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Nevashnee Naicker, who was honoured with an EMEA Individual Achievement SABRE Award earlier this year, currently leads group corporate communication for Anglo American. She is based in South Africa, where she is responsible for external communication and reputation, digital and social media, internal communications and employee engagement, and marketing communication (including advertising and sponsorships).
South Africa represents around 60% of the profit of the Anglo American group and around 40% of its employee base globally. Specifically, Naicker has steered Anglo American's repositioning amid South Africa’s Just Energy Transition, a critical initiative given the historic role that mining has played in the country's history.
Naicker leads positioning and engagement efforts to support Anglo American’s global ambitions, which includes achieving net zero carbon by 2030, working closely with C-suite and communication leads and teams across the Anglo American group. She has refocused Anglo American’s reputation-building efforts on building greater resonance with its diverse stakeholder base, with an emphasis on developing unique and tailored stakeholder listening and reputation analysis capabilities. Her role included delivering the multi-stakeholder global launch of the world's first hydrogen-powered mine haul truck in 2022.
Before joining Anglo American, Nevashnee was corporate communications director for Tiger Brands, the largest food producer on the African continent. Most notably, she played a critical role in steering Tiger Brands’ reputation recovery after the 2017-2018 listeriosis outbreak and class action. This resulted in her being recognised as one of EMEA Innovator 25 by PRovoke Media in 2020.
She has also held senior communication, stakeholder engagement and public affairs roles at Sasol Limited, one of the largest listed petrochemical organisations on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR’s direct impact on business performance?
Two things come to mind that are on opposite sides of the spectrum. I recently had the privilege to lead the unveiling of the world’s first hydrogen-fuelled mine haul truck. While the technology itself is a marvel, the PR endgame was to make the case for renewable energy and the economic benefits it could unlock for a country blessed with sun and wind. The biggest success was not in the overwhelming positive PR coverage, but in the number of leads this positioning generated: individuals and companies eager to partner, bring additional technology – even provide access to land. This is the true value of PRs impact on business performance.
The other example is what PR does in a crisis situation. While the share price and media coverage and social give you a very tangible view of how the world is reacting to the issue and your efforts to recover, the less tangible – and often forgotten – is what a crisis does to the confidence, morale and productivity of employees. In managing a really devastating crisis, we provided early, ongoing and transparent information to staff – delivered by the CEO. This had the effect of teams getting behind the organisation, and committing to keep production and safety high to give leaders the chance to focus on the crisis and business recovery, but also to manage contagion across other parts of the business that crises often cause.
What are the communications industry’s biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead?
The ability to remain responsive in an inherently complex and dynamic world requires slick monitoring, data-driven insights and shedding the comfort of hard and fast strategy. Most organizations operate in a multi-stakeholder environment that is a lot less benign than it was, and within a communications and media landscape that has radically transformed. There’s also a trend toward intervention from governments and regulators the world over, coupled with a distinct change in mood in the way in which they interact with businesses. For many, these changes can be existential – impacting their business models, their licence to operate and their ability to plan for the future. Equally, corporate strategy is likely to be more successful if an organization can shape and influence its external environment and motivate its employees to deliver. An increasing proportion of CEOs will vouch for the fact that communications and stakeholder engagement take up an increasing proportion of their time, and this is part of the new way that businesses must operate, (certainly if ESG matters and their purpose aligns with doing good in society).
The challenge – and opportunity - for communicators is to understand these dynamics and position business and its relevance within these changing contexts. This means finding the most optimal ways to stay ahead of issues across a myriad of data points to help this sense-making. This is not about merely monitoring and scanning the environment, nor vanity metrics about how well PR campaigns have fared – this is having the ability to provide opinion and steer to navigate stakeholder complexities and solve for reputation risks upfront, supporting strategic decision-making and other business and operational initiatives at the highest level. Added to this, of course, is the most disruptive force facing the communications industry – generative AI. AI brings both phenomenal opportunity, but also risk and complexity. Managing misinformation and disinformation – already prolific in our worlds – has just gotten that much harder.
What have you most admired about the communications industry over the past year, and what has disappointed you?
I've admired the ability to innovate and find compelling, exciting and novel ways to drive cut-through penetration. I don't think I've been too disappointed by the industry, although I would call out the lack of discernment in some instances. This includes mistaking having a point of view, with having a point of view on everything, believing that this is the pathway to ‘thought leadership’. Another is jumping onto influencers simply because of their influence rather than their value to the brand or cause. As tempting as it might be to be part of the conversation, in an era where trust is currency, brands will be judged on what they do, not just what they say.
What work from your team are you most proud of over the past year?
There is so much to be proud about and grateful for; my team really have hit it out the park on so many fronts. But I’d call out the way in which they’ve shaped the strategic platform to leverage our decarbonisation agenda and future-enabling role of the metals and minerals we produce. This helps position how mining can be on the leading-edge of climate action conversations, resulting in new opportunities, like our participation at COP27, and COP28 this year. Another is a novel approach to community engagement through a channel that’s responsive, localised, relevant and helps tangibly demonstrate our purpose. The channel is a game-changer in supporting our operating businesses, but I’m most proud of how my team went about the significant internal stakeholder alignment - bringing diverse functions and teams on-side in the spirit of true co-creation.
How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness over the past year?
I find meditating and journaling helps me stay grounded and upbeat – really helpful if you're in an always-on career. I’m a serial binge-watcher of Netflix series on the weekend, and ashamedly, I even complete a bad series once I’ve started. When I need serious time out I get out into the bush as much as I can. Most of all, my family keeps me grounded.
Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through the past year or provided inspiration?
I always find inspiration in Steven Bartlett's 'The Diary of a CEO' podcasts, and I love Brené Brown’s podcasts and books. The digital mindset podcast is great for reflecting on some of the changes we’re going to confront with AI and digital transformation. I often listen to Jordan Peterson, and Simon Sinek. Sinek's “The Infinite Game” was a good read: it keeps me cognisant of the implications of what we do, and what we’re ultimately playing for when building progressive, agile and enduring brands.
If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
A counselling psychologist focused on integrative healing. (Also, a telenovela-type actress or a struggling comedian!)
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