Kim Penstone

MFSA in 'serious trouble'

2004-09-21 07:55

Last week, the Marketing Federation of Southern Africa (MFSA) released a statement announcing some "structural changes" at the organisation.

These, said the statement, were driven by "financial imperatives" and would include "cost cutting" at the head office in Johannesburg.

As it turns out, about 30% of the staff in the head office are facing retrenchment. In an official e-mail from MFSA CEO Mpho Makwana, that was leaked to the press, the staff of the MFSA were informed that, "staff will be reduced from a headcount of 33 to 19 or 20".

They were also informed that operations in the Durban and Pretoria branches would be "wound up".

In a follow-up e-mail, they were politely told that the chances of any retrenchment packages were remote, and that even for those that remained, salaries were not guaranteed.

Almost a week later, following promises of clarity, no one appears to be any the wiser.

Employed, or not?

Many staff members have no idea if they have jobs, or not. And they have no idea if they're getting paid this month, or not.

And despite all assurances that the Loerie Festival will go ahead as planned, suppliers are still out of pocket.

For all intents and purposes, the MFSA appears to be on the brink of collapse.

Despite this, there is an eerie silence from the organisation.

The official statement has been released, the CEO and Chairman have taken a couple of calls, spoken to one or two members of the press. The hype has died down, and the MFSA appears to think that its job is done.

The reality, however, is that it hasn't. Without even delving into the damaging rumours that are doing the rounds, or the allegations of financial mismanagement, I can safely say that the MFSA has not, by any manner of means "exemplified good marketing practice" as it proclaims so proudly on its website.

As the organisation that's supposed to represent the communications and marketing profession, one would expect a better understanding of the communications and marketing fields.

The MFSA has failed miserably in communicating with its own members, its own stakeholders, and even its own staff.

The MFSA brand, and by association, that of the Loerie Awards, is in serious trouble, and it appears that the organisation is none the wiser.

It's a classic case of the cobbler's children.

But the blame cannot be laid solely at the door of the organisation and its leaders. Some of the blame must fall on the shoulders of those it serves - its members.

Not for not knowing in advance, but for not acting once the proverbial hit the fan.

These are people who understand, intimately, the power of a whisper, the power of media, and the power of communication.

Yet, when the story broke (quietly, as it did), there was no outcry, no call to rally the troops and help save the organisation or the awards that it's been organising for decades (let alone those people that have worked behind the scenes, some for over 20 years).

Just a form of silent acceptance.

And that, in the world where communication is lauded as king, is unacceptable.

Send your comments to Kim

  • Kim Penstone is editor of Marketingweb, a website wholly owned by Moneyweb that focuses on the media, marketing and advertising arena. For more articles of a similar nature, go to

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