JOHANNESBURG — Razor, the M&C Saatchi Group South Africa public relations agency, has launched a public affairs practice to offer clients broader strategic communications and reputation counsel.

The new practice will include stakeholder strategy engagement, regulatory strategy and engagement, legislative positioning and impact, expanded issues and crisis capability, political counsel, C-suite advisory including risk management, and ESG policy and advocacy support programmes.

Razor has appointed Oscar Tshifure (pictured) to lead the new practice; he joins the agency from HOSI PR and Government Relations Consultancy, which specialises in providing clients with political intelligence, lobbying, campaign management, crisis and reputation management, stakeholder mapping, advisory and protocol services, government representation and engagement expertise.

Tshifure is also a director of organisations including The Sifiso Falala Foundation, a non-profit set up to address specific societal, humanitarian and quality of life related challenges; The SA Sovereign Africa Rating credit ratings agency; and the Pan Africa Media Research Organisation.

The move follows Razor’s development in 2020 of its Most Powerful Conversation (MPC) model, which helps to develop strategic and creative communications programmes for clients by looking at how brands influence the world around them, beyond a focus on the media and other channels.

Razor partner and managing director Dustin Chick told PRovoke Media that he planned to scale the division quickly: “This goes back to the original thinking about our launch proposition – we were very deliberate about not just being another PR agency. In Africa specifically, everyone calls themselves a PR agency, but we have to get to the point where we are strategic partners with clients, rather than having a transactional relationship that is focused on editorial engagement.

“More and more organisations here want to have influential conversations that don’t involve the media, that are about their licence and social licence to operate, managing risk and reputation at board level, and delivering for the business, from policy to regulators to politicians to advocacy groups and NGOs.”

He added: “Public affairs enhances our MPC model significantly. It allows us to take client conversations into the one-to-one and one-to-few stakeholder environments in a way that places companies and brands front and centre of the conversations they want to influence most.”

Tshifure, who will report direct to Chick, said: “One thing we know for is that the environment around us is in constant flux. Equally we know that this has immediate impact on any business. Mostly we know that the impact of this, is that our stakeholders are having conversations about us, often without us. We need to directly solve this problem in a way that does not divorce stakeholder engagement from communications.

“That’s exactly the space we find ourselves in. Powerful conversations mean that the right people must hear our voices at the right time. Integrating all this into a single-minded conversation is where the measurable impact will come from.”