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PRCA Africa NextGen: Transitioning from Specialist to Generalist: A Critical Step Towards Effective Leadership in the African PR Industry

The African public relations (PR) industry is a dynamic and constantly evolving field, with diverse clients from various industries. This diversity of clients, coupled with the ever-changing nature of the PR industry, poses a significant challenge for PR consultants in leadership positions. As such, there is a growing debate on whether PR consultants should specialize in a specific area or become generalists as they progress higher on the management ladder. In this article, I argue that becoming a generalist is crucial for PR consultants aspiring to reach the top levels of management and perform effectively.

Specialists in PR possess deep knowledge and expertise in a particular area of public relations, such as crisis communication, media relations, or investor relations. While specializing may lead to higher demand and increased income for PR consultants, it may also limit their ability to oversee multiple areas of PR and manage diverse teams. At the senior levels of management, a narrow focus on a specific area of expertise may become a liability, rather than an asset. For instance, a crisis communication specialist may struggle to manage a media relations team or oversee an investor relations campaign.

On the other hand, generalists in PR have a broad understanding of all areas of public relations and are skilled in managing diverse projects and teams. They possess client industries knowledge and are comfortable with multiple industries from technology to mining, or healthcare. By understanding how different areas of PR fit together and impact the organization's overall goals, generalists can better align PR initiatives with broader business objectives. This strategic mindset is essential for senior PR professionals who are expected to provide strategic counsel to top management.

In Africa, where the PR industry is still emerging and rapidly evolving, the need for PR leaders who are generalists is even more crucial. With small teams and limited resources, PR professionals in Africa need to be able to handle a wide range of challenges and wear multiple hats. This requires a broad understanding of all areas of PR, including crisis communication, media relations, investor relations, and digital communications, as well as a strategic mindset that can align PR initiatives with the organization's broader business objectives.

Furthermore, the increasing adoption of digital technologies and the rise of social media have opened new opportunities and challenges for the PR industry in Africa. Generalist PR leaders who are comfortable with these technologies and have a deep understanding of the digital landscape can help their organizations stay ahead of the curve and effectively navigate this changing landscape.

Finally, as the business environment in Africa becomes more complex and competitive, PR leaders must be able to demonstrate the business value of PR initiatives and communicate their impact in financial terms. This requires a deep understanding of corporate finance and metrics, which can be developed through a broad-based approach to PR.


PR specialists can develop the skills and knowledge needed to become effective generalists and advance their careers in the PR industry, by following the tips below:

  • Seek out new experiences: Take on projects or clients outside of your area of expertise. This will help you develop new skills and gain a broader understanding of the PR industry.
  • Build a strong network: Connect with other PR professionals and industry experts across different fields. This will help you stay up to date on industry trends and expand your knowledge base.
  • Stay informed: Read industry publications, attend conferences and webinars, and keep up to date with the latest news and developments in the PR industry. This will help you stay on top of new trends and technologies.
  • Learn to communicate effectively: As a generalist, you will need to communicate effectively with a wide range of stakeholders, including clients, team members, and top management. Practice your communication skills to develop a clear and concise communication style.
  • Develop a strategic mindset: Understand how different areas of PR fit together and impact the organization's overall goals. This will help you align PR initiatives with broader business objectives and provide strategic counsel to top management.
  • Embrace continuous learning: The PR industry is constantly evolving, and new areas of expertise are emerging all the time. As a generalist, you need to be able to adapt to these changes and continuously develop your skills to stay relevant and effective in your role.


Becoming a generalist is essential for PR consultants who aspire to reach the top levels of management in Africa. The ability to handle diverse challenges, adapt to industry changes, and align PR initiatives with broader business objectives is critical for success in senior PR roles. By continuously developing their skills and broadening their expertise, PR professionals in Africa can become effective leaders who drive their organizations' success.

Adeola Ibiyemi is a Project Manager at The Holding Opinion and Public, the Francophone Africa group of agencies delivering communications services to brands, organizations, governments, and individuals.