Crisis Management Tips For Malema
A few years ago Pick n Pay’s then CEO Sean Summers appeared in various media platforms informing consumers about extortionists who were demanding ransom from the food chain and made threats about poisoned tin-stuff. He made a recall of the alleged poisoned product for a full refund, ordered its temporal removal from the shelves & suspended its sales. This might have been a very challenging time for the Pick n Pay brand; it’s a food store and if there are claims of poison in certain products, how sure would consumers be that other products aren’t poisoned? But a very important decision had to be made or take a risk and hope to spin it off when the media gets hold of the issue.
To this day, Sean Summers is still hailed as the hero: a model for many when managing or addressing crisis. Such cannot be said about other institutions & individuals who experienced the same fate. For some instead of communicating what they see coming, they wait with hope that it will stay in the closet or if it does come out, they think a spinoff will do or just choose to avoid it till it dies a slow death. Some even counter accuse the media as perceived enemies who are out to destroy them.
Malema’s scenario may be different from the one Sean Summers faced on behalf of the Pick n Pay brand but what matters the most is crisis communication. It is crucial to understand that the manner in which the scandal is handled has far more consequences than mere bad press.
Generally in South Africa we have a culture of denial, a state where people, especially politicians, get off the hook or get away with murder. Our history of apartheid tends to be a scapegoat for all sorts of problems politicians often find themselves in and because they have such and such liberation struggle credentials & roles, we therefore have to cover their shame.
Issues surrounding Julius Malema are a typical example of this kind of culture. For sometime Julius’s life style has been the subject of public and media interest, this started from the time he hosted a house warning party in September last year.
PRIMEDIA’s 702 Eye Witness News were the first to draw attention to his business directorships & lavish lifestyle. He denied the reports, giving the same excuse that he has quit since assuming power in Youth League. Even Debora Patta, during an interview towards the end of November 2009 ran an overview of his luxurious items & tried to quiz him about his ability to match those with his only source of income from the ANC.
With these questions lingering, Julius should have known that till he sets the record straight it will always be in the interest of journalists to take a closer look at the matter, to seek satisfaction of their curiosity and that of the readers.
He should have had a response mechanism which would defuse the matter immediately when it blows up. What leads to one’s fall is often the poor handling of the truth when it comes out than the actual issue. Thabo Mbeki’s fall took more than a judgment by Judge Chris Nicholson, he was hated even in the ANC because his reputation was tainted by all the bad press he generated despite the good work he did. There’s a growing perception that Julius Malema is a Mbeki type and that may be proved by his row with communists.
Then he squandered an opportunity to come clean, with all the amount of airtime he has been given in both 702, SA FM as well as when he conducted the press briefing. Again there’s a destructive emerging tendency in South African politicians, the thinking that there are substitutes to telling the truth such as misquoted, taken out of context and all the bureaucracy.
Never believe that you’re invincible by virtue of the position you hold in society or who you belong to in politics. The media has brought down the most powerful people in the world. Instead of pulling the trigger at the messengers with bullying tactics and pointing fingers to everybody, focus on resolving the crisis. In his case it’s now out of control. At the beginning the story only had head, now it has got eyes, legs and arms. Journalists keep exploring all angles, even bringing his Lawyer to it has done nothing to spin the matter.
There’s no amount of tactical spin that can get anyone out of a pickle, admission usually does the trick and disarms opponents, especially in Malema’s position who is not in government. You’d rather be at the mercy of public sympathy and work to regain your respect than being viewed as arrogant. Responses like, “I don’t owe anyone explanation” are the same kind of lame excuses as the one ANC’s Jackson Mthembu tried to give in defense of Zuma’s babygate saga. These have proven ineffective.
Even getting a choir of your fellow comrades to join your chorus isn’t a solution either, untrained voices usually sing out of tune and that’s what is happening with all the voices trying to counter argue his case. You’re better off with one person handling the media, someone different from Floyd Shivambu.
Knowing Julius, he won’t back off and this matter will remain hanging. I don’t foresee any official investigation to it either. With the alleged companies being deregistered due to their non compliance and knowing our political culture, someone will pull up another stunt of popularity and our eyes will be taken off this matter. But he will still go down as Julius: The Poor Communicator.
By: Authentic Views ©