Saturday, August 10, 2013

Not that bad and yet that bad: President Joyce Banda needs serious Public Relations services

No human being is perfect; there goes the century-old cliché. That be true as it certainly is, whatever is made by or of humans is consequently not perfect. A government is made of humans. It follows therefore that no government is perfect. However, with the right dosage of treatment perfection can be made to exist in humans.

Excellent clothes hides the imperfections of physique, a good tone of cosmetics hides the imperfections of the face, a high-heeled shoes aces one’s height, all seems perfect. The story is different when it comes to the public sphere where, issues of looks have little bearing on one’s destiny. In this sphere, issues of public standing make or break destinies. In this respect, one needs an expert in communications to be able create and maintain a positive public standing. And it is here that one needs Public Relations (PR) services. 

In this modern day and age, every government, organization, and individual that ignores the power of public relations does so at its own peril. Those with the PR know-how, like this author, would agree that the miscommunications and misinformation in the Joyce Banda administration show a clear irrevocable deficiency of weapons in government’s PR armor.

Cases in point of this deficiency are evidently many and common, almost a part of this government. One such classic case was that of president Banda versus Madonna controversy. It was widely reported in the local and international press that a communiqué was released in the president’s office waging a lingual tirade to Madonna without the president’s consent. And the drama got heightened when it came to crisis-communicating the same. Gosh! That was a PR disaster.

Much more recently there has been talk of the non-formalization of labor deal between the Malawian and the South Korean governments that also showed the crazy lack of PR expertise on the part of all institutions and individuals directly connected in the deal. 

It is normal, no matter how abnormal this may sound, that at times governments around the world do disinform its citizens. There was therefore no problem in Malawi government to panic after South Korea publicly denied any formal talks about the labor. 

But eeish it was drama again! The Minister of Labor confusingly defended the deal only to be tragically contradicted by the Minister of Information. That clearly showed that the two ministries did not do their homework well and that they are far from mastering the basics of audience-targeting, messaging and crisis communication skills.
Just to put people in the loop, messaging is the practice of having one version of a situation so much so that every concerned individual is brief of the narrative to kill any confusion and make the narrative believable. Using this skill, the government would have told those tasked to speak on its behalf to comment only as communicated and refrain from making any wayward comments. Sometimes the communication does go as agreed. It is at this time that a good PR calls their crisis communications skills into action and clear the confusion. 

These basic skills happen to be nowhere to be seen in President Banda government, and she is paying for that quiet dearly. Consequently, president Banda is portrayed in the public domain as that bad; she is portrayed as having no observable control in practice, and as having no clear information management direction. And when the nasty information goes out as it always does, there happens to be literally nothing done to damage-control. Worse still, if some government agent jets in the scene for that, it is always drama and tragicomedy all over.

It is with sadness that the noted that President Joyce Banda may not as bad as she looks in the public eyes of many, especially the educated minority. But that is the case because there seems to be tactful either personal PR of the president or her government to talk sense-and-nonsense of government communication.

To this end, this author closes the foregoing by asserting that the president may not that bad after all, although she looks that bad to many Malawians. And it is exactly at this juncture that the author tells it as it is; President Joyce Banda needs serious PR services.

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