Never become complacent, keep enriching yourself with knowledge and always see what you can learn from people you meet in the industryKeshia Solomons
On this segment of Women In Marketing, We had the chance to chat with Keshia who is the founder of Madi Mei Communications and is also the Digital Manager at Cell Network. The Cape Town-born creative made a transition from fashion to telecommunications and explains why online resources are more important now than ever before where learning is concerned. Let’s dive in!
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
I was born in Cape Town, specifically in the area of Mitchelle’s Plain.
Some of my fondest memories growing up was the community I lived in when I was younger, playing in the streets before the street lights went on, the ice cream truck that would come along on weekends and having my family (mom, dad, and two older sisters) under one roof. Above all my fondest memories are just being a carefree child, and not having many responsibilities. Wish I appreciated those moments more.
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
With a height of 1.59m, I used to be very good at hurdles back in the day. Short but fast. I think I may still have some speed in me (deep down haha). I view myself as a good storyteller too and would love to be a published author someday.
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
I would establish a haven for single moms with kids. A care centre that would serve to educate and help single moms get back on their feet and equip them with confidence and self-assurance to tackle issues that will arise as a single parent. Also, I would travel, travel, travel! If I learnt anything over this period it is to cherish the moments with people that matter and spend your money on experiences and not things.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
Biryani! Oh, how I miss my mom’s cooking. I have recently moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg, and I’ve been craving my mom’s food like crazy. Let’s not forget a good cup of soup on rainy days.
On a normal day though, a good medium-rare steak, yeah not sharing with anyone.
WHAT MADE YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD OF MARKETING? WHAT PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME PUSHED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CAREER? AFTER ALL, WE ALL WANTED TO BE DOCTORS GROWING UP, RIGHT?
I had no idea what I wanted to be or study growing up. One day I was doing promotions for a brand inside a store and an old little lady came up to me and said I would be great in Public Relations, and that’s what I studied.
Fast forward a few years, I ended up being an intern at a Fashion PR agency, one of the brands was Sunglass Hut. When my internship came to an end, I was fortunate enough to land a permanent role as Marketing Assistant at Sunglass Hut, this was in 2012.
The moment I fell in love with marketing was when I was exposed to Digital Marketing.
I am driven by results, I love being able to implement a campaign and then being able to report on the results. I am a creative at heart, digital marketing made it possible for me to implement my analytical side as well as creative side through content creation. Being able to identify the target audience, then create relevant content, then serve it and watch the targeted audience respond. I love every moment of it.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL IN THE WORLD, WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
An eagle. Mostly because of the straits associated with this beautiful and strong bird. Fearless, Tenacious, Nurturer. AND being able to fly, I’d pack up my little nest and head different places every day.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE ALONE?
I am a single mom, a student, a digital marketing specialist, PR practitioner and Entrepreneur. LinkedIn is known as a professional platform, we see all these amazing people and we honestly don’t know all the hats these individuals wear. Being a parent and being able to achieve all my personal goals is something I am very proud of.
ENTERING THE WORKPLACE
GIVE US A SNEAK PEEK OF HOW YOU TYPICALLY START YOUR DAY. ARE YOU #TEAMCOFFEE OR #TEAMTEA? OR BOTH? YOU BEAUTIFUL REBEL!
I must say I am being spoilt at my new place of business, my mornings start with hot chocolate and biscuits. I should most likely stop but I am not ready to let them go just yet. I actually dislike coffee, the idea of not being able to start my morning without a cup of coffee is nice but unfortunately, the bug never caught me.
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I carry plenty of hats, but my weekends are my weekends. I try my absolute best to not do any work over the weekend. Being in the digital space is hard with having social media for work and pleasure, I had to slow down my activity online to ensure I maintain healthy social media consumption.
I appreciate my moments in traffic more, I get very little alone time. In traffic is where I put on my favourite music and have conversations with myself, get everything out that I wanted to say but didn’t.
WHAT APPS/SOFTWARE/TOOLS CAN YOU NOT GO A DAY WITHOUT UTILISING?
