If you are going to prioritise any aspects of your business this year it needs to educating yourself on cyber security and upping your online marketing efforts, says Nelisa Ngqulana, who is the founder of the public relations company PR Trends ZA.
She recently spoke to SABC News on the effect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the media industry. In her interview she also gave insight into marketing and technology trends for South African businesses for 2019.
Ngqulana is also the host of the South African edition of Africa Communications Week. Here are the trends she wants entrepreneurs to keep up with:
• Protection: cyber security must be a priority;
• Automation: use it;
• Competition: social media platforms;
• Regulation: watch out for changes;
• Education: on-the-job learning needs to be consistent.
Ngqulana shares with SME South Africa how these trends will apply to your small business.
1. Get cyber security training and put measures in place to protect your data
Cyber crime which includes data hacks, identity theft, password attacks and viruses has been highlighted as one of the most urgent threats to businesses.
The average cost of a data breach in South Africa has risen to R36.5-million according to research by IBM Security’s global study which looked at the financial impact of a data breach on a company’s bottom line.
Ngqulana explains that any breach of data is a threat to a business’s reputation.
“You only have one laptop or phone, whoever has access to your phone has access to your data,” she says. She also advises that entrepreneurs have a two-step verification on their social media accounts. “You have to save your reputation.”
The right cyber security protects the privacy of data and hardware that handles, stores and transmits that data.
In another interview, Jarryd Chatz, CEO at BitCo, a telecommunications operator and Internet service provider, gave tips to SMEs on securing themselves. This includes increasing password protection and educating employees by introducing security protocols for keeping employee, vendor and client information safe.
2. Get more done with the power of automation
By automating certain business processes business owners can save both money and time.
Ngqulana suggests that entrepreneurs use automation tools to enhance productivity and contribute towards projects.
She suggests Evernote, an app that keeps your notes organised and Mailchimp, a marketing automation platform that can help you run campaigns, run discounts and maintain your online database.
“You can schedule content for social media on Hootsuite, and then respond to people in real time and engage with them.”
She also advises business owners to set up Google Alerts, using the name of their company or the founder and pick up what is said being about the business instead of having to search.
3. Be your own PR rep
Ngqulana says marketing your business should be another area of focus for entrepreneurs in the coming year.
SME owners that are interested in getting their story into traditional media portals should do their homework and look at the social media accounts of the particular media portal, she says. “They (entrepreneurs) need to work with media outlets that have a strong focus on social media. They need to target the media that has a strong focus on SMEs. Look at those who have both.”
The news portal Times Live, for example, posts stories on their website and on Facebook. Ngqulana adds that they also engage with their viewers on their Facebook account.
“I was on SABC News, they have a bigger following on YouTube but not on the television channel itself.”
She adds that you have to understand your target audience and their presence (where they are present).
4. Keep up with changes in your industry/market
It’s important to be up to date with what’s going on within your industry and online, and to be in the loop with regulation changes, says Ngqulana.
5. Watch how you behave online
As a business you are also judged on how you behave online, says Ngqulana. “Be responsible how you interact with people online especially when you are a small business.”
She adds that this is especially important in industries like marketing or public relations where you may be responsible for another business’s brand.
6. Never stop learning
With on the job learning you have the option to either go to an university or college or, as Ngqulana advises, find inexpensive or free courses that can be done part-time.
“You have Linkedin Learning and Udemy that you can take advantage of. There is also YouTube Academy and Google has digital courses.”
She adds continuous learning is about identifying your blind spots and working on improving them.