Category Archives: Social Conversations

Start your journey to personal empowerment now

You want to be in control of your life, right? Personal empowerment enables you to make positive decisions, and to take action that will bring you closer to achieving your goals and ambitions.

Don’t just talk, make it happen

Thanks to Mind Tools we can start the process of personal empowerment right now. Here’s a summary of the process https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/personal-empowerment.htm

To become more self-empowered, use this four-step process:

Know Yourself: understand your motivations, and your strengths and weaknesses.
Identify Your Goals: identify the aspects of your life that are the most important to you, and where you can create meaningful change.
Develop Your Competencies: focus on the skills or qualities that will allow you to reach your goals.
Claim Your Space: take your first few steps! Then review and reflect on your achievements so far, and adjust your approach if necessary. If it’s appropriate, seek feedback from the people around you to ensure that you stay on track.

Re-ignite the positive force within you

But how? Personal Empowerment Exercises

The following techniques and exercises can help to support you during the self-empowerment process. Find the ones that suit you, and practice them regularly!
Journaling . Keeping a record of your progress enables you to see how far you’ve come – and to remember where you went wrong!
Cognitive restructuring . Challenging the beliefs that underpin a sense of powerlessness can enable you to view your situation in a different light.
The ABC Technique enables you to see the consequences of negative thought patterns, and to become more optimistic.
Affirmations . Repeating positive thoughts to yourself can give you a greater sense of well-being and self-belief.
Exercise . Take a walk. Go for a bike ride. Work out at the gym. When your body feels good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you’ll feel more powerful.
Find an inspirational role model. Learn how this person overcame his or her own challenges – if they did it, so can you.
Talk . If you need an instant boost, talk to a supportive friend or colleague and let them tell you how great you are!

We all need to feel empowered so start working on it. If you’re feeling helpless or confused consult a life coach, and Mind Tools has a vast library of courses that assist people to live and work better, empowering lives.

Before you vote in May – Here’s Elections 101

ELECTION 101 FOR VOTERS IN MAY’S ELECTION

VOTE for SA

I can’t go into May without something on elections in SA. So here are some of my thoughts on democratic elections in general; especially for first-time voters;
1. Elections are held in democratic countries to give citizens their rightful say on who rules the country, how they want it to be run and how they want to feel about being well governed

2. In a party-political system, citizens are represented in government/parliament. In some countries citizens even vote for a specific person to represent them in government. If that person does not carry out the tasks expected of them, citizens may vote them out at the next election

3. Different parties emerge as groupings of like-minded people based on common ideology, concerns and issues; with consensus on how to act on their ideas, forming policies and implementing them for the benefit of the country. Each party believes that its policies are best-suited for the citizens’ needs and for the country’s growth, economy and peaceful prosperity (though some countries, sadly, rulers seem to thrive on chaos and war)

4. No political party owns the treasury or other SOEs. The state does, so the party that wins the election has to manage the state funds and resources to run the country effectively. If the governing party fails at this, citizens must choose a more competent party.

Make your mark in the right place

5. In order to choose a party to represent them, citizens may attend party meetings and rallies, listen to political representatives’ views, policies; observe how they conduct themselves and compare stories, issues and parties. Then they decide which party best aligns with their own views, attitudes and perspectives on the society they want to live in, and whether that party is capable of delivering on its promises

6. BUT here’s the thing: citizens are both emotional and rational beings. And whereas electing the government of one’s country SHOULD be one of the most rational of decisions, far too often, citizens fall prey to old myths, are swayed by politicians’ promises, blindly follow the emotional but hollow calls and end up unquestioningly voting for a party that does not deliver on its promises for a better country.

So, before the May election dawns, ensure that you put on your rational cap, that you take a global view of the consequences of your vote by reading, listening, discussing and comparing the party-specific offerings. Make every effort to engage with the media, not simply as a user but as a concerned citizen.

Make your mark count to make your country better.

