With yet another year behind us, it’s time to pause and reflect on the high points and special moments that made 2019 memorable.
Although there are commonalities, Flowstars each had personal triumphs that they’re proud of in their particular area of expertise.
Here are a few of the events and projects that made an impression …
For Flowstar Chuma Siswana the 2019 matric results publicity drive at the beginning of 2019 is top of mind. “Perhaps it’s because we will soon be at it again. Every time I meet these students and listen to their interviews and their dreams, I am more convinced that South Africa is in good hands. Each year, working with the St David’s matric results is a personal highlight – perhaps it’s the mother in me!”
In September work that Flow had been doing for more than a year took flight when the University of Pretoria’s Javett Art Centre was formally opened. This, for Flowstar Roshni Nana, was a highlight of 2019.
“The Flow team worked with the JAC team for two years to help market the new art centre via the website, press and social media,” she says. “This was also achieved by giving the JAC a unique identity and a clever communications strategy. Over the two years we also saw the building emerge out of a construction site into an architectural masterpiece.”
The Javett launch was also a pinnacle event for Flowstar Caitlyn O’Shaughnessy, who works in Flow’s social media team. “I was very proud to have worked on the Javett-UP account leading up to the opening. Being at the centre on opening day was incredible and seeing all the amazing art on the day was worth all the hard work.”
Caitlyn’s second most-memorable task of the year was covering the unveiling of the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela statue at the Long March to Freedom exhibition. Dali Tambo spoke at a Valentine’s Day breakfast held for special guests before unveiling the bronze figure.
Another highlight for Roshni was the Africa Debt Monitor, a project of the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative. Flow was asked to develop an interactive debt monitor and data explorer tool for member countries, which would allow the user to access debt-related information to help them make informed decisions on debt sustainability. Most users consist of ministries of finance, other government officials on the continent, investors and researchers.
“Flow was able to make the data explorer interactive through some clever programming. Using volumes of data provided by the client, stored on the back end, and with a series of filters and functionality, the stored data allows the user to learn about countries’ debt portfolios and management practices, individually and comparatively,” says Roshni.
For Edwina van der Burg, head of Flow’s content studio, accepting Flow’s award for the Best Marketing and Communication Consultancy at the Africa Global Funds’ Service Providers Awards was “a proud moment for me”.
A little more scary, but nonetheless a high point in 2019, was Edwina’s experience presenting Trends & Insights: What’s going to impact your future marketing and communications? to clients with Flowstar Richard Frank in May.
The year’s highlight for Richard Frank, head of Flow’s digital and development team, was “Saving one of our clients 90% of their hosting bill by transitioning them from a Windows to Linux-based server, among other optimisations. It felt great to combine experience and expertise to deliver immediate bottom-line value!”
Ayanda Siswana says her two highlights were, “Being chosen as one of 10 PRISM young judges for this year’s PRISM Awards, and Flow winning big at the PRISM Awards, New Gens and being part of an amazing team that has worked hard in 2019 to achieve.”
Flowstar Daya Coetzee says her the best thing about 2019 was an #InstaStoryBooks workshop for insurance giant Hollard on how to write a children’s book, with children’s author and teacher, Jenny Hatton. Flow did the planning and logistics for the evening event, hosted at the former randlords’ mansion Villa Arcadia, on Hollard’s Johannesburg campus. Hollard’s group communications chief Warwick Bloom MC’ed the event and chief marketing officer Heidi Brauer gave an opening address. Flow wrote talking points for both Hollard executives.
Afterwards, guests had an opportunity to create their own #InstaStoryBook using Instagram Stories. The books created at the event are now part of the #InstaStoryBook library on Hollard’s website. Also, some were printed and distributed to children by Kago Ya Bana, a Hollard corporate social responsibility programme.
Daya also mentioned the Marketing Achievement Awards as a special 2019 moment, especially when a team of Flowstars came together to provide PR and social media coverage for the event.
“It was an added pleasure to host our clients and fellow finalists, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Road Accident Fund, at the 2019 event,” she says.
Programmer Hannah Nefdt said her highlights were:
“1. Starting at Flow – it was one of the best workdays of my life. Knowing that I have a stable and reliable team, helps … a lot!
“2. Working with Gail and the team at Flexability to create a wonderful project that we can be proud of. (Also, Cinnabons … let us never forget). [Flow’s wonderful clients at Flexability sent the whole company Cinnabons to thank us for their new website.]
“3. The end-of-year party. I was not expecting to enjoy it so much and to win an award! [Hannah won the Development Star of the Year Award.] Thank you to all who voted. So much love for this company.”
Flowstar Selinah Seipei’s top events of the year were trips. One was to East London to interview delegates and UN Women representatives for a book Flow designed and printed. “The book is something we are proud of. It’s called What We Achieved This Year,” says Selinah.
The other was to Durban for the Department of Trade and Industry and the Industrial Development Corporation. “We did some interviews that included walkabouts at a number of factories, including one that made shoes, one that made clothes, and we even watched the process of making condoms!”
Flowstars really do get about, and Willem Steenkamp’s best 2019 moment was interviewing Ouma Katrina Esau, one of the last three fluent speakers of N|uu, a San language, for a book for the Department of Arts and Culture. “Spending time with Ouma Katrina, a feisty 86-year-old who’s passionately trying to save her language against the odds, and hearing her speaking it, was a special privilege,” says Willem.
