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Ethics and Values do improve image

According to Diane Charton, more and more thinking from the worlds of economics and psychology is creeping into marketing. A discipline called behavioural economics is challenging many of our old assumptions and helping us to think about how our customers behave in totally new ways. Behavioural economics, pioneered in marketing through thinkers like Rory Sutherland, of Ogilvy & Mather UK and co-founder of OgilvyChange, holds that people don’t always make decisions or act as rationally as we might think.

Instead, people are influenced by a range of irrational, and often unconscious and emotional, factors when making a decision. Though the decision-making process may be irrational at times, it is based on a set of principles that are consistent and predictable. Sutherland says: “The emergence of behavioural economics provides the marketing industry with a framework fit for purpose for the next century.” Current thinking is that ‘informed’ consumers and stakeholders take note of corporate communication, behaviour and products in relation to current public issues and debates, and make their decisions about companies based on that.

Companies need to focus on both their and their clients’ communication, attitude and perceptions if they want to influence others’ behaviour. People identify with companies that do have values and do behave ethically.        Business Ethics

The ethical brand process.

Brand research used to focus on the frameworks and approaches typically associated with the field of corporate social responsibility. However, only when the focus shifted away from specific policies, practices and issues, to recognising that even those companies with ethical, social and environmental dimensions are commercially motivated, did they discover the ethical brand process.

Although ethical brands base their behaviour on their values, authentic ethical brands are not perfect. However, the one thing that sets them apart from all others is the way they respond to these imperfections. One of the major challenges the authentication methodology had to overcome was to incorporate an in-built tolerance for human imperfection that does not in any way undermine the integrity of the approach.

The ethical brand process is defined by:

  • Listening to the interests, needs and concerns of stakeholders
  • A willingness and ability to learn from stakeholder interactions
  • Responding to stakeholder approaches – timely and respectfully.


Discovering the ethical brand process was an important milestone in branding methodology. It clearly identifies activities that we could observe and measure in an unbiased and clinical manner. The EB process reveals everything we need to know about how responsive the organisation is to the needs, interests and concerns of all its stakeholder communities – anywhere, anytime.




Exploring trends in Branding and PR without men

We ran another very successful PR Boot Camp on Thursday, 20 March. The theme was “Exploring current thinking and trends in Branding and PR.” We covered a wide range of branding and PR information and each participant shared their experience and knowledge on the topic and then got down to actually reworking their own strategies based on their new insights.

Marcel, Lindy and Des hard at workParticipants hard at work

Some of the key questions and issues raised included the ones I’ve listed below and, over the next month or two, I’ll be dealing with each one in a separate blog. However, here I want to focus on the last one: Why is it so difficult to draw local men to PR and Branding workshops?

The PR Boot Camp attracted a group of highly professional participants, including an attorney, two marketing managers – one from a large private hospital, the other from a firm of lawyers – a graphic designer and website builder, a business coach, an owner of companies, a human resource manager, and an online networking business operator. They proved to be a facilitator’s dream because they contributed constantly with insight, expertise and questions. The only thing was – they were all female! We had to ask ourselves, where are the men of Maritzburg?

No rest for the Marketing Manager Boot Camps are hard work

This opened the way for a deviation to an interesting discussion on workplace gender issues. Several of the women there had experienced a sense that some – NOT ALL (no need to get your jockstraps in a knot now!) – men in business still showed ‘traditional’ attitudes towards women. Examples included not taking seriously suggestions on business management that came from a woman; men would pay thousands of rand to go to Johannesburg to attend a seminar when facilitated by a man, while not attending a local one run by a woman of equal calibre; corporate men are generally slow to change or implement new ideas or procedures that are initiated by women.

What IS the reason for these attitudes and behaviours in 2014?

Feel free to comment…………..  while you await the blogs on:

1. Why Brand? Is branding only for cattle?

2. Why a Mission Statement?  Read this article:

3. Why Ethics and Values in business?

4. How to outplay the Competition?

5. Why Social Network platforms?

6. Why a Communication Strategy?

7. How to brand and market a coaching business?

8. Why is it so difficult to draw local men to PR and Branding workshops?


Emphasizing Reputation Management

I would recommend that all those involved in Corporate Communication and public relations training start focusing more and more on Reputation Management. As with our personal lives, the more companies invest in building good relationships with their ‘significant’ others or stakeholders, the more they will earn in terms of loyalty and support in times of trouble.
Try and source a very useful article by Deon Binneman (posted online on 30 November 2012) entitled, “7 Compelling reasons to educate, train and develop your employees about Reputation Management”. It has always been my contention that reputation management should be core to any business activities. I emphasize reputation management in all my courses and enjoy using the term “reputational capital” because often managers response more readily to the idea of capital. “Soft skills” like communication, relationship building, harmony, stakeholder perceptions and the like don’t grip their interests. They are more focused on sales, profit and assets and forget that relationships contribute to the most valuable asset – reputation.

According to Binneman, “A good reputation means your name is trusted….you are considered a sound investment….and employer.” Educating your employees about reputation management encourages them to work collaboratively in building your corporate reputation, resulting in benefits like increased productivity, increased competitiveness, stakeholder identification and loyalty, to name a few.