Join the queue to vote in May Elections

University student unrest, unruly protests, untenable demands – forget academia and learn the necessary skills for the future

What students don’t seem to realise is that the militant fight for space and place in tertiary institutions may not give them the imaged experience, satisfaction nor get them the degrees and jobs they dream of – it is an illusory quest.

Although one might not sympathise with these students, one has to acknowledge their plight. In South Africa they find themselves in a society where education and training has been sacrificed at the altar of politicians’ greed. South Africans have been robbed blind by this kleptocracy. There is no money left for education or anything else.

However, instead of focusing on the negative stats and figures, I’d like to suggest that the youth and educators change their somewhat outmoded, irrational mindset and try a new approach to preparing for the world of work and job finding. We don’t even know what jobs there’ll be on offer in five years’ time, so we can’t say ‘what’ they should learn, but we can develop skills of ‘how’ to think and work.

I want to point to the outcome of the World Economic Forum’s research. It surveyed 350 executives in 15 of the world’s biggest economies to identify the top soft skills needed for the workforce of tomorrow. The result was the WEF official top 10 list of soft skills for 2019. And Forbes says by 2020 every company will be looking for people with these skills:

1. Cognitive flexibility
2. Negotiation
3. Service orientation
4. Judgment and decision-making
5. Emotional intelligence
6. Coordinating with others
7. People management
8. Creativity
9. Critical thinking
10. Complex problem solving.

By the way, I loathe the term ‘soft skills’ because I know from experience that these are the core skills needed to carry out all workplace tasks. So, even if we can’t forecast the ‘what’ of future work at least we know the ‘how’ – using skills that can be applied, transferred and implemented in every job, no matter what you do.

So students, think again, look ahead and decide what will really be of more use to you in your quest for meaningful work. Look for training opportunities that give you what you – and our country – really need.

Christina’s Simple Tips to Live with No Regrets

In this post I use Christina DesMarais’s ideas on how to live your best life. I prefer the word whole so I say you have one life, just keep living it and working to make it whole. However, her ideas are well worth putting into practice.

Christina aka @salubriousdish says, “being mediocre and coasting through life is the easiest thing in the world. But it also means you’re going to miss some opportunities and maybe even have some regrets when you get to the end of your days.”
Here are her ideas on how you can be more intentional about how you spend your time and live your best life.

Stop checking Facebook
I say “yay” to that. Christina says Facebook’s “a curated, disingenuous portrayal of your friends’ lives. If you believe what you read, their marriages are only full of adoration and respect, their children are perpetually high-achieving and beautiful and their holidays always feature amazing vistas and smiles reflecting a good time had by all. Nobody posts photos of their spouse during an argument, their kid acting like a brat, or the annoyances involved with actually getting to and from a vacation destination. And researchers have found that scrolling through all this pretend perfection makes you feel less satisfied with your own imperfect life. In essence, it fosters envy, an emotion which doesn’t lead to being the best version of yourself.” Clinical psychologist Rachel Andrew maintains, “What social media has done is make everyone accessible for comparison. In the past, people might have just envied their neighbours, but now we can compare ourselves with everyone across the world.”

Go to nature
According to Christina, “Studies have found that spending a few days in nature increases creativity by 50 percent, improves one’s attention span while reducing hyperactivity and aggression. Being close to the ocean is associated with higher levels of happiness and people who reside in greener neighborhoods live longer. At the same time, hearing traffic noise adds strain to a person’s heart.”

Teach yourself to be calm
“It’s actually contagious”, says Christina. “Instead of being someone who stresses out, be a rock for the people in your periphery by modeling self-composure and confidence. In the event of a challenging situation, take time to breathe, gather your thoughts and carve a path which is responsive and not reactive. How you handle yourself will affect how the people around you handle themselves. Will getting agitated, angry or upset help the situation? Likely not.”
I can vouch for that. I’ve found that taking a deep breath and count to ten instead of voicing my immediate responses is a great communication tool.

Take the hard road
We keep being told, “Achieving great things doesn’t happen by doing things the easy way.” Christina agrees that successful people do the difficult work of getting out of bed early, exercising every day, keeping to-do lists, reading and being vigilant about continuous self-improvement. “Envision the opposite: sleeping in, sitting around, disorganization, ignorance and a lack of growth. None of that will result in anything worthwhile.”

