Esther Kiragu: To grow, always be ready to learn, unlearn and relearn

Esther Kiragu is a communication consultant and the client service director at Brand Essence Public Relations.

Esther Kiragu is a communication consultant and the client service director at Brand Essence Public Relations.

She specialises in public relations and has a Bachelor of Education (English and Literature) from Kenyatta University and a Master of Arts (Communication Studies) from the University of Nairobi.

She shares her Career Path:

Tell us about your childhood and educational background

Growing up, I loved storytelling. I loved reading newspapers and admired news presenters as they informed the world. In high school, if you wanted a story well told I was the go to person. I knew I wanted to be in the media.

My parents, however, were not convinced that media was the best career path for me. After high school, they sent me to Kenyatta University where I studied Education. In 2009, I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Education specializing in English and Literature.

In many ways, the demand for good communication skills means that an English literature degree offered me diverse career paths. I later joined the University of Nairobi for a Masters of Arts Degree in Communication studies.

Share with us your career journey

I began my career with teaching English and Literature in Language centres, albeit for a short stint.

Many of my students were expatriates working in Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) looking to polish their mastery of the English language.

Soon after, my strong communication skills opened doors in media and publishing. I joined Parents Magazine as a Sub-editor. This was a good training ground as it sharpened my skills for spotting a good story.

We were a lean team but delivered per excellence. I learnt the values of hard work, sheer focus and team work.  Later on at the same company, I took up an additional role in digital marketing.  I rose to an Editorial Coordinator and by the time I left I was an Associate editor.

In 2017 I got into Communication consultancies, a role that has allowed me to work with diverse clients. Some of the work I do entails assisting clients with editorial services for those looking to publish books, write annual reports, newsletters, articles and proposals, do media relations, and develop and execute digital and communication strategies.

In addition, I am the Client Service Director at Brand Essence Public Relations.

What are the fondest memories of your career journey thus far?

Early this year I was involved in organizing and coordinating an internal corporate event to send off a retiring business leader in Kenya’s pharmaceutical industry.  I will never forget how, as a team at Brand Essence Public Relations, we fostered creativity and fun, and raised the bar for excellence in delivering this assignment.

We have continued to leverage on the lessons from this assignment to drive professional, customer and business outcomes in subsequent tasks that we have undertaken.

What has been some key drivers of your growth? Lessons learnt, celebrations and failures. Attitudes, habits, principles…

•Take on new challenges. Earlier on in my career I remember being so afraid of making mistakes and shy of taking up new challenges. With time, I learnt that how something seems right now is not how it’s going to seem in a week, a month, or even a year. It is from challenges that I have learnt and grown the most.

•Collaborations will get you further than competition. “Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships” - Michael Jordan. The day I learnt the power of collaborations I was more intentional. Over time, I have collaborated on various projects with professionals in my industry and this is one of the ways I have grown quickly in my career.

•Whenever you can, mentor someone. I rarely pass up a chance to mentor another person when asked. The relationships that I’ve established over the years have served me well as I’ve moved from one role to another. I am always happy to send the ladder down and bring up one or more people. In the process I have also learnt from mentees and got referrals that have opened a door in my favour.

Who are the people or relationships that you can single out that have been useful in your career growth and how did they influence your trajectory?

I have built a wide network of professionals that have become my sounding board in my career.

I give special thanks to all my mentors, coaches, bosses and colleagues who have inspired me throughout my 10-year career journey.

My mother remains my biggest cheerleader, constantly pushing me to do and be more. She sees my potential and encourages me to fully exploit it.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in life?

During the Covid-19 outbreak, I joined hands with two colleagues and published a 52-week digital series dubbed #KenyaWomenSeries focusing on how stories about women are told in African media.

The success of the series was the creation of a database of all the high profile Kenyan women interviewed and their contacts that we shared with journalists for media interviews.

We also raised the profile of the women, some of who went on to get job promotions, new jobs and even win awards.

The series garnered superb digital impressions and was further shared by four other online platforms including Citizen Digital.

The climax was when Kenya Women Series won an international award in Dubai in 2021.

A key decision you might have taken along your career journey?

In 2017, I left my 8 to 5 job and went into consultancy. It was a huge leap of faith and have learnt many things including leadership, networking and influencing. My greatest satisfaction is in exceeding client’s expectations and leaving them with a smile. This has paid off through repeat and new clients.

Your current role and scope of job?

My current role is the Client Service Director at Brand Essence Public Relations in charge of in charge of client experience. I also run my private consultancies in PR and Digital Communication Strategies.

What would you advise the youth in Kenya today?

Be a student of life. Continue to be intentional about learning, unlearning and relearning by investing your time and money. Alvin Toffler said. “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Future plans in your career and in life?

I intend to continue consulting and enlarge my scope to working with businesses on a global scale. I have plans to venture into training businesses on storytelling in the digital world.

What do you do for fun?

Hiking. I will use every excuse to go on a hike.

If there was one thing you could change about your past, what would that be?

Nothing. I believe my life has turned out exactly as it meant to be. I have picked important lessons along the way and become what I am now. I am ready for the next phase of life.

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