In the third and final part of our review of 2014, we focus on what we describe as the rare PR Spectaculars of 2014. These are the instances where communication savvy and brilliance has been displayed in managing what could have been a major PR nightmare for either the institutions or the individuals involved. Although the list is by no means exhaustive, below is the summary of what we consider as the Biggest PR Spectaculars of 2014:
1. The Otumfuo death rumour: There was wild rumour in social media about the alleged passing of the Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Asante King, in South Africa where he went in February to undergo his routine medical check-up. The rumour was so strong that many of our trusted friends in the media started receiving numerous calls to confirm if there was any truth to it. But once again, the handlers of the King displayed spectacular brilliance in dealing with the rumour. Their singular but simple act of allowing the Otumfuo to visit the Black Stars who had camped in South Africa ahead of a major football match, immediately put the rumour mongers to permanent sleep. The visit was beamed on live television. Without any word from the Otumfuo’s handlers, this strategic movement successfully dispelled the wicket rumours.
There is no doubt that the Otumfuo has access to a crack team of communication strategists and they provided a brilliant PR advice where it mattered most. Many congratulations to them.
2. HIV Ambassador u-turn: Another PR Spectacular worth highlighting was the Ghana AIDS Commission’s handling of the claim by its former HIV Ambassador that she deceived the country about her HIV status. She claimed she deceived the Commission and the public about her status in order to get support for her musical and movie career. Weird as it sounded, she was very convinced about it and appeared on several radio and television stations to defend her claim. Prior to her new declaration, she had campaigned for years against HIV stigmatisation, part of it as an Official HIV Ambassador for the AIDS Commission both in Ghana and abroad.
The Impact: It was clear that the declaration came as shock to the Commission. Any organisation engaged in such a delicate activity could have been unsettled by the new development. However, the Commission lead by its Director General swiftly issued a public statement explaining the requirements for the appointment of the HIV Ambassadors, the procedure followed in appointing them, as well as the proven HIV status of the former Ambassador which could not be released to the public for patient confidentiality and in line with the national policy on HIV. It also offered an invitation to her to be granted audience at the Commission for an understanding of her concerns. Although professionally, the statement could have been better written, it appeared to have done the trick. It was followed by a number of carefully management media interviews by the Director General to throw more light on the contents of the statement. What helped even more was the accounts of the former Ambassador’s ex-husband, her Netherlands-based benefactor (Odeefuo) and members of the Network of Persons Living with HIV (NAP+ Ghana). All of these accounts contradicted those of the former Ambassador, discrediting her new claim and making her appear as someone who perhaps needs a psychological help. Within two days, the matter virtually died.
It appears from our observation that like in the case of the Otumfuo, the AIDS Commission may have had access to a savvy team of experienced PR Crisis advisors who guided it to effectively manage the situation. This is the kind of professional PR brilliance expected from corporate institutions and more particularly government institutions in managing their communications crises.
From the PR point of view, the year 2014 has been an eventful one, filled with some of the worst PR Disasters and of course some rare PR Spectaculars.
We are not religious prophets, and so could not predict accurately what may happen in the area of PR and Crisis Communications in 2015. Our advice however is for every organisation, both public and private as well as high profile individuals to have access to the best PR and Communication expertise available in the industry to get them in readiness for the day of crisis.
As American super billionaire Warren Buffet stated in his advice to his top managers, reputation is everything: “we can afford to lose money-even a lot of money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation-even a shred of reputation.”
It is often said that failure to plan is evidence of planning to fail. It takes several years of hard work and tons of money to build corporate and personal reputation. However, it takes less than a minute to destroy that reputation, after which it will take many more years to rebuild if at all. This is why it is critical to anticipate and prevent PR crisis from occurring in the first place. But since crises are an inevitable part of our existence, it is equally important to prepare for the day of crisis and respond in an efficient manner, leaving your hard-won reputation intact.
By: James Kofi Afedo
PR Crisis Management & Communication Specialist