There are so many opportunities to learn and so many platforms and the more you learn, the more you identify the valuable sources that will help you and your brand grow.Sally Kahiu
On this edition of Women In Marketing, we chat with Sally Kahiu who is the Head of Corporate Communications & Marketing for Kenya Association of Manufacturing. She tells us why there is still space for influencer marketing and touches on the importance of the internet as a source of self-knowledge. Let’s explore further!
LET’S GET PERSONAL
WHERE WERE YOU BORN? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FONDEST MEMORIES?
I was born in what used to be a small town (it has since grown immensely) called Machakos which is an hours drive from Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi. So I am proudly a country girl, always will be.
Machakos is largely semi-arid and hilly. We lived in a small suburb 12 Kilometers from the town in a Government facility for research on drylands. My dad is a scientist. So anyway most of my life was spent, as you can tell, away from the hustle and bustle of busy centres. My dad liked bringing me along on his walks into maize, sorghum plantations and round the grasslands that surrounded our little suburb, describing plants in their scientific names and telling me about their growth processes. It was fascinating! I knew the full name for DNA by the time I was 7 years old. Such wonderful memories.
SHOW OFF TO OUR READERS. ANY HIDDEN TALENTS YOU CAN SHARE WITH US? A CLARINET STAR IN THE MAKING PERHAPS?
I realized my talent for singing when I was in high school. Before then, I didn’t think much of my singing only that it gave me joy. But in high school, I tried out for the choir and I immediately was picked out as one of the outstanding Alto voices. And in my third year, I was named as the School’s Head Choir Leader all through to the fourth and final year. I would say that is what made my high school experience worthwhile.
Oh and poetry, I was a spoken word artist at some point in my young career life and even won a competition for that in 2010!
WE WOULD ALL LOVE TO WIN THE LOTTERY RIGHT? IF YOU WON $10 MILLION TOMORROW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR FORTUNE?
Are you kidding me! Travel of course! I would go to so many places. I am such a curious soul and I don’t think one can ever see enough of the world.
I would buy some real estate in the places that I have travelled to and loved so that I can always go back and spend some time.
I would seek the services of a financial manager to advise me on the worthwhile investments to make and I would also want to know how to develop some of my family’s property further.
Then I would be a patron of the Arts! Poetry, Music, Cultural Expressions – I would support that.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE MEAL? THAT ONE MEAL YOU WOULDN’T SHARE WITH ANYONE!
Fries! Home Fries. Do not touch the fries, please.
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?
Lol! Doctor? Nope. I did however imagine being a scientist like my Father. I like that level of geekiness.
But, I discovered I have the gift of gab whilst working at my mother’s small boutique in Machakos right after my high school.
It was difficult, especially trying to sell off deadstock, but it sharpened my ability to bring out the value in things. One time a young lady was drawn into the shop by a nice colourful top that was hanging by the door, once she stopped and took an interest, I took that as an opportunity to show her some of the older stuff that hadn’t been bought in a while, not because it was bad, but because it was overtaken by time and newer items. I looked at her body type and picked out the dresses I thought would be flattering to her petite figure.
At first, she was hesitant and stated that she hardly wears dresses, because her job is quite manual and that’s where she spent most of her time. I responded by telling her that if she gets a flattering outfit it would surprise her how many social occasions, soirees and activities would suddenly become visible to her. To top it all, I allowed her to pay for the items in instalments at a good discount.
I didn’t get back the buying price for all the dresses, but the look on her face, when she saw herself in a dress that complimented her body, was so fulfilling to me. When she left she said, ‘ Actually the main reason I entered the store (as opposed to looking at the top from the door and moving along) was that you smiled; you were warm and welcoming.”
I knew then that, if I could use my personality to make someone’s day better, to make the world a better place and gain fulfilment, then that is what I want to do in my life.
IF YOU COULD BE ANY ANIMAL IN THE WORLD, WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU BE AND WHY?
A Dolphin. They are such beautiful, playful, peaceful animals. And they have a complex way of communicating which is so enchanting.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU THAT WE WOULDN’T LEARN FROM YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE ALONE?
