Up&Ap: Nakhulo Khaimia on her transition from agency to brand PR

As a young girl, her career aspirations kept shifting from one area to another. Later on, her older sister would make her consider a career in communications, leading her to enroll in college to study PR. After graduating, she’s had the opportunity to handle a number of companies and brands in different industries while picking key lessons along the way. Here’s the story of Nakhulo Khaimia, (pictured) the Marketing and Communications Manager at Huawei Mobile Kenya…      

QUESTION: Who is Nakhulo Khaimia?

BRENDA: I am a marketing and communication Manager for a leading telecommunication giant in the world, responsible for all Marketing and Communications for the Terminal Department.

Q: What defines and drives you as a person?

NK: I would say I’m solution-driven in all aspects of my life – be it at a personal level or professional level. That is achieved through simplifying issues and finding a solution on how to solve the issues. Overall, what life brings at me I take it with open arms to make it better than how I got it.

Q: Was a career in PR your dream while growing up and in school? Who or what was your main motivation to work in PR and Communications? 

NK: Growing up, I wanted to be everything and anything – at one point, I wanted to be an Air Hostess, at another point I wanted to be a Chef, the after campus my main aim was to join Kenya Utalii College to pursue Hotel Management. However, my older sister played a key role when it came to inspiration, then she was at Daystar University studying Communication hence I decided to follow that path. Since my mum could not afford to take to me to Daystar like my older sister, I joined Multi Media University (then KCCT) by default. At first, I had applied to Kenya Institute of mass Communication (KIMC) but I couldn’t get a chance hence opted for KCCT. In third year, when everyone was rooting to become either a journalist, newscaster, or reporter since then it was a more glamorous career, a few of us opted to stick with PR. I made this decision when I did my internship at Silver Bullet PR and Events as the experience I gained made me make up my mind on what I wanted at the end of the day. The work environment, handling different accounts in different fields – ranging from FMCG, ICT, Oil, Energy, NGOs etc – was also key in building my career. After my Diploma and some work experience, I enrolled for Bsc in Communication at Moi University.

Q: You’ve been in PR for a while. Within this time, what has changed and which new trends have you seen over the years? How have these changes impacted your career?   

NK: The PR industry is quite dynamic, there has been a lot of changes as years go by. With advances in Technology, executing tasks has become easy, thereby ensuring that objectives and goals are achieved right on time. Fifteen years ago, one would send a press invite to media houses via a faxing machine and make follow ups using landlines, while media clips would be sent to media houses using disks. Imagine the time one consumes to carry all these. Right now, it is very fast and swift, if you have built personal relationships with people in media outlets, sharing news content with them can be as easy as via WhatsApp messages.

Gone are the days PR was measured through traditional media like Newspapers, TV, Radio and Out-of-Home. Technology has led to the emergence of bloggers and influencers who play a big role in PR when it comes to sharing the right content and message, hence becoming a plus for a PR practitioner.

There is a lot of learning tools online that one needs to keep checking, learn and adjust to suit their organisation’s objectives and goals. For instance, I am in the tech space, I need to know what my consumers are taking out from social media, hence need to be on all platforms at all times to learn and adopt.

Q: Having started out in Agency, how has this prior experience – of serving many client accounts – come in handy or influenced your transition to Corporate?

NK: Agency was a stepping stone for me on what was ahead in the corporate world. Agency is somehow like a bootcamp, you get to learn how to manage different accounts that come with different personalities and expectations. This helps you juggle on almost everything.

Working at agency helped a lot when it came to flexibility, adopting in a fast paced environment with ability to work under pressure. Imagine handling like 5 accounts that need your attention and ensuring that you accomplish all the deliverables.

Agency made me become open minded, you were not supposed to choose what account to handle, as long as your boss needs someone to work on that account and your name is brought up, you have no option but take it up without any excuses.

Having worked on tech accounts including Huawei, I already knew what I was getting myself into and how to manage their expectations based on my past experience with them as an Account Manager.

Q: If given a chance again to choose now, would you start out at Agency or instead choose to proceed to Corporate PR? Any reasons for this choice? 

NK: I would love to start an agency but it must be one that has a niche market, to serve a specific sector. However, I am not sure if Kenya is already in a space where an agency just serves a specific niche that is why you will notice most agencies serve all kinds of clients. If I was to start all over again, I would go the Fashion and Lifestyle PR consultancy. The only challenge is that as a country, when it comes to the Fashion industry, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Q: As the Marketing and Communication Manager at Huawei Mobile Kenya, what does your daily job involve?

NK: My role includes Digital Marketing; Above and Below the line Marketing; as well as PR and Events coordination and management.

My role on a day to day basis is to ensure that the company’s objectives and goals are met through targeted channels that suit our demographics. I also provide counsel on various communication activities that the company can get involved in.

I also handle day-to-day media relations with various media houses and platforms so as to ensure we provide targeted messaging to the right audience.

Q: What is the most challenging part of job and how do you cope with it or handle the challenge(s)?

NK: There will always be challenges but you must find a way of how to work around the challenges. For example, I work for a global company that tries to adopt and execute some strategies which do not suit this market. In such a case, my role is to ensure we stick to what suits the market while localizing some of the information provided.

Every day, there is something new coming up when it comes to communication hence the need to be on your toes to ensure you are up to date.

Q: As a follow-up to the above question, what do you enjoy most about your current job? 

NK: I think I am born marketer hence it is not such a challenge for me, I can easily sell a product to consumers through proper messaging and positioning.

Marketing is dynamic hence it makes me to be always creative on how to pass across the message that is required by consumers.

Q: In terms of mentors and inspiration, who do you look up to in both your personal and professional life?  

NK: Well, everyone around me and who has walked with me in this journey does inspire me in one way or another. I cannot pick out one specific person.

I also seek inspiration from friends and family who have no idea about marketing but picking their brains and ideas helps a lot. Even that watchman, fundi or shopkeeper can really inspire you.

Q: As an ambitious person, when are you likely to feel and have the satisfaction that you’ve now achieved your career (or growth) objectives and goals?

NK: I highly doubt there is an end to a career even beyond retirement age which according to Kenyan law is 60 years. There can never be an end.

Q: If you’re not holding your current position or working in your current role and industry, what would you rather be doing instead in terms of an alternative career?

BN: It would still be Communication and Marketing but in a space I am very passionate about – Fashion Industry. There is potential in this market especially in East Africa that should be explored.

Q: Any final thoughts and comments? 

NK: Parting shot to the young upcoming generation: nothing comes easy, you must work hard to get what you want. Be confident in yourself and prove it to anyone even the doubting Thomases.

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