International comms: meet Red Ribbon, South Africa


As part of the ION blog series where we talk to our comms partners around the world, Ronelle Bester, owner and account director at Red Ribbon Communications, shares what’s it like to run a PR agency out of South Africa.

Would you start by telling us a bit about your agency?
Red Ribbon is a B2B tech PR agency based just outside Cape Town, South Africa. We’re a team of PR pioneers, marketing strategists, digital and social media experts and content creators.

Today, we are one of the most sought-after specialist PR agencies in South Africa, with a growing client base that includes both local and international power players.

So why are you a part of ION? What are the advantages?
It enables us to benchmark ourselves against international standards to become a truly world-class agency. It also gives us exposure to new ways of doing things, and we can tap into bigger agencies with more expertise.

The biggest advantage, however, is that we are often recommended to clients for PR work in Africa!

In what circumstances should clients opt for an international network, rather than a wholly owned agency?
Especially when they want to enter an emerging market, like Africa. The local nuances, cultures and languages provide a huge challenge for newcomers, and independent agencies are more agile in their approach.

Also, when clients want a genuine personal relationship with their agency, as well as the best service and advice in the local market. Owners of independent agencies make it their business to stay involved and deliver the best results possible for clients.

What are some of the major trends in your region right now?
The focus to develop full and comprehensive PR strategies. Creating great content that tells a story – not just for the media, but for all the social media and digital channels.

Becoming a strategic content partner to clients. Instead of just pitching press releases, agencies are developing blog posts, social content, contributed articles, white papers and visual assets.

Beyond building relationships with the media and even industry influencers, agencies are expanding the audiences they work with to include a broader set of partners who can help bring their stories to life.

And what mistakes might a foreign agency, with limited understanding of your region, make?
The assumption that journalists will fall at their feet because they’re an international spokesperson. And that Africa is one country and the same strategy can be implemented across the region.

Also, not using a local copywriter for each country and providing a corporate press release for distribution. Everything needs to be localised and linked to local industry issues.

What sets good agencies apart in your region?
Good agencies offer specialisation, experience, great media and influencer relationships, and integrated strategies.

How can people reach you?
Visit our website or contact me, Ronelle, at [email protected] directly. I’m even available for travel advice if you want to visit South Africa as a tourist!

In this series, we hear from ION agencies based in different international locations to find out about local opportunities and challenges in PR, as well as news and trends. Octopus Group’s ION network is our international network of top-class PR and comms consultancies. We work together to provide our clients with local specialism in whichever region they’re targeting.