Meltwater, this software is great when utilised to its full potential. It is great for drawing customer sentiments online and also being able to reach the relevant media.
Hootsuite, I manage multiple social media platforms, being able to monitor all these accounts in one space helps productivity a lot.
Google Analytics, every day all day.
HOW BEST WOULD YOU DEFINE GREAT LEADERSHIP?
For me, great leadership is having the goal to teach and equip.
The best leaders I have had in my career have been individuals that I have learnt from. Leaders that I aspired to be like oneday. I think now more than ever, as more people realise how precious life is and that work is not everything and an income can be taken away from you in seconds, leaders need to be more compassionate.
YOU HAVE ACCUMULATED AN ENVIOUS AMOUNT OF EXPERIENCE HAVING WORKED FOR TOP-TIER COMPANIES SUCH AS SUNGLASS HUT, CAPE UNION MART AS WELL AS TFG. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THESE ROLES? HOW ARE YOU APPLYING THESE EXPERIENCES IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE AT CELL NETWORK?
I have been fortunate to have worked at these brands. Being a young woman, I have had to push through stereotypes and ageism. I learnt to speak up when I had an opinion, I learnt to be resilient and to adapt to change. I also learnt building good relationships is vital.
Gaining all this experience equipped me to now head up the digital division at Cell Network (MTN’s largest independent retail partner), Amid a pandemic, I was able to push through and land my newly appointed position.
Coming from a fashion background into telecommunications, adapting to change has been the number one lesson I have had to implement. A new environment with different challenges, however, the confidence I have gained along the way has prepared me for this new career journey.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR DIPLOMA IN PUBLIC RELATIONS FROM THE CAPE PENINSULA UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY (GIRL YOU FANCY!). ACCORDING TO GLASSDOOR, IT HAS BECOME SEEMINGLY EASIER TO APPLY TO WORK FOR COMPANIES LIKE GOOGLE, APPLE AND STARBUCKS AS THEY DO NOT REQUIRE APPLICANTS TO HAVE A DEGREE. HOW CAN YOUNG WOMEN UTILISE THE INTERNET TO UPSKILL THEMSELVES PARTICULARLY IF THEY CANNOT AFFORD TO OBTAIN A FORMAL EDUCATION?
I have had a diploma for the past 8 years and not having a degree has not hindered my ability to obtain employment in places I wanted to work at. I have however recently decided to go back to school and get my degree, but this is more because it is a personal goal.
In the digital space, you can teach yourself if it is something of interest to you. Getting Google certifications is free and Facebook offers guidance on how to effectively manage a company page. It is really up to you how much time you are willing to invest to upskill yourself.
Also, I greatly advise seeking a mentor in the environment you want to be in. It is always great to network and gets to know people in the industry.
There are some free digital courses too, being good at digital marketing requires reading and practise. Become good at digital marketing and before you know it, you could be adding entrepreneur next to your name.
JOB HOPPING IS A COMMON PHENOMENA ESPECIALLY IN THE DYNAMIC WORLD OF ADVERTISING AND MARKETING. WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON JOB HOPPING? DOES IT HURT OR AID ONE’S CAREER?
To this day my parents still tell me about their 20-year career at one company and yes, some companies still view job-hopping in a negative light.
Personally, if I did not job hop I would not have the experience I have now. Being able to work with different people, on different brands, in different environments is one of my career highlights. My creativity is fuelled by working with different people with different perspectives and views. When I step into a new company, I come with fresh ideas, a new outlook and that is great for any brand that wants to move ahead in a tough market.
I don’t think job-hopping is a bad thing if anything, a company could gain so much from individuals that have been exposed to different brands and environments.
FORBES HAS AN ANNUAL ‘THE WORLD’S MOST INFLUENTIAL CMOS’ REPORT. FOR THE YEAR 2019, ONE OF THE KEY HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE REPORT WERE THAT 31 OF THE 50 CMOS LISTED WERE WOMEN. IN YOUR OPINION, IS THIS A POSITIVE REPRESENTATION OF GENDER EQUALITY?
