#LearningCurve: PR guru stamps mark on industry

After seven years of heading Kaizer Chiefs’ public relations team, Putco Mafani traded his nine-to-five job for more demanding work – entrepreneurship. With minimal savings in hand and a rich contact base, Mafani and his wife Bongi established a PR and consulting firm in 2007 that initially specialised in sports.

Today, Putco Mafani Consulting (PMC) has a diverse client list, from government departments to artists and public figures.

Between them the pair split tasks with Mafani focusing mostly on the “hustling” – sourcing clients – while Bongi manages and ensures the business runs like a well-oiled machine.

Nestled in the Clevedon office building in Mount Croix, the company permanently employs a dynamic team of seven.

What is your core service?

Media and public relations, master of ceremony services, and events.

What made you venture into this type of service industry?

Generally this is not an industry where black people participate. So we identified a gap and thought we would maximise our knowledge of PR and related events and carve our niche, more so as previously disadvantaged persons.

But when did you see the opportunity for Putco Mafani Consulting?

After a glorious seven years with Kaizer Chiefs, I decided to go on my own and opened a PR agency specialising in sports events, branding, sponsorships, and my wife joined me later and we have not looked back since.

And what makes your business unique?

We have an impeccable reputation. The brand Putco Mafani has been built over many years from a radio and television perspective. Combine that with professional football marketing and PR management with top football brands like Kaizer Chiefs, and that is something that works for us.

If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?

Good personal branding is key. Remember there is nothing that is as valuable as a good name, and of course good capital to have a decent but not unnecessarily expensive offices. But while funding is important, the wisest thing to do is to start your business while you await or try to source funding.

What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before even getting off

the ground?

Capital, and securing key accounts as well as socio-political instability in the primary markets, making it difficult to secure long-term business clients.

Any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?

You need strict financial control, flexibility and a good relationship with a great accountant.

What are some of the biggest challenges in running the day-to-day side of the business?

Certain municipalities’ by-laws when it comes to outdoor advertising; access to capital becomes a challenge but, most importantly, instabilities in the market resulting in lack of long-term accounts.

What are the some of the best practices that have made your business successful?

Having a checklist, soldiering on when times get tough, and encouraging your staff to own the brand and bring forth good ideas.

How did you decide on pricing?

We always work around our clients’ budget.

What kind of advertising do you do?

We advertise through print media, billboards, radio and social media but, more importantly, we let our work do the talking through our events and clients.

What are some of your highlights in running your business?

Conceptualising and running the Nelson Mandela Football Challenge featuring Kaizer Chiefs and Bloemfontein Celtic in 2007 plus the World Aids Day event in 2011 in Port Elizabeth, and, of course, leading a successful 2010 Fifa World Cup marketing and communications workstream.

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