Why should media relations matter now? Well, Zimbabwe is now open for business, meaning that the new government is throwing its doors wide open to competition from abroad. The time for resting on our laurels and being content with providing inferior products, shoddy service and forgettable customer experience are over.
We recently hosted Okoth Obado, a Kenyan PR expert with Redhouse Public Relations, who shared with us the experience of coming out of an extended period of crisis. Granted that the economic environment, and the political one in its wake, had become very toxic for doing business.
Obado, described the situation more succinctly as the effect of autocratic leadership. An experience that has become all too familiar in most African countries. During such periods, he said, complacency and lack of competitiveness set in.
Businesses became more inward looking because the external environment no longer mattered. The government led the assault on global capital by attacking its institutions whenever and wherever ears could hear. They blamed everything from sanctions to opposition ‘traitors.’
Business latched onto this cue where, according to Obado, and innovation became relegated to the back-burner. Those organisations with good political connections thrived because of protectionism and cronyism. Corruption became the norm rather than the exception.
Because of heightened political competition and activity, less focus was placed on key socio-economic issues. Meaning that organisations became so contemptuous of scrutiny and literally shrugged of complaints of bad service. Others still, abused their near monopoly to dash any hopes or redress to their errant behaviour and continue to do so.
That negative corporate attitude has woven a sense of resentment around the entire public psyche, Obado observed. The negative narrative has, as a result, influenced how we are seen and regarded as a country and a people. A culture of celebrating mediocrity thrives unabated.
So why should media relations matter in all this? Obado says that because memories are fragile, brands are substitutable. But the customer with long lasting memories remains king.
The media offers many platforms where businesses can push a new and positive narrative in Zimbabwe. It makes business sense to make the media your allies in doing this. To see the need to employ PR expertise not only to pick your way around a crowded landscape, and to understand how it works.
The media remains part of a potent strategy to push your products and services in an increasingly competitive environment. Importantly, it also gives you the ability to be able to endure public scrutiny and be accountable to your promise and value proposition.