In my own case, studying while raising three children and completing my masters degree while working full time meant putting in the long hours while others were sleeping, playing and watching TV. But the result has been a rewarding career and a sense of achievement.

Finally, along with others, Christina quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” And she adds that being useful doesn’t need to mean changing the world, but merely making it a tiny bit better than before you existed.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Nike’s Campaign: We need companies and brands to take a stand


Communicators, marketers and advertisers are continually being told to create ‘stories’ that resonate with their target market. They are also urged to engage with social issues and to tackle activist projects of resistance, to develop as ethical brands, to stand out from the crowd.
Most brands are quite terrified of negative stakeholder perceptions, especially when it comes to expressing controversial views. So they tread the safe path and remain the same.
Not Nike. In keeping with its Just Do it slogan and its fearless philosophy of facing sporting challenges, Nike launched its 30th Campaign by featuring brave sports celebrities in its ads.
The most recent Nike ad features the face of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL super star-turned-activist against racism and police violence, with the text “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing something.” And boy, did it cause outrage amongst critics and conservatives, #justburnit became their slogan, urging people not to support Nike, not to buy Nike sport products, to even burn the ones they had.

Just in case you missed the background story: In the USA it is common practice for players in The National Football League to stand and sing the national anthem before an important match. However, following the spate of police violence against black youths and other racial incidents in 2016, some of the NFL players decided to mark their protest by not standing with fists on hearts, but rather to bend-a-knee during the anthem. The purpose was to highlight the racial injustice in the country. President Trump weighed in, calling the players disrespectful and unpatriotic, even suggesting punishment and non-payment of player-activists.
Yes, perhaps Nike shares did drop a little initially, due to the raging debates, but within two weeks they were up again and Nike recorded 31% increase in online sales.
So Nike’s corporate activism – mixing politics with sport – has been vindicated, showing that taking a stand or doing good is good for business. A host of recent surveys and reports proves Nike’s controversial move makes total business sense. Marketing lecturer, Williams says, “Nike wants to be on the right side of history and the right side of its core consumers.” And these happen to be mainly sport enthusiasts and millennials.
A 2017 Edelman poll found “The majority of Millennials (60 percent) are belief-driven buyers,” – they want their brands to take a stand on social issues.
So companies – Just do it! Take a stand.

Global movements affecting company Reputation

Global movements affecting company Reputation

Some thoughts on responsible leadership, public activism and reputation

Right now trust in mainstream media, government, business and NGOs is lower than it’s ever been. Organisations have to work extra hard at building trust, loyalty and reputation, and to avoid crises that may cause harm to their operations and reputations.

Management and Leadership changes

In the past, management would decide on its company culture, inform stakeholders and the public what it stands for and how it does its business, sometimes explicitly stated in a company’s vision and mission. Once done, the company would brand itself in terms of its culture and its products. And we, the public, would believe everything it said.

However, over time the public would rate a business on the extent to which its products and actions matched its goals. Too often public perceptions and ratings were ignored, leading to loss of reputational capital, while managers and leaders focused only on the other ‘capital’ – profitability. Today, because of the glaring evidence of crises resulting from public reaction to irresponsible leadership, organizations are being forced to act more ethically.       

Public perceptions                                  

The public expects organisations (including government) to keep their promises. Individuals want to trust a business they deal with. Their perceptions of and attitudes towards a company must be positive before they can trust it. And business certainly needs loyal customers and stakeholders. No company can afford to ignore the reactions to their behaviours. They do so at their own peril. Managers and leaders must listen and adapt.

Social Media and Advocacy

Meanwhile globally, the rise of social media, and the grassroots engagement it affords, has contributed to the growth of people power. Companies are constantly being watched and evaluated by the man in the street who happily shares his perceptions, based on what he sees and hears in the media. These perceptions gain momentum and can lead to mass action, causing negative outcomes for the businesses concerned. There are so many examples of this, but H&M’s recent crisis over an alleged ‘racist’ advert is one. With the growth of public and employee word-of-mouth marketing, research has shown that   advocacy statements by activists and ‘influencers’ on social media are far more powerful in terms of engagement and belief than content that comes directly from the brand or company.

