Our Comms Spotlight this week is Nyawira Gikandi, the Communications Manager at the Centre for Health Solutions in Kenya. Nyawira plays an important role in health communications and she is also passionate about research and networking. In this interview, she shares what her journey towards building a successful communications career has been like and some important advice for upcoming professionals.
What do you do as Communications Manager at Centre for Health Solutions, Kenya?
Centre for Health Solutions – Kenya is a Kenyan not-for-profit organisation that seeks to serve local communities by addressing existing and emerging public health needs. My role incorporates various tasks, including strategy development and implementation, stakeholder engagement and management, media relations, external audiences program development, internal communications, scripting, editing and managing all other communication aspects that my team is involved in, including photography, writing, documentation, website management, design etc.
How did you begin your career in Communications, and what are the deliberate steps you’ve taken to grow professionally?
I think activities in my childhood formed the basis of my career path. I did lots of poetry, recitals, public speaking and debates growing up.
My career in communications however began during my internship days. As an undergrad student in my first year, I was not sure which branch of communications to major in so I did a lot of internships. I fell in love with health and development communications. I have been within this space since.
My journey has been a consistent pursuit of identifying new ways to do the same things, building my skills, countering comfort zones and surrounding myself with a power circle (people that pat my back when I do well and call me out when I don’t)
What are some of the challenges you have faced in your journey so far and how did you overcome them?
Creating a space for communications in organizations and among professionals that don’t appreciate the powerful role of communications was quite a challenge. I have overcome this by to creating inclusive and engaging communication plans, involving various parties in the implementation process and frequently sharing impact, reach etc. I’ve realized people are willing to engage and learn more when they visualize how they fit into the bigger picture i.e. make it make sense for them. Share your data and share your stories
What changes will you like to see in the practice of PR and Communications in Africa?
PR and Communications has come a long way and the advent of social media has also made it easier for communications professionals to share and interact which is a great way to ensure consistent growth. As comms professionals, we are often tasked with creating and maintaining narratives and I’m certain all that effort will come into fruition in the couple of years.
In the spirit of narrative creation, I wish more of us could take time to write research papers about the PR space in Africa I believe this would serve a great role in informing current and future practices within this space.
Can you share some books and resources that have helped you along your career path?
I am member of CIPR-UK. This has been a great avenue for information and to interact with professionals from all over the world
I keep up with reports like the media landscape report released by IPSOS earlier in the year which informed communication campaigns that we have done at CHS in the last couple of months
I try my best to read research papers on public relations… the Institute of Public Relations has been a great resource for this.
What advice will you give upcoming Communications professionals who want to follow your path?
I believe your vision is your greatest strength, identify what that is and watch it light your path.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses. As you work on your weaknesses remember to make your strengths stronger.
Learn, learn, learn; ask, ask, ask and share, share, share.