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Taking away your headache: Judith Middleton, CEO at DUO Marketing & Communications, talks research, innovation and solutions

Written by Staff Writer

March 19, 2021

By Charndré Emma Kippie


Launched in 2004, DUO Marketing & Communications has been a leading niche PR and digital marketing agency, for 17 years, specialising in servicing B2B tech brands in sub-Saharan Africa. The company has values geared towards growing South African tech companies who exhibit readiness to scale into other African countries. DUO recently received recognition as the best African Tech PR Agency for 2020, at the MEA Business Awards.

“This is our sweet spot and Africa remains a great opportunity for so many of our tech companies. Our goal is to partner with them to make this a reality”, says Judith Middleton, CEO at DUO. 

Judith has 20 years of experience in the tech industry, and a deep understanding of the importance of integrating PR and marketing into an effective tech business strategy. Seasoned in her field, Judith has owned and grown her own successful businesses, mentoring others and investing in a few too. She is also a proud mentor to the Global Endeavor Community in South Africa, and an advisor to Wyzetalk –  a leading digital employee engagement solutions company. 


What are your main career objectives?

My main career objectives are to keep learning, both professionally and personally, to find joy in the everyday and to make a lasting difference to the tech companies we serve by providing valuable PR and Digital marketing solutions. 


How do you hope to make a difference? 

Our purpose is to give technology innovators a voice in Africa. For any fast-growing Tech company, finding affordable, skilled marketing and PR professionals is not easy. 

Our goal is to take this headache away such that our clients can really stay focused on their objectives. Partnerships are loosely bandied about but those that work, work because of trust, quality and accountability. That’s what we are known for and we have worked hard to affirm our name in the marketplace. 


Please could you tell us a bit about your background – how did you get to this point?

I grew up on a farm in the Karoo. My parents prioritised our education and as such, I went off to boarding school in the Eastern Cape at a young age. After matric, I came to Cape Town to enrol at UNISA to do a BA majoring in Communications and Psychology. I later did a PR course and a Business management course in London after which I landed up working in the IT industry over there. 

After a few years of working in London, I moved back to Cape Town to start working as the Marketing Director of the newly formed Cape IT Initiative (CITI) and was part of the team that founded Africa’s first tech incubator, Bandwidth Barn. It became apparent to me that Cape Town didn’t have a specialist Tech PR agency and so I stepped out of CITI after 5 years and started DUO Marketing + Communications, a digital marketing and PR agency to service the tech industry in 2004. After 14 years of running the agency, I decided it was time for a reboot so I went off to Harvard Business School to learn more about scaling entrepreneurial ventures. I stepped back into DUO as CEO full time in May 2019 and have loved seeing the agency once again rise despite the economic conditions of the global pandemic


What excites you the most about the work that you do?

No two days are the same. The tech industry evolves fast and even those companies we have served for over 15 years look very different now than when we first started with them. It’s a great honour to be part of their journey. 


What life mantra/inspirational quote do you live by?

The definition of luck according to Roman philosopher Seneca, is where preparation meets opportunity. We have nothing else to do other than keep preparing and keep the faith that opportunity will present itself.


What 3 tips do you have when it comes to implementing solutions in your field?

Research, read and keep testing. The world is constantly evolving and the tools of the trade move fast too.


Have you read any books or listened to any podcasts that have inspired you and your career thus far? 

Necessary Endings by Dr Henry Cloud changed my life. It gave me permission to let go of things that were holding me back, with grace. I’m naturally drawn to Harvard Business School’s podcasts, case studies and thought leadership content, as well. It’s a wealth of insights from some of the world’s brightest minds.


What is your ‘why’ i.e. Bottom line? And how do you stay motivated?

I’ve got bills to pay, is the honest truth, but money has never been my key driver – results are. I’m a freak for beating our own records at DUO.


Outside of work, are you involved in any extracurricular activities and/or community outreach projects? 

I’m a Mom, Business owner and investor. I love a challenge so I stretch myself in the learning department most. I’m often doing courses for both business and personal reasons and I’m a big fan of personal development work facilitated by Landmark SA. I love photography and long Sunday lunches in the sun with friends. As a company we support Sparrow Schools, Heavens Nest and we were donors in the rebuild of Harrington House children’s haven after it burnt down. 


Who or what inspires you on a daily basis?

I’m most inspired by the everyday people who make their lives work – this could be Thando, the guy from the garden service guy who sings with passionate joy for the entire hour that he prunes my roses to the Vusi Thembekwayo’s who rose from abject poverty on the East Rand to becoming one of most inspiring businessmen in SA today. He’s no trust fund kid but he made his life work – even from day one- by working really hard.   He has so much to teach our youth – both rich and poor.


As a woman in your field, who has worked her way up the ranks, what advice do you have for young women/future generations who aspire to work your industry? 

Don’t let anyone stand in the way of your dreams. Don’t make excuses for your failures; own them and move on. You are bound to make mistakes. The learning comes from deep reflection, apologising and getting up again.

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