by Zanita Careem
Over a decade’s worth of experience handling advertising, public relations and marketing within the FMCG, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Telecommunications industries and now her own Corporate Communications Agency, News Publisher – Fiona Nanayakkara has become one of the most sought after communications professionals, of her time. News publisher.online is the first and only press release distribution system in Sri Lanka, the company creates content for a variety of industries and work with companies who abide by the triple bottom line and use platforms such as mainstream media, social media and online to reach relevant audiences. In 2019 Fiona was also awarded the Most Influential Content Marketer at the World Marketing Congress.
Armed with an MBA from the University of Buckinghamshire (UK) and a wit that knows no-bounds, Nanayakkara authored the first a self-help manual, providing coping methods to overcome workplace harassment, while maneuvering the Sri Lankan corporate minefield.
What were your observations on the dependence of brands on PR agencies?
Heavily dependent. Brands will always have to depend on Advertising and Public relations agencies as mainstream media management takes years of expertise.
Social media strategy can be developed by someone who has an understanding of the brand, the target audience and basics of the social media platforms and content. The numerous hours spent on social media, has enabled them to know where they want to be seen by whom and how?
In other words brands know if their customers watch videos/images on instagram/facebook.
However PR strategy should be in line with not just the brand but also with the knowledge of media and its viewers. What most PR people don’t understand is that we work for two key stakeholders –
Our clients who we support with messaging, presentation and media networks.
Media who we support with well written, news-worthy content which is applicable to their readers ( a mass audience)
Senior Marketers would always hire a PR agency because they are aware of what we bring to the table. With companies going to flatter structures everyday to reduce cost and increase efficiency, brands are more dependent on PR agencies, because in-house services are now outsourced.
Also older brands are aware that PR should be managed strategically, as we talk to the national media for their brand.
Can most small businesses afford a PR agency?
In the current industry context, companies need a significant budget to appear in the newspaper, TV or Radio. Marketing services are expensive. While PR and advertising remains expensive, SMEs & Entrepreneurs are being creative with more affordable communication tools to attract customers – which is the end goal.
Yes it’s nice to have media presence but sustenance is key, therefore brands just opt for digital marketing solutions. Bigger brands are also now moving towards digital marketing as targeting is much easier online.
This is why News Publisher has made publicity affordable. www.newspublisher.online empowers the customer to decide on the specific services they absolutely need agency services from and just work with us on that. Big brands hire news publisher because the quality is not compromised yet within budget, Entrepreneurs hire because the over all cost is 50% lesser than the industry rate as at News Publisher we are obliged to provide news worthy content to readers, listeners & viewers via mainstream media.
Many brands are increasingly repositioning themselves to suit the market sentiment. Do you think now PR agencies will have a more active role to play?
Yes, and the reason is; PR agencies usually handle a wide range of companies differing from size, location to industry. We spin news for a living!
Example: a company wants to say they donated half a million for the pandemic recovery, we say the company values in caring for the community they operate in.
PR agencies add more value to the news, the brand originally wants to say, make it reader friendly so media editor’s relationship is not compromised. A good PR Agency can also give you direction on your stakeholder related investments for the betterment of the brand.
PR has to be mastered over a certain period of time (approx. over a decade) to be good at it. Brands will require that level of expertise when repositioning themselves.
In your view, what are a few trends in the PR agency industry?
Working from home option enabled for majority of the supply chain. PR agencies work with writers, translators, graphic designers, online marketers and web-developers who work better from home. The timely service is an ongoing challenge, however if and when necessary systems are in place to adhere to client deadlines to deliver high quality services on time. This has enabled us to obtain industry expertise services for clients.
Boutique PR agencies is another trend around the world.
Boutique PR firms don’t have excess layers of management, which empowers employees to take on elevated levels of responsibility and enables clients to have their needs met faster.
Less quantity = more quality. Small, locally owned boutique PR agencies offer a network of specialists from all corners of the professional world who love what they do, and do it well, especially when they have the same goal to achieve.
Online service delivery. Given the recent events and social distancing protocol it’s important that PR people are able to deliver services online. Apart from events, press meet ups and strategy meetings (to name a few) majority of the publicity process can be online.
Briefs are given by clients in writing, written and emailed for approval, published and followed up via www.newspublisher.online and invoice and publicity report submitted via email. News Publisher caters to not just multi-national organization but also to SMEs and start-ups.
The reason News Publisher stepped into this new market was to cost- enable good stories to appear in the newspaper and also opens us up to a wide range of industry knowledge. Even though PR is a B2B service, with the rising of number of entrepreneurs investing in PR we had to adapt to a B2C service process such as an online payment gateway to digitize the customer cycle.
