Does Ramaphosa ignore the power of the media?

By Chris Moerdyk

I am a great fan of South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa. In spite of accusations from the political right, left and centre that he is doing nothing to solve the ills of this country, he has actually set all manner of wheels in motion that will see state capture miscreants brought to book and government spending hauled back in line.

What many of his critics don’t see is the fact that Ramaphosa is doing everything by the book and not just emulating his predecessor by willy-nilly throwing out presidential edicts.

He is achieving a lot but what I cannot understand is why he is not using the media to communicate all of this to the nation.

After all, he was the chairman of one of South Africa’s biggest media groups and therefore has a tremendous number of contacts. Most media also respects him.

He is a humble guy. Having met him several times, my overall impression is that he is not shy of demonstrating humility and a willingness to serve.

My frustration, as one of his fans, is that he is not doing more through the media.

Yes, he does issue statements but regrettably with far too much of a delay. He is on social media but I have no doubt that this is all done by his underlings who concentrate on good news instead of using this powerful medium to instantly face bad breaking news such as civil disobedience, overt racism and xenophobia.

Admittedly, as president of the country, he is an extremely busy man but effective social media and working through traditional media takes very little time –once you get the hang of it.

The importance of being available to traditional media cannot be overemphasised. For a start it cuts down on misunderstanding and especially speculation. The latter being something that the news media is forced to do when they cannot get to speak to the right people.

Taking an objective and dispassionate look at the communications process that has taken place between government and its detractors, it is abundantly clear cabinet ministers very rarely, if ever, take advice from their media and communications staff.

The knee-jerk reactions that abound clearly indicate many ministers don’t think through the process of most effectively communicating with voters

It has been a problem for quite some time now. Cabinet ministers, however good they may be at doing their jobs, seem to believe that they are all expert communicators and extremely well versed in dealing with the media. With few exceptions most of them have very little expertise or skill when it comes to the art of communication and dealing with the media –hostile or otherwise.

Somehow I get the feeling that the media does not play a particularly important role in Cyril Ramaphosa’s life. Which is a pity because as many business leaders will attest, it is an immensely powerful tool that not only doesn’t cost anything in terms of time or money, but massively increases political efficiency and understanding.

Chris Moerdyk (@chrismoerdyk ) is a marketing analyst and advisor and owner of Moerdyk Marketing with many years of experience in marketing and the media as well as serving as non-executive director and chairman of companies.

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