Spotlighting ICCO’s new African region president, Bridget von Holdt

ICCO is pleased to announce that five Regional Presidents have been appointed, who will represent the recently formed Regional Boards covering Europe, Americas, Middle East, Africa and Asia. Bridget von Holdt, Executive Director, Glasshouse Communication Management and nominated candidate of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa (PRISA) board, was recently elected as African region president of ICCO.

Darren Gilbert, media update interviews Bridget von Holdt about her plans in the role, the state of PR in Africa, and the challenges the industry faces.

Congrats on your recent appointment. What does this mean to you, both on a personal and professional level?

Personally, I am passionate about the PR profession and it is rewarding to see how our environment is growing in stature, importance and relevance. I have seen PR grow from a simple press release to a strategic need within management and business leadership. PR has finally come of age and the corporates are realising that stakeholder engagement and reputation management is more than just an event or a media engagement.

Professionally, Glasshouse is positioned as a key role player within the PR environment. This position is an honour and we are happy to be part of the growing global environment.

What will be your main focus as African region president of the ICCO? What needs to be done in the African region?

Africa tends to be the forgotten continent, yet is identified as a focal growth point for so many international companies. We need to increase our voice and collaborate to increase our business footprint.

Use the ICCO platform to position Africa and the agencies represented on the continent as strategic partners, as innovative and, of course, as the experts within the region.

In May 2017, ICCO will host their Board meeting in South Africa – an opportunity for the practitioners to get closer to the international team, to forge relationships and interrogate trends.

As the PR / Communication profession continues to grow, so the value of ICCO needs to grow in evidence. As a region, we need to encourage more of our colleagues to join ICCO take advantage of the benefits.

We also need to take advantage of technology and communicate, share and collaborate more.

What is your take on the state of public relations in Africa?

Africa has grown in leaps and bounds. The world is a global village and with access to information, conferences, collaboration and networking, public relations in Africa is at the same standard as the rest of the world.

The success factor is to deal with a company (a consultant) that has a reputation and that works according to international ethics and standards, and has such as ICCO members.

In your opinion, what is the PR industry getting right? What impresses you most about the industry in Africa?

The need for professionalising the profession worldwide. Benchmarking of campaigns and global insights

Measurement of campaigns based on an international system – Gone are the AVEs and this pleases me no end. Public Relations campaigns cannot be measured on AVEs as this belittles our skills, our expertise and our knowledge.

Conversely, what is the biggest challenge that the PR industry faces in Africa?

We need to stand out [from] the clutter.

Then there is the dominance of global players buying out the independent agencies – I am a great believer in independent agencies who specialise.

More and more consultancies need to make the leap to joining a professional body or organisation to ensure standards and adhere to ethics – this gives clients reassurance that they have selected a reputable company in whose hands they have placed the reputation of their brand.

We need to be pushing international standards – mediocre is not good enough. And ensuring that we then all measure our outputs and expectations in the same way. Benchmarking has become increasing important as we see more of the multinationals operating around the globe.

Finally, we need to move away from the perception that public relations in Africa is about being part of the third world – it is not.

How will you judge your own success as African region president at ICCO? Have you set yourself any non-negotiable goals?

We need to get the conversation going. An increase [is needed] in those participating in the conversation. It’s all about that word: engagement.

We have the ICCO board meeting taking placing in South Africa for the first time in May 2017, which will be linked to the PRISA Conference and PRISM Awards. This already is an achievement. And more so, a great opportunity to meet with mentors and PR practitioners from around the world.

There also need to be a closer relationship with our own PRISA and ICCO, as well as a greater awareness of measurement, of standards, and of ethics.