New Look Chagall
Gerald Solomons is a veteran hairdresser and stylist, he not only loves doing hair, but loves relationship he builds with his clients. He honed his skills and passion to make clients look and feel glamorous. He prides himself on listening to his clients’ needs to create personalised and gorgeous hair colour and styles while always keeping the integrity of their hair his top priority.
Breast cancer awareness; a simple needle test goes a long way in saving lives
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women across the globe. National cancer incidence data (Sri Lanka) has shown, a significant increase in the number of breast cancer patients. The peak incidence of breast cancer is between 50 – 58 years of age (can vary from country to country).
1. Age – Peak incidence of breast cancer is between 50 – 58 years of age. The incidence of breast cancer decreases after 60 years. Breast cancer is uncommon in women less than 30 years of age.
2. Family history – Women who have a first-degree relative with breast carcinoma have a two to three times higher risk of getting t
he disease than that of the general population.
3. Genetic mutations – Germline mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are associated with an increased risk of having breast cancer.
4. Menstrual and reproductive history – Increased risk is correlated with early menarche (beginning of menstrual cycles), nulliparity, late age at first birth and late menopause.
5. Exogenous oestrogen – Exogenous oestrogen is considered as a risk factor of breast cancer.
6. Ionizing radiation – An increased risk of breast cancer has been documented with exposure to ionizing radiation.
7. Alcohol consumption
8. Cigarette smoking
10. Lack of physical exercise
However, in most cases a definitive cause for breast cancer cannot be identified. It is important to know that you can get breast cancer without having any of the above mentioned risk factors. Why it happened and how it happened may not be clear at all times. Do not blame yourself, it is not due to your fault. It can happen to anyone… rich or poor, big or small, black or white. Do not let breast cancer destroy your life. If you come early the disease can be controlled. Be knowledgeable about the symptoms of breast cancer. If you feel something is not right, without taking it lightly resort to medical advice.
There is a wide range of symptoms that can vary from person to person
Breast lump (usually painless), hardness or thickening
Skin changes that include swelling, redness, pitting (skin of an orange), scaling or any other noticeable change
An increase in the size or change in the shape of the breast
Changes in the appearance of the nipple (s), peeling of skin over the nipple
Discharge from the nipple (other than milk)
Pain in any part of the breast
Lumps/ swelling in the arm pit
However, it is important to understand that early breast cancer may not show any of the above symptoms. You may not feel a lump at all. Only way to detect early cancer is by a screening method and currently the widely acknowledged approach has been screening mammography. By this screening method unsuspected lumps in asymptomatic women can be identified. Breast cancer screening using mammograms is a well- established program in the developed world. Women over 45-50 years of age are recommended for screening. The cut off age for screening can vary from country to country. If there is a strong family history of breast cancer (or any other significant risk factor) screening will be offered at an earlier age. Mammogram exposes the breasts to a small amount of radiation. Benefits of breast screening by mammogram are far too many. We do not have a national breast cancer screening programme yet, but it will come in to place in the near future.
There is a simple needle test (fine needle aspiration cytology technique) that can be done as a first line investigation for breast lumps. It is a minimally invasive procedure with hardly any complications. It is cost effective and the results can be obtained quickly. Needle test can give a clue as to the nature of the lump. Sometimes the needle test results can be inconclusive. In those instances, further investigations will be done to confirm the diagnosis.
A plunge of three decades and more
Sri Lanka Sub Aqua Club credited for producing some of country’s top divers, several of them internationally recognized today, turns 35
by Randima Attygalle
Piling the diving gear into their cars and filling the empty seats with fellow divers, the founder members of the Sri Lanka Sub Aqua Club (SLSAC) in its formative years would head south to Hikkaduwa or Galle. They would fill their cylinders with a compressor, cast their own lead weights from lead pipes bought in Panchikawatte and purchase second-hand equipment whenever they appeared in the market. As the Founder Chairman of the Club, veteran diver, Dr. Malik Fernando recollects more than three decades later, “those who were fortunate enough to travel abroad brought back accessories and sold them at cost and we even serviced our own regulators.”
The Sri Lanka Sub-Aqua Club was formed in 1985 by a group of diving enthusiasts led by the marine biologist, Dr. M.W.R.N de Silva (Dr. Ranjith de Silva). What was envisaged by the Club says Dr. Fernando was to train Sri Lankans in SCUBA diving for both recreation and more importantly, for scientific research. He was supported by Arjan Rajasuriya, presently the Coordinator, Coastal and Marine Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Sri Lanka Country Office. The idea of the Club germinated in the mind of the founder, Dr. Ranjith de Silva following his establishment of the Coral Unit at the National Aquatic Resources and Research Agency (NARA). The core group consisted of a few British Sub Aqua (BSAC) qualified divers such as Dr. Fernando, himself and those who have been involved in various diving-related pursuits.