I am mainly an introvert and this has been very instrumental in growing my leadership skills. Yes, people find it hard to believe that an introvert can be in Marketing Communications but that is a popular misconception. Everyone, regardless of their personality type, brings something to the table. I find that I do my best creative work in solitude and I like my solitude a lot. When I am recharged and ready, I bring my best to the world.
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!
#TEAMTEA Obviously! Strong black tea first thing every morning and then I can taper off with different herbal teas during the day. Yes, I have a tea collection everywhere. My kitchen, My office, My bag. Lol!
Then Music. I must set my theme song for the week, or my soundtrack for the day – it helps me ease into things because I tend to overthink.
Then I bring out my notebook, look at the last things I jotted down the evening before, take note of the tasks finished (Yay for wins!) and pick up on what has not been completed. I am still very old school. I love an actual notebook, without it, I am lost. And then I get to my emails to look at any new areas that need my attention that has popped up.
An important part of my daily routine is catching up with my team. We have a weekly catch up where we are all in the meeting virtually and/or physically. But I take time every day to either call, or text to see how they are doing and what assistance they need.
HOW BEST DO YOU STRIKE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
I am very clear about my boundaries especially now that many things have become virtual. It is easy to find yourself having virtual meetings until late into the night. So it has become increasingly important to be deliberate about my R & R and spending time with my family and friends.
I spend lots of time reading essays and books (fiction) and also watching historical documentaries. I also love hanging out with my friends. We have really good laughs and they are people who bring out the best of me.
Boundaries are sometimes a hard thing to do especially as you become more invested in your work, in projects that you have seeded and are nurturing. But at the end of the day the thing to remember is, nurturing your core and your true self is what energizes your skills. If you don’t take care of you, then the things you do, your day-to-day will be negatively impacted.
YOU OBTAINED YOUR MASTERS IN GLOBAL MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE COVENTRY UNIVERSITY (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?
What I am finding is that there’s a whole world of young women defining creative universes for themselves online. And I am learning from them every day. The spaces they carve out, the ideas that keep growing as they keep discovering themselves anew using the internet, it is an amazing thing to witness! And to all of them, I say keep going, and keep lighting the way!
I believe it is important to begin by identifying your strengths and the things that energize you and bring out your passion. Once you have done that you can go onto the internet and look for people in similar fields who are sharing tips, experiences, and advice. We even have free books online and essays that offer insight into diverse fields. I find it easier to learn from videos. There are a lot of videos on content development, marketing, writing for copy, communication strategies. So much one can learn even from twitter conversations between the public and the brand. The ‘things-to-do’ and ‘common-mistakes-to-avoid.’
There are so many opportunities to learn and so many platforms and the more you learn, the more you identify the valuable sources that will help you and your brand grow. I use the internet daily to learn new things and build my competencies to shape the next steps of my career.
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?
In my view, a lot of people now are quite informed because they have unlimited access to infinite sources of knowledge. This plays a big part in defining present careers from an early stage and even the creation of new career paths that did not exist before. I think it is quite amazing that this is now possible. We are no longer relying on limited streams of information that bind us to ‘orthodox careers’ but can weigh what the world needs, what gaps there are in the market – vis a vis – our core skills and personal strengths.
So we have the discernment to navigate the corporate world and determine what is good, what is valuable, what is short term and what opportunities offer long-term prospects. Within this context then, it has become increasingly pertinent to determine resonance between a work culture and personalities; between business development plans and career visions; between business focus and personal skills and competencies.
When one immediately senses that a place does not resonate with their passion nor does it sync with their skills it is important to find a place that does. Especially in our industry, your energy is an important ingredient to your output, so you have to find a place that energizes you, otherwise, if you end up spending a long time in a place that doesn’t it takes away a huge chunk of time from your life.
At the same time, every place has something to offer in terms of learning, pick what you can and weigh whether you could do with a bit more learning – therefore a longer time there, or its a learning that you are better off carrying into another environment.
SYSTEMS AROUND REMOTE WORK AND VIDEO CONFERENCING ARE INCREASINGLY BECOMING STAPLE IN MOST ORGANISATIONS. ACCORDING TO 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?
Many companies can get caught up in trying to make their ‘tried and tested’ systems the standard, subjecting any changes or dynamics to submit to them. In global conversations and papers on the ‘changing world of work,’ we are seeing that this will not hold up for long if these companies are to continue being productive and secure a place in the future for themselves and their products or services.
