Innovator Q&A: Kirsty Watermeyer from Namibia’s Master Your Destiny

Who said good news stories do not sell?

Kirsty Watermeyer during a live show interviewing. Picture: SUPPLIED

Master Your Destiny (MYD) was born on Namibia’s 99FM, as a radio journal about four years ago. The weekly radio show went on to get shortlisted as one of New York Festival’s World’s Best Radio Programmes. Following that the eclectic talk radio show added a television show to its exponential brand expansion with its debut on Namibia’s first free-to-air channel OneAfrica. Manager and host of MYD, Kirsty Watermeyer has now taken some of best stories from the shows and put them into a journal.

We spoke to Watermeyer on selling the “good news” story through MYD.

Why did you start MYD?
I started it because I felt there was a need for it in society. We have a very checkered and damaging past across Africa. And Namibia is no different. And I wanted to be a part of the solution instead of talking about what’s going wrong, have a look at what we have going right for us and let that be something we can build on, so we can change the narrative of our country. In Namibia, we have this belief that we are not as good as everybody else. And very often when something good happens in our country we believe it must have come across the border, or from somewhere else. I believe it is important, not only for Namibia but for the whole of Africa to start standing up and recognising what we are doing right. Because this helps us build on what we are doing. It’s the thing that whatever you feed grows and if we are only feeding what we are doing wrong and what’s failing, we are gonna be so focused on that. We are not going find the solutions to create for the change that we want to see.

Why do you think people or Namibians think they are not as good as people on the continent or everywhere else?
I think it’s a complex that the whole continent has. We believe that we are not as good as the rest of the world. And we keep on affirming that to ourselves by calling ourselves a developing continent or third world continent, and it’s absolute nonsense. And it excites me when we have conversations about Africa rising, because its time. It’s time for us to show the world that we have a lot that we can teach the world. We don’t have to be waiting to learn from the rest of the world. We have an opportunity to be part of the conversation. But first, we need to believe in our own views. We need to change our narrative to believe in ourselves. And when we can get to that place, we can start to be influencer’s to the rest of the world.

You do not have a journalistic background. How did you get to establishing the MYD show?
Passion. Passion is what drove me… uhm yeah, not having a journalistic background… there was a part that was an advantage, having a business and marketing background, I could use some of those tools to get the show to a place where it could grow from. As I was saying in my talk [Listen below from Radio Days Africa] in the beginning, most people didn’t want to even give me a chance, and I was continuing to knock on doors until eventually, somebody gave me an opportunity to try it out. And I think that comes from the background in which I have the expertise. I have business and marketing experience. And then from a journalist background…not having a journalistic background, obviously, there’s a lot I needed to learn in the process and I put myself in speed training because I think that there’s always so much that you can learn in life.

I had to do a lot of trial and error to figure out the right way and I practised a lot and took a lot to get myself into the right space. And it also helped me a lot to be very “relatable”. I don’t ask questions like everyday journalists ask. I speak to my guests as though they are my friends. I become friends with them and so there was that part that helped benefit for the purpose of what the show was supposed to be. And in the process, I’ve learnt a lot of the skills of journalism which also helped me polish and fine tune what I’m doing.

How long did it take? Give us the background to when you were knocking on doors and presenting your idea.
So when I first started …because when I started I was invited to host a live television talk show on the National Broadcaster. And I loved it and really enjoyed the process and I felt these conversations were so interesting but there was something missing in that we were talking about what people are doing but not talking about how we get to the next stage.

So I started knocking on doors, first at the National Broadcaster and was laughed at and I just took it from there to many different stations and such. I started the show in 2015, but to give you context, I probably started with this idea and knocking on doors in 2010/2011. So it was a long process to get to where it was something that it is today. I was given an opportunity to try out something different. As I said as well in my talk there were a lot of people that laughed at me. There were a lot of people who said this is the most ridiculous idea we have ever heard of.

Who were the people that laughed at you when you were pitching your idea?
They were different radio and television stations etc, who believed that good news doesn’t sell and there is no place for it. And people still said things like “We don’t need all this ‘positivity’ in our lives,” but yet still…since 2015, this show does have a really positive spin off, it’s not only focused on ‘positivity’ but ‘positivity’ comes out when you learn about how people deal with things. And its become something that people resonate with, its just grown into something that, as I said before, so much bigger than me.

