Managing SA's reputation

Oct 31 2012 09:34
Adriaan Bester

IN THE wake of letters flying across continents to calm the diaspora, I am left wondering how seriously our leaders take their role of communicating the brand they’ve been entrusted with by the electorate.

I am not talking about printing postcards to promote the beauty of our landscapes and the warmth of our smiles, or press briefings to put out fires.

In corporate terminology, the former will be regarded as visual examples of what we know we are, or want to be, like a logo of sorts to identify us by the promises we make. The latter, on the other hand, is a perpetual spin to get out of murky waters.

Good communication goes to the heart of what we stand for, of our combined attempts to knit our belief of ourselves with the views we collect from how others see us.

I too have been firing a few shots at my friends who live far away, either as South Africans or as lovers of our country that read, comment and distribute disturbing "evidence" of a lurking "over-the-edge-moment". It is often a brave and lonely journey against a torrent of naysayers.

I am not alone in my efforts. Defending our soil is a patriotic duty many of us step into easily.

Back to corporate jargon, I then am the employee of a brand that hangs around a weekend braai when my mates mock my company for the disaster it caused in (well, pick any example, but let’s keep it safely foreign), the oil it spilt in an ecologically sensitive ocean, with sad oily-faced penguins on every TV screen.

If I am not convinced that my oily employer took the necessary steps to prevent the spillage, or if I am fiercely aggrieved by the annual pittance I received after my top management's round-the-world trip cost the company (let’s say roughly) R238m, there’s a good chance I may chase down another brandy and chip wood on the fire of a conversation that lashes out of control of the company that pays my salary.

In theory, the converse is also true. Albeit harder work, and requiring a more sober state.

The secret lies in the fine balance of accurately gauging my intelligence or stringing together a few deep arguments that either intimidate or confuse me.

It is the difference between mediocre spin doctoring and good communication efforts that use skill to lift the good decisions taken at the core of leadership. And therein lies the rub.

Communication strategies can be brilliantly executed, spun into a froth of joy from the highest tops of our deep blue mountains. But if it does not match the real intention of the core of its origin, it will run out of energy in convincing a growing audience of its intentions.

Leadership by example, and then the communication thereof, therefore becomes a preferred method to engage with those you want on your side around the braai, the Facebook conversations, the cheeky tweets and the desperately calming e-mails we dash off to those who have given up all hope.

From my social interaction, both online or within face reach, I have clearly chosen to be surrounded by a large percentage of people that choose to remain positive, knowing our country deals with issues not too unrelated to some global realities.

Most of us do not bang on senselessly about the many discrepancies we observe between the intention of the state and its method of getting there. Some just send quick little prayers or extend their meditations to heal and forgive those they spot faltering.

Others take up the processes and actions they know best to defend our honour.

Yet, for all of us, it may be time to trace back the origins of this communication strategy within which we are being played, just to make sure we agree on the basics: who do we want to be? Who are we really? And how do others perceive us?

In doing this, companies spend good time and money on planning their brand as they match, through communication, their visions, culture and reputations. Who will lead this in our society and the country we all love so much?

 - Fin24

Adriaan finds a lot of people that disagree with this view on Twitter as @aiBester




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