|A tale of two APRs in two cities|
When one thinks of public relations and communication in urban South Africa, more often one tends to think of two destinations, either the jostling concrete jungle of Johannesburg or the cool, carefree sophistication of cosmopolitan Cape Town. These two monolithic metropolises can obscure the existence of public relations in other provinces. Public relations professionals practice in every nook and cranny in this country, at times to an even higher standard than their big city counterparts. For example, the cases of this month’s two APRs- Francois Prinsloo APR and Rufus Kharidzha APR - have made great strides in Free State and Limpopo respectively.
Hailing from the Free State, Francois is fortunate enough to be able to call two great South African institutions, Dale College and the University of Free State his alma maters. Upon graduating, he spent his formative years at the Department of Foreign affairs as a diplomatic cadet and then the Department of Health as the community liaison officer. He then moved on and spent two years at the Vista University as its public relations officer and fundraiser. He then readily tackled a new challenge by joining the ABSA group, also as a public relations officer. His hard work and creativity saw him work his way up various stakeholder relationships. These roles included: ABSA Central Region Corporate communication manager/ CSI manager and Marketing manager.
“Becoming an APR has given me a clear understanding of what effective stakeholder management entails. This new era of public relations is about complimentary advantage and getting various stakeholders to focus on the key denominators.”
Francois holds BA Honours in Anthropology and a Masters in Corporate communication management (both cum laude). He successfully implemented the new ABSA CI and Corporate Communication strategy in 1998 in the central region. In 2005, he was selected as a Rotary Group Study exchange student to represent Rotary SA in Holland. He is also a past chairperson of the PRISA Free State region.
Francois is also a keen participant in his community. Dating back from his student days, Francois has always been involved in societies and programmes that go beyond the call of duty. This saw him sit on the fundraising committee of the Society for Persons with Disability as an advisory member, member of the founding steering committee in the Bloemfontein, Boitshabelo, Thaba Nchu Business Federation (CBI) and host of an 11 week entrepreneurship programme on a local radio station. He is currently the Chairperson of the 7 Dams Urban Conservancy. He is also adept at flower and plant decorations, proving that APRs aren’t just corporate machines but multi-dimensional, dynamic people.
Rufus took a more scenic route into the world of public relations and communication. Having had no background or prior training in the field, he took the plunge and switched careers. He answered what he felt was a calling. Having study social work, Rufus had the presence of mind to go for PRISA training in 1987. This would prove to be a masterstroke and a decision that would hold him in good stead for the rest of his professional life.
After his career switch, Rufus displayed tenacity, enthusiasm and no shortage of talent in his new position as school’s liaison officer (student recruitment) at the University of Venda. He moved quickly through the ranks and went from a lowly admin officer to the loftier position of director in less than four years. This new designation saw him actively involved in the decision-making processes of the institution, from executive to policy formulation as an executive director for the University of Venda Foundation.
As an APR, Rufus felt he could actively engage in these meetings as the accreditation gave him a clearer understanding of the profession and his responsibilities. He also felt it gave him confidence and belief in himself and his skills. On the basis of his APR status, he sat on the Limpopo Tourism and Parks board.
Notable achievements for Rufus are quite impressive and befitting of a man who achieved PRISA’s APR status in 1994. Over the course of his career, Rufus has raised funds for the development of the University of Venda that provided physical infrastructure, human resource development and many community outreach projects. Namely, the Vuwani Science Resource Centre, a mobile clinic, the first Saturday and winter schools in the area, Math and Science bursaries for students and launching the UNIVEN community radio station- which has helped many aspiring radio and television personalities. An undeniable asset to his institution, Rufus left in 2008 to establish his own consultancy, DR Kharidzha Communications.
Looking ahead, both men see PRISA doing even more to pull authentic communicators together and further legitimising the profession.
Rufus also sees PRISA playing a leading role in improving government communication as he feels a lot of the service delivery protests stem from poor or no communication between municipalities and their constituents.
A final word from Francois, on what he believes PRISA can do for the profession and the country.
“South Africa’s success as a country relies heavily on the ability of Corporate, Public and Civil South Africa to find economic solutions that will enhance growth and job creation and will also embrace the principles of sustainability, biodiversity and diversity. To be able to accomplish this ideal, we need individuals who understand the importance of stakeholder management. My vision for PRISA is to be the driving force in equipping South African communicators to lead this process of constructive dialogue as expert communication facilitators”.