Bay PR guru walks his talk

Yolandé Stander

WITH a passion for communication, founder of Port Elizabeth-based Siyathetha Communications Ed Richardson has worked his way up from a vacation job in the newsroom to successful entrepreneur over more than 30 years.

Born in Cape Town, Richardson first set foot in the Eastern Cape when he studied journalism at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.

He obtained a BJourn in 1977.

This also signalled the start to his career and he was given a vacation job at The Herald during the first year of his studies. “From then on I freelanced my way through university. My two mentors at the time were Jill Joubert in the Grahamstown bureau and John Edmunds, who was news editor of The Herald. He was an extremely hard taskmaster, and taught me disciplines that have helped me through my career,” said Richardson.

He then had a stint editing Grocotts Mail in Grahamstown for a few weeks before reporting for duty in the army. “There I ended up editing the army newspaper, Uniform.After that, it was a six-month walkabout in Europe with my wife, Frances, after which I joined Engineering Week in Johannesburg.”

Later he joined Thomson publications as editor of a motor trade journal – the start of another love affair, this time with the motor industry.

“I continue to write about the industry, and am editor of the US-based Automotive Industries, which is the oldest trade journal in the world.”

While at Thomson, he ventured into broadcasting, and joined the SABC.

“My career there saw me writing national news for Springbok Radio and I moved on to the Africa desk – yet another love affair, which is the continent of Africa. I now have the privilege of travelling annually to Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe to research and write about the logistics industry in those countries.” In May 1989 he joined Radio Today and Audiomix as executive producer. “Working with one of the most talented teams anywhere in the world, we kept listeners informed during the roller-coaster years of South Africa’s transition to democracy.

“I also had the privilege of heading up the team which broadcast live from Codesa 1 and Codesa 2.

“By September 1992 I had, quite frankly, burnt out and decided to go into public relations. In addition to reporting on the political changes in the country, I had interviewed a number of South Africans and the world’s top business thinkers. “What was [and is] clear is that businesses fail or do not realise their potential because they fail to communicate effectively internally with their staff or externally with their suppliers and customers.”

After three years in public relations, he decided to indulge in another love – technology – and edited Intelligence Magazine for a short time.

“The family and I decided to ‘semigrate’ to the Eastern Cape after 20 years in Gauteng.”

After a three-year stint as business editor at The Herald and Weekend Post, (1996-1999) Richardson founded Siyathetha Communications in 1999.

“I was business editor on The Herald and Weekend Post. However, the entrepreneurial bug had bitten and I identified a need in the Eastern Cape for communication and research services.

“My career has given me the privilege of working as both a reporter and manager/editor in the mediums of print, radio, television, multimedia and on-line. This has given me an in-depth understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each medium. I remain fascinated by how people communicate [or miscommunicate] in the business, social and political spheres.”

In order to succeed, Richardson believes one should have the ability to keep bouncing back, to stay positive and to keep changing to meet the needs of clients. His message to young entrepreneurs is to feed your hunger for knowledge and constantly hone your skills.

“You will need to constantly adapt and innovate whatever career path you choose. Take calculated risks and learn from your mistakes. If you aren’t making mistakes then you are stagnating.”

Leave a Reply