Pastor Otabil?s Communication Team Failed.

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As a personal axiom, self-evident truth, I believe in time but I fear time. I believe in time because in the arms of time lies the power of change. I fear time because of the change time brings. Sometimes change might not occur, but should change come, it might either be in your favour or not. Time has brought a change that is quiet reputation smacking, personal dignity slurring and integrity attacking to Pastor Otabil.

The General Overseer of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), Rev. Dr. Mensah Otabil, has recently come under attack through a radio out pouring of some of his messages with political spin on it. These messages, he says were delivered some time ago and has been pieced together and twisted to split hair with what has become the trade mark of the New Patriotic Party?s campaign message for election 2012 ? Free SHS. It began like a spark, but with time became a wild fire which engulfed the personality and integrity of the man of God. The divisive political platform associated with vicious language in this country of ours has taken hold of the better part of the Minister of God. In a country where time for electing leaders is synonymous to preparation for war, one needs to be extra careful about making utterances that seem to sway and inflame passion on either side of the political divide. But this caution has been thrown dogs.

What is he fighting against? The content of the sermon which has become the center of discord was on how free education is not the best for one?s child. He added that, if you want the best for your child, you need to pay. This piece has been set in a head-on collision cause with the NPP?s ?Free SHS? campaign message. It afforded some political bigwigs in the divide to play political chess with. This has become a thorn in the flesh of the General Overseer of the ICGC. The pain in his neck emanates from the apparent intent to align him to a particular political party in thought possibly, against another via a sermon. This he protested in a late press conference in the morning of Tuesday 13thNovember, 2012, late because Pastor Otabil and his able Communication Team delayed for far too long to respond. Public relations is a deliberate, planned and sustained effort, therefore for an effective and efficient action to literally retrieve an image from possibly or seemingly verbal brutes or vicious wolves, there is every need to study and monitor the activities of gatekeepers and react decisively and appropriately. But timely as well.

Unfortunately, for Dr. Otabil, his press conference has brought him some negative political public slur. This was as if to ask, ?What are you sacred of, fear not it is your own shadow? The option to rebut and refute the spin doctors on his tail is within the purview of human rights. He owns it as a right to defend his integrity within the confines of the laws of Ghana.

Now, what the Communication Team of the man of God should have done. Practically, the said audio material is a twenty-two minutes tape which has now become a commercial on various media platforms. This goes to inform that, it has assumed a repetitive format, which is doing much damage to the reputation of the Pastor. As he said in his maiden press conference, there was a press release after the second broadcast of the said material. This according to him is based on the fact that, he is known of ignoring personal attacks. Then why the press conference, when your attacker had long taken their pound of flesh and are under your skin. ?Suffice of that, the material is transmitted via radio.

In media studies radio is termed as a now medium. Hence, it is considered transient, but very effective. It is a mass spectrum through which several thousands, if not millions can be reached at a go across a geographical area. Therefore, the choice of the press release was wrong. For the reason that, as radio is free to access, mobile and easy, the print media is sold and, the press release will require a special space, which could be sandwiched somewhere in the paper. Bearing in mind it was not a rejoinder to a publication by the said newspaper which is supposed to offer Pastor Otabil same opportunity to publish a press release to clear the dust. Think about this. How many people will listen to the radio broadcast of the audio material as compared to the press release hidden somewhere in a paper that a fellow is expected to buy? What about this analogy, will you use a stick if an assailant deploys a cutlass at you or an attacker emerges with a gun you will seek to defend yourself with a cutlass? After all there are different types of press releases. Which type was employed? Is it, dress announcement, situational report or crisis? What should have been done was for the press release meant for the print media houses, to have been read on air as Dr. Mensah Otabil did on that faithful Tuesday morning. It was the medium which could not add up.

Again, for what reason did the Communication Team choose to lay back for the third tape to be aired before thinking of trying to set the records straight. They allowed the goat they were to carry on their shoulders to wallow too long in the mud. Why? In the court of public opinion, it is all about influencing the publics and taking into consideration the effect of what is being communicated on your reputation, image, organisation, dignity, and integrity in the immediate and long term. So then, why did he look on as his alleged detractors got under his skin and had an easy go, only for him to go to the court of public opinion late?? Additionally, it is an advert which is now ingrained in the memory of many, which is the power of media commercials. What then was done on the Tuesday, 13th?November, 2012, was to now appeal to the court of human conscience to judge for them, who to believe, he Pastor Otabil or his alleged seeming detractors? The spin doctors have gone to work to play his press conference out like football. No mercy. As late as the advisers of Pastor Otabil were, the man of God should have equally not stepped in to the public court of opinions. Brood about it, the Pastor has awoken the sleeping giant of political machinery in an election year, this has rendered him helpless, as he sounded in his press conference, and they come to fight. How strong are his arms? To God he gave his battle to. So, why that press conference? Defeating, he should not have organised that meeting with the press. Worst of, read the public relations witch spin and melt down press houses headlines. They cannot receive a mention here.

