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ECR’s boss outlines vision for station | News

A life of dedicated hard work and passion for knowledge has propelled Boni Mchunu from humble beginnings in a Pietermaritzburg township, to a general manager position, heading one of KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest radio stations.

Mchunu took the helm at East Coast Radio at the start of the month and has been absorbing as much radio as possible.

“When I started here I was so worried because I have no experience in radio, but it has been a warm welcome,” Mchunu said.

Growing up with four older sisters in Imbali township, Mchunu appreciated her late father’s strength and work ethic.

“My mother died when I was young and my father raised us all. He taught me that nothing you put your mind to is impossible.”

Although he died shortly after Mchunu matriculated, she continued on the path to success, studying a marketing diploma, achieving a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a diploma in project management.

After two years working for Absa in Pietermaritzburg, Mchunu dedicated seven years to Unilever, then eight years as general manager at Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN), all in marketing fields.

In April this year she was head-hunted by Kagiso Media, of which East Coast Radio is a division. Despite protestations that she lacked radio experience, Kagiso convinced her, outlining the job description as one for a classical businesswoman with an understanding of marketing.

“I realised this was a position I couldn’t turn down,” admitted the vibrant mother-of-three.

Mchunu took over from Trish Taylor who has taken the chief executive officer position at Urban Brew Studios in Johannesburg, also part of Kagiso Media.

The past few days have been a whirlwind of meetings, learning the ropes and outlining strategies.

Mchunu was thrown into the deep end, addressing 700 people on her third day on the job, at the annual FNB Business Women’s Breakfast at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Conference Centre, which she handled masterfully.

“When I was first approached about the job I started listening to East Coast Radio and I quickly became a fan. The content is precise and the music is great.”

Mchunu said, however, that her marketing background ensured she would keep trying to improve on the product.

“The key is to be informative and entertaining. I think ECR is in a good space and my role is to retain that, while expanding.

“Our listenership is about 1.6 million, but KZN has about 9.4 million people. We need to keep growing this listenership as much as possible.”

ECR’s target audience is the 18 to 49 age group, across all demographics.

Commenting on broadcasting as a medium within the digital age, Mchunu said it was important to keep music and content relevant, which meant constant market research.

“The great thing about radio is that it is current. The digital age also means that we aren’t restricted by geographic demarcations. We have the capacity to match social media because we are also instant.”

She said it was important for radio to partner with social media as a platform for attracting the younger generations, something she feels ECR does well. “We have to look at South Africa in context and many people don’t have access to data. The majority still rely on radio. It’s the traditional medium for news.”

Her time with TKZN gave her the opportunity to travel to about 70 countries, where she had a platform to sell her province as a top travel destination. Having only ever lived in KZN, Mchunu has a profound knowledge of the region and is passionate about what it has to offer.

“I don’t feel as if I’m leaving TKZN in a way because East Coast Radio has always been a flagship of KZN’s tourism and now I just have an elevated platform to talk about this beautiful province. I really feel that KZN has everything of South Africa.”

Her international exposure will also benefit her in this new role as she looks to ensure South African broadcasting is constantly kept at the highest level.

“My philosophy is to think globally, but act locally. ECR has partner stations in the UK and Australia and they provide great insights into where radio is going. South Africa is there globally (in radio). We’re rated high, we know what’s happening.”

ECR has become synonymous with a number of initiatives held in KZN such as Durban Day and The Big Walk. “We will definitely retain the initiatives run by ECR and look to grow. I keep telling my team that the challenge now is that we are very good, but we want to become great.”

- Published in Independent Newspapers on 17 August 2015.

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