How the ANC won the PR loo war

2011-05-14 18:06

ANC 1, DA 0. That is the score a public relations ­expert has given South ­Africa’s top two parties for their handling of the so-called “toilet wars”.

Thabani Khumalo, the managing director of Think Tank Marketing Services, says that in crisis communication you have to “go straight to the victim”.

That is “good PR 101”, he says, and according to him, the ANC and the DA handled their respective open-
toilet ­crises very differently.

“The DA went on the defensive. The ANC was quick to manage it by sending three top guns (Julius Malema, Fikile Mbalula and Tony Yengeni) to Viljoenskroon to interact with the people.

“They came out openly to say ‘sorry’ to the victims, that they were not aware and that those responsible will be punished.

 The way the community welcomed this shows that the ANC have managed to successfully overcome the adversity and turn it into a positive.”

Khumalo says that the DA, in ­contrast, was defensive and still is.

“Toilets have become a huge election issue after the ANC made it an election weapon in Western Cape. When the ­Viljoenskroon issue came forward, the ANC had to quickly spin that to their advantage and I think they have done so successfully,” he says.

He says the power of good public ­relations is the same for companies as for political parties.

“It is to go to the people affected. You do not have to place expensive ­advertisements and run huge campaigns, but speak straight to the victim, say you are sorry, explain how this could have happened and tell them what ­actions have and will be taken.” 

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