How long is the show and what’s the format thereof?
The format of the show is when I did it as a radio show it used to be a longer show format, but now with having to include television it’s become a shorter format show. So it’s a 26 minute show which also makes it nicer from a podcast perspective so we can do the evolution over into podcast. We do both the environmental and human interest show, twice a week. I put the podcast on our website, I also write articles for the website just to keep it fresh and look at things from different perspectives. Everything is available online, on radio, in print and TV.

So, with most shows they’d need to be monetised or they’d need to be sponsored or funded. How does it work with your show?
In every market I think, the main problem is sponsorships. And traditionally…we did it in a traditional way, where we looked initially for sponsors…but what we found is that it was so much easier for us to start speaking to companies about what they were doing in their corporate social responsibility scheme and get funding that way. To give you an idea for our MYD journal to make this print publication, this magazine or this book, we’ve approached a few companies in Namibia that are doing a lot of corporate social responsibility. And they took out a page advert in the journal, but we didn’t allow them to do anything else either than tell their corporate responsibility stories. So they couldn’t do it as an advert. And that becomes part of that narrative that feeds into what is going right in the country. So we looked at things differently and we went about it from a different angle by speaking to people from a funding perspective to be able to make it happen in the corporate social responsibility arena.

Kirsty Watermeyer. Picture: SUPPLIED

So that’s for the journal, how is the radio and television show funded?
So with TV, it will fund themselves in the sense of selling adverts at a premium rate during the show because it draws a lot of viewers and it is the flagship of the television station. I developed the show by myself but I took it to them [Television] and it has already become their flagship. So they will flight adverts and the same with the radio channel. At the moment I’m in the process of taking the brand and separating it from the radio station to make it its’ own stand-alone brand with its own centre and website. And for that, I have also spoken to a few sponsors to make it financially viable that will be part sponsors as well as small sponsorship's. But again also linking back, I will promote their corporate social responsibility stories and they help bring this platform across. One of our key sponsors…they’ve been a friend of ours since the beginning, that is exactly what they want to do…They get the brand benefit by being associated with the movement of something good and notable and positive and something that’s empowering. And so there are brands that want to and have said, ‘we will support you in any way that we can because we want the association to what you are doing,’ and that is really how we made it happen.

Why are you moving the MYD brand from the radio station and making it a standalone?
Because it’s gotten so big that it’s cannibalizing the radio brand at the moment. So it’s become bigger than the station. It’s incredible to see it evolve to this aspect because it was just a show on the radio station. But it’s become so big and so recognisable and there’s such demand for it from sponsors to supporters to guests that it makes sense for us to have it as a stand-alone brand, it’s just too big to be underneath something else right now.

I’m still gonna use their [99FM] platform as a way to air the show. They are going to focus on their brand and bring back more of that fun and funky competitions and that kind of thing onto their platform and focus on that value proposition. And I will have my own website where I will supply content to the radio station as well as to the television station OneAfrica. But it also opens me up to offer my content to other radio and television stations across Africa, which is something I really would like to do. A lot of more of my guests are becoming cross-continent guests, they not only Namibian guests. And so it makes sense for us to speak to people across the continent through different media houses. And by taking the brand out of 99FM, they’ll still get the content always, and they’ll probably always be the first ones to get the content but it gives me an opportunity to spread the good news further and wider.

What are some of the tips and tools or advice you might give to somebody who wants to start a similar idea?
Number one is, believe in yourself. If you don’t have the faith in yourself how will anybody else? If you don’t want to take the risk on yourself why would anybody else take a risk on you? Remember that you are the master of your own destiny. It’s up to you to determine what kind of life you gonna have and what you gonna get out of life. So first of all, believe in yourself, do that work, and I say work because it is …its work. It’s willing to look at yourself, to tear away the layers and be real about yourself, your good and your bad, and see that even your bad is not so bad. Even your bad can help strengthen some other area to help empower to the next step of your life. So first get real, be willing to look at you and find the things that are gonna feed you so you can build yourself up. From that place, when you are in alignment with yourself when you know that you are of value because every human being is of value, you can do anything.

Why is the use of radio to drive social and environmental change important in the context of Africa?
Because we need to change our narrative, we need to stop believing that we are less than or the offcuts of the world, seeing ourselves as not good as the rest of world. It’s important for us to start recognising ourselves so that we can start building the continent, building on what we have. The interviews that I’ve had, the things that I’ve heard from African voices have empowered me so much and the people who join me in listening to these wonderful guests. And we don’t need to get information from the rest of the world, we just need to start believing in ourselves.


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