The new (improved) POPIA law

Don’t panic, no one is going to jail… yet…

It’s here, the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI Act or POPIA) commenced on 1 July 2020. It was originally due to take effect from 1 April 2020 (an amusing date, but I digress), however, thanks to the appearance of an invisible enemy, namely CV-19, the roll-out was delayed. (So maybe it was an appropriate date, a case of ‘Just kidding!’?)

Now that the Act is in place, parties will be given a one-year transition period to comply. That sounds like a lot of time, but the roll-out of a comprehensive POPIA compliance plan can take between six months and two years to complete.

So, what is it, I hear you ask querulously?

Well, for those of you who have just come out of hibernation, POPIA refers to South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act, whose aim is the control and Processing of Personal Information.

When we talk Personal Information, that broadly means any information relating to an identifiable, living natural person or juristic person; a body recognised by the law as being entitled to rights and duties in the same way as a natural or human person, the common example being a company, CCs etc. and includes, but is not limited to information around contact details: email, telephone, physical address, location; demographic information: age, sex, race, birth date, ethnicity, sexual orientation; the employment, financial, educational, criminal and medical history of the person/entity, including blood type and other biometric information.

Also, of interest, included in the POPI Act is the capture of personal opinions, views or preferences and opinions of and about the person (yeah, that Twitter comment and or rant on FaceBook…), as well as private correspondence etc.

However, POPIA, unlike the GDPR, (that’s General Data Protection Regulation) does not apply extraterritorially, that is, it only pertains to organisations in South Africa. In essence, if you reside in South Africa or you process personal information within the country, then you need to comply with POPIA. (Although, if you are GDPR compliant, chances are you’re already pretty much POPIA-compliant). In addition, the processing of some personal information is excluded. For example, if you are processing purely for personal reason, then POPIA won’t apply to you.

Some instances where POPIA does not apply, include:

  • purely household or personal activity
  • some state functions including criminal prosecutions, national security etc.
  • journalism under a code of ethics
  • judiciary functions

While both GDPR and POPIA enforce the law for managing and storing personal information (as well the guidelines for alerting third parties if there are safety violations) there are variances, as the safety regulations differ a little.

GDPR: “The controller and the processor shall implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security and appropriate to risks represented by the processing and the nature of the personal data to be protected.”

POPIA: “A responsible party must secure the integrity and confidentiality of personal information in its possession or under its control by taking appropriate, reasonable technical and organisational measures.”

Also, penalties differ. Under the GDPR, a fine of up to four percent of annual global turnover or €20-million, whichever is greater, can be leveraged. Try paying that as a South African company!

With the POPIA Act, being non-compliant, the responsible party could run the risk of a penalty of a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or under certain conditions, imprisonment of up to 10 years.

While this really has the overtones of George Orwell’s ‘1984’, there is an upside: The Act is also aimed at providing rights to people when it comes to unwanted electronic communications. That’s gotta be good, right? The POPIA legislation essentially deems your personal information to be “precious goods” and therefore aims to grant you, as the owner of your personal information, certain rights of protection and the ability to exercise control over information that is gathered.

You see, included in the Act, are guidelines about direct marketing. This means that you can’t just send any unsolicited messages willy-nilly, or emails to consumers without them opting in.

Marketing is one of the business departments that will be most affected by POPIA, meaning you have to be fully clued up on what POPIA entails and how it’ll affect your day-to-day job.

Think ‘consent’ and you basically have POPIA compliance. People must opt-in to receiving your communication, and you’re only permitted to send them the kind of data they have opted-in to receiving. For example, you cannot send a monthly newsletter to a user who only wants to obtain information linked to their individual investment portfolio. By the same token, users need to be able to opt-out easily from any further communication.

In addition, when asking people for their personal information you must reveal why you need this information, how it will be used and whether it will be passed on to third parties.

While some limitations on direct marketing are imposed by POPIA, (emails, cold calling and SMSes) there are various other ways in which you can market your products to prospects without concerns related to violating the Act.

For example, social media marketing. As explained by Deloitte, if an individual interacted with you, or is following your company on social media, they already anticipate hearing from you, so any related communication within this format or platform, is not considered unsolicited.

