Friday, 20 July 2012

DPP seriously needs communications barons

DPP spokesperson, Nicholas Dausi
If Malawi’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is serious about giving President  Joyce Banda and her ruling People’s Party a good run in the 2014 presidential and parliamentary race, the former ruling party should seriously consider not only to engage communications strategists but also to be willing to implement their recommendations.

The recent statement that DPP’s spokesperson Nicholas Dausi gave to the Daily Times clearly signifies the party is not capable of mending its tattered public image with regard to intolerance towards dissenting views.

The July 18th 2012 edition of the Daily Times reported that police had the previous day arrested some DPP youths suspected of roaming the streets of Blantyre brandishing pangas, chanting ‘war’ songs on July 19th 2011. That was aimed at scaring Malawians into refraining from anti-government demonstrations that had been planned for the following day.

Reacting to the news, Mr Dausi told the paper the arrests were ‘politically motivated’. My foot! I almost fainted upon reading this careless and unbridled overused political cliché.

As a side bar - Of course the police have their own Public Relations problems to grapple with when one considers the question: Why effect the arrests now, not when the DPP was in power? However, that is a question that deserves a page of its own.

Communications strategists would advise the DPP that a public or media statement reveals what the originator of the message believes in, even if the revelation may not have been intended. That’s the reality of communication.

If the DPP does not know, here is what its spokesperson’s condemnation of the arrests of the panga-wielding party youths actually means: The party sees nothing wrong with its membership using threats of violence against dissenting voice. It means the DPP still believes there is room for intimidation in a democracy. That scares!

Public Relations strategists would tell the DPP that if this is the type of message that is sent to the masses, it will be so easy for potential voters to foresee Malawi under fire much hotter than was experienced in the past three years if the party is given power to govern again. The party knows very well what that means in the ballot booth.

DPP’s governor for the South Mr Noel Masangwi’s confession – after Joyce Banda’s rise to the presidency in April 2012 -  that the party had messed up big time when it was in power was an excellent starting point for a renewed Public Relations effort to win back people’s confidence in the former ruling party.

Communications strategists would advise the DPP that in order to be effective, a Public Relations statement does not always have to defend just everything, including lawlessness. Instead of being defensive, an organisation with a sound PR policy in place creatively engages its publics in order to get out of any mess with minimal injury.

With that in mind, the DPP would realise that as long as there are legal grounds for arrests in connection with the panga wielding gaffe, there is not even a single Public Relations point to be scored by defending the party’s youths who conducted themselves with a ‘we-are-above-the-law’ attitude. Any sort of defense in this regard is suicidal.

The good news, though, is: an organisation’s public image can change, so can the DPP’s, only if the party engages an image overhauling strategy, now, not later. The DPP, however, should realise it cannot afford to do without a team of Strategic Public Relations barons who can help scrub the stains off the party's image.

Source of report on the arrest of the panga wielding youths:

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