PR doyenne turned award-winning director Ava Duvernay famously said: “when you’re in your lane there’s no traffic”. Mbali Zondo’s remarkable career journey is a testament to this truth. She continues to cement her place in the world of public relations having worked on global brands such as Apple and Clinique. She does it all with the kind of poise, humility and grace attendant with royalty.
Her enthusiasm for people and technology and how they all come together to direct meaningful conversations about brands through public relations is truly inspiring. She has walked the graduation stage 3 times for disciplines such as marketing and communications from prestigious institutions such as the University of Pretoria.
Not even 30 yet, she continues to startle her peers with her forward thinking approach to creating lasting brand legacies in the digital space. She has the determination, grit, and power to continue to be a game changer in the PR world. Success is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ and Mbali defines this her own way, through her individual journey.
In her work, she continues to remind us all that reputation matters, and that building big brands require long-term, strategic thinking, and a little PR magic.
Why did you choose P.R as a career path?
Growing up, I did not know what PR was, let alone that it could be done as a career choice. All I know was that I wanted to express my creativity and be amongst interesting people at events.
I’m a visual person and I wanted to be featured in magazines or to work with people who worked for magazines.
What are two of the most important lessons you’ve learnt about yourself through your career journey?
Trust your skills but don’t be afraid to improve on them in order to be recognised as an expert in your field.
Surround yourself with people who you admire because this forces you to raise the bar when it comes to excellence.
Tell us about a professional situation when the odds were against you, and how you overcame this?
Part of PR is organising media events. I remember organising an annual lifestyle event and the whole event was scheduled to be outside. This event was scheduled for the end of September and I didn’t take into account that the summer rains in Joburg start at that exact time of the month.
As fate would have it, there was rain predicted for the whole day for the day of the event. I overcame this situation because, with my background with having had used many suppliers before, I was able to call a supplier who gave me a personal referral to a supplier who puts up stretch tents.
Due to having that personal relationship, I was able to negotiate to have the stretch tent set up and ready a day before the rain hit Johannesburg. Needless to say, my team was very impressed that I could think on my feet and get a quick turnaround time with a new supplier.Success is not a ‘one-size- fits-all’. Success is subjective Click To Tweet
If your life were a movie title what would this be?
Mad Max (with Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron). This movie highlights determination, grit, and power in an unexpected and challenging situation. Although battered and bruised in the end, Charlize’s character comes out victorious and succeeded in her mission.
What does sisterhood mean to you?
To me, sisterhood means uplifting other women and sisters without feeling envious of the other woman’s gift or talent. It’s about supporting each other beyond our backgrounds and standing up for one another.
What do you know now, that you wish you knew 5 years ago?
I wish I had known 5 years ago that everyone has a unique path for a reason and that achieving success is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ shoe size. Success is subjective.
I also wish I had known that financial literacy is important and that saving up to buy a house is a long process.
For those who find networking daunting, what are 3 tips you can share?
When it comes to networking if you can take a friend, do so because networking becomes easier when you do it with someone you know and feel comfortable with. When you are comfortable, networking becomes easier.
Share your professional contact details with new connections and stay in touch with them when you can. They will appreciate your efforts of investing in the relationship.
Do your homework before networking. Try and find out who will be on the guest list so you can initiate conversations with people who may have mutual interests with you. Also, familiarise yourself with the purpose of the event and make sure you have introduced yourself to the host if you can asTrust your skills but don’t be afraid to improve on them Click To Tweet
What skills should every P.R professional have in their “bag of tricks”?
Writing: Every PR Professional needs to be able to write as you will often find yourself in situations where you need to write content, messaging documents etc. Be prepared.
Presentation skills: You need to be able to present ideas or host an event with media, therefore, learning how to present is crucial to PR.
Adaptability: PR is an industry that changes often and as much as you can be organised, sometimes, not everything goes according to plan. A good PR professional needs to be able to adapt accordingly to any situation to remain relevant and resilient.
What is your morning get up and go song?
It has to be Nina Simone: Four Women. This song gives me the confidence to start the week.
What are your plans for the next 5 years professionally?
Over the next 5 years, I’d like to do the following:
- Be featured in the 40 under 40 Forbes list.
- Complete a Master’s degree in Creative Brand Leadership.
- Travel Africa, more so I can gain more experience when it comes business in Africa because we need more women in business in top positions.
- Start my own boutique PR agency.
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