Now let us look at some public relations options in cases like this. An expert in this trade by name Grunig made some recommendations years ago, which is relevant to the current situation. The survival of an organisation in this instance, an individual?s reputation during crisis of this nature depends on its internal culture, strength of its communications and integrity of its leadership. Grunig posits four principles but we will consider the fourth, thus, the symmetrical communication principle. It indicates that, at the time of crisis, an organisation in this case, an individual, must consider the public interest to be at least as important as their own image. If Pastor Otabil had taken into consideration the relevance of his numerous publics, is it his congregants or those outside the ICGC as his own image, he would have dealt with the seed of the mischief he believes is hutched for him than allowing it to germinate.

In spite of the Grunig?s suggested principle of communication in crisis period, let us also look at some three ways of measuring effectiveness of contrasting messages put out during crisis. In the case of Pastor Mensah Otabil, press release was employed. The first has to do with measuring outputs and the effectiveness of the process (press release): Hour by hour, or day by day monitoring of the media to determine if the message contained in the press release, the key message is being communicated and to whom. Did the Communication Team of Pastor Otabil take the time to monitor the effectiveness of the content of the press release, whether it was influencing public opinion in their favour or not, or it was given to be published and left as such? Did the Team of Advisors take the pain to monitor feedbacks from the publication? Daily or hourly monitoring is a wonderful tool, but if you can?t respond or react to the data, there?s no point in commissioning it. However, if your crisis is ongoing, and you need to make decisions hourly or daily as to what to say or not, such monitoring report needs plenty of time to allow you to craft and refine the? key messages you need to be communicating. A monitoring report typically examines print, TV, radio, internet news groups and chat rooms to determine what is being said, how the organisation in this instance an individual is being positioned, and what messages are being delivered.

The second has to do with measuring impact. This has to do with determining if the messages are having the desired effect, if they are being believed, and if they?re swaying public opinion. Whoever puts out a material of public relations via the print or the electronic media for the purposes of winning over an audience, there is the responsibility to also take a gauge of the effect of the message. This will enable the Public relations Officer to determine in the event that the message was right but the medium used was wrong. Then, the PR Officer will opt for another alternative. The practitioner can then change the strategy as well. If a practitioner cannot monitor a message put out to sway opinions to the advantage, then it is better not done.

Finally, measuring outcomes of information put out during crisis to the publics is as important as the image a practitioner of public relations is trying to defend. In measuring outcomes, a practitioner should look at whether in the long run; did the crisis impact on the reputation, customers? intent to purchase? Has the current atmosphere affected the reputation of the Pastor, the congregation, clients of the University he is the Chancellor?

In spite of the above, a statement has been released by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Communication Team in response to the press conference held by Pastor Mensah Otabil on Tuesday 13th?November, 2012. The release indicates that, the material was put together from some of the audio products of the Pastor usually offered for sale. This then falls within the purview of copy right law. For the reason that, upon acquiring a work through purchase, any attempt to copy it, store the content for any other purpose outside which it was purchased infringes on the rights of the owner of the original work. ?This may include, duplicating the material for reselling or for other reasons which might be of benefit to an individual directly or indirectly without the express permission of the rightful owner of the property. In Ghana, a work can be used without the consent of the owner when it has passed 70 years and above after the person who originally produced the work. Hence, Dr. Otabil has every ample opportunity to stop the usage of his material for media commercials to the benefit of a political party. If they decide to use the audio material to enhance the political campaign message then, the appropriate contract should be signed. In this stead, the Legal Team of the man of God should officially write to the Communication Team of the NDC to desist from further broadcasting of the said material which is the bone of contention until the right thing is done. The same communique should be copied to the electronic media out fits airing it. To also recues themselves from such act of copy right infringement.

Irrespective of the harm caused the man of God through that electronic advert; rough edges can always be trimmed for tomorrow today. Those behind this tape being used as media commercial, should also heed to the request of the Pastor to stop airing and withdraw it for sanity to prevail. Do not forget, this an election year.

We should all work for peace to thrive in our mother land Ghana. Long live Ghana, long live peace and unity. God bless our home land Ghana.

 

 

Patrick Twumasi

(0209045931) <ayalolo4@gmail.com>

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