LYSE COMINS takes pride in her track record as a staff journalist with major newspapers, as well as her freelance writing for prestigious publications such as Mail & Guardian, Financial Mail and Freight News. She has established a name for herself in corporate PR. Lyse has built a diverse portfolio of work including traditional journalism, press releases and corporate communications and has a reputation that has translated into ongoing work as a freelance journalist.
When asked about her greatest achievements, Lyse pauses to check before answering, “You mean my career achievements?” An interesting career that she loves was top of the list, followed by having had the courage to give up a job she loved to create a more flexible schedule.
Eight years before Covid, remote working was a pipedream for most, but with two small children, Lyse knew a standard full-time schedule was not ideal for her. She resigned her journalism job as staff writer on the Independent on Saturday and moved into corporate PR with a big security company – and managed to negotiate a largely remote working schedule, going into the office only once a week.
This was a dream scenario, but while her PR role was interesting, it wasn’t long before she missed the variety and immediacy of news writing and began to consider her options. How could she have the best of both worlds? Once again Lyse considered her options and renegotiated her position. This gave her the freedom to take on her own clients, while continuing her PR role. As Lyse puts it, “From there, it just nowballed.”
Lyse’s new contract was liberating. In addition to her redesigned corporate job, she picked up several clients over the years and was retained by a national PR agency based in Cape Town, and three major news titles. She happily admits that there were times when learning by doing was her only option. “I think it was Richard Branson who said never turn down an opportunity,” she says. “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
These days her writing also includes brand content and social media writing.
TAKING THE LONG ROAD
Lyse had always wanted to be a journalist. Growing up in a home where she was always surrounded by newspapers and news programmes on TV, she was encouraged by her father to take an interest in the world around her. Consequently, even as a little girl she’d always pictured herself as a journalist. After school, she went to college to study journalism but after completing two years of college, she somehow lost direction, dropped out and took a job in a bank.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it turned into a six-year detour that nearly derailed my dream.” But experience is never wasted and Lyse had learnt a great deal about business while working in banking, with insights and understanding that has served her well in business journalism.
Looking back, it’s not hard to believe that she found her way back to journalism. With ambitions to progress, she knew she needed to study if she was going to make a career in banking. But she was filled with regret as she watched her old classmates move forward in a world she wanted to be part of.
Realising it wasn’t too late, Lyse abandoned the idea of studying for her banking qualifications. “I had a longing to pursue my dreams,” says Lyse. “At the relatively ripe old age of 28, I went back to college and finally completed my journalism diploma - and then went on to do a BTech in Journalism.” She’s found her way back and enjoyed studying so much the second time around that she even went on to lecture in journalism.
INSPIRATION IS ALL AROUND YOU
Lyse was inspired by her journalism colleagues. “When I see good people doing good work and making a difference in society, it spurs me on to do the same,” she says. “And I learnt so much from Wendy Knowler too. I worked with her on the Daily News, and she certainly inspired my passion in that field of journalism.” Lyse’s consumer watchdog columns have been published in The Mercury, The Post, and The Witness.
Lyse is planning her own online publication focused on KZN. “I see it as a collaborative project with several journalists,” she says. “There’s way too much going on in KZN to be covered by a single writer!” More immediately, Lyse is about to launch her website. She admits she has allowed deadlines to get in the way of the website, but it is imminent. And, unsurprisingly for any dedicated writer, writing a book is also a goal.
Lyse’s advice to younger women is simple, though not always easy to put into practice. “Be true to yourself, stick to your values and don’t let other’s opinions get in the way. Be honest, be humble and work hard.”
IN HER OWN TIME
Lyse lives with her two children and her partner. She enjoys walking on the beachfront – or nywhere in nature – and the occasional glass of wine. She has found balance in her life and success in her business and is grateful for the opportunities she’s had – including being nominated for KZN Top Business Women.