PROFILE: Meet Muthoni Wachira; PR guru behind creation of major brands
By Patience Nyange and Esther Kiragu
This week on the #KenyaWomenSeries we feature Muthoni Wachira, a dynamic communicator, who is building her brand to be a household name in the corporate world. At the age of 29, Muthoni is a force to reckon with.
The communication specialist has 11-years of experience in print and digital media as well as in politics and current affairs. She has collaborated with different agencies, individuals and organizations to conceptualize and launch numerous distinguished brand campaigns in the Kenyan Market.
1. Briefly tell us about your entry into career life and some memorable moments.
My career dates back to the Inysder magazine where I began as a junior writer. I rose to be a top editor for the magazine. It’s while at the Inysder that I met a friend, the late Brian Weyama, who pushed me to maximize my potential. While working alongside him, I learnt Project management.
While working at the Inysder magazine, I participated in the creation of various brands including: Always, Aquafresh, Colgate, Cadbury Chocolate, Nokia, Coca-Cola, just to name but a few. This is one of my proudest moments. Inysder magazine is an umbrella of Teenwise Media Agency that bore two other agencies within. I can’t also credit my success without mentioning Gina Din Kariuki. I had the privileged to pass through her mentorship when I was starting.
That was an eye-opener for me and laid a firm foundation for my PR practice. I am also a certified Animator from Shangtao Media which also couples as a part of my success journey. This has seen me tap into my creative side and have a keen eye for details.
2. You were the brains behind the SSS3 campaign (Super Senator Sakaja) that saw Johnson Sakaja get into Parliament as the current Nairobi County Senator. Please share with us your experience working on this and some of the lessons from running a political campaign.
The campaign was a great success attributed to teamwork. I worked on several projects during the campaign period in 2017, because I was also incorporated in the Hon Kiraitu Murungi campaign of Meru County. My role was to develop strategies. My greatest lesson through the process is that we should not assume that early success when launching a new program means the results will be what you promised a client.
3. You have risen the ranks from a PR manager at OPPO Kenya to Head of Corporate Communications and Projects at OPPO Kenya. Please walk us through your career journey and some of your most successful career moments and the events that have shaped these.
I joined OPPO about three years ago, which has been an answered prayer. The environment has pushed and stretched me in equal measure and allowed me to grow. I love the brand and telling its story. I have enjoyed each product launch that I have coordinated from conception to execution together with my team and our PR Agency. Everything about the launches has allowed me to learn. I have fallen in love with the tech world. I have evolved and I have become.
My greatest support at OPPO is my CEO Rey Huan, an amazing gentleman who has allowed me to be. He has allowed me to flap my wings and fly, to take the brand to new heights and levels. As I look back at the milestones of the brand, I am grateful to see the many things that I once spoke of as just an idea being actualized now.
Above all, I am grateful for all the strong women who have gone ahead of me. They continue to serve as my lens at the top and hold my hand as I chatter in my career path. They have loved me, corrected me, criticized me and picked me up; they have fixed my crown and made me realize that we all need to have women who speak words of wisdom into our lives.
4. a) As a young woman in senior management where your contribution makes a difference in decision making, what does this role mean to you and other women as well as younger girls watching you?
I believe anyone of us can become. We can succeed, however, you choose to define success. This has turned out to be the greatest gift I could have given myself. As women, we often have many things to prove to ourselves, one of which is that we can live our lives fearlessly. I have since learnt that failure is a part of success.
A lot can be learned when plans go awry. So now I encourage young girls and women to go ahead and fail. The world looks different from the ground. You can never fail if you refuse to lose, especially if you have the necessary self-awareness. I call this turning your wounds into wisdom.
b) Any three lessons on leadership you have learnt so far worth sharing?
- Becoming Muthoni. I believe in myself, being compassionate and courageous. Your story is what you have and will always have. It is something to own.
- Remain true to yourself. Never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. I continue to learn that the choices of life are many, but it’s essential to believe in yourself and your values. Whenever faced with the question, “Am I good enough?” even if you struggle to say “Yes” say “Yes!.” Don’t let your mistakes pull you down. Learn from them, and raise the standard of meeting your values every day. It’s vital to experience risks, criticism in extreme forms, but we should always earn respect through integrity.
- Leadership means authenticity. As a leader, when I show up as who I truly am and speak from my values–this is where connection happens. People are moved because they resonate with an authentic leader. Speaking from the heart is one of the most powerful ways to deeply connect with an audience, and build the trust needed for truly powerful leadership.
5. Tell us what role has each of the following aspects played in your career life-giving brief real-life experiences?
- Pursuing your passion. I am exactly where I have always wanted to be. As a young girl, I loved speaking to the audience. I grew up admiring Oprah Winfrey and how eloquent she is, and I was determined to speak right in front of an audience one day.
- Forging networks. I have been in rooms with movers and shakers. I have also made some very incredible friends in the industry; Nana Gecaga, Sandra Ochola, Slyvia Mulinge, just to name a few of the women who have been instrumental in the woman I am becoming.
- Taking risks. At one time, I resigned from a Government job without a game plan. Those around me were concerned that I was making a huge risk for my career. However, it was this jump that led me to OPPO Kenya.
- Mentorship. This is close to my heart. I have been a mentee to various people including renowned political analyst Prof Peter Kagwanja who taught me a lot about politics. This gave me the knowledge and understanding of Political PR and grew my interest in the political field. I have been in the same room and worked on projects that involved the Presidency including the 2017 elections. Those are some of the projects that have allowed me to come this far. My greatest mentor is Sandra Ochola, the president’s speechwriter. She still holds my hand to this very day.
6. If you were to choose values that are most important to you that shape the way you work and live, what would they be and why?
- Being authentic and intentional. My parents have always taught me how to keep owning my story and who I am. I don’t need to fit in. They have also instilled in me the value of being intentional by doing what I said I would do and also by nurturing my friendships. I love the women and friendships in my life as we get to discuss real-life issues and be vulnerable without fear.
- Diversification. Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new centre of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand. Throughout my career, I have diversified and worked in different environments which have opened me up to opportunities that I never imagined. I have also learnt a lot more than a classroom setting ever taught me.
- Spread Optimism. I am a woman in the process. I’m just trying like everybody else. I try to take every conflict and experience as a lesson. Life is never dull. If there is one thing to learn from my mother, it is how to live life with optimism. She has displayed this quality in every step of her life, rising from every challenge and looking forward to a new sunrise every time.
7. When you think about women breaking the glass ceilings and their space up the corporate ladder, what does the future look like?
For me, the future is innovative, with both men and women. We are raising young boys and girls and I believe that these are the people who are going to change the game and do more than we’ve achieved. Mine is to encourage women out here as we emphasize that the future is female, we need to ensure that we create gender equality all around us such that we can all co-exist and do amazing things together for the future!
Any parting shot?
Stay true to who you are. It doesn’t matter who is for you and who isn’t. What matters is that you believe in yourself. As a woman evolving every minute and second, I am always and constantly reminding myself of the importance of being in touch with who I am. Accept who I am as I look forward to becoming.
I would encourage my younger sisters not to shy away from those uncomfortable conversations. Realize that everything does happen with a reason and a purpose. I have outgrown so many things, people, places and spaces, and that have been the curves for me. To learn, unlearn, relearn among the many things in this life. You are, always will be for a reason. Keep going.
About the writers: Esther is a writer, editor, and communication professional in Kenya while Patience Nyange is a Chevening Scholar with a Masters Degree in International Public Relations and Global Communication Management from Cardiff University. Prior to joining Cardiff University, Patience served as an Assistant Director at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).