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Vista Kalipa ’04 is dedicated to delivering stories that sell. As owner of OnPoint Public Relations in his native South Africa, he helps organizations and businesses gain public prominence and trust. It starts with creating credibility for his own brand.


“You have no room for error when you call yourself ‘OnPoint,’” said Kalipa. “I put even more pressure on our business by boasting a tagline that states, ‘We take you from a mention to a headline.’”

As co-founder of OnPoint, Kalipa leads an agency of 12 team members in Johannesburg and Cape Town — servicing local, pan-African and global brands. Its diverse client portfolio features financial service companies like AmEx, sporting agencies brands and major consumer brands such as Unilever and PepsiCo.

While OnPoint provides all the services of a traditional agency, Kalipa says his personal portfolio focuses largely on producing positive media placements for his clients.

“I like building relationships with media and getting to understand what makes them tick. I especially enjoy brainstorming with my team to come up with story angles that will make media contacts happy, as well as my clients.”

Singing His Way to Iowa

Kalipa says his studies at Simpson inspired his PR dreams. But it was his music talent that first brought him to Iowa. It all started when Iowa’s iconic international opera star Simon Estes visited his high school in Cape Town and heard him sing with his school choir.

“He promised to return within a year and take some of us to experience life in Iowa for a year. And I was fortunate enough to ultimately be chosen for that opportunity.”

Kalipa spent a year with a host family in West Des Moines attending Waukee High School, where he participated in all- state choir. After returning briefly to South Africa, he started considering colleges located near his American host family.

He chose Simpson to pursue his love of opera, after successfully auditioning for a music scholarship. But he found so much more than music.

“I had never been exposed to liberal arts education. I applaud it, because experiencing all the various disciplines opened a lot of different things, including exciting career options I could pursue.”

Encouraged by mentoring faculty, Kalipa decided to complement his music major with a second major in mass communication and journalism. Those studies and experiences working with the Des Moines Metropolitan Opera and Simpson’s marketing and communications office fueled his fire for a career in PR.

Growing His Career Back Home

After earning his master’s at LSU, he returned to South Africa in 2006. There he landed a position as a media liaison for a Cape Town non-profit before jetting to Johannesburg for various PR roles with a full-service agency there.

In 2010, Kalipa leveraged his experience and extensive networking connections to open his own firm with a pair of partners. And from that moment, his firm has been navigating constant change.

“You have to be able to adapt, because if you get stuck in one way of doing things, it’s easy to get left behind. It’s vital to understand the changes that are happening within your industry and how to apply those changes for the good of the brands you represent.”

The digital communications revolution has offered both exciting opportunities and significant PR challenges — such as the rise of citizen journalism.

“People nowadays are quick with their phones to create a narrative based only on what they see,” said Kalipa. “So, I have to quiet the storm. And because I’ve built relationships with the media, they trust what comes from me is reliable and I’m not just feeding them propaganda.”

Promoting with Purpose

Of course, Kalipa is concerned about much more than protecting and promoting the brand image of for-profit corporate clients. He has a heart for helping non-profit causes spread their story.

Kalipa’s firm recently completed multiple campaigns for the South African Book Development Council to promote literacy. Today, OnPoint provides public relations support to the Global Citizen movement, as well as the Global Citizen Fellowship Program. That effort is supported by Beyonce’s BeyGOOD philanthropic initiatives designed to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030.

“I’m passionate about these things because I know the impact they have and what they can do for a country like mine,” said Kalipa.

Kalipa’s love for serving his home country is strong, but he will also always be grateful for the time in Iowa that helped shape who he is today.

“It taught me so many different values and ways of living and dealing with people. I will never forget the quality of life I enjoyed in the Midwest and the education I received from Simpson.”