Copyright 2018

By S'phelele Mhlophe Durban University of Technology

Celebrating 59 years of existence, Public Relations Institute of South Africa (PRISA) hosted a two-day conference at the Elangeni & Marahani Hotel in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal culminating with the Loeries and DSTV seminar on Friday.

This was such a great experience and opportunity as we had delegates from around South Africa, public relations practitioners, communication specialists who have been in the industry for decades. This created a great connecting and networking opportunity for everyone.

One of the most thrilling and exciting part about the conference was my interview with the PRISA president, Thabisile Phumo APR. She holds qualifications in Corporate Communication, Public Relations Management, Project Management, Social Development and Leadership. She is currently the senior vice-president at Sibanye Gold and the vision bearer of inspired connections, a professional women’s network. She is also a mother of three daughters and a very humble woman of substance and integrity.

Approaching Thabisile after the conference and asking her if I could have a few minutes of her time to interview her she said, “Do you want to do it now or over lunch? Come join me for lunch”.

I was so nervous but at the same time felt so privileged to receive such an invitation.

We had a short Q&A interview that follows:

Q: How does being a member of PRISA benefit a student pursuing a career in public relations?

A: “It benefits the student at different levels.  Firstly you are able to understand the profession you are growing in.

Secondly, learn from other practitioners that are in the industry because there’s a lot of benchmarking, but there’s a lot of continuous development projects that we got that you can optimize your training.

Thirdly, adhere to the PRISA Code of Ethics and Professional Standards for the Practice of Public Relations and Communication Management. With this commitment you will know what the contexts are and parameters in which you need to operate.”

Q: What challenges have you come across in your career in PR?

A: “Lack of understanding of public relations as an industry I was operating in.  Lack of credibility - public relations was seen as more of an eventing role rather than a strategic role which made it difficult to add value.”

Q: What is the most gratifying part of your public relations position?

A: “Learning from other people that I meet through my role in PRISA. Being able to make a difference for the profession, and trying to contribute to the advancement of the profession.”

Q: What are some of the good courses that make a public relations person well grounded?

A:  ‘Research, as a public relations person you need to have the ability to use any form of data or information given to you.

  • The ability to understand business
  • Financial management, for example, public relations practitioners spend money on campaigns, you must show value for the money you’re spending.
  • Corporate governance - operating within a frame work of ethics, public relations role is to ensure that there’s good corporate governance within an organisation.”

Q: What is the least and favorite part of your job?

A: “Favorite: No single day is the same, you are always dealing with different issues and various departments and your scope of growth and development is quiet huge.

Least favorite: Travelling, don’t get enough time to spend at home.”

Thank you Thabisile.

Thabisile Phumo is a diverse person who not only focuses on work but also writes. She has dedicated two hours of her Sunday mornings to writing her own professional women’s network called: Inspired to be, a platform for networking, learning and the creation of strategic connections.

“Inspire yourself daily- Life is tough, but those who succeed do so because something or someone inspires them daily. Learn to inspire yourself.  The best inspiration comes from within. Oprah won’t do it for you, no matter how many master classes you watch.” This is one of the quotes from her blog.

It was such a great learning experience and opportunity to have attended the conference. Being at the Loeries and DSTV seminar was exhilarating, I never thought I’d actually get to meet half the people I did at the seminar. The knowledge and experience gained working with the PRISA team showed me what public relations is all about and how the industry operates out there and the hard work you have to put in in order to stand out amongst the crowd.

I just want to thank Adele and the rest of the team for such a great opportunity, it was an informative conference and I had so much fun.


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