Ethical Branding              

Ethical business builds Reputation

Ethical branding is crucial as companies become aware of the importance of good corporate citizenship, responsible behaviour and transparency in all their dealings with internal and external stakeholders. More than ever before, building public trust is crucial to any business operation and its survival. Managers and leaders must ensure that the company performs well economically, ethically, legally, environmentally and socially, that is, as a corporate citizen.

The King Report, now in its 4th form, is regarded as the ‘go-to guide’ on corporate governance for large companies. Government and SMMEs too would definitely gain by consulting the document. Basically, it highlights key aspects of creating a corporate environment for the 21st century and beyond where corporate citizenship and responsible leadership are key. Only by focusing on its role in society and behaving with transparency can an organization ensure its reputation and sustainability.

 

 

My thoughts on the KPMG reputational crisis

KPMG’s name and reputation remains in crisis and in the headlines. We just can’t stop talking about it. So let’s start learning from it. Having been involved in practising, lecturing and consulting in Corporate Communication, I can’t resist throwing out some of my own thoughts on the matter.

Loss of ethics loss of Reputation

In terms of corporate citizenship, ethical branding, responsible leadership, accountability and reputation, here are my offerings:

  1. For many years now, the King Report has been the go-to document for guidelines on corporate governance, corporate citizenship and responsibility to one’s stakeholders, community, politico-economic and natural environment. Large corporate are obliged to take note and commit to upholding the principles and values contained in the King Report which is constantly being revised  to ensure it remains valid, relevant and current.
  2. Transformational leadership. It’s simple: know what it means. Know the code of conduct. Know how to motivate and inspire. Know the law but act ethically. Know your people and their feelings. Know the truth. Spread the truth.
  3. Reputation management: Every company –small and large – must plan and manage its identity, its values and its behavior in order to manage outcomes and others’ perceptions of it. Only through critical strategic discussions with all stakeholders, including the media, can a company develop a strong positive reputation.
  4. Crisis management – Plan, prepare, strategise for negative disruptive events that impact your operations and your reputation. Without a crisis plan you’re doomed. Public sharing is vital for a reputable organization to gain support. Don’t apologise unless you mean it and are prepared to pay the price.
  5. Corporate culture: Vision, Ethos, Values, Beliefs and Behaviour. Accountability means to take responsibility for one’s decisions and actions and be adaptable to changes in the environment and courageous to stand one’s ground in the midst of potential threats, temptations and challenges. Be purpose- not greed-driven.

Finally, companies should strategise for sustainability. Their strategies must translate into best practice – setting standards and acting as examples for conducting ethical business, based on principles and values of trust, integrity, professionalism, not greed, status and power.

Corporate governance and CSR – is it for REAL?

What is ‘fake news’?


What is ‘fake news’? And how does it affect us?                                    Fake news 1

Have you noticed how this ‘catch-all’ confusing media term is being used every day? Donald Trump uses it to describe any news he doesn’t like, doesn’t agree with, or that doesn’t come from his own tweets. And although we associate the term with Trump, stories involving ‘fake news’ have been around for a while. But what does it mean in our hi-tech social media world and how does it affect our own interpretation of news and how we respond to it?

Is it propaganda, deception, misrepresentation or just plain you-know-what?

All of the above. One definition of fake news, or hoax news, is “false information or propaganda published under the guise of being authentic news. Fake news websites and channels push their fake news content in an attempt to mislead consumers of the content and spread misinformation via social networks and word-of-mouth” (www.webopedia.com/TERM/F/fakenews.html).

Wikipedia defines it as news which is “completely made up and designed to deceive readers to maximize traffic and profit. News satire uses exaggeration and introduces non-factual elements, but is intended to amuse or make a point, not deceive. Propaganda can also be fake news”   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_news .

