#10Q: Cheryl Reddy, Eclipse Comms MD
Retailing Africa interviews Cheryl Reddy, Eclipse Communications MD and Africa lead, on change management under lockdown and the pandemic.Friday, 28 Aug 2020
Cheryl Reddy, currently managing director of the Johannesburg operations of Eclipse Communications and Africa Hub lead, talks about driving a business during the Covid pandemic; and managing all the changes in the business, both positive and negative since lockdown – all of which have needed her to adapt, manage and grow. Reddy is in charge of leading new business, client strategy and people development. In her first year at the agency, she doubled the revenue of the Johannesburg business. Since then, Eclipse Communications was named 2020 Best Large PR Consultancy at the PRISM Awards, held by Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA).
1. What is at the top of your survival list for 2020?
Sensitivity – we are all living through these extraordinary times, personally and professionally. Everyone is trying to figure out how to handle workloads and remain helpful to team members, deciphering what the online etiquette should be, homeschooling children and being supportive partners and family members. We have to be sensitive to each other’s situations and be kind to ourselves and others to get through this.
2. How do you drive a business during a global pandemic of this scale?
There is no perfect science to this. We are all trying to survive. During this pandemic, we have seen the rise of brands focusing on purpose over profit. At the heart of our business and what we do for our clients is our employees who deliver exceptional work for clients, including supporting them (clients) through this challenging time. Our focus has been directed purely at our employees in the following ways:
- Retention of employees and the ability to pay full salaries during this time.
- Re-evaluating skills sets and redeploying resources to assist in growing areas of the business.
- We instituted remote working long before COVID-19 so it was easy to transition everyone into this way of working – new for some but not for all. We also provided further flexibility to our employees, when schools were closed,
- Hold regular town hall sessions where our leadership team provides open, honest discussions of our financial performance, our challenges and our changes.
Our employees are shareholders in the business and are invested in the overall performance and growth. The commitment has been nothing short of outstanding. I am in awe of how our employees, who are parents and caregivers, perfectly juggle their days to see to the personal needs of the families while still delivering exceptional work to clients. The result of this has been a positive impact to our business by the launch of two new business streams: Collide and AMPlify.
3. What has been your single most significant learning?
I have never been able to ask for help because I deemed it to be a sign of weakness or reflects incompetence. It is absolutely okay to ask for help, for many realities:
- You may have different reporting lines and not everyone is aligned to what you are working on, so pressure does mount with multiple deadlines for various streams.
- Sometimes, the best ideation comes from a collaboration, or the best campaign execution is done together.
- It is also important to have a healthy work/life balance and if work infringes on your ability to have much needed time off with your family, or time to have a mental health moment – you have to speak up and ask for help from the teams around you.
4. What is next for business under-Covid?
The next for us is to focus on our growth onto the African continent. During the last few months, we signed two in-country communications partnerships, one in Nigeria and the other in Kenya. The launch of our first out-of-country office was scheduled for April but plans were halted due to the devastation of the pandemic. We are now in the final stages of launching our full-service, owned-office in Mauritius planned for 1 October 2020. The strategy of Eclipse Communications is to grow into a global agency with local agility. We have made great strides in becoming the Africa Hub of the SERMO Network, an international group of 16 independent agencies across the world, as well as sign an in-country partnership with GTI – a communications agency housed in Israel.
5. What advice are you giving your clients?
Find the opportunity, but do not be opportunistic. No one planned for this pandemic and more so, for this long. We know that globally, businesses are struggling but we cannot ignore that consumers are struggling too. Purpose over profit will hold brands in good stead.
6. How has the communications industry had to transform?
The impact of the pandemic to media has been devastating, with shrinking newsrooms, closing down of magazines, decline in print media, etc. If we are thinking just a traditional PR approach, we are going to become obsolete. We have to diversify communications strategies to consider omni-channel approaches; to re-evaluate where targeted audiences are consuming their news; targeting consumers in their homes vs the age-old way (out of home consumption); and building brands’ digital presence (owned channels) to be a trusted source of news too. The popularity of virtual and hybrid eventing is likely to grow exponentially post-pandemic. While it may have always been part of our communications strategies, now more than ever, it has become increasingly important for us to create content that is SEO-optimised with credible backlinks, and the use of brand keywords in all content creation. Influencer engagement is at a high, with some influencers reporting as much as 76% increases in likes on sponsored Instagram posts. Partnering with the right influencer is critical, because one who is aligned to the values of a brand, will ultimately help drive sales.
7. Do you have a life philosophy?
We often hear the quote, Life is too short, when someone you know passes on and then, everyone continues with their normal lives. During the years, I have lost both my siblings tragically. That quote is my reality and made me prioritise my family, my friendships, treating people with love and kindness, doing what I love and being happy. It is more than just a promise to do, it is how I live my life.
8. How do you inspire others?
Every day I conquer because I am teaching my niece to be fearless, to push past boundaries, to shatter glass ceilings and be heard in her personal and professional life. She must earn and own her seat at the table. For my teams at work, I lead by example – I will never expect anything from someone if I am not willing to do it myself; I provide opportunities and I nurture and guide people to where they want to grow; I bring the best version of myself to work every day – because life is too short not to, but also, because I genuinely love what I do ; share experiences – we all have different life and work experiences.
9. What has personally kept you going during this time?
Video calling my family and friends, over a good glass of wine (or two); Netflix and chill – the ability to just be able to switch off from the workday; I love reading; and online church.
10. What is your superpower?
Helping people – I believe my life’s purpose is to help people in any way I can and if I have the ability to.
– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every Monday and Thursday • Subscribe here
– Take advantage of Retailing Africa’s ‘Pay-what-you-can’ business support package • Read more