Top 25 Most Impactful Women in Corporate Communications

To Catherine, PR embodies the delicate art of shaping narratives, moulding perceptions, and fostering brand growth. She revels in the opportunity to don her thinking cap, meticulously crafting strategies to bring her visions to fruition.

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CATHERINE NDIOO

KENYA COUNTRY LEAD PROGRAM COMMUNICATIONS, MASTERCARD FOUNDATION

From a young age, Catherine Ndioo harboured a deep-seated desire to pursue a career in communications. Immersing herself in radio, television, and newspapers, particularly drawn to the intricate world of news segments, she went beyond mere consumption, striving to envision the behind-the-scenes processes involved in crafting compelling stories. Her fascination led her to spend countless hours engrossed in CNN, where she would daydream about reporting from the front lines or uncovering stories from remote corners of the globe.

Initially drawn to journalism, Catherine’s journey gradually unfolded as she delved into the realms of public relations (PR) and corporate communications. It dawned upon her that this was the next stage of her professional evolution.

To Catherine, PR embodies the delicate art of shaping narratives, moulding perceptions, and fostering brand growth. She revels in the opportunity to don her thinking cap, meticulously crafting strategies to bring her visions to fruition.

Throughout her journey, Catherine’s path has been adorned with numerous highlights, each holding its own unique significance. From her early days as a practising journalist, contributing to esteemed publications such as the Daily Nation and The Standard newspapers, to her roles in television and various publications where she engaged in news analysis, writing, and story editing, every endeavour has been deeply fulfilling.

In 2006, as Kenya welcomed the arrival of fibre optic cables and the internet began to flourish, Catherine embarked on a new adventure. Together with a friend, they founded an online magazine, publishing news and educational stories that captivated global audiences and fostered partnerships with renowned brands, garnering significant readership as internet usage surged in Kenya.

Her journey took a pivotal turn when she felt a burgeoning desire to drive corporate communications for brands. Joining Jubilee Insurance and later ABC Bank, Catherine immersed herself in the realms of brand public relations (PR), public affairs, and stakeholder engagements.

The opportunity to contribute at Bamburi Cement marked another significant chapter, where she spent eight immensely fulfilling years partnering with colleagues to fortify brand building, reputation management, and internal and external communications. Working with Bamburi Cement, which is a subsidiary of LafargeHolcim, provided Catherine with invaluable experiences collaborating with global colleagues to design and implement global campaigns.

Her current role at Mastercard Foundation truly stands out, aligning closely with her personal aspirations as she applies her expertise to impact youth employment in collaboration with partners and colleagues.

Catherine reflects on her journey with gratitude, acknowledging the richness it has brought her and the privilege of working alongside individuals who have served as both mentors and sources of inspiration.

Catherine’s decision to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Strategic Management stemmed from her innate inclination towards adopting a strategic perspective in her approach to various endeavours. A self-described big-picture thinker, she has always gravitated towards viewing situations holistically. In addition to her MBA, Catherine holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a focus on Marketing, complemented by a Diploma in PR.

Balancing her pursuit of higher education with her professional commitments has been both rewarding and challenging for Catherine. On one hand, the opportunity to apply classroom learnings to real-world scenarios has enriched her educational experience. On the other hand, juggling these responsibilities has presented its own set of challenges. Catherine vividly recalls a poignant moment during her Masters studies when she had to defer her exams due to the imminent arrival of her daughter, highlighting the delicate balance between academic pursuits and personal commitments.

Catherine reflects on the evolving perception of PR and Communications practitioners, noting the growing recognition of their strategic contributions. Organisations now involve Communication teams in high-level strategic discussions, emphasising aspects like reputation management and brand equity. She observes a shift from purely tactical roles to strategic partners, actively involved in shaping organisational strategies. She highlights the evolving communication landscape, driven by changing audience interests and the influence of content creators. In response, Catherine emphasises the need for continued creativity and boldness to navigate this dynamic environment effectively.

When asked about critical career lessons, Catherine reflects on the importance of maintaining her value system as her guiding principle, finding fulfilment in aligning her actions with her beliefs. She emphasises the significance of exerting oneself and acknowledges the support and flexibility provided by leaders and environments conducive to creativity and innovation. Catherine underscores the value of ethics, empathy, and a commitment to creating value in her professional endeavours.

Furthermore, she highlights the ongoing pursuit of work-life balance as essential, prioritising quality time with her children, maintaining connections with friends and networks, and indulging in hobbies like hiking. Catherine stresses the importance of deeply understanding organisational objectives and operations to achieve meaningful results. She cautions against avoiding technical conversations, asserting that comprehensive understanding enables effective communication strategies and impactful outcomes.

Catherine advises new communication practitioners to prioritise continuous learning and attentive listening. She stresses the importance of understanding both spoken and unspoken messages and emphasises the need for patience in this process.

In the dynamic corporate communications environment, Catherine Ndioo underscores the value of creative thinking and emotional intelligence in fostering collaboration among organisations to achieve common goals.

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Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Dr. Hanningtone Gaya

Kenya’s Dr Hanningtone Gaya, holds a PhD in Commerce in Business Management from Nelson Mandela University (NMU), is viewed as an authority in country branding and is the founder chairman of the Brand Kenya Board.

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