It is important to note that the POPI Act is not only applicable on forms that are filled in manually, but also any cookies on websites used for analytics, advertising and any chat boxes or pop-ups. All compliant websites have a clear user opt-in, acknowledging that they have given consent to the website (the business presented in the website) to collect, process and store their gathered information.

The Act will also affect the way you notify stakeholders; if a security or privacy breach has occurred, and personal information is compromised, you will have to notify third parties as soon as possible.

While the possibilities to implement POPIA are many, it’s important to take the right one for your organisation over this 12-month period.

So, what to do, to prevent that awful sound of a prison cell door thudding shut behind you? (Only kidding, they close like any other door.)

Seems there are benefits to complying with the Act. According to, consumer studies show that in 90% of cases, people feel safer about doing business with companies that are transparent about how they use your info, increasing customer confidence in the organisation. Wouldn’t you be happier if you knew how it was being stored, and why? Companies who take these measures are likely to have a more reliable database, which in itself, has numerous upsides.

With POPIA compliance, it’s not a case of ‘one size fits all’, as every organisation needs to implement different measures. For example, an SME’s requirements are very different to that of a medium or large-sized organisation.

Every organisation or company, no matter what size has some person who holds the role of Information Officer by default. (Some call them ‘Know all’, other times they have a clearly defined role and official title.) This is the person responsible for ensuring that your organisation complies with POPIA.

So, that person who always jumps on the bandwagon ensuring you follow policies etc, may be the ideal Information Officer. If that’s you, then you need to ask if you are happy with that responsibility, do you want to continue to be the Information Officer? If you’re not, then the question is: Who should be?

Ultimately, compliance accountability rests with a responsible party, which could be a public or private concern or any other person who, individually, or in combination with others, defines the objective of, and method for processing personal information within the company. As a rule, the elected party or person/s must be resident in South Africa or, the processing should occur within South Africa (subject to certain exclusions).

Also, further actioning is dependent on the foundations already laid to protect personal information, and, while some companies may have many procedures in place, others may be entirely new to this exercise.

Managing information is the crux of the process. You’ll have to categorise any consumer data that you hold and identify and determine whether it can be construed as ‘personal information’. So too, any ‘records’ and ‘sensitive’ information you might have, you’ll have to identify, as different criteria exist for handling personal information and non-personal information.

Broadly, processing info includes anything that can be done with the Personal Information, including collection, usage, storage, dissemination, modification or destruction (whether such processing is automated or not).

The POPI Act involves capturing the minimum required data, certifying accuracy, and removing data that is no longer required. The Act includes the following guidelines: ensure that the info you collect is needed for a specific purpose and apply practical security measures to safeguard it. Also, make sure it’s accurate, relevant and up to date and don’t be overzealous, only hold as much as you need for as long as you need it; no reason to hoard here. If the subject asks, they must be allowed access to the information and to see it upon request.

In brief, what you need to do:

Appoint an information officer: If the organisation does not already have one, the first step to compliance would be to appoint an information officer, in line with the requirements set out in POPIA.

Clarity of definition: Make sure everyone in the company, from the top down, understands what data privacy legislation entails and what is required of them, to ensure effective compliance.

Conduct self-audits: When staff are informed, conduct self-assessments and audits throughout the organisation, within each business unit. It is important to understand what, how, by whom information is collected. Also, what it is used for, how it is stored and processed and how it is retained and destroyed. Most importantly, whether it was collected with the requisite consent? After this, the company will be better able to identify gaps and produce a clear gap analysis and risk assessment report.

Develop a compliance protocol: An appropriate gap analysis will help pinpoint processes and policies to be put in place, which may include:

  • updates to employment contracts
  • updates to supplier agreements
  • changes to marketing practices (opt-in and opt-out best practice) and more.

Implement: Once implemented, the compliance framework should be monitored and maintained and ensure proper implementation of new policies and procedures through in-depth training, awareness campaigns, annual re-training and compliance audits.

In a nutshell, POPIA is a code of conduct for all businesses. While companies will be affected by the Act, it will impact specifically on those that deal with a large amount of personal information — think banks, insurance companies, medical aids, etc. That’s not to say that if you are a smaller concern that you will be able to dodge the Act, as all companies need to have systems in place to deal with personal information.

When in doubt, find out!

Disclaimer: While listed sources have been referenced, we cannot be held responsible for incorrect information being unwittingly relayed. Please consult the government website for confirmation, or for any queries.