The dominant ideas in these conversations are characterised by adjectives such as agile, nimble, adaptive and malleable. Meaning that our systems, policies and plans must be representative of where the world is going. To do so, we must also build work cultures in which these systems and plans are anchored. Because it is true what they say, that ‘ culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Good progressive systems are not going to function in a culture that does not support the vision – one cannot stand straight in a crooked room!
The pandemic has shaken us to this reality. The world as you know it Can change overnight and when it does, you need to be agile, have an equally nimble culture and a malleable ethos for continued productivity and to set the pace for tomorrow.
REMOTE WORK HAS COME WITH ITS OWN SET OF CHALLENGES, PARAMOUNT TO THIS IS THE FACT THAT EMPLOYEES ARE NOW ‘ALWAYS ON’ WITH WORK CARRYING OVER EVEN BEYOND WORKING HOURS. IN YOUR OPINION, HOW CAN ORGANISATIONS MANAGE THIS BETTER TO PROTECT THE WELLBEING OF THEIR EMPLOYEES?
Firstly, I think it is important to acknowledge how transformative the idea of remote working is to the present and future employee. It is shaping the trajectory of human capital growth and informing the kind of investment companies need to make to create an enabling environment for their people. It will cease to be a question of what kind of chairs and desks are comfortable, but what type of environment and infrastructure stimulate productive energy and creativity by incorporating as much of a person’s personality as possible.
As (mostly) an introvert I have appreciated the benefits of working in a space that does not involve me fighting with the over-stimulation of crazy Nairobi traffic in the morning, only to get to work two hours later exhausted and in desperate need of a recharge already. Lol! And that is only one example. A Lot of introverts can relate I am sure! The need to titrate interaction to enable effective working conditions for these types of personalities is key, despite many workplaces being designed for the more extroverted personalities.
That said, indeed there is a need to prioritize the wellbeing of all people so that we do not end up swinging to the extreme end of this novelty, reversing its benefits. Once again the importance of the work culture comes into focus. Before the pandemic perhaps many workplaces had monthly or quarterly scheduled physical meetups and random celebrations (birthdays, weddings, showers) that would break the monotony of everyday work. A virtual space makes us realize that these breaks are needed more frequently.
Just recently, as KAM we had a virtual session where every one of us was giving examples of how we can increase these interactions with each other that reminds us to attend to other parts of ourselves. Suggestions for forming book clubs and exchanging weekly reads among other ideas were given. I think other workplaces can do the same, where they encourage perhaps a sharing platform once every week. People can talk about their latest paintings or the latest documentaries they watched. People can share videos of their newborns and virtual showers can be laid back fun sessions where workers trade babysitting stories or first-step/ first-tooth stories.
The options are endless and again the opportunities to discover parts of ourselves that make us wholesome.
STORYTELLING SEEMS TO BE THE NEXT RISING BUZZWORD. WHAT’S THE Kenya Association of Manufacturers STORY? HOW ARE YOU TELLING IT IN AN INTERESTING WAY?
The story of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers is the story of 61 years of growing the manufacturing industry in Kenya. It is a story of an unremitting commitment to change and a perpetual drive for the economic transformation of our country. A story of the country’s growth, accomplishments, resilience, and more importantly, a story of possibilities.
It is a story of a Nation that has made its mark in the world, from the transcendent dreams of the diverse communities within its borders to its rise as a regional beacon.
It is also a story of the people of Kenya. Their vision for a strong economy that will carry generations to come, their dedication and fortitude, and their innovative spirit.
For years the country has grown in leaps and bounds, Politically, Socially and Economically. Throughout this rich history, KAM has been at the centre of catalyzing this growth and shaping the Nation’s economic progress for 61 years.
Kenya Association of Manufacturers has driven fact-based policy advocacy towards the formation of industrial policies to strengthen and support the country’s economic development.
As the representative body for Kenya’s major revenue earner, the Association has been a credible voice for both Government and Private Sector on matters industry and economic sustainability. We represent 14 sectors of the economy, which are the most critical definers of the state of the Nation’s economy at any given time. These are Food and Beverage Sector, Metal and Allied, Paper and Paper Board, Leather and Footwear, Automotive, Plastics and Rubber among others.