It is great to see women taking up space and being in positions of influence. It is positive to see that more than half of the top 50 are women. It shows that change is indeed taking place and shows that gender should not be the deciding factor but merit.
COVID19 HAS BROUGHT WITH IT AN UNPRECEDENTED DISRUPTION TO THE WORLD. SEVERAL COMPANIES ARE NEARING BANKRUPTCY WHILE OTHERS HAVE BEEN FORCED TO SHUTDOWN OR LAY OFF THEIR STAFF. WHAT SHOULD THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION BE ESPECIALLY IN THE MARKETING CONTEXT AS WE ADAPT IN THIS ENVIRONMENT? HOW HAVE YOU AND YOUR DEPARTMENT COUNTERED THE EFFECTS OF THE PANDEMIC?
Marketing is seen as an expense. At my previous company when lockdown went into effect, all marketing activity was placed on hold, except for social media. The entire online strategy had to change. From pushing the content of product and sales, we now had to become relevant to our audience. They did not need to see content of a sales nature but content of a relatable nature.
Marketing allows us as marketers to get into people’s personal space, whether via their phones, television, radio etc. in my opinion, the best way to adapt to this new form of normal is to ensure you make your consumer love your brand. Brand loyalty is more important now more than ever. When times are tough like now, your loyal customers will return, or even do everything they can to support your business.
If you can be online as a brand, go online without hesitation. That is the current process my team and I are working on. To make the online customer journey as seamless as possible. Also with tight budgets, targeting accurately is important.
Don’t cast your net wide, be intentional with your marketing activities, ensure you are speaking to the right people.
SYSTEMS AROUND REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING ARE INCREASINGLY BECOMING STAPLE IN MOST ORGANISATIONS. ACCORDING TO THE INFOGRAPHIC CREATED BY VISUAL CAPITALIST, ZOOM IS NOW WORTH MORE THAN THE 7 BIGGEST AIRLINES IN THE WORLD AT A WHOPPING MARKET CAPITALIZATION OF JUST OVER $40BN. SUFFICE TO SAY, REMOTE WORKING IS AN ASPECT OF MODERN-DAY WORK THAT HAS BEEN LONG OVERDUE. IN YOUR OPINION, WHY HAVE MOST ORGANISATIONS STRUGGLED TO CONVERT TO THIS WAY OF WORK?
There are a few aspects that have played a role in the struggle to adapt to this new way of work, companies have concerns around the productivity of their employees when working from home, in SA network reliability is still a big issue added with load-shedding, cybersecurity, you have 3 generations working in the workplace with the earlier generation still believe that “bums on the seat” = productivity.
MARKETING OBJECTIVES WILL MOST LIKELY CHANGE DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. HOW HAS YOUR ORGANISATION PIVOTED WHERE MARKETING IS CONCERNED, AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE A DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY AMID THE PANDEMIC?
The major change has come with the move of digital being a nice to have to a requirement.
Brick and Mortar will always be a focus but now it is equally layered by e-commerce. South Africans have taken slightly longer to adapt to the online shopping process, however, the pandemic forced some to adapt faster. I have now been brought into my new organisation to fine-tune the digital strategy to ensure the online cycle is as operational as at store level.
If you didn’t have a digital strategy in place as an organisation, you would have been left behind during this time. It’s not only about having an e-commerce store but it’s also about being available to your audience via their preferred medium and maintaining relevance.
BCG PUBLISHED ITS INNOVATION REPORT FOR 2020 AND AT THE CORE OF ITS SELECTION CRITERIA ARE COMPANIES THAT HAVE SUCCESSFULLY MARRIED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN THEIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES. ACCORDING TO YOU, WHAT MAKES SOMETHING INNOVATIVE? HOW DO YOU DEFINE INNOVATION AT CELL NETWORK?
Innovation is the introduction of something new to make a process or system better. Innovation in the Cell Network context would be the introduction of a new way to communicate/engage with our customer, a way that would make their lives better or improve the way they engage with our service.
At Cell Network we focus on being customer-centric, and as more and more of our targeted consumer moves online, that is where we will be innovative to improve the service process.
