Cell C was all over newspapers, radio stations and TVs on Friday, 1 June 2012 - but not in a good way. If it had paid for these pages and time it would have cost quite a bit...at least then, it would have been positive messages.
Sadly it's in the news for something more than a little negative. One of its employees last week committed suicide, due, it was first reported, to his pending retrenchment. Trade Union Solidarity immediately cried out that its members who were amongst those being retrenched, were being treated unfairly and that Cell C had in fact caused the man's death.
Cell C immediately denied this, saying that the man was not at work on Monday or Tuesday and that the company had not issued him with a retrenchment notice. Eventually (on Friday) the group stated that, "This is a very sad situation and our main concern is for the family of the deceased at this time. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment on the cause or circumstances around the death of the employee".
One of the deceased's closest friends called in to Redi Thlabe's 9am show on Friday morning sobbing to recount his tale of his friend's death, emphasising the heartless way Cell C had allegedly treated his best friend. He told of the family's heartbreak, of the two young sons, one of whom is mentally challenged and who keeps asking for his father, how Cell C had allegedly cut off his work cell phone use the night before, and how important this was for the man's family to organise funeral arrangements around the country.
This radio exposure will cost Cell C far more than this man's salary for the next year or so in terms of reputation. Immediately after the call Thlabe's producer was flooded with SMS's and emails calling for Thlabe to head up a boycott of Cell C, something he, of course, is not in a position to do. BUT there are thousands of the station's listeners who will do just that.
The big issue
The big issue is: where was Cell C's spokesperson? Why didn't someone come on the air immediately to comment - or in fact over the next few hours? It takes just minutes to damage a company's reputation and years to get it back.
The answer - take these issues seriously whether you know your company is, in fact, in the right, or whether you could have done things differently. But above all don't stay silent!