The 3 ‘R’s’: Relationships, Results mindset & W(r)iting – Jacki McEwen-Powell, Eclipse Communications

The 3 ‘R's’: Relationships, Results mindset & W(r)iting - Jacki McEwen-Powell, Eclipse Communications

Written by Staff Writer

Aug 30, 2021

By Charndré Emma Kippie

Jacki McEwen-Powell is the Founding Partner of Eclipse Communications and an industry veteran, publicist and communications strategist. Jacki’s insatiable interest in public relations was ignited in her youth when she began assisting at a Cape Town-based PR agency where her mother was employed. At the age of 26, she launched Meier & McEwen, which later became Eclipse Communications. With a borrowed computer, a phone line, a a new-born baby on her lap and a great deal of determination, it was Jacki’s desire for success that laid the foundation for what Eclipse Communications is today.

A Business Women of the Year finalist in 2013, Jacki is the driving force behind strategy development at Eclipse’s Cape Town offices. Under her leadership, the agency has garnered several accolades, including numerous PRISM, Loeries, New Generation and Creative Circle Awards. Most recently, and most certainly the highlight of Jacki’s career, is the prestige of winning the highly-competitive and coveted PRISM Best Large Public Relations Consultancy Award in 2020 – the pinnacle of recognition and achievement in the South African communications industry.

 

What got you into the field you’re currently in?

During school holidays, I spent time at the PR agency where my mother worked, and this is where I developed my passion for PR. I went on to obtain a diploma, and then a Bachelor’s Degree in the field. I invested in an endowment policy at age 18, and when it matured, I used the money to open my own PR agency, then Meier & McEwen, which became Eclipse Public Relations, and today, Eclipse Communications.

I took the plunge to start a business with little/no resources, a family to take care of, and nothing but sheer grit to make it work. With a borrowed computer, a telephone line, and a newborn baby on my lap, I built this company from scratch.

 

What excites you most about your role?

There are so many things that I love about communications, and my career in it. But the thing that excites me most is that it’s a field that embraces and rewards fresh thinking. That makes it the ideal career for young talent to really excel in as they bring newness to the table. Seeing the next, and next, and next (am I giving my age away yet?) generations of talent coming up through the ranks and having given so many of them a platform from which to grow successful careers has been a very exciting and fulfilling journey.

 

In what ways do you think your business is enhancing the South African economy?

Despite the significant challenges of the pandemic, Eclipse Communications has managed to increase its client base by 40% and its staff complement by 37%. In addition, revenue growth of between 30%–40% is forecast for the current financial year.  Apart from that, we continue to grow into Africa, with affiliate agencies already in place in Kenya, Namibia and Nigeria, as well as in Israel, and an office in Mauritius. Eclipse Communications is also the only African member of the SERMO network, which is a partnership of 16 global independent communications agencies who are all passionate about the value of being part of an open-minded, global network whilst maintaining the independence of creativity and thought.  We have a staff shareholding scheme, with 51% black staff ownership and 35% black female staff shareholding. The success of Eclipse Communications contributes directly to the financial security and growth of our team, beyond a pure salary model. Our internship and mentorship programmes are growing industry skills, we support a large group of suppliers, and we are driven to guiding the growth of our clients.

 

What are your top three tips for ensuring the success of women in your field?
  • Prioritise professional development. I have always surrounded myself with a network of local and international people who create a collective learning experience for me, and also challenge me and my business to develop new skills and services to constantly evolve and grow personally and professionally.
  • Always know that you have everything you need within you to succeed. 
  • There’s no right or wrong time to start a business or pitch for a position or a promotion. If your heart’s in it, do it.

 

What have been some major obstacles in your career, as a woman and how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges facing women in business is the constant juggle of business and family – and the guilt associated with that. In fact, it’s been a sad reality that some of the biggest pressure came from other women. I’d urge all women wanting to have a career and a family to set boundaries that suit your personal needs and goals, and stick to them. Learn to say no. Surprisingly, people generally respect boundaries, and it’s a truism that people treat you the way you allow them to. Apply the 5 by 5 rule: if it won’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes worrying about it. And finally, don’t be afraid of asking for help. A network of support both in your business circle and your personal life is crucial.

 

What are your goals for the future?

With an incredibly strong leadership team in place at Eclipse Communications, I am taking steps to remove myself from the day-to-day activities of the business. My focus is shifting towards mentorships to help grow a new generation of leaders in the communications field.  

 

What important/life-changing books have you read?

I love to read and do so every single night, no matter what time I go to bed. I typically read fiction as I use my reading time as an escape. Recent books I have read and loved include:

  • Miss Benson’s Beatle by Rachel Joyce
  • American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
  • The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins
  • The Absolutist by John Boyne

 

One non-fiction book that I learnt a lot from, both about the woman herself and about the importance of nurturing youth is Michelle Obama’s Becoming. It was a particularly poignant read because at the time, one of the incredibly talented women in our agency, Thembe Mahlaba, was working with Michelle on a YouTube series Creators for Change.

 

What advice do you have for young women entrepreneurs who aspire to work in your field?

Reflect on whether you have the base skills required to be successful in the field. We call them the Three “R’s”: Relationships, Results mindset and W(r)iting. If yes, offer your services as an intern at an agency doing the kind of work you resonate with. If you are successful in landing a position, attack it with passion and commitment. Prove yourself by doing what is asked of you, within deadline, and then do MORE. 

 

Do you have a special message for women across South Africa as we celebrate Women’s Month?

Don’t be afraid to dream big, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to ‘fail’. Learn from those failures and listen to your gut. You need a ‘can do’ mindset. There will be enough people in the world telling you “you can’t”, so your inner voice needs to be loud enough to drown them out.

 

 

*For more, check out our bumper 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here

*Stay up to date with all the latest on Top Women in SA, by signing up to the Standard Bank Top Women newsletter – here

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