Daisy's World: What Rita Tinina’s death has taught me about personal branding

NTV Producer Rita Tinina died in her sleep on March 17, 2024.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • In my marketing communications class, we had a fancy definition of a brand – I forget what it was.
  • But I think that the best definition of a brand is “what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

I was lazing on my couch that Sunday late morning when a WhatsApp message from my childhood friend, Josie, popped up.

I prepared myself for a good laugh and a few hilarious exchanges because my chats with her are always silly. But this was not one of those.

What she sent was a link to a post on Facebook by a certain blogger that claimed that Rita Tinina had been found dead in her apartment in Kilimani.

My first reaction was: “This must be one of those random lies.”

I checked my organisation’s pages and there was nothing posted about it. I checked the work groups I am in, again, there was nothing posted at the time.

I continued with my life somehow, disturbed but managed to drag my brain to the book I was reading.

I could have easily asked someone in my office if the news about Rita’s death was true, but deep down, I think I was more content to deal with the uncertainty that she might be dead than the confirmation that she was actually dead.

When I couldn’t sustain the suspense anymore, I texted Martha. Besides being colleagues, Martha and I have been friends since our university days, and so it wouldn’t be so awkward if I asked her and it turned out to be false. Martha confirmed the news.

At about the same time, I saw a post on Meta Workplace (an internal communication platform) from the Chief Operating Officer, formally breaking the news within the organisation. I texted Josie and told her that I had confirmed the news and it was true that Rita had passed on.

Unlike most people who have paid homage to the great journalist, I did not work closely with Rita, so this is far from a tribute.

The only real conversation we had was when I bumped into her in September 2023, in the IT department. I was there to resolve a problem with my laptop, and I think she was in the process of being onboarded. I am face blind, so it was a surprise even to me when I immediately recognised her.

Confidently, I said, “Hi Rita.”

Her response confirmed to me that I was not mistaken. I wondered whether that was the appropriate time to tell her the story of my aunt but decided to hold off.

I met her at least once more in one of the elevators in my office, and as usual, I said “Hi Rita” and she responded with “hi” followed by a smile.

When I was 17, I heard her signing off a feature she was doing on TV. I don’t remember what channel it was or what the feature was about. But I was fascinated by her name, which I was hearing for the first time and just how boldly she said it.

My aunt Carol, seeing the fascination I had, told me, “By the way, she is just as smallish and tiny as you are.”

My aunt saying that inspired me to like my generally small frame. I had not decided to be a journalist at the time, but basically, my aunt affirming my petiteness while comparing me to Rita shot up my body positivity levels. This is the story I always wanted to tell Rita. But I waited for us to “like have a real rapport” before I could tell her the story.


Well, my lot is like that of many others – those who said goodbye without knowing they were saying goodbye; or those who passed up opportunities to catch up with her over a meal or coffee, because they made the mistakes most humans make – assuming there will always be time.

Rita’s death made me think about my personal brand a lot more. How is my interaction with people? What would my friends honestly say about who I am to them? How about the people I have encountered through work and other fora?

In my marketing communications class, we had a fancy definition of a brand – I forget what it was. But I think that the best definition of a brand is “what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

While it sounds deep and maybe philosophical when journalists pose to interviewees the question of how they’d like to be remembered, I think (and arguably so) the burden of remembering is best left to those saddled with that responsibility.

Rita has left behind unforgettable footprints on the sands of time.

May the glowing tributes inspire us to desire better outcomes for our time here on earth; to show up in our different spheres wholeheartedly; and to authentically live our true passions.

Here’s to Rita’s legacy.

The writer is the Research & Impact Editor, NMG ([email protected]).