During Women’s Month, HYPE will bring you exclusives with the hottest women in front and behind the cameras. This time around we got to interview PR guru, Sheila Afari, who’s literally running ish from an artist publicity perspective, with clients such as Khuli Chana, AKA and DA .L.E.S. Here’s all the info you need to know about this highly intelligent and business-minded 28 year old individual.
When did you officially launch your PR company, and what qualifications do you have under your name?
I launched my PR company in 2012 after resigning from my job. I hadn’t intended on starting a PR company but an opportunity came my way and I believed I could take on the challenge. Once I put my mind to it, I got some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry as clients within the first 6 months. I have an undergraduate Degree in English and Psychology from the University of Cape Town. I have a certificate in Public Relations from the University of Cape Town and I’ve completed my Honours Degree in Psychology through UNISA. I’m just waiting to graduate early next year.
What are the challenges of owning your own business and how did you get it off the ground?
I started my first business whilst still at university in 2008, so getting the PR business off the ground was a lot easier as I had a bit more experience and was more confident as an entrepreneur. I got my PR agency off the ground by approaching a new brand on the market that I thought was really innovative and offered them free services to show them what I could do. 3 months later they became a paying client. I’m a believer that to get a business started you don’t need money (depends on the type of business of course). I started with nothing, and then used the money the business generated to grow the business. You can’t always wait for funding or loans to get started. Sometimes you need to make do with your own means. However, as the business grew I realised that to make more money you actually need money. So when clients pay invoices late it really does affect the bottom line of the business and that’s where my biggest challenges lay. This challenge has since become easier by having a third party issue out the invoices and chase up on payments as well as have stricter criteria on which clients pay for their services on a month to month basis and which client need to pay for their services upfront in full.
Apart from your music clients, what other services do you offer?
I service clients within the fashion and lifestyle industries as well. I’ve serviced skin care brands, fashion labels, fashion weeks, chefs and so on. Apart from generating publicity across print, broadcast, online and social media, we also provide the following services: Brand & Event Campaigns; Brand Strategies (3, 6, 12 months); Product & Brand Media Reviews; Media Releases (Writing & Distribution); Newsletters; Media Buying; Media & New Media Monitoring; Personalised Gifting; Radio Sampling (Music); Bookings Administration (Quotes, Invoices, Contracts). We also do consultations on Reputation Management; Crisis Management; Public Brand Image (Definition, Perception, Maintenance)
What is the biggest challenge in PR?
Doing PR for a brand or personality in isolation. PR needs to form part of a bigger strategic picture. PR doesn’t directly translate to sales or bookings. A different arm of the team needs to know what to do to monetize the brand and should use the PR generated to assist with the end goal. Without proper management and strategy, trying to survive on PR alone is not sustainable.
For aspiring ladies looking into getting into your industry, what’s the biggest piece of advice you can offer them?
Every second person claims to be a publicist and then 6 months later they are nowhere to be found. A qualification in PR and knowing someone who works at a publication isn’t going to cut it. You have to work very hard in this industry and be consistent. You are only as good as your last job.
People often make the mistake of classifying or grouping Hip Hop artists together as if they are all the same. A lack of PR often results in this. I believe PR is very important for Hip Hop artists. To be able to communicate what your brand is to the public, you first need to understand it and define it. Knowing that your brand is unique, what your strengths and qualities are, enables you to shape a career where you a running a race against yourself and not trying to be like every other Hip Hop artist in the game.
What is the creative process like when you have to do damage control in a situation where your client is involved in a controversial story that is in the public?
Truth is always key. The public appreciates authenticity. I believe the key stakeholders involved need to be addressed first and the involved stakeholder group is not always the general public. However when the message does need to go to the public, it needs to be the same sentiment felt across the internal team, particularly with the person or brand in question. It does not make sense to send out conflicting press statements. The latter can occur when communication around controversial matters are rushed.
Biggest piece of advice to rappers?
Run your own race. Trying to compare yourself to your competitor will only distract you. Doesn’t matter if people think you are similar to other rapper, you need to acknowledge that your brand is a stand-alone brand. You need a vision for your brand.
What motivates you in life?
Being in control of my life motivates me. There is no ceiling to what I can achieve. I wake up every day at 4am happy to go about my day doing what I do because I’m creating my own destiny. I’m also motivated by other young people doing things for themselves. It inspires me that because of risk takers jobs are being created, solutions to problems are being invented, and we get to shape our futures with very little limitations.