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The Customer Journey

Green Beetle Branding

While brick-and-mortar stores may not offer the endless selection of online, often it’s the experience of walking through the aisles, touching and handling products that will seal the deal, where a digital rendition isn’t going to cut it.

Good news for brick-and-mortar businesses is that it’s estimated that 61% of consumers shop in-store, compared to 31% who choose online. Also, 40% of shoppers spend more than planned while shopping in physical stores, while only 25% of shoppers do so online.

Attractive storefronts and point-of-purchase displays can strongly influence impulse purchases and are harder to disregard than online ads. Also, one of the key factors for in-store shopping is that customers receive the merchandise immediately.

Let’s face it too, sometimes, just being seen in the establishment is good enough for a Social Media selfie, think Fifth Avenue and other notables…

A physical store is an experience not only a transaction

An interesting space, Reviews; a liberty to write exactly what you think about a product or service, sans censor; where you can comment honestly (hopefully) about an inferior product or service —whether real or perceived; where you can be the champion of the collective, the Stasi of the service industry, the Clark Kent of the kitchen. Through a favourable write up, businesses can be jettisoned into intergalactic fame or, big problem, if you are on the receiving end of negative public opinion or perception, a review can land a business in deep water.

Positive Reviews are oxygen to any brand, while negative ones can sound the death knell. Best advice? Don’t give those wannabe critiques traction to dis your brand; be transparent and ethical and you’ll navigate out of dangerous waters…

Reviews and other deep water

It’s true, I don’t fancy a somewhat disembodied Richard Attenborough standing in the corner of my breakfast nook, regaling me with the mating habits of the lesser-known blue-ringed fruit bat, while I bite down on my breakfast croissant and slurp on my cup of recently ground Java. I’d far rather see him contained in a box, available on demand, at my beck and call, when convenient to me and not simply manifesting like an information spectre from some B-grade horror movie.  

There’s something comforting about TV— a companion to many, a visually stimulating source of information, insight, education, music, news dissemination and entertainment, all rolled into one.

And no, there is no blue-ringed fruit bat, that I am aware of, but hey, ask Attenborough…

The tube, the telly or the more common TV

The art of being drawn into a bubble of imagination that transports you past the limits of your reality, down a funnel of amazement and incredulity, through twists and turns of intrigue, mystery and beauty, as your mind contracts and expands like cerebral lungs, accommodating your rapid breathing and rising adrenalin, wrapping itself around the spoken word, absorbing it, relishing the sensation of its make-up, grasping for the next, squeezing every syllable dry, yet whetting the soul for more. That’s radio, found in almost every home across the planet where people gather for comfort and entertainment. Radio, the theatre of the mind.

Radio, audio syrup for the soul

The mental picture of Marilyn Monroe wearing a radio, is borderline absurd — but in reality, it’s a clever double entendre, a specific way of wording that is created to have a double meaning, with one mainly risqué. Not that you would have picked that up, right?

I bet you have just re-read her quote…

That’s the wonderful side of print, you can revisit it time and again, as dog-eared magazines in waiting rooms attest to. As it has high recall value, with this medium, if a brand catches your attention, it remains imprinted on the mind’s eye, per se.  Best, you can chew over and digest the content in your own time, at your own pace, on the metro, in the lounge, or seek solace in a publication when irritating in-laws visit.

Print, more than a catchy headline

Word of mouth is the only evaluation where emotion is considered and gossip encouraged… A space where you can relate your experiences and opinions before an eager and receptive audience, preferably using as many adjectives as you can string together; a place where you may be viewed as an aficionado and taken seriously, or dismally dismissed as a fraud.

This is the space in which brands are made or broken, where the slightest glitch can create an avalanche of bad publicity — or where the simplest kindness to a customer can win you an award. This is the space of opinions and self-righteousness, of blaming and complimenting, of celebrating and crucifying; where the hashtag is king and the influential, gods.

