Pulse turned COVID challenges into opportunities for readers, advertisers in 4 African countries

By Shelley Seale

INMA

Austin, Texas, USA

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Pulse aims to be the leading media company in Africa. Currently operating in four countries — Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Kenya — Pulse reaches more than 100 million engaged users across the continent each month.

Speaking at the INMA Africa Media Summit on Friday, Managing Director Katharina Link shared that Pulse’s revenue model includes native advertising, adding the company takes that one step further by being a fully integrated media agency.

“Basically, all the skills that we have for storytelling, digital strategy, how we manage our own social platforms — we actually offer that as a marketing agency, but also as a production company for clients and businesses.”

Pulse focuses on distribution, production, and marketing with its media offering to advertisers.
Pulse focuses on distribution, production, and marketing with its media offering to advertisers.

Link shared with INMA members three distinct challenges Pulse has faced.

Challenge one: Misinformation and information overload

The information overload effect changed drastically in March with the advent of COVID-19 and lockdown, Link said. Pulse had to react to that and create an approach to handle this overload as well as misinformation.

A key component of this approach was to focus on the core journalistic principles of Pulse. This includes truthfulness, transparency, and fact-checking, to name a few.

“I think one thing that we found can be challenging is really encouraging your own team to challenge information before bringing out anything, more than ever,” Link said.

While this might sound easy, Link said it entails team members being open to being challenged and having difficult conversations.

Another key component was embedding the Pulse values — true, insightful, entertaining, innovative, and fast — into everything the company does.

An example of this was when Pulse livestreamed the president’s addresses to the nation, which entailed making sure they were sharing verified and official information, as well as summarising and explaining what the address meant to their constituency afterwards.

“What we did within this period of lockdown is also really investing into how we bring across all of that information,” Link said. Even the best fact-checked and verified information can be hard to understand if the way the content is delivered and the design are not clear. The goal was to keep the Pulse audience well-informed with fast and transparent news that was delivered with a design that enabled them to understand the information quickly.

Another concern was delivering this important information while also attending to the audience’s mental health and keeping that information as entertaining and lively as possible.

“I think even more than ever it’s important to be a role model, and it’s important to use your audience and use your reach to send a message — not only about the education but really go the step further and let people become inspired,” Link said.

Challenge two: Uncertainty in all markets

The uncertainty that COVID-19 brought, along with businesses putting marketing and advertising on hold, has adversely affected Pulse.

The two major strategies her team used to address this challenge was, firstly, to care about their clients and the people they work with, she said. Secondly, to be their digital compass to help them get their business back on track.

An example was the way Pulse used its COVID coverage to provide accessibility and reliable updates for their clients and readers during the crisis. The team turned challenges into opportunities to bring live shows fully remote, get sponsors for them, and align brands with the right kind of content.

The team produced live streams with sponsors during the early days of the pandemic.
The team produced live streams with sponsors during the early days of the pandemic.

Pulse has experienced the following growth on social media channels during the lockdown:

  • Facebook: +5% to 2.3 million followers.

  • Instagram: +34% to 1.2 million followers.

  • Twitter: +125% to 48,000 followers.

  • TikTok (new channel): 39,000 followers.

Challenge three: Our team is our core strength — how to stay connected?

“I think the most important thing we learned is ask and listen,” Link said. “The second thing is facilitating virtual and physical (outdoor) interaction with the team — and encourage appreciation amongst the team.”

Like so many companies, Pulse created a virtual video message strategy during COVID.
Like so many companies, Pulse created a virtual video message strategy during COVID.

The team did this through things such as virtual happy hours, regular check-in sessions, and sending “thank you” notes to team members.

“When it comes to telling a story, don’t forget to tell the story to your own team again and again — and make them really feel they are a part of something.”

About Shelley Seale

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