Strategic PR is a full service communications consultancy with a special focus on the hospitality and catering industry operated by Vanessa Naudé. With a strong background in journalism and corporate marketing, Vanessa has shared some of her successful strategies in offering a personalised PR service to various clients in the foodservice industry, as well as in the entertainment and leisure industry. Drawing on the strength of her exceptionally strong ongoing media relations allows her to utilise these for the benefit of her current clients includingMontecasino, Tsogo Sun Gaming, Unilever Foodsolutions, McCain Foods (SA), Slo-Jo, Hostex and Markex.
Evolving from her role as Account Director of Cathy Findley Public Relations, she developed her knowledge of the hospitality industry clients by working with the likes of SACA (South African Chefs Association), Tsogo Sun, Sandton Convention Centre and Fedics. Vanessa comments on having strong mentors such as Bill Gallagher (SA Chef) who taught her the art of negotiation and diplomacy and Cathy Findley (Managing Director of Cathy Findley PR) who guided her in being professional, pro-active and service orientated.
After obtaining valuable experience, the natural progression was to start her own PR consultancy and through the association of Bill Gallagher, SACA became her very first client. Describing SACA’s board of directors as being very supportive while working alongside them, the many contacts formed in this industry proved to be invaluable in acquiring her next client, Unilever Foodsolutions. The first project entailed working on an exciting publicity campaign called “By Invitation Only”, which was the brainchild of Craig Elliott (National Executive Chef of Unilever Foodsolutions), and later going forward with the popular “Chef of the Year” competition as well as a full on brand focused PR campaign. During the same time, McCain Foods came on board where Vanessa had the opportunity to be involved in launching their creamed spinach and signature range of coated chips.
Apart from foodservice clients, Vanessa also had the opportunity of working with Tsogo Sun Gaming, one of the leaders in the entertainment and leisure industry in South Africa, with seven world class casino properties and leisure destinations. Her role was to develop a PR campaign that would highlight all their innovative and customer-centric marketing initiatives, including their strategic partner alliance strategy and sensory marketing initiatives. Having the opportunity to work on a client of this nature exposed Strategic PR to world class strategic thinking. Roughly around the same time she was asked to develop a PR campaign that would launch what was then known as the East End Development, a construction site, which has since then become the Montecasino Piazza - the outdoor extension that houses the Teatro, South Africa’s largest theatre which has seen the likes of the record-breaking “The Lion King” grace its stage. By working on this campaign, her relationship with Montecasino grew to become one that is extensively involved on all aspects of their PR revolving around their corporate branding and spectacular events such as the SA Tennis Open, Celine Dion concert, various theatre productions and numerous festivals.
Strategic PR’s small but energetic team consists of Vanessa, who is integrally involved in the day-to-day direction of each client’s PR campaign; Jené Godfrey, who has been with the company for nearly five years, and Vinolia Mokhutle, who joined the team just over a year ago. Vanessa believes that their shared commitment to delivering great customer service and ability to work well as a team are essential ingredients in their success.
When asking Vanessa about the challenges she encounters in running a PR consultancy, she explains that striking a balance between the requirements from the media and the client’s expectations for a newsworthy story can sometimes be difficult. This is especially true of consumer publications as opposed to trade publications and daily newspapers. “I’ve sometimes had clients who confuse the role of advertising with the role of PR and expect a promotional message to be printed by the media as editorial,” says Vanessa.However, highlighting a newsworthy angle, while still getting the client’s message across is one of Strategic PR’s specialities. Other challenges include being able to secure TV coverage without cost implications as many stations have become increasingly commercial and limited in terms of the brand exposure allowed. Vanessa also believes that integrating both the social media and the online aspect of PR in a meaningful way can also prove to be a test in itself.
The benefits of approaching a PR company to boost your marketing efforts entail their specialised knowledge of writing for the media, great partnerships based on mutual trust and respect with the media, understanding the requirements and constraints of different publications and identifying newsworthy stories. “It is essential t to have a keen interest in capturing the essence of a company’s activities, spirit and vision and then translating that into a PR campaign”, says Vanessa.
With journalists becoming accustomed to dealing repetitively with the same PR companies, they can rely on articles that are written to their requirements and specifications. PR companies are often faced with having to prove their value in comparison to advertising.Vanessa says that the two disciplines actually work best when used in conjunction with each other. Advertising fulfils a vital function in brand building that cannot be achieved by PR in isolation. PR also can’t deliver the same repetition that advertising can. However, publicity delivers a degree of credibility that advertising can’t achieve and assists in creating a profile and positioning for a company. Best results are achieved when the PR consultancy and advertising agency or media planner work together to deliver on a client’s strategic marketing objectives.
When it comes to measuring PR value, there are various monitoring services available that track media coverage for clients. For example, Newsclip offers a web interface service that is live and immediate and allows for daily tracking. This is especially useful for high profile clients who receive extensive media coverage.Montecasino for example receive an astonishing amount of incidental and proactively generated publicity every day and therefore benefit hugely from this type of monitoring service.
Some of Vanessa’s most exciting projects have included the publicity campaign to launch the outdoor extensions to Montecasino which involved overseeing the project management of the official launch in which Watershed and the Bala Brothers appeared on the Piazza stage. Another major event on Strategic PR’s calendar is the annual “Chef of the Year” event hosted by Unilever Foodsolutions. Being one of South Africa’s oldest and most well-supported chef competitions, it constantly evolves each year with new categories, new criteria and new flavours. Having to roll out a campaign that includes the call for entries right through to profiling the finalists and the announcement of the winner is very rewarding as it gives these chefs the opportunity to be in the media spotlight. With Vanessa’s broad experience of dealing with the foodservice media, she finds that they are receptive to ideas and angles particularly when there is exclusivity to the story. Enjoying what this exciting industry has to offer, she believes that as her clients’ business has evolved from year to year, so have the services that she provides.