The brittle condition of South Africa’s moral backbone

The brittle condition of South Africa’s moral backbone
I read Willem Landman’s piece entitled, “SA is already knee deep in moral bankruptcy” with great interest and sadness. However, I do believe there are enough people in South Africa today who feel as strongly as I on this matter, and if all these people could band together in the fight against a corrupt and unethical society and start building a common ethos of honesty, authenticity, regard for others, accountability and social justice, life for our children and their children has far more promise in the future. Individuals and groups should start a public discourse, form a forceful coalition that will contribute to the advancement of a more ethical South African society. In Tony Manning’s view, “If you don’t make a difference, you don’t matter” and we must make a difference to show that our beliefs matter in making society better.
Willem Landman, CEO of the Ethics Institute of South Africa ( offers some harsh points [extracted by me] when he claims, “The state of ethics in our country – in our politics, economy and even personal lives – is in a critical state. There is a growing gap between the normative vision of 1994 and what has happened since then. By means of our Constitution, we committed ourselves to a new value system, but in our personal and professional lives, we are increasingly moving away from those values….the basic prerequisites for an ethical journey in our personal and public lives were established, namely extraordinary people as role models and democratic institutions imbedded in a standard-setting legal structure. But it is in our public life – in our political economy – that the depth of our moral bankruptcy is reaching serious proportions. Indicative of this is the behaviour of our politicians and public officials…..They do not understand the difference between the law and ethics….. public health care and education were the most unfortunate examples of the lack of ethics…… Almost all the speakers [at a recent conference] highlighted our sad lack of ethical leadership.” We need to act on this immediately.
One of the most commonly held views today seems to be, as long as it’s legal who cares if it’s ethical. Courts are overrun with cases that should never have been addressed by the legal system at all – if only those involved had acted ethically. Our society is morally bankrupt simply because its ‘ethics’ bank account has been robbed to pay for the legal costs of the ever-increasing reliance on litigation to solve battles created by unethical businessmen, politicians and the like. We must act to change this.

SA education is failing but is going online the answer?

One of the pervading themes of our social discourse these days is our failing (as in not working and not passing) education system and poor teachers (as in bad and as in badly-paid). It seems everyone, from the Education Department itself, to the business community, parents and the public in general, all under-value teachers, not only in terms of monetary value but also in terms of the respect and the status given to the profession. It’s a really serious social problem that needs to be addressed.

I am an educator and have been one for close on thirty years. So for me it’s sad and demoralising when I read, hear, see and experience how lowly people perceive teachers. On a daily basis I’ve heard students say things like, “My father would kill me if I wanted to be a teacher!” Asked why, they reply, “There’s no money!” or “It’s an awful job!” Yet when parents are asked what they think is their most important wish or goal for their children, they say “education.” Isn’t that strange? What’s going on here? How can we begin to repair this damaged outlook? We can’t expect our children to be educated without teachers. And, yes, teachers have to earn respect through showing dedication to their vocation and understand it’s not just a job. Being a teacher is also being a mentor, a role model, one who socializes the youth regarding ethical, responsible citizenship.
I could go on and on, offering my own solution to the problem, but hey, I’m only an educator, what do I know? So can’t we throw it open up the conversation to allow really concerned and capable educational, social, economic parties – not the government or politicians – to come up with constructive workable plans of action?

Many who view education, like everything else in society, in terms of economics are offering solutions. One of particular interest is that of giving students computers and/or offering online education. Although very valid and logical in terms of access to information, there are very important educational and cognitive factors that seem to be overlooked. (Read Jeff Selingo’s article on free online courses –
For example, based on the belief that teacher/student contact is no longer imperative to learning and teaching, some educational institutions are in the process of phasing out contact sessions such as lectures and tutorials, and using online teaching materials and methods. However, I believe that, if these ‘places of learning’ take away the personal contact between teacher and student, it will be the very students who desperately need the extra personal attention who will fall behind and by the wayside.
So, what’s the story here? Is this new ‘educational’ plan based on teaching and learning theory or on economics? Perhaps it’s because educational institutions get more funding for the research they produce than for the students they put through, so lecturers are made to spend more of their time on research and not on teaching in classrooms. Who wins? NOT the students. What educational values are being embraced? Is money and funding the over-riding value even in an educational institution?

On the topic of online learning, Walter Baets’ article, “Online education heralds changes” (Source: Financial Mail via I-Net Bridge on 17 Feb 2013, in BizCommunity) questions, “Will online studies be a panacea for Africa’s learning deficit? For example, in business education, will online programs stimulate entrepreneurial growth and improve practical business acumen? In order to achieve more than mere material presentation, “online learning must be delivered in an appropriate way, based on an understanding of what learning is, how people learn, and why they feel the need to learn. Simply making intellectual content available online will not necessarily result in learning. Learning is a complex process that takes place in the head of the learner, who engages with the material that is presented in a certain way and in a certain context”, says Baets.

He is not the only writer who emphasises the importance of experiential learning. Baets maintains that “A key part of this process is that people need to experience learning…… to feel it happening, similar to an athlete who can feel the burn in his muscles as he trains. For learners this should happen through interaction with peers in the classroom, or back in the workplace, where learning is doing, where theory is put into practice……it is crucial that learners be given the incentive to embark on this kind of experiential learning journey. Content must be delivered in a way that demands that learners try out what they are taught. Learning really only comes alive when it is given personal meaning. What is learned is only a small part of the equation. How the knowledge is used afterwards counts for everything.”

Baets concludes, “… online education is a blessing for the many who have little chance of gaining access to high-quality, credible educational material. But….. higher learning institutions in Africa should become more rigorous about their roles and responsibilities in developing the intellectual capacity of nations.”

For me, online courses serve to give learners access to material or content that will assist in their obtaining some form of certification but that needs to be augmented with skills gained from experiential learning.

Another view on online education comes from Douglas Rushkoff (@CNNOpinion on Twitter) who maintains that “For pure knowledge acquisition, it’s hard to argue against such developments, especially in an era that doesn’t prioritize enrichment for its own sake. But it would be a mistake to conclude that online courses fulfil the same role in a person’s life as a college education, just as it would be an error to equate four years of high school with some online study and a GED exam”.

Although Rushkoff sees the merits of online education, he