AT THE TIME OF PUBLISHING, THE DIGITAL MARKETING INSTITUTE ESTIMATED THAT THE INFLUENCER MARKETING INDUSTRY WILL HIT THE $10BN MARK BY 2020. WHETHER B2B OR B2C, IT’S EVIDENT THAT BRANDS AND ORGANISATIONS HAVE HAD THEIR SUCCESS WITH THIS MODEL OF MARKETING. HOW WILL THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AFFECT THIS INDUSTRY GOING FORWARD AND DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS STILL A PLACE FOR INFLUENCER MARKETING?
People would have been on their phones now more than ever.
During this period, influencers were still generating content, the only thing that changed was the actual product. We saw influencers moving away from travel based post, to creating content about wearing masks and sanitizing your hands. COVID may affect the budget available for brands to secure the influencers they desire, however, this may be a good thing as it forces brands to stop looking at the following but to dive into the engagement these individuals receive on the post and start to work with more micro-influencers and dive into their online customer base and use the influence of their loyal customers online.
There is still a place for influencer marketing during this period as people stay indoors and social media usage continues to increase.
ANY RECENT/UPCOMING INFLUENCER MARKETING CAMPAIGNS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE
A recent influencer campaign I worked on was for the jewellery brand Nomination. It was during the first stages of the lockdown. I worked with the finalist of the Mrs South Africa pageant. We created the campaign #LoveNomination, the challenge was to encourage our audiences to share a photo of them creating a heart sign with their hands and posting it using the campaign hashtag. The idea around this campaign was to show a united front while we were in this pandemic and to show all the hospital staff our support.
This challenge brought the online community together. It was not about sales, but about being relevant to the online community.
2020 AND BEYOND
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? (WHAT DO YOU READ, AND HOW DO YOU CONSUME INFORMATION? PAPERBACK VS EREADER?)
I am currently reading, ‘Shoe Dog’: A Memoir by the creator of Nike by Phil Knight. When the pandemic hit, I found myself on short pay and needed to come up with an income solution, thus my agency Madi Mei Communication was born. I used my skills to help small businesses set up their online presence. When reading this book, you realise how important trial and error is but also how rewarding perseverance is.
I still love a good old book when reading, however, most of the information I consume is online-based including my studies.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
Orange is the new black, Challenger-The Final flight, How I met your mother
AS WE LEARN TO LIVE WITH COVID19 IF YOU COULD REPLACE THE HANDSHAKE AS A FORM OF GREETING, WHAT INTERESTING NEW GREETING WOULD YOU INTRODUCE?
I honestly just miss seeing people’s smiles when greeting, I could forgo the handshake, but the friendly smile, miss these.
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY?
I guess this allows the beauty of social media to shine. Even when you don’t physically see someone you are still able to see their profiles. But someone I haven’t seen in forever nor spoken to is the first nanny I had after giving birth to my daughter. I had to head back to work when my daughter was 4 months old. She was such a beautiful soul. She had to head back to her home country and I never saw her again.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Climb the ladder at your own pace. You do not need to step on anyone to get to the top. Slow and steady wins the race. What is due to you will be yours.
Never become complacent, keep enriching yourself with knowledge and always see what you can learn from people you meet in the industry.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
I still count myself as young at 29 :), but what I would tell the younger version of myself is, don’t let the opinion of others cloud your judgement of yourself. People will always have an opinion, whether good or bad, their opinions are not facts.
WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAINPOINTS YOU ARE TRYING TO OVERCOME IN YOUR LIFE WHETHER PROFESSIONALLY, PERSONALLY OR BOTH?
Getting to know the telecommunication customer and their purchasing behaviour
Adapting to a male-dominated industry
Being back in the office every day after working from home for 6 months.
Moving to a new city, missing my support structure.
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING OUT FOR AWESOME WOMEN IN MARKETING TO PROFILE. WHO WOULD YOU LIKE US TO INTERVIEW IN FUTURE?
ANY BUCKET LIST ITEMS (PROFESSIONAL AS WELL AS PERSONAL)?
Attend the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE ROLE MODELS?