Word of mouth, from their lips to the gods’ ears

Relatively new to the business world, WhatsApp Business has morphed from a vacuous chat forum used by angst-driven teenagers (and highly inebriated adults) to vent at the world and spew out graphic details about their miserable lives, the neighbour, the neighbour’s dog, politics and every other topic —peppered with appropriate emojis, just for emphasis — to a fully-fledged business platform, showcasing products and services. The huge drawcard is that (barring data costs) it’s totally FREE and we all know what that does to the human psyche…

WhatsApp Business was built with the small business owner in mind, and if a somewhat indisposed adult or emotional teenager can use it, it’s obviously hugely user-friendly.

One of the methods to draw attention is through the status option, but be warned, don’t confuse your business profile with your private one…

Mind your own WhatApp Biz

The greatest advantage of online advertising is that it focuses on a specific segment of a market. It’s like paying a sniper, but without the hassle of the outlay of the flack-jacket, the nifty cammo attire, zooty sunglasses and the seriously expensive gun license — never mind all the relevant training and dodgy bank accounts — but that’s another story…

Unlike shot-gun marketing that aims at a non-specific target, blasting in the general direction, hoping something will ‘hit’, sniper advertising creeps up on its target, lines it up in its crosshairs and evah so gently, pulls the trigger. That the fallen target normally stands up again, and remembers the brand that felled it in the first place and then typically comes back for more, is just plain weird…

Online advertising, putting the target in the crosshairs

Email has had some really bad press, as it is oft-times seen as intrusive and just plain darn irritating. Who hasn’t groaned when yet another email pings, slicing through your concentration as you (albeit furtively) check to see who exactly is trying to get your attention?

Yes, it’s intrusive, but think, email is an amazing little messenger that runs at your bidding, that serves you unfailingly, (barring data outages) delivering the worst and the best news.

The reality is, email is the unrecognised, unsung, Eighth Wonder of the Modern World, and it’s here, right on your phone and/or laptop, at your fingertips, literally; ready to fly through space, time and the ether, delivering your information, special offer, latest news, wedding invitations, brand updates, newsletters and more, to every corner of the world — within a heartbeat.

Don’t shoot the (Email) messenger

Social media is the snitch in the room, telling you stuff about other people—your audience—feeding you juicy insights about your relationship with them and how they really view you — yes, really. It watches every key word, every ‘like’, every comment, search, critique or opinion you post. It’s rather like having Judas Iscariot around, but on your side, without the betrayal.

(That is, unless you are ‘unfriended’ and/or blocked, but that’s another area altogether and falls under ‘cyber counselling’.)

Social Media whispers in your cyber ear, advising you through algorithmic analysis, about customers’ habits, about how long they stay on social networks and in messaging services. This sector is a vital part of any company’s marketing strategy. And just think, if you don’t engage with them, you won’t experience the euphoric and powerful feeling of unfriending them…

Social Media, your tame snitch

It’s all about the rush to the front of the queue, to get on the first page of any search engine, to be seen first, chosen first — well, at least considered first. But this isn’t simply bullying your way to the front of the queue, the Pay per Click technique requires the patience of the philosopher, the cunning of the fox, the writing skills of Milton and the analytical mind of Sherlock Holmes.

This is the non-ambiguous zone of marketing. This is where verbiage like “the best” and “the greatest” is disregarded, where repetition is frowned on and use of CAPS is all but taboo. This is where good content is the lure; a Call to Action has the price stated clearly and where persuasion is key.

You click?

PPC sales, "Mitt Vun Klick!”

This Profiler of the bunch compiles accurate and relevant social ads from sampling your ‘DNA’, while analysing your digital fingerprint. “So, confirming your alibi for the night of 9 December 2018. I see you were out clubbing with your hockey group of over 30s in your area. You posted a photo of Marelise in her hockey kit, gulping down a beer at Sam’s Blues Bar… OK alibi accepted.”

Social ads are built around you, your demographic, your hobbies, your social groups, who you hang with, which age group you fall into and what your interests are; crossing every platform, from TV, videos, static ads and more. They are directed at you, personally, tailored just for you; they are your own personality profile — and a pretty accurate one, at that.

ads - more than an

Bloggers reach billions of Internet users and blogging works by offering something of value for nothing in return, other than that the tomes are read.

While blogging can be a collection of musings and observations, it is also a place to promote products, (hey, maybe even selling your white elephant), support services and show off your writing skills. Think on this statistic: only 1% of Internet users create new content, while the other 99% simply view it. Which are you?

