Maureen Nkandu writes;-
The Gassing issue and absence of the primal voice of authority.
Published on February 20, 2020
Maureen Nkandu, Former Senior Communications Expert, African Union Mission to the United States of America, Washington DC
If I were the Zambian President’s Press or Public Relations Advisor, I would suggest the he address the nation sooner than later, to calm anxiety and worry. What is happening in the country is no doubt a crisis. Children as well as the rest of us are worried, anxious, traumatized and apprehensive. In crisis communications the principal, i.e. the leader, must take the bold stand by facing the public, primarily on key three points:
1. Express sympathy for lives lost, people injured, and property damaged. If possible, visit the victims or family of those affected.
2. Explain measures that are in place to tackle the problem
3. Assert yourself as THE LEADER of the country so that the public is assured that you are in control
Regardless of whether investigations are ongoing, the principle rule is – address the nation, for reassurance. Facebook posts don’t work, nor do third party statements through spokespersons. Messaging has to come directly from the person in charge!
Examples: (i) When dozens of Muslim worshipers were shot dead in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, took direct charge of communications and spoke to the nation. This elevated her authority even more.
(ii) WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has been the leading voice in communicating to the world about the Corona Virus and how the problem is being managed.
The President need not give daily updates, he is too busy for that, but the public must hear from him as he is the prime authority – the Commander-in Chief.
We teach these things to PR and communications specialists. This is my two cents worth.

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