Singing off the same hymn sheet
Art of War author Sun Tzu said: “He who wishes to fight must first count the cost.”
13 Jul 2009 13:01
A war of words carried out in the media may drive up the number of newspapers sold, but clear messaging from a united front is far more important in building morale for an organisation's members, its customers, staff and stakeholders.
Last week's battle between the ANC Youth League, Cosatu and ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, on the nationalisation of mines, is an uncomfortably clear example of what not to do.
At first, Mantashe publicly rejected a call by the ANCYL's Julius Malema that mining be placed in the hands of a “state mining company”. In retaliation, the Youth League referred to Mantashe as a “de facto” leader, adding that the nationalisation of mines was “one of the resolutions found in the Freedom Charter”. Cosatu then rallied to the Youth League's support by stating that Malema's statement was “totally in line with the resolution of our ninth national congress in 2006...".
It didn't take long before Mantashe came back with a statement on the “openness to suggestions that the debate on nationalisation should include not only the mining sector”. An uncomfortably clear case of back-pedalling if ever there was one...
The difference of opinion here is not what is disturbing. What resonates instead is the fact that the parties involved seemed blissfully unaware of how unprofessional their mud-slinging contest appeared in the media.
Perhaps a more suitable approach would have been not to publicly reject any statement until an understanding had been reached on the ruling party's position with regard to the nationalisation of mines.
The lesson to be learned here is that when disseminating information, messages should always be consistent and clear. “Making public statements and then immediately retracting them, not only confuses a target audience, but makes a mockery of what should be clearly thought out and considered comment,” says Janine Lazarus, seasoned journalist and founder of Janine Lazarus Media Consultancy.
“The fact is that everyone will never always agree on policy issues. Different points of view are good when expressed in private meeting rooms. However, once a decision has been made about a way forward, everyone needs to sing off the same hymn sheet."