Facebook has a weird way of waking up sleeping dogs; and I found one moment this morning. After a few days of critiquing the Public Relations team at the Office of the President for the current waning of favourabilty confronting the Presidency, I decided to hit the pause button last night.
But low and behold, Facebook popped up a memory on my timeline reminding me about a post I did on this very same subject last year in these very exact words:
The President and his PR Team! They need the help of God Himself…
Am neither surprised not impressed by the lackluster performance of the Presidential Press and PR Team…
Excuse me for the error in the “nor” for those of you with discerning grammatical eyes. So I actually warned these people one year ago but they went ahead with business as usual and the results are not pretty, to say the least. This is definitely unconscionable.
It was a friend who alerted me on Tobaski day telling me that my Eid pictures on my Facebook fan page attracted more likes than that of the President. I denied it but when he showed me the statistics and compared it to the soaring likes of UDP leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, I thought: something is wrong somewhere and my investigative lenses landed the spotlight at no other place but the directorate of Press and Public Relations at the office of the President. No matter how much you disagree with President Barrow, you must admit that he has is a like-able personality.
So what has gone wrong with the President’s PR?
There came, with my critique of the Presidents men (and women) in charge of his image making, a lot of name calling but below is the post I made about the matter on my Facebook fan page; for I am not interested in any personal attacks:
And also we have to admit that the Presidents popularity is waning especially on social media…Barrow’s PR team should up their game pronto to help shore up some positive energy towards their principal…
But wait, does he even have a #Team @ his PR and communications department?
A house divided shall not stand.
Instead of making subtle and effective moves to ameliorate this PR malaise, one member of the PR team at state house decided to make a vindictive social media post against those who criticised his office. What the post showed was that the directorate of PR at the Presidency is more focused on their own ego and haggling over privileges than projecting the good image of the President.
The above premise is further substantiated by the recent leaking of information about infighting at the directorate of PR to the media. So instead of working together to tell the good positive stories that abound at the Presidency, some of these people are so focused on their narrow personal interests that they can risk further muddying of the image of the Presidency in pursuit of settling scores among themselves.
If the this critique was just my personal views, not share by others, perhaps the President should not be alarmed. But many communication experts have weighed in on this matter asserting the same opinion of lackluster performance by the President’s men.
Even the most strident critics of this administration have praised it for several positive results ranging from macroeconomic stabilisation post-impasse, to diplomatic gains made since the change of government, leading to growing favourable views by our bilateral and multilateral development partners; but the question is: where is this story told/sold?
Even international observers like the Commonwealth have faulted the PR and Communications team of this government. Something needs to be done about this, sooner rather than later. The fact is that the consequences of a PR failure at the Office of the President will not be suffered by President Barrow alone, we all have a stake in this as a nation.
Public Relations is Human Relations
It is a sad fact that the current negative news trends against the Presidency is partly the result of the sour relationship between some members of his PR team and the media fraternity. I have always said that Gambian journalists are quite affable and easy to deal with if you know how to approach them. And that mode is not rocket science – give them the respect they deserve and know that you do not own them.
They will cooperate within all reasonable limits. This was my experience when I was Secretary General and Head of the civil service; a job that I did knowing pretty well that PR was a key part of my function at that most critical office. The media cooperated with me (including some international media outfits) and I had no complaints about them. They had their jobs to do and I was not interested in controlling them but when we had good stories I made sure those stories were told and sold well and wide.
But most of the men surrounding our President do not care about how the public views their boss; nor would they lift a finger to aid his popularity. Most of them are so self-conscious and self-serving that they have lost sight of the looming storms that (if unabated) will not effect the President alone. The Mandinka proverb comes to bear here “bungo la janoe wo buka for daba koe” (the burning of the house can never spare the bed bugs).
We hope that some critical steps would be made soonest to correct the current situation in the interest of the President and the nation.
God bless The Gambia.
Former S.G, Head of the Civil Service