Manufacturing has provided productive jobs that have, in turn, provided security and stability for many Kenyan families.
The sector has steered the development of infrastructure that has consequently opened and connected diverse societies to trade and interact with each other. Subsequently, this has led to Kenya’s long-standing reputation as a preferred investment destination in Africa.
Manufacturing has led the advancement of Kenya’s education curriculum and specifically the Technical Vocational Education and Training centres, as well as supported incubation centres for young aspiring innovators.
Through mechanization and advanced technological solutions industry has bolstered the productivity of the Agricultural sector, contributing to the goal of food security and poverty reduction.
For the past 61 years, Kenya’s pharmaceutical industry has been a critical driver in promoting the health and wellbeing of our population. In doing so it has increased the vitality of individual citizens enabling them to actively take part in building our Nation.
The dispersion of industries in different counties across the country has been a key contributor to equal wealth distribution and shared prosperity. Despite devolution’s teething problems, the vision of the sector is to continue to proliferate in more towns and counties to create employment and reproduce economies of scale.
For 61 years, Kenya’s exports have continued to excel as globally recognized quality brands. For us to continue on this path, the next 60 years look at increasing value addition for these exports. Our global market expansion will be supported by nurturing fiscal policies so that we can continue to multiply revenue streams for our country to propagate shared prosperity for all citizens.
In the next 60 years, with continued automation and use of data, manufacturing promises to be the future of Kenya, with continued investment and deliberate growth of the sector. Additionally, with the increased and deliberate inclusion of Women and Youth to advance sector competitiveness and productivity, Manufacturing is the foundation on which Kenya will secure a sustainable economic future.
Telling our story is a passion for us as the KAM secretariat. We have used different platforms in the past including mainstream media channels to convey our thought leadership and position as a solutions’ provider to the country. Our story-telling is dynamic and has been our industry. We adopt our language and means to continually reach diverse audiences and access new spaces to attract innovation into the sector. Digital story-telling incorporating visual and oral aspects is the way we tell our stories presently, remaining open to the incorporation of new technologies to ensure that the brand is relatable and articulate.
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 Kenya Association of Manufacturers?
Innovation is anything that puts us on a new path to achieving our long-term vision together more effectively. I know that presently innovation has become synonymous with technology and especially within our sector, industry 4.0. But even before we embarked on embracing the internet of things as humanity we were innovative. We have always innovated and invented to survive and thrive.
At KAM, innovation is an idea, a new system, a new policy, a new way of utilizing an existing tool, reformatting of old methods, revisiting old ideas with a new long-term perspective.
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?
Oh, I do! Now more than ever actually. This goes back to my comment about integrating people as a whole person, with their personalities, quirks and all into the world of work – not just hands typing on a keyboard. Now more than ever it has become so important for people to share their worlds and experiences. Start whole movements, find solutions together, find humour in each other’s stories and relate beyond borders. We have seen whole brands brought down by a few powerful twitter threads and we have seen strong brands born and grow quickly out of ‘accidental videos’. Influencer marketing couldn’t be more important especially in the cutting edge global market that is expanding.
The crux is to find your niche, find your language, open your mind to new knowledge and use it to grow and become even more relevant as a story-teller. Open your heart too! Accept and embrace difference and you will find it leaves a significant positive imprint on your career journey.
ANY RECENT/UPCOMING INFLUENCER MARKETING CAMPAIGNS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE FROM Kenya Association of Manufacturers?
Ours is a Business Membership Organization so a whole lot different from other business structures. We want to increase member experience and interaction, whilst at the same time telling our stories to stakeholders.
In the next three months, we will be running campaigns on:
Innovation in the manufacturing sector by local businesses
Women and youth inclusion in the manufacturing sector
And the Manufacturing sector-leading conversations on the circular economy
On our KAM Live series that premiered in 2019 to showcase the work Manufacturers are doing to transform the country every day.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF Kenya Association of Manufacturers BIGGEST SUCCESSES IN MARKETING OVER THE PAST 12 TO 18 MONTHS?
I am proud of all of them but the two close to my heart were:
KAM’s #KeepKenyaMoving Campaign that ran in April, May, June and July of this year at the beginning of the Pandemic’s entry into Kenya. We developed and successfully executed a campaign to lift the Nation’s spirit and call everyone to pull together to keep our country moving during the pandemic.