In The Guardian, Elle Hunt explores ‘fake news’:  “Until recently, there was news and “not news” (referring to human interest stories or features). Now there is ‘fake news’, said to be behind the election of Donald Trump as US president. The US election result was influenced by a widespread belief in fake news among Trump supporters. 73% of Trump voters thought the billionaire financier George Soros paid protesters to disrupt the Republican candidate’s rallies – a fake news report later repeated by the president-elect himself.”

Other fake news includes a report that Democratic senators wanted to impose sharia law in Florida, and a false report that Trump supporters chanting “we hate Muslims, we hate blacks, we want our great country back” at a rally was reported as true on election night.

Fake news in SA                         

Fake news 4According to Verlie Oosthuizen, a partner at Shepstone and Wylie’s social media law department, “Fake news – which previously targeted celebrities – has shifted to politics; Donald Trump’s election shows the impact of this growing trend on politics”.

Xolani Dube, from the Xubera Institute for Research and Development, believes what is now termed fake news has been around since the inception of power. “Pre-information age, fake news was called propaganda and preserved in print media and radio. It existed by other names before that. For anything to sustain itself it needs to rebrand, so it is appearing now as fake news, electioneering sabotage.”

Sabotage had allegedly been the aim of the work of an ANC team called the “War Room” in the run up to the local government elections. Allegations that its goal was to create posters depicting opposition political parties negatively, were contained in a court application by Sihle Bolani. The public relations strategist fingered Shaka Sisulu, Walter Sisulu’s grandson, as her recruiter, as did Thami Mthimkhulu, a Durban man who claimed – on Twitter – that he had been sent slanderous posters of EFF and DA leaders to share and “push” on social media.

The proliferation of fake news targeting political parties and politicians is “new-age propaganda” that is not likely to stop and political leaders have to brace themselves for the online onslaught. This is according to a social media lawyer and a researcher, who were responding to allegations that the ANC spent R50 million to spread fake news and pay social media “influencers” to discredit the political opposition. Many commentators agree that as the ANC succession debate heats up, South Africa could expect even more fake news. So be aware….

Should we be worried about fake news?

Social media expert, Arthur Goldstuck, believes fake news completely destroys public discourse and undermines democratic values: “Anyone who participates in this in order to advance their objectives should realise the long-term damage. It ultimately renders everything they put out untrustworthy.” He believes there should be consequences but “until someone is caught and prosecuted, it will go on”.

Hunt says, “These stories – compelling to click on, and with a “truthiness” quality to them – soar on the social web, where links are given the same weighting regardless of source, and particularly on Facebook where there is a potential audience of 1.8bn.”

Analysis by BuzzFeed found that fake news stories drew more shares and engagement during the final three months of the US election campaign than reports from, for example, the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN.    The power of this ‘fake news’ is clear.

So, how do you tell what is fake news?

Surely it’s easy to tell fake news from real news   Actually, no.   A recent study carried out by Stanford’s Graduate School of Education assessed more than 7,800 student responses on their ability to assess information sources. Researchers were “shocked” by students’ “stunning and dismaying consistency” to evaluate information at even as basic a level as distinguishing advertisements from articles (from The Guardian article by Elle Hunt).

Soon, Facebook will flag stories of questionable legitimacy with an alert that says “Disputed by 3rd party fact-checkers”. Melissa Zimdars, a professor at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, compiled this list of websites that either purposely publish false information or are otherwise entirely unreliable, broken down by category.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel, pressured Facebook to introduce a fact check button to try to deal with fake news. This is already effective in the US as well and whether Facebook is going to mobilise this across the globe remains to be seen.

“I don’t believe there is a political will in South Africa to put up the same kind of pressure,” said Oosthuizen.  “Trying to prosecute the creators of fake news sites would be extremely difficult. You’d end up chasing leads in different jurisdictions.”

And what can we do to stop its spread?

So we’ve deduced that fake news is intentionally created and can discredit stories and the people in them and lead us to believe that something is true when it’s not. So we need to be smarter at recognising and combating news that is fabricated.