The SLSAC, modelled on the BSAC, had produced several internationally reputed divers along its 35-year journey. The SLSAC-certified divers are today recognized by many local recreational dive stations. “Although we sought to form a branch of the BSAC once we got established, the cost was prohibitive, thus we initiated our independent certification scheme,” notes its founder chairman. The Club’s training courses, Dr. Fernando recollects, were very popular and many divers were trained by senior members. “However, it was eventually recognised that the BSAC curriculum was too comprehensive, too time consuming and too detailed for beginners. With the popularisation of the compact PADI course that a number of us followed, the club curriculum was modified and simplified changing from a BSAC model to a PADI model, with much less theory and drills reduced to basic essentials. The instruction was still by club members, some of whom had BSAC qualification and experience in instructing in their original clubs. We were only able to give a club certification, but after we had established our credentials by producing well trained divers, that certification came to be recognised by some of the recreational dive stations.”
The SLSAC was also one of the chief catalysts in driving the now well-established Maritime Archaelogy Unit (MAU) in Galle, and the contribution made by the Club members towards its expansion is notable. Recovery of several porcelain and glass artefacts by them from the shipwrecks lying in Galle spurred this initiative, says Dr. Fernando. Further, th
e club has also contributed to maritime archaeology and preservation of artefacts by contributing to the establishment of a shipwreck database and actively lobbying against shipwreck salvaging, especially of ancient shipwrecks.
A medical doctor, Fernando attributes his ‘physician gene’ to his illustrious father, Dr. Cyril Fernando and his penchant for nature to his artistic mother. An adventurous family, they would seize every opportunity to travel out of Colombo fuelling the budding physician-cum diver son’s exploring spirits. Taking to water at the age of seven, young Malik’s imagination was fired by the National Geographic Magazine. With a pair of flippers and a second-hand mask he would head towards Mount Lavinia and recollect his earliest experience of Hikkaduwa as “going deep down into an aquarium.” Further inspired by the celebrated diver Rodney Jonklaas, a family acquaintance as well, the freshly graduated doctor would spend more time diving than passing his higher exams in the UK!
“Today the greater accent is on tuition and passing exams with little emphasis on sports and even if children do engage in sports, it is largely for competition. Sadly the value of sports as a leisure activity and a health gain is largely undermined today,” observes Dr. Fernando who urges school authorities to take more interest in water-sports. “Learning to swim and dive is only means to an end. Not only can a person discover new places but he/she can also become a partner is conservation,” says the expert diver who has walked the talk. Encouraging the budding swimmers and divers to become partners of the marine eco-system true to the mandate of the Club, Dr. Fernando urges them to rally around it in a bid to produce ‘responsible’ divers with scientific insights.
“Diving enables connectivity with the entire eco-system from which we are sadly very detached right now. It provides one of the best windows to the polluted environment, for which man is responsible,” reflects Wishwamithra Kadurugamuwa, present President of the Club. The monthly ‘sharing of knowledge’ exercise initiated by the Club facilitates this process, he adds. The experience and stories of the experienced divers shared on this platform inspire the younger members, he says. “For us, diving is much more than sight-seeing, it is about moulding divers who would perceive things scientifically,” says Kadurugamuwa who is a corporate lawyer .
The ‘Citizen Science Project’ which was launched by the Club early this year in collaboration with the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) is a progressive move which provides the divers a portal to document their dives. The exercise is envisaged to be a vehicle of future research and a facilitator in conservation. “The end purpose of this endeavour is to have a record after each dive as to where the reefs are dying, the extent of the damage, how can they be salvaged etc. To record all this, divers need to perceive through a scientific lens for which training is provided by experts,” said Kadurugamuwa.
The opportunities within the marine eco-system which lay before an island nation such as ours are enormous, yet hardly tapped, he noted. He cites water sports and newer tourism products such as shipwreck tourism in this regard. “Sadly there is not much attention paid to the marine environment in the magnitude it ought to happen,” adding that entangled fishing nets, empty plastic bottles and yoghurt cups floating besides the coral reefs do not support the idyllic picture any underwater explorer would want to see. The Club’s intervention to clean fishing nets entangled on coral reefs and lobbying for legislation against unethical fishing practices are moves towards realizing a sustainable marine environment.
Dynamite fishing and spear-fishing are very destructive forms of fishing and whilst there is active legislation prohibiting dynamite fishing, it is practiced widely and the club has played a very active role in reporting infractions to authorities leading to curtail of such activity. In addition the club was instrumental in bringing about legislation to prohibit spear-fishing in Sri Lanka – again a very destructive practice as spear fishermen in SCUBA gear have caused localized extinction of key species.
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