Many of Flow’s projects are long-term, and Flowstar Sue Blaine says a seeing the near-end of a three-year project is (unsurprisingly) one of her 2019 highlights.
“Sending the book Villa Arcadia: Views from the Ridge to the printers in December was thrilling. This has been one of the most interesting, challenging and fulfilling projects I have had in my three years at Flow. It’s about the Randlord mansion Villa Arcadia and its estate, now owned by insurance company Hollard. It has a fascinating history, stretching from Johannesburg’s early days, and Hollard has done some fascinating things with the edifice. It’s going to be good to see it ‘for real’ on my desk in the new year.”
Willem agrees. “Flow was commissioned to produce the book from scratch, and I was given the task of editing it. I think it’s turned out beautifully, and I’m proud to have worked on it,” he says.
For Sue, another exciting 2019 project was working on a book that marks TEACH South Africa’s first decade in existence.
“TEACH is such a wonderful project – getting people with degrees in the sciences, maths, English and information technology to teach in disadvantaged schools for two years,” says Sue. “They have had stunning results, and the project itself made me feel that there really is good in the world. I mean, I know there is, but sometimes the evidence is thin, so it’s always lovely to see. It’s incredibly sad that TEACH has been unable to place these volunteer teachers in classrooms this year due to lack of funding. I hope they find a guardian angel soon.”
Flow’s managing director, Tiffany Turkington-Palmer, says taking part – once again – in the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s annual lecture was a big highlight. “We were responsible for managing social media and related website work for #NMAL2019.”
Then, as we keep saying, while we never work with awards in mind, it’s always special to be recognised for the work we do and Tiffany marks winning several awards the proverbial cherry on top.
“We won four PRISMS, five New Generation Digital and Social Media Awards, had a special mention at the Marketing Achievement Awards, and won the Best Marketing and Communication Consultancy Award at the Africa Global Funds’ Service Providers Awards. We’re proud of these different awards won in an increasingly competitive environment and of being able to attract top-notch Flowstars in a struggling industry,” she says.
It’s always a challenge to achieve much with little, and Flowstar Edwin Reichel marked two of these experiences as his best moments of 2019.
“Our client FilmFinity gave Flow a small publicity budget of R5 000 to promote the release of Capernaum. We gave them an advertising value equivalent of almost R973 488.08, which included images in daily media, radio coverage, television coverage and more. This was a very good return on investment for our client.
“Once Upon A Time In Hollywood saw a spend of R10 000 for a return on investment of R2 654 531.88, which our client was thrilled with. I enjoyed working on PR for these two movies in particular. In total, we worked on 17 FilmFinity releases in South Africa this year,” says Edwin.
Not everything at Flow happens in Johannesburg and our Cape Town office handled a massive project this year:
“My best moment was the launch of the Wesgro website that Flow created, which is actually seven websites in one,” says Riefkah Adams. “Wesgro is the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape. As such, they assist investors and businesses looking to branch out in the province.”
Sarah-Jane Viljoen, Flow’s Cape Town manager, says aside from the Wesgro project, her highlights include moving office in Cape Town to a beautiful new office on the slopes of Lion’s Head, winning the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway’s digital account, and winning substantial new digital work for Cape Nature, which will start early in 2020.
Behind every successful company is a hard-working finance and administration department, and we at Flow celebrate everyone’s work; always. That shows in what Flowstar Khanyi Shabalala picked as her pinnacle event of the year:
“Winning the Admin Star of the Year at our end-of-year Flow event made me feel very proud. I would also like to acknowledge all the hard work done by my peers, Doris Makuwa, John Kazembe and Ntombi Ngwenya.”
Back in Cape Town, Flowstar Pakamani Nombila had this to say: “My best memory of 2019 was attending a three-day Kimberley media tour as part of a large media group from various tourism and travel publications, so we could promote the city’s main attractions. It was my first time in the Northern Cape and I was able to visit places such as the Sol Plaatje Museum, the Kimberley Diamond Brewing Company and Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre in Platfontein.
“My second highlight was being invited to attend the National Youth Awards by Primestars. I’m absolutely inspired by young people who do great things – the award ceremony was a great inspiration to me and a learning curve, as we had to do live coverage of the event.”
In any business there are always people coming and going. This year there was a lot of that in Flow’s project management department and Flowstar Gail Cameron will remember this as her best achievement of 2019: “Being able to grow the project management team over the past year was very rewarding. We have four new team members, who have worked on some exciting projects, and we’ve been able to increase our productivity and output.”
One of the biggest events for Flow in 2019 was formally launching Flow Travel, a sister company to Flow Communications. Flow Travel is a travel agency that focuses on creating bespoke, unforgettable travel experiences for small groups. Sometimes these are led, sometimes not.
“Our very first trip was for a wonderful group of 10 Americans around South Africa,” says Flow’s CEO Tara Turkington. “I became a qualified tour guide beforehand and loved every minute of the trip – from meeting with a palaeoanthropologist in the Cradle of Humankind to viewing wild dogs and cheetahs up close on safari, to visiting Cape Point and Robben Island, where an ex-prisoner guided us.”
Tara says the trip made her fall even more deeply in love with South Africa than she already was. “By the end of it, I knew we had a new business on our hands. We have already booked lucky travellers to a host of destinations, including South Africa, Thailand, Canada, Vietnam, Cambodia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, and I can’t wait for the exciting destinations that 2020 brings!”
In these times, growth, however hard you work for it, is also a blessing and so we sign off wishing that best business blessing on all!