Why is Cape Town such a tech hub? What are the challenges SA tech entrepreneurs face from a communications perspective? What’s the difference between marketing and PR? And what advice would you give students entering the industry?
These are the questions our Brand Warrior (aka Account Director), Ronell Swartbooi, responded to during her interview on Voice of Wits FM, a community radio station based at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Regarding her first interview representing Sprout, she says, “It was strange to be in the very position I would usually be prepping a client for, and I was more nervous than I imagined, considering I was a community radio station presenter and producer when I started my career.”
Below we’ve captured key questions and responses from the interview.
Being based in Cape Town, what factors do you think have made the city such a hub for tech innovation?
Ronell Swartbooi (RS): According to a survey in Ventureburn that specifically asked ‘What makes Cape Town a hotspot for innovation?’, the percentage of startups based in the Western Cape far exceeds those based in other provinces.
The city is a tech hub, because many startups call Cape Town home. The relaxed environment and the regular networking events creating spaces for regular engagement with other like-minded entrepreneurs play a key role.
I got to learn about the Cape Town tech scene by attending Girl Geek Dinners CPT, Startup Grind CPT and Silicon Cape events.
What are some of the challenges SA entrepreneurs are facing in the tech space?
RS: Specifically from a communications perspective, clients that I’ve worked with and entrepreneurs that I’ve spoken to, especially those that have online businesses, struggle with consistently engaging their audiences.
The one challenge I believe companies have is that they are not regularly reviewing and researching their target audiences.
Access to information has changed so rapidly over this last decade and audiences are more online, so it’s critical to do bi-annual reviews to check if identified audiences are still relevant for the messaging being shared by the business.
For effective engagement and outreach, it’s critical to know if your audience is more online than offline, and what current search trends are. A site like Google Trends is quite useful to check if people are searching for what you are selling online.
In engaging with the audience, it seems like having a PR or communications strategy is key to your success as an online business. What is the difference, for those that do not know, between marketing & PR?
RS: Just for clarity, I am a PR practitioner, but I do engage in marketing activities.
Marketing mostly involves engaging an audience with the intention of promoting or selling a product. With strategic Public Relations, though the intention is also brand awareness, the engagement with the audience is different. PR includes media relations and speaking engagements for clients.
When clients approach us for a PR strategy, I find that they want a holistic approach to how they can engage in the industry, whereas clients who want a marketing strategy are solely focused on lead generation and sales.
Do you think our tertiary institutions are equipping young people enough to start and grow an online business?
RS: I can’t speak on how well our tertiary institutions are doing, but I can comment on my experience of interviewing interns for hire. I find that a number of students enter the industry thinking PR is about event management, that it’s glamorous and all about the red carpet.
My advice to students: read relevant publications like BizCommunity and Entrepreneur SA, especially articles written by industry experts. Get to know who’s who in the PR and marketing zoo!