However, like our favourite pachyderm, the Internet has an indelible memory… just because you can blog anything, doesn’t mean that you should. Ensure that you know what you’re talking about as the Internet is merciless, regardless how thick you may think your skin is, elephant hide included, it’ll gore you if your guard is down.

Blogging establishes authority

Websites are the Party Animals of the marketing basket, inviting you to come visit and stay a while, while incessantly downloading info on you — they just can’t help themselves; they want your company and they wanna chat!
Websites come in all shapes and sizes, colouring their language to suit their environment, goal and audience — designed to get you to come visit, even sometimes through a link or referral.
Never has there been such a volume of inter-connected people on the planet, where millions of websites generate and share information and invite you to visit.
The main reason why you take them up on their invite and revisit however, is because you trust them

Websites call you to “Come visit!”

While no-one likes being called a sheeple, that’s baaaa-aaa-d news, we are led and influenced by the media, with at least either a TV or a radio in our homes.

Even though  TV and radio to some, may seem to come from a bygone era, their advertising content is well received, and viewed as being more credible and trustworthy than platforms that are free, owing to the high cost of advertising in these media. Therefore, both still play an important role in a consumer-focused brand building strategy. 

TV and radio still offer a reach far beyond that of other more targeted platforms and form an important segment of a 360-marketing solution.

These platforms also separate the sheep from the goats, which means distinguishing between good and bad, or superior and inferior. That’s not too baa-aa-d, hey?

Media, the good,
the baa-aaa-d and the underestimated

While email is the 8th World Wonder, its close cousin is Direct Email, the Bear Grylls of the marketing mix. Who else would you trust to ensure that the apt content is delivered to the correct recipient?

Direct Email’s success lies in luring new, targeted customers with an easy to digest format and comes speckled with active links, tempting a quick peek at your brand’s offerings.

This is where a totally committed ‘Bear Grylls’ is given the package to deliver. He grips it, firmly in his teeth while running over hot lava, through icefields, canyons, deserts, swimming through stormy seas, up mountains and down crevasses, and wading through jungles and marsh lands… THEN he squeezes into your inbox and hand delivers the message directly to you, personally.

Rambo, who’s he?

Direct Email, step aside Rambo…

Good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) increases sales, improves customer service, and increases profitability. It is the ability to smile and nod at your (sometimes irate) customer even though a crocodile has its jaws firmly clamped on your left foot, while the customer’s child is tugging at your beard. Few manage these relationship gymnastics with any true degree of panache, but those that do, stand head and shoulders above their competition, complete with said reptile locked onto said foot.

Why is this such a feat you ask (no pun intended)? Well, the customer is King, it is he/she that keeps you in business and if you don’t say “how high?” when he/she says “jump!” you had better hone your athletic skills…

CRM, the art of jumping to attention

The landing page is where you push your USP; where you help visitors visualise a better life, where you persuade them that Nirvana exists. This is the Preacher of the bunch, the place where customers are called to convert (CTA), but oh! so nicely. Landing pages are normally attractively designed to mesmerise you, and before you know it, you are genuflecting and reaching for your credit card …

Think of a landing page as a net that catches a potential customer who has already clicked on a smaller embedded advertisement on another webpage. What is great about a landing page is that it provides data directly linked to the advertisement selected by the user. It’s where toe-dippers are lovingly wooed into the flock and converted…

Landing pages,
Bless you…

Eventing is key to establishing or building a brand; where you get to different prospects at the same location and time; an opportunity to host the bash of the century/millennium/entire existence of Mankind… or not.

There are numerous wing-dings that history recounts, from King Solomon, who sacrificed 22,000 oxen and hundreds of fattened fowl for a feast in his splendiferous palace, to a party in 1694, featuring a booze-filled fountain so large that it’s said bartenders in canoes rowed around inside it to serve guests.

To recreate this epic theme, simply take 1000 litres of brandy, 470 litres of wine, 650 kilos of sugar, 2,500 lemons, 75 litres of lime juice, and 2,5 kilos of nutmeg. Serve shaken, stirred, or paddled — and pray your client is in the alcohol industry.

Or you can have clients over for a braai.

