Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Technology is the greatest catalyst for change, both in the newsroom and in the communications industry itself, says Vincent Magwenya, founder and CEO of Conversations Media & Communications.

“We’ve had to adjust the way we engage with consumers and create content. Journalists are under pressure and newsrooms are downsizing dramatically,” he says. On the upside, he says, the industry has reaped the benefits of journalists who have redirected their skills and focus to assist agencies and their clients with both their communications strategies and their messaging.

It’s a complex operational environment, at the centre of which lies a consumer who is no longer a passive receiver of information, but rather a participant in the creation and distribution of content, Magwenya says. He believes that in this environment it is not enough to simply provide consumers with engaging content; brands need to understand what value is from a consumer standpoint.

Once this is understood, he says, there is a greater chance of establishing shared value between brand and consumer. “We need to think more creatively. Very often, what is of value to the consumer has little to do with the product or service on offer. We need to be able to create meaningful connections around the issues consumers care about.” Topics such as environmental sustainability, social relationships, leadership ethics and how companies do business are more top of mind at the moment for consumers than products, he says, adding, however, that price will always remain an important point of consideration.

Using a strategic approach to communication is central for Magwenya, who recently resigned as CEO of Magna Carta to establish Conversations Media & Communication. He says a strategic approach is more than understanding what clients do – it’s about getting to grips with the client’s entire ecosystem. “The operating environment will always have an effect – be it direct or indirect – on both a company’s communication success and the success of the business in its totality. I am most curious about the issues in the client’s environment over which he or she has no control, measuring how they affect the business and how the client is geared to deal with them. This is the starting point of any strategy,” he says.

Analytics, too, are an important part of Magwenya’s approach. He points out that clients tend to test and analyse factors such as take-up or brand perception. These variables are relevant; too many clients, he says, fail to look at what consumers really want, what they go through in their daily lives and how a particular product can be either an enabler or a burden in this context. “Too little time is spent on these indicators, and yet they help us understand the consumer better and ultimately create more impactful messaging,” he says, adding that data of this nature is as important as the data collected about the brand itself.

While SA’s stagnant economy provides a challenge for industries across the board, it’s an opportunity for agencies to shift their focus, he says. “This is a good time to look for broader, more innovative business solutions and collaborative partnerships that can help our clients out of this tough situation,” he says.

The big take-out: CEO of Conversations Media & Communications, Vincent Magwenya, has experienced 22 years of change in the industry. He believes that understanding the values of consumers and creating innovative business solutions for clients is the best way to beat the tough operating environment. 

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