Take responsibility for the change you desire.
Take responsibility for the change you desire.
Personality of the week: Lilian Ochieng', Media Relations Manager, Kenya Revenue Authority.
Corporate communications as a function plays the integral role of crafting key messages that create the face and voice of brands by sharing their experiences and stories. We set out on a mission to showcase personalities of people in the media and communication sector who are passionate about giving life to brands to understand what it takes and how they do it.
As luck would have it, we got the opportunity to speak to Lilian Ochieng’, the Media Relations Manager at Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to talk about what insights and life experiences she can offer budding Media, Communications and Public Relations professionals.
Here is the story of her personal career journey that began in the mainstream media where she bagged several awards as a journalist all the way up to her current position where she overseeing media relations at KRA.
What does your role at the Kenya Revenue Authority entail?
I’m the Media Relations Manager which is a role under the Marketing and Communication department. My role includes managing the reputation of the organization across all media platforms to ensure a favourable name of the organization. This comes along with crisis communication and advocacy for all initiatives within Kenya Revenue Authority. I deal with the management of media which is quite a broad aspect of Communication and Public relations. This entails writing of press releases about initiatives that happen in KRA under Customs and Border Control, Domestic Taxes Department and Strategy, Innovation and Risk Management Department and many other Departments within KRA. This also covers other regional KRA offices like Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Embu.
I also coordinate communication between our departments and external media and do media tours to ensure the media understand KRA’s clearance processes. As the Media Relations Manager, I also do press conferences, speeches, events and set the agenda for KRA by writing opinion pieces.
When did you realize you have knack for media and communication and how did you get started?
I was pretty young when I realized this and it started like a joke. I was in Class Four. I was heavily involved in activities that required speaking in front of a large audience. My command of English was also impeccable, hence quite often, I took lead positions as an anchor in my primary school and I liked it. This helped build my passion.
I was also an avid reader from an early age, I had read so many novels by class 4. I then started exploring the Saturday Nation and the young Standard section where stories written by children were published. I soon started contributing stories and that’s how my career started being shaped. I scanned through the pagers every day, spending so many hours in my room creating imaginary stories that children would identify with. You should have seen the grin on my face when my first story was published. I had sent it on mail to Nation and it got published and I was scheduled for several other stories. This is what made me know what I was cut out to do. I love creative writing.
From that point I knew I wanted to do something in journalism. My passion was mainly in broadcast even though I ended up in print when I was searching for a job. While in campus undertaking Communication and Media, I still worked for Nation Media Group on contract as an intern and they eventually employed me. As a reporter at Nation Media, I got accolades, won awards which took me to the United States, United Kingdom and The Hague. I later on applied for a job in media relations at KRA and got it.
At The Hague with Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Serge Brammertz.
Why did you decide to switch industries while it seemed like you were having a successful career in the media industry?
I needed change. When you do communication as a course in University, it’s usually Broadcast, Print and Public Relations. One can serve in either of the three, I’m now on the third one - Public Relations. With the knowledge that I brought from Nation Media, I knew how to place stories for publication, and target media for specific stories that KRA wants to be featured. I had a firm base and had contacts too.
Lilian recieving Citi Journalistic Excellence Award in 2016.
Having a career plan is critical for one's success. How did you determine your career path? And do you think you still have a long way to go?
My career path wasn’t all planned out. I was led by my passion. Passion is the reason why I’m still here and it is the reason why even when things get tough you are still there. I knew I wanted to be at Nation Media, so I pursued it. When I was done with Nation, I knew I wanted to be at KRA, I pursued it. And when the opportunity occurred, I presented myself the in the best way and I prayed and fasted for this job (I cannot dismiss this aspect because this was one of my greatest testimonies. God did it for me).
I still have a long way to go. I’m a high achiever and I believe the sky is the limit. This could be just the starting point for me given that I’m not old in the profession. I want to be a head of communication someday or even run my organization which I have already started doing in small ways.
Tell us a little bit about your organization.
It’s called Line Communication, I started operating it while still in my hay days in the Media Industry. At Line Communication, I run social media for my clients and do consultancy in areas such as conducting due diligence for companies that want to come and invest in Kenya. I’m able to do this because of my background in business reporting which equipped me with knowledge in strategic mergers. I also position top CEO’s across the media by writing opinion pieces for them and advising them on communication.
I further train companies on aspects of communication and social media. A point to note is that I do not do this alone since I have partners who play a huge role in helping fill the gap when I am held up with my work at KRA. I am mostly available for the extra work on Saturdays.
I’m assuming your position comes with a busy schedule, how do you maintain your work-life balance?
I love working out, it really helps me unwind. I work out in the morning and do a lunch hour walk just to make sure I have a good mental health when I’m attending to people in the office and my media team. I’m also a cell group leader in my church, so if you don’t find me in church, you’ll find me at work or at home. I love family time and going out to discover different places.
Describe the future skill set that will be essential to future communication and media professionals.
I think the skills do not change; you’ll realize old is gold. What is changing is the paradigm of reporting and the fact that the mainstream media really needs to be proactive. Almost everyone now purports to be a journalist because of the availability of smartphones; people report from all over via social media. As a professional media person, you have to cut out your niche by adhering to the principles of communications. That’s what separates raw gutter press and mainstream media.
Lilian at Columbia University, New York.
What makes KRA an ideal company to work for?
Job security is key and the government, specifically KRA offers that. It is an appealing place to work in.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would be more informal. I was a very lively person while growing up but that changed the more I got into mainstream media. I think was more focused on my goals that I even lost touch with my friends. I’m now trying to be more available for my friends and family because life is not all about work.
What mobile application can’t you live without?
I can’t live without WhatsApp.
If you could switch careers for a day, which job would you try?
A Diplomat. Because of the travelling.
What mantra do you live by?
Take responsibility for the change you desire. I borrowed this from my Bishop, Mr Dan Gachuki who is quite a leader and has played a big role in shaping my character.
If your life was a movie, which one would it be?
The Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington. Because I strive for perfection and doing good.