Manufacturing companies such as BAT East Africa, Bidco, Del Monte, Sil Africa and many more came on board to support the campaign by sponsoring and elevating narratives of hope, continuity, resilience and the innovative spirit of the People of Kenya.
The other was the Changamka Event campaign last year that was the highlight of our big 60 celebrations in which we organized a 3-day manufacturing festival in Nairobi – bringing together all our members, micro, small and large to meet and sell their products to existing and potential customers!
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 Maaza Mengiste’s – ‘The Shadow King‘. It was a gift from a good friend. It is a brilliant book on the role of women in Ethiopia’s fight against colonialism. Very inspiring.
I am also reading the ‘Ministry of Utmost Happiness‘ by Arundhati Roy – It is a book that takes us on a journey of the political and social relations of different communities in India and is told through special characters that straddle many definitions, defy boundaries and capture the complexities of many societies with rich histories.
WHAT IS ON YOUR NETFLIX WATCHLIST?
I am re-watching Merlin. I love some medieval fantasy adventure drama now and then. The humour helps me decompress and the story-telling is quite captivating.
Also watching Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame) – the coming together of cultures, as well as the interspersed use of animations in this form of story-telling makes this series binge-worthy.
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 like the Namaste greeting. Very respectful and you have to take time to acknowledge the other person. I mean look a person in the eye and acknowledge their presence, unlike handshakes which people would often do absent-mindedly. Nothing can replace sincere hugs though!
WHO HAVEN’T YOU SEEN OR TALKED TO IN A LONG TIME AND HOPE THEY ARE DOING OKAY.
My lovely friend Tilinao Thyangathyanga. I haven’t seen her since we went for her wedding in Salima, Malawi. She is a Psychologist and an all-round wonderful person.
A UNIQUE MESSAGE FOR ALL YOUNG PROFESSIONALS IN THE MARKETING INDUSTRY
Ours is an industry that is sensitive to even the slightest change – whether it is a change in global trends, change is cultural perceptions, changing technologies and mediums. We are constantly required to adapt quickly and learn fast to keep being effective at our roles no matter where we are.
It is exciting as it is challenging. But don’t ever tire of learning and not everything that you learned in your classrooms will translate in the real world. Be open to change. Sometimes this will be daunting. Other times it will be disappointing. On some occasions, you may even feel that you are not ‘catching up as fast as you want to’. And it is quite normal to feel that way. You are not the only one. But as long as you keep using everything that you have access to, to better yourself and build your competencies – including tapping into that magnificent personality of yours – then you will be fine!
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
What can change you will change, what cannot you will get through. What is difficult you will overcome, and your best self will manifest in all of these situations.
WHAT CHALLENGE IS ON YOUR PLATE? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAIN POINTS YOU ARE TRYING TO OVERCOME IN YOUR LIFE WHETHER PROFESSIONALLY, PERSONALLY OR BOTH?
I am trying to find newer, more tangible ways of reporting the effectiveness of our communications and campaigns that will be less cumbersome to the team but capture the achievements accurately.
Thankfully I am surrounded by colleagues in the industry also leading similar departments and they are sharing some of their tools and methods for me, so the tricky bit is to find out which particular ones, or which mix and match would work for a unique business such as KAM.
When I crack it, you will be the first to know! After me and the team have a weekend’s worth of celebration. 🙂
WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING 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)?
A visit to Bruges, in Belgium. It is listed as one of the top medieval cities in the world and it looks so gorgeous from pictures! Would love to take a boat tour through the canals in the city one day.
Also a visit to the deserts of Namibia and the sites in Timbuktu.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FEMALE HEROES?
Lady Justice Mumbi Ngugi, Prof. Wangari Maathai, Toni Morrison, Winnie Mandela, Benazir Bhutto, Ama Ata Aidoo, Flora Mutahi, Martha Karua, Grace Ogot, Yvonne Adhiambo Owour, and My Mother – Marjorie Wambui Kahiu.
HOW CAN PEOPLE FOLLOW YOUR COMPANY ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
LinkedIn: Sally Kahiu
Facebook: Kenya Association of Manufacturers
LinkedIn: Kenya Association of Manufacturers