“Share responsibly”, says Hunt, “you are an influencer within your own social network: put in the legwork, and only post or share stories you know to be true, from sources you know to be responsible. You can help shape the media you want, too. Withhold “hate-clicking” on stories you know are designed to make you angry”.

Pay for journalism and news that have real value.

As we draw near to Youth Day on 16 June and remember the student riots, we need to remind ourselves what they were putting their lives on the line for.

We know what drove those students in 1976 to protest. The evidence is clear – Bantu education was appalling, especially when compared to that of whites. Students had to use a foreign language in their studies. Learning and teaching facilities were poor, conditions in the townships were not conducive to learning and teaching. Students were fighting for education and a better life.

While we acknowledge the changes that have taken place politically, economically, technologically and socially since then, we need to start real conversations about real and relevant education. What those students were fighting for may not be what we see and experience today. What type of education do South Africans want? What does the #feesmustfall Campaign envision for education today?

For the past 20 years we’ve been trying to ‘improve education’ in South Africa. Billions of rands have been spent. Many changes, many methods, many structures, many experts have been used, and yet every year we question our education system and make promises and plans to improve it – to no avail. We have SETAs and SAQA setting the standards, we have government promising to produce thousands of artisans annually, we have private ‘educational’ companies and institutions making millions from people desperate to get certificates, we have ‘free’ access to education, and yet we have not managed to educate the youth of this country nor prepare them for the world of work that is constantly changing. Not to mention the number of ‘degreed’ individuals without work – thrown into the world of ‘worklessness’. Clearly there’s a problem.

Education needs a revolution

Education needs a revolution 

So it’s time we take note of Thomas A. Edison’s words:
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Let’s learn from our mistakes and proceed with a strategic plan toward a more favourable outcome?

We must start asking meaningful questions about education if we are to truly address the problems that the very concept and its interpretation cause. Starting with:
What is education? What is its purpose? What is it used for? Do people really want to be educated? What does it mean to be educated? Is education still relevant in a global information society where anyone can access any information that they find useful? And jobs are evolving at such a rate the educators don’t even know they exist, so how can they prepare students?

Some see education merely as a piece of paper for a job-seeker; others see it as a process of developing one’s thinking and leadership qualities; yet others see it as needless rote learning of useless information only to regurgitate it in exams. Nevertheless, the honest responses to authentic probing into education would at least give us as a society a fair idea of what we’re dealing with before we set off on yet another detour. Let’s put our heads together and start that conversation today.

Let's talk about successful education

Let’s talk about successful education

There needs to be another education revolutionthis time in our thinking – for successful solutions to the problem of education in this country.

ARE RESPONSIBLE BUSINESSES TAKING CARE OF THE FUTURE?

Ethical branding and sustainability trends for 2015 and beyond

There is so much talk of sustainability, ethical branding and how to strategise a company’s CSR programmes and efforts, to make ‘being good part of good business.’

Corporate governance and CSR - is it for REAL?

Corporate governance and CSR – is it for REAL?

I have found two interesting items on this topic. The first, a delightful, creative and easy-to-understand ‘story’ about becoming a ‘conscious industry.’ I love it. But my question is, who sees it, who is learning from it and who is doing it? This is a resource that should be circulated to every single business in this country. To experience it, visit: www.ogilvyearth.co.za

The other, EthicalCorp’s report on sustainability trends for 2015.
Ethical Corporation is hosting its 14th Annual Responsible Business Summit in May this year at which over 300 executives from across the globe will discuss the future of responsible business.
As a precursor to this prestigious event, Ethicalcorp conducted a survey to assess the current issues and trends in sustainability. What emerged from the 472 responses were the 3 top international priorities in 2015:
1. Embedding CSR
2. Creating a Sustainable Culture
3. Sustainable innovation

30% of respondents stated that sustainable innovation was the most exciting opportunity for their company in the next five years.
Nearly 25% stated that their companies were driven by sustainability. The hope is that this would increase as sustainability becomes more embedded in R&D and permeates through the organisation.
Visit: www.ethicalcorp.com/rbs

I say, there’s too much talk and not enough will for action!

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