“You have enemies? Good, that means that you have stood up for something, sometime” – Winston Churchill
Creative thinker, strategist, facilitator, business problem solver and speaker, Yvonne Johnston’s career has focused largely on advertising and marketing with early forays into fashion design and acting.
She is increasingly being called upon to facilitate business strategy sessions, looking for innovation that brings bottom line results to clients. She has a long and successful career in the marketing arena.
Yvonne spent several years as the Chief Executive of the International Marketing Council of South Africa, a body established by President Mbeki, to create and market Brand South Africa. The mandate was to increase tourism, trade and investment; to improve international relations and to integrate business and government activities to create a cohesive message emanating from all stakeholders in South Africa.
Yvonne and her team developed the well-known and beautiful television work promoting South Africa: ‘Alive with Possibility’. Pivotal to the success of the work of the IMC, was the realization that successful positioning of the nation brand can ultimately affect social issues, job creation and unemployment.
During her time at the helm of the organisation which she started, Yvonne interacted with a Board of 40 leading lights in business and in government. She built an organisation from one office and four people to one of the two domestic offices, three international offices and 50 people.
Under Yvonne’s stewardship, Brand South Africa received many accolades, particularly for the level of communication and world class advertising that appeared on local and international TV channels. Brand South Africa was responsible for the official web portal of the country
In 2005, Yvonne was a finalist in the BWA Business Woman of the Year Award. She is widely respected as a leading communications strategist and she is a much sought after MC & public speaker; both at home and abroad.
Yvonne has spoken at Harvard on ‘Changing the Perceptions of Africa’, at the Daily Maverick gathering on ’12 Actions to Change the Perceptions of South Africa.’ She also speaks on leadership, courage, branding, the mood of the nation, current economics and politics, her own personal journey and the role of women in business. She was the key motivator in the creation of the conference called ‘A Safe South Africa’ – for the first time, looking at all of the root causes of crime in our country.
Yvonne has worked for 20 years in many of the leading advertising agencies as Media Director. For 5 years, she was the Group Media Director at Ogilvy & Mather.
Today, she runs her own business – a marketing consultancy whose clients include several media companies, Servest Interior Solutions, Lonmin and The Future Group. She also manages PJ Powers and has recently launched her book, ‘Here I Am’.
She sat on the South African Tourism Board for 9 years, she is currently a board member at Valued Citizens and she is a founding member of ‘Action for a Safe South Africa’.
Yvonne was born in Kenya and she immigrated to South Africa when she was twelve after a “harrowing year” at a boarding school in Belfast, Northern Ireland. As a child, she was “hard working, nerdy, desperate to be an actress, a show-off” … “and I am sure, a complete pain!” she says.
To Yvonne, professional speaking was always something that she yearned to do, as she always found really compelling speakers inspiring. She has been speaking (professionally) for 20 years.
“My work gave me the opportunity to speak and from there, it snowballed. I travelled all over the world presenting Brand SA, investment and tourism opportunities and then I started developing my own personal story and talks about my experiences” she says. “ … I found that everyone can relate to a good story and people love to be inspired by ordinary people who overcome challenges.”
Yvonne loves the thrill of talking to an audience: “ … and mostly, I love to see the light bulb moments as the message one has, reaches its destination in someone else’s mind”.
Professional speaking is one of the many things that Yvonne does. She is also a Business and Personal Coach, guiding people to live their lives in the best possible ways.
Yvonne has no concept of ‘spare time’, but when she does have a chance, her hobbies include reading, cooking, golfing, sewing, music, travelling and planning holidays (to name a few!). She loves to watch The Blacklist, The Killing, Masterchef, American Idol, The Voice etc.
She also speaks at schools and universities, inspiring students to own their own lives; and to not give their power away to others, in authority or not.
These days, Yvonne has a balanced, relaxed and blessed life. She is fortunate to do whatever she does with great commitment and passion, including resting!
With that being said, she doesn’t do work unless she shows up 100 % - “I love to make an impact and if I feel that I haven’t, I struggle with that” she says.
“… I speak with humility and complete authenticity. I am relaxed and I have been told mostly, that I inspire …”
“Be you, be authentic, be real, be interesting and always remember that it is about the audience and not about you” says Yvonne.