feature communications professionals across Africa doing amazing work. Want to be featured or know someone we should feature? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.