Eventful Eventing

This is the Mentor and Teacher rolled into one. Actually, occasionally psychologist, going by some of the questions…

FAQs and Tips are important to get your customers up-to-speed, to fill in any info gaps; kinda like a self-help, but with a (patient) teacher on standby. FAQs cover a variety of topics, where important information is shared to clarify questions and qualms on the part of shoppers, including product or service usage, business hours, prices, and more. 

But they aren’t static. More effective FAQ pages are created by adding common queries not already covered by the page, as they come in from shoppers.

Actually, FAQs are more the Teacher’s Pet, ready with all the answers and probably even an apple…

FAQs, tips and other idiot-proof help

The thing about this little Ninja, is that it’s immediate, it pops up on your device, it tugs at your attention to be seen, it relies on you being curious… Actually, it’s more toddler than Ninja… or maybe a hybrid? Either way, the little beast gets you to respond, either dismissively or with eager intent — depending on the marketing angle.

SMS advertising is extremely effective, with 90% of messages read within just three minutes of being sent. SMS marketing is the perfect method to link up with your audience, personally. The best SMS campaigns are those that drive action; and let’s be honest – as intolerant buyers ourselves, we’re not inclined to follow directions entailing more than a couple of clicks to get us to our goal.

Think on this, how long could you endure a toddler tugging incessantly at your trouser pant, wanting to engage?

Opt in/opt out – sms hopscotch

“Oyez”, says the Town Crier, ringing the bell, calling you to gather round.

‘Oyez’ means ‘hear ye,’ an Anglo-Norman word for listen, and you really want to listen to what the guy with the bell is saying, even if it’s just to shut the bell up!

Running promotions is ideal to promote latest products and services; it creates excitement and interest and gets people to stand up and take notice. Some town criers’ announcements are considered so important that they are recorded in books called a Proclamation Book, whereas in Modern Times, we call them newspapers, brochures and online ads. Either way, they draw your attention, without running the risk of being hit by a swinging bell.

Promotions and other proclamations

Social networking exists on the intrinsic need for people to connect, to be seen, to be acknowledged. It ensures you get the info first, to link, collaborate, and exchange ideas. It’s where you get to measure the influence you thought you had, to measure the number of followers, the number of posts, and the number of interactions. It’s a numbers game.

Humans are wired to socialise, gather, share and network. Social networking is the ultimate in communicating an idea; it is the online conference that your business must attend, the digital gathering where you must be present, the cyber space where your absence is noted.

Social Networking is the Bean Counter of the marketing basket, there to assess your engagement skills and rate you accordingly.

Social Networks, how do you measure up?

I bet you didn’t know that the average person receives about 88 emails per day. That’s at least 88 people vying for your attention which, science will tell, is a challenge, as we have less than the nine-second attention span of your average goldfish. So, what makes you decide at any given moment what is relevant and, on that score, what makes anyone want to read your info?

Curated content, that’s the hook that will capture your (goldfish) interest and theirs.

Mix it up, put out some bait. This is where you share the best news, articles, videos and infographics, usually with the intention of adding value — the correct bait; not that you want to catch goldfish, but you get my drift?

Newsletters, get them hooked, before they blink!

There you have it: convenience, ease of access, no jacket required.
Having products online is super convenient for both shopper and retailer. Online products allow the customer to browse, compare prices, quality, availability, variety and more. No petrol required, no standing in queues, because they browse online products through mobile apps, physical stores, and social sites. What’s not to love?
For retailers, you need a steady supply of first-rate products that thrill your customers, answer their challenges, and meet their demands. This, along with good photography, accurate information and a user-friendly interface is vital. Through web analysis tools (such as Google Analytics) you can gather data, gain new insights from user activity and then use these insights to improve your business.
Come to think of it, maybe you should at least wear a jacket?

Products online,
no jacket required

PR is a magic box in the Advertising and Marketing realm; it is here that pigs’ ears are transformed into silken purses — but not any silken purses, rather those with a Jacquard weave and a golden thread, with a handcrafted fastener.

It is only through PR that you look good, (trust me on this), it’s PR that allows you to make mistakes and land on your feet, where public blunders are transmogrified into deliberate, distinctive actions (think mask fumbling), where magic is woven around the mundane, the prosaic, the boring and the quite frankly, sleep-inducing. This is the realm of the diplomat, the mediator, the coach, the smooth talker, the persuader, the storyteller, the dream builder and brand maker…

Think about it, PR is making you read this…

Public Relations