Thabisile Phumo: Driving Innovation and Collaboration in Corporate Communications

Thabisile Phumo | Executive Vice President
Thabisile Phumo | Executive Vice President

With over two decades of experience in corporate communication and leadership positions across various organizations, making significant contributions, Thabisile Phumo made waves with her expertise and innovative approach to corporate communications.

Today as the Executive Vice President: Stakeholder Relations at Sibanye-Stillwater and Executive Committee Member of the World Communication Forum Association, Thabisile leads from the forefront.

Let us learn more about Thabisile’s professional life.

The Journey Begins

Thabisile Phumo had always planned on pursuing an academic career after qualifying as a corporate communications practitioner 27 years ago. This because her career began at the University of South Africa where she was exposed to academics leading in the communication field. However, with limited experience, she decided to venture into the industry first, believing it would benefit her future academic aspirations.

Over the years, Thabisile has worked for various organizations in the public relations and corporate affairs sectors, including Anglo American Platinum, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Commission for Gender Equality. She had also contributed to academic projects in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Johannesburg, serving as President of the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa and is currently an executive committee member of the World Communication Forum Association. She has contributed to the industry as a course facilitator, speaker and participated in various industry recognition programmes both locally and globally.

For the past nine years, Thabisile had been with Sibanye-Stillwater, holding various positions, and is currently the Executive Vice President for Stakeholder Relations in the Southern Africa region. Her extensive experience in the mining industry, spanning over 22 years, had allowed her to specialize in her field and take advantage of growth opportunities and challenges that helped her find her niche. Through her journey, Thabisile learned a lot about herself, particularly her strengths and limitations, which shaped her into today’s leader.

Driving the Change

Thabisile’s field centers on people, relationships, and creating meaningful impacts through collaboration. Over the years, she had been privileged to meet individuals from diverse backgrounds who have worked with her and her colleagues toward sustainable outcomes. In her current position as the Executive Vice President for Stakeholder Relations in the Southern Africa region at Sibanye-Stillwater, Thabisile is responsible for co-creating programs that directly impacted people’s lives. These programs are delivered as part of the company’s social investment initiatives, which focus allows on creating social value which includes developing critical social infrastructure in areas around the company’s operations, such as schools and clinics. Thabisile recognizes the importance of such programs in improving the quality of life for people living in these areas and is passionate about ensuring their success. Through her work, Thabisile continues to leverage relationships towards a shared vision, working with others to create a lasting positive impact on the communities she serves.

Values to the Core

For Thabisile, fairness and transparency are the core values that guide her career. Working in different contexts with conflicting stakeholder interests, she believes it essential to always maintain transparency and fairness in dealings with all parties involved. These values are critical in building trust and credibility, enabling her to navigate complex situations effectively. Thabisile holds the same values in her personal life and believes they are essential in fostering positive relationships and creating a just and equitable society. For her, these values were not just principles to uphold at work but a way of life that reflected her character and integrity.

Tech to Go

Thabisile acknowledged that technology had significantly bridged the resource and information divide, enabling progress and ease of doing business or engaging with stakeholders. However, in her operating context, she recognizes the need to address the issue of digital exclusion, which was still prevalent in many developing countries. Despite technology becoming more accessible, significant barriers still prevent many people from accessing it, including poverty, lack of infrastructure, and limited digital literacy. As a result, Thabisile knew that she needed to be mindful of these challenges when developing programs that aimed to incorporate technology as a tool for change. She believed it was essential to ensure that no one was left behind and everyone had access to the tools and resources needed to participate fully in the digital age. Through her work, Thabisile continues to advocate for digital inclusion, recognizing its potential to transform lives and create opportunities for people in her community.

Waving the Magic Wand

As a member of the WFCA, which has enhanced her understanding of global public relations (PR), Thabisile believes that PR remains more relevant today than it did in the past. She recognizes that PR allows organizations to collaborate more with stakeholders toward achieving sustainable and mutually beneficial business goals. However, she is concerned that practitioners seem to be surrendering PR strategies to technological advancements. Thabisile believed that practitioners needed to continue proactively adopting and integrating technology into their PR strategies.

She recognizes that technology is constantly evolving and advancing, but she thinks that solid PR strategies must remain the driving force for the practice. Thabisile’s wish is for practitioners to stay on the front foot of technology, constantly exploring new ways to incorporate it into their work while maintaining a strong focus on strategy, ethics, and best practices in PR. Thabisile remains committed to staying at the forefront of the industry through continually seeking new and innovative ways to deliver results for her organization while upholding the values underpinning her practice. She says, “I think the biggest shift is multi-dimensional PR, which means that corporations have to be content with the fact that they no longer hold the prime position in driving their PR strategies, and therefore this requires a significant paradigm shift towards an integrated approach that takes to account the plurality of the operating context and multiple players.”

Looking Beyond

Thabisile had always envisioned herself as an academic in the long run; therefore, she had plans to return to school to transition into that space eventually. She has been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to participate in the academic space part-time. This included collaborating as a co-editor of a book titled Strategic Communication: South African Perspectives. Through her involvement in academia, Thabisile gained valuable experience and knowledge that would be instrumental in her pursuit of a career in academia. She remains committed to learning and growing in her profession, and she is eager to transition into academia when the time is right.

Bequeathing Guidance

Thabisile believes that the PR sector requires constant innovation to remain relevant, and she sees this as an opportunity for those who cement themselves in the profession. She understood that by staying at the forefront of industry trends and developments, she could thrive in her career and contribute to shaping the profession’s future. Thabisile is committed to staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in technology and communication and exploring new and innovative ways of engaging with stakeholders. She knew that by embracing change and taking a proactive approach, she could continue to make meaningful contributions to the PR sector and her organization.