Founder of one of SA’s successful communications and PR companies Melanie Ramjee tells us about her passion for her field and her success tips for young people
Share with us your childhood career dreams, was communications and PR a part of them?
I wanted to be a choreographer like Paul Abdul, anything really in entertainment. I didn’t even know what was PR when I was younger.
What attracted you to publicity as a career and what have been your career highlights?
I always say PR found me. My then boyfriend and I started a record label back in our youth. He did A&R and since I was great at writing and deal with people, PR found me.
What inspired you to start your own PR company in 2010?
I was tired of working for someone but also in 2010, SA was at the height of opportunity with the world cup happening here. It moved it and motivated me to take the plunge.
What is the meaning behind the name of your company Tutone Communications?
My best friend and I also wanted to start a business and we never got around to it. When I went to register my company in 2010, I put down Tutone Communications (based on our various discussion around our very different skin tones) as the last choice of names. They declined the other 4 names and Tutone it was.
How did you secure your first clients and what were some of the challenges you faced when your business was in its infancy?
YFM was my very first client. They were a client at the previous agency I worked for. When their contract ended with the company, they asked me to take them on. It was perfect timing.
When I started the company, I was extremely wet behind the ears. I didn’t know anything about taxes and SARS and UIF etc. When YFM paid me at the end of the month, 25% was taken out for tax. I almost died expecting the full amount but realized it was all my fault for not being better informed. I had to learn about taxes real quick.
Another learning was figuring out how to get more clients, pitching and the actual hard work it took to run a business.
READ MORE: My Journey To Success with Khutso Theledi
Share some of the highlights you have had as a business woman.
- Co-founding an entertainment company / record label – Eargasm Entertainment when I was only 18
- Getting my first corporate PR job back in 2003
- Making the decision to quit my 9-5 in 2009
- Co-founding the famed music company, The Vth Season with two business partners in 2009
- Finally start my own PR agency Tutone Communications in 2010 and securing my first client YFM
- Winning best agency award at with SAB in 2015.
How big is your team and how is your management style?
Right now it’s only five but it changes with the various campaign when I bring in more consultants.
Describe your busiest day
So, during my busiest day, I:
- Get kids ready and do school run
- Get back, shower and start work day answering email
- Compile and finalise Press Release and Send out to media
- Client status Meeting
- Work on new Business / Strategy for new client
- Pitch for and following up on media interviews with various clients
- Another client meeting
- Fetch kids at school
- Another client meeting
- Attend in person briefing for new business
- Call back missed calls
- Help kids with homework while cooking dinner
- Last meeting for the day.
How did Covid-19 affect your business and how did you overcome some of the challenges it brought?
Well, with events not happening, meant that 80% of my business was on stand still. I diversified and did a lot more corporate work which was good. We did a lot of work around online activations and TV shows. We persevered.
How does your company give back to the community?
Special Olympics South Africa is my personal way of giving back. I sit on their board as deputy chair. Tutone Communication does their PR and social media pro-bono. Also help the organization raise funds for the various activities they do and volunteer when need be. The annual Polar Plunge is our main focus to raise funds while creating awareness about our athletes and who were are.
Which clients you wish to represent and why?
Beyonce, who wouldn’t want to. LOL.
What are some of your goals for your company?
Short term goals: I want to focus on representing more artists this year. Hoping to launch a music division before July. Would also love to expand more into the continent over the next 12 months.
What is your definition of success and do you feel you have achieved it?
Achieving anything you set your mind to, without hurting others. I am mos definitely a success in all I do. I never give up but I also still want to grow and learn, to be more successful.
From your experience, what are the misconceptions people have about PR?
- It pays well
- Anyone can do it, it’s easy
- It’s all about hanging out with celebrities and attending parties
What would you like to be remembered for one day?
All my work with Special Olympics and being a kind person. Obviously, to be also known as a powerhouse publicist and great mom.
Lastly, what are your success tips for young people?
- Dream big, you can do anything you put your mind to
- Persevere, never give up and remember hard work pays off
- Never forget the people who uplift you in your career
- Don’t burn bridges, the industry is very small
- Be kind