News24

Be honest about Nelson Mandela - PR gurus

2011-01-27 15:12

Cape Town - Authorities should be completely open with the media on Nelson Mandela's hospitalisation and provide regular updates, public relations experts said on Thursday.

"They are opening themselves up to rampant speculation by not keeping the press informed," said Evelyn Holtzhausen, chief executive of Cape Town-based HWB Communications.

"The first rule of public relations is to keep the press informed."

He was speaking as scores of journalists continued to camp outside Johannesburg's Milpark Hospital, where Mandela was admitted on Wednesday for what the Nelson Mandela Foundation said - in a two-sentence statement - were "routine tests".

Since then there has been a string of visitors to the former president, and a brief statement from the African National Congress giving no further information of substance.

Public figure


Holtzhausen said that from a PR perspective, Mandela was an internationally-renowned statesman, and there was an obligation on his minders to keep the people of South Africa and the rest of the world aware of what was happening to him.

The media ought to respect his need for privacy, but at the same time he was a very public figure.

"They should be issuing bulletins regularly," he said.

Holtzhausen, himself a former journalist, said that from what he had seen, the media had certainly been respectful, and had not indulged in speculation.

He said he spoke on Wednesday to the editor of a large-circulation South African newspaper, who had said they was aware of the need to handle the issue very sensitively.

"There is responsibility [on the side of the media], but it's also up to the gatekeepers of Mr Mandela to show recognition of the critical role the media play," Holtzhausen said.

Muriel Hau-Yoon, owner of Cape Town-based PR company Afrikom, said Mandela was the public property of all South Africans, and probably one of the best-loved leaders ever.

Be honest and open

"It would be better for the spokespersons to be honest and open and tell the public exactly what's happening," she said.

"By not providing regular feeds they fuel speculation. It's Communications 101: it's a basic communications principle. Any spokesperson worth their salt would come out with regular statements."

Both Hau-Yoon and Holtzhausen said the number of high-profile visitors and family members who have been to see Mandela in hospital gave rise to the suspicion that his stay involved more than just "routine tests".

"It's always wiser, more prudent, to give the honest truth," Hau-Yoon said.

"Whatever it is... I think they owe it to the South African public to be open and honest. I think any communications practitioner would agree on this."

Another Cape Town PR guru, who asked not to be named for professional reasons, said her advice to Mandela's minders would be: "Regular updates, so the media aren't clamouring for comment. Be as transparent as possible. Stick to the facts."

The minders should have had detailed plans in place to deal with a situation like this.

"What you want to do is to limit speculation as much as you can. But the reality is you're going to have a media frenzy. It's Madiba," she said.

Comments
  • missy_t - 2011-01-27 15:46

    Agreed!!! If he dies this week then will they be like he died suddenly?

      Observer - 2011-01-27 16:27

      If he dies this week, it will become like Weekend at Bernies. We'll only find out what really happened in a few weeks time.

  • Kevin - 2011-01-27 15:54

    I unquestionably agree with his need for privacy , however Tata Madibe belong to all South African and the globe at such I complete agree that they should not be mum about his condition and there is a need to continuously update the public. We understand He gave more to this country and there nothing more we can ask from him . I wish him speedy recovery , Modimo le badimo Ba Afrika le gotswa dikgotlong tse nne tsa lefase babe le wena.

  • Enuff - 2011-01-27 15:57

    Why? So that thousands and thousands of people can flock to the hospital? While people would do so to show support and pay respects it would be a security and logistical nightmare and would be no good to either Madiba or the other patients, not to mention ambulances who wouldn't be able to get patients in critical condition to the hospital for treatment. Madiba is 92 - the fact that he will not grace this earth much longer is not "speculation". People know he is in hospital - that is enough! Now all anyone can do is pray that he recovers and that if this is his time that it is peaceful, loving a dignified!

      people.3000 - 2011-01-27 20:16

      Thank you, I could not have said it better...

      POLS_G - 2011-01-27 21:22

      Agreed

      wesleywt - 2011-01-28 10:08

      Disagree. Why would telling people that Mandela has x, y or z make people flock to the hospital? Keeping everything a secrete can equally have the same effect. You statement makes no sense.

  • ant177@24.com - 2011-01-27 15:59

    Right again, what is this goverment doing. is there not brain cell between them, that works. What the hell is the world going to think about us South Africans. anc is draging his good name down with them. anc WAKE UP.

  • Enuff - 2011-01-27 16:00

    Why? So that thousands and thousands of people can flock to the hospital? While people would do so to show support and pay respects it would be a security and logistical nightmare and would be no good to either Madiba or the other patients, not to mention ambulances who wouldn't be able to get patients in critical condition to the hospital for treatment. Madiba is 92 - the fact that he will not grace this earth much longer is not "speculation". People know he is in hospital - that is enough! Now all anyone can do is pray that he recovers and that if this is his time that it is peaceful, loving a dignified!

      ant177@24.com - 2011-01-27 19:57

      Enuff YOU did read the story above right, then need i say more.

  • Robi - 2011-01-27 16:00

    Just let the poor people be.

  • Colin - 2011-01-27 16:15

    It all comes down to respect. We for him and him for us. In the absence of his ability to inform us directly as to his current condition, his minders must respect our concern, love & care and meet this with truthful statements in this regard. We in return will respect his and his families privacy. This is no PR stunt.

  • Douglas - 2011-01-27 20:30

    The Grand Gentleman should be allowed to live or die in peace - which he has strived for for this country. Whatever we will miss an icon.

  • gaudileroux - 2011-01-27 20:35

    After everything he has done for the country can you not just grant him one week of privacy??? Selfish media! I'll wait patiently for any news and wish him all the best - get better soon Madiba!

  • Perfume - 2011-01-28 07:50

    In agreement with this article!!!!!!!

  • neil - 2011-01-28 08:30

    Only experienced people can speak like that. Government officials should be workshop how to be honest.

  • Taff2 - 2011-01-28 09:19

    All this week we have been bombarded on talk radio about the need for pupils to be fed before and at school as their parents are unable to feed them. And we feel a little guilty! Then Mr Mandela enters hospital for ‘routine checks’. Apart from the indignation of being treated as imbeciles as this government would like to treat us all, the sheer vulgarity and opulence displayed by visitors to Milpark hospital really makes one wonder. There is money out there to feed these kids and it is all being displayed on the road outside the hospital. Practically the whole complement of Jones’ farm were there-needing to be seen! The only one missing was Napoleon himself!

  • The_Truth - 2011-01-28 09:30

    Charlie Sheen being rushed to hospital after a massive "booze up" is more newsworthy than this

  • joseph Malange - 2011-01-28 15:23

    i do agree with,i think most African leaders are not honest,and this is our culture.we will continue to be dishonest and fearfull.The public will never know the real picture(story about Mandela's illnes)

  • Sunflower - 2011-01-28 17:13

    The truth is the best way to go about it. Speculation causes unneccesary comments that strings along from one thing to another that is eventualy not relevant to the health of Madiba but rather nausty racist comments. Information about Madiba can still be done without harming the privacy of his family.

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