Local Politics

Hectic entertainment industry did not scare off Afari

“I started my public relations company with zero contacts and zero network in the entertainment industry, but it was possible and so is it for you,” said businesswoman Sheila Afari, the founder of self-named Sheila Afari PR.

The company is rooted in creating and executing specialised public relations campaigns for proud African brands that have a compelling story to tell, while flying the flag high for women in business.

Afari said they hold a firm reputation for being a premium service provider, which is generous in offering consistent results – but the company started from little to nothing.

She had only offered public relations services to a fashion designer without any background. As the deal became a success, she felt it was her time to start and register the business and study PR while the business was up and running.

She first acquired a social science degree in English and psychology and added a public relations certificate from the University of Cape Town.

“I believe my journey is testament to the notion of ‘just start where you are’.

“I didn’t believe I was on the back foot because I had no contacts. I would buy magazines and newspapers and see who and what was being featured to get an understanding of where I could place my clients.

“Over time, as I started getting more clients in the entertainment industry, my network of celebrities expanded by word of mouth and referrals,” said Afari.

Afari offers her services to Cassper Nyovest’s Family Tree, Ami Faku, Kairo Forbes and P&H Boutique, among others.

She said her biggest challenge was working with small businesses in entertainment that have never had PR services before and are having “unrealistic expectations” and a “lack an understanding of how to measure success”.

“Another challenge, particularly in the entertainment industry, is that everything is fast paced. Requests come in and they need to be executed immediately.

“Clients can decide to drop a new song today without giving prior notice and you need to move to make sure they get as much exposure as possible.”

The 10-year-old business won a Prism Award for the work it did on the Isiphithiphiti album by Samthing Soweto and a special Prism mention for the work it did on Ami Faku’s Imali album.

“Carve your own path. There are lessons you can learn from myself and other PR company owners but for true success your business needs to have your own DNA, and only you can establish what that is.

“You are running a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t take short cuts, build the right foundation for your business longevity,” she said.

“Be your own competition. Strive to do better each year than you did the year before.

“It’s not about earning more money or gaining more clients because that will naturally come, it’s about improving your service offering, being innovative, keeping up with trends in the PR industry and fostering great media works.”

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Boitumelo Kgobotlo

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