The self-taught journalist who owns a marketing firm

Harun Momanyi is the founder and CEO of Tranquil Media Services.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • One day, Harun came up with the idea to interview public figures with unique life stories for his blog.
  • He went ahead and interviewed several local and international celebrities including Ariana Grande and Nikki Minaj.

BY COLLINS KARIUKI

Everyone's life story starts and reads differently. For some like Esther Summerson, the protagonist in Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House, their story starts with just one word – London. Harun Momanyi’s story starts with him failing to qualify for college. An ominous first step but, still, a start. To each man his own. That is Harun’s and he owns it.

Harun, 26, is the founder and CEO of Tranquil Media Group, a company he started in 2015 which offers new media and experiential marketing services. Whereas it is unusual to encounter introverts in the marketing scene, it is even rarer to find a self-taught journalist transitioning to the marketing space and starting their own company despite the fact that they never went beyond high school. 

“My journey in journalism started when I was a Form One student in Njoro Boys High School. I was part of the journalism club and since I was good in languages, I rose to the position of the club’s chairman. During that time, I took part in a British Council Storymoja Africa national writing contest and emerged among the top ten writers. That is when I got my first story published on a blog, at the age of 17,” he says.

College admission
However, things took a different turn when he cleared high school and scored Grade B, which couldn’t get him admission in college through a government sponsored programme. Life quickly became a struggle for survival and he began clutching at straws. He had to quickly get something to do before he drowned in poverty, a life he had been accustomed to since birth.

“Immediately I cleared high school, I started a wordpress blog and began writing inspirational poems and nature stories. Because I couldn’t make it to university, I had to start working at a very early age.

While still in school, I had read about a company that took high school graduates, trained them in data entry and digitisation and sometimes paid for their college education. I approached them and because of my poor background, they took me in. I underwent a seven-month training programme after which they offered me a job in a data entry,” he explains.

One day, Harun came up with the idea to interview public figures with unique life stories for his blog. He went ahead and interviewed several local and international celebrities including Ariana Grande and Nikki Minaj.

Getting the interview subjects wasn’t hard because they had been my idols for years. When pitching, I just made sure that my references to their work were accurate. I had a natural connection with them and they felt that I was genuinely concerned about their work, and not just a random blogger looking for content,” he says.

Building a strong portfolio on his blog enabled him to get internship at the now defunct East Africa Destination magazine even though he had no formal training in journalism. His job was to help in editing cover interviews for award winning celebrities like Matthew McConaughey, Ben Kingsley, Robin Wright, Malin Ackerman and Patrick Steward. 
After his internship as an editorial assistant, he got a job as a writer at Radio Africa Group where he spent four years creating content for their lifestyle and entertainment websites.

“My transition to marketing natural. When I was working as a full time journalist, I used to create branded content to help clients sell their products or services and even raise their brand awareness. I was really fascinated by how brands connect with customers. For two years, I worked closely with multinationals on government marketing initiatives, managed accounts of leading celebrities and learnt how to manage and report on the entire digital marketing campaigns.

Whereas, I learnt marketing on the job, I also took up online courses to gain more knowledge and skills. I got a fashion certificate from Parsons School of Design, New York, which also had a marketing and public relations module that helped me a lot. I also took up Squared Online digital marketing leadership course by AVADO and Google, which teaches advanced marketing skills which many agencies and corporations are looking for,” he explains.

With all these marketing skills in his arsenal, Harun founded Tranquil Media Group in June 2015 which initially served as a talent management firm, specialising in models, actors and musicians. Additionally, with a limited budget, he developed a website where he ran a fashion blog. Within two years, the blog had gotten over 200,000 views, even though he had no marketing budget.

Hotel reviews
This motivated him to start doing hotel and restaurant reviews on the website. Using his own money, he visited the venues and reviewed them. 

He struck a deal with the hotel owners who allowed him to sample their offerings in exchange for influencer marketing. The people he worked with were impressed with his work and started inviting him for menu launches, exclusive events and even media appreciation dinners. He worked on building Tranquil Media, and in 2018, he was nominated for Forbes Africa 30 under 30.

Running a marketing company comes with its own set of challenges and lessons. According to Harun, getting the right talent to work with is a serious problem. “When running a company, you are not just looking for people with the right skills, but also the right mindset. Many people I come across are only after a salary, and they lack self-drive. This ends up hurting the business in the long run as you have to keep hiring and rehiring.”

Learning not to sell himself short is something Harun has had to learn the hard way.

“A few years ago, I would charge very little just to keep a client. However, this proved counterproductive. A business is a business and if a client cannot afford to pay for your services, they should look elsewhere, or come back when they can afford it. 

Additionally, investing in learning and personal growth, is a must-do if you want to stay ahead of the pack. Patience is also important because it takes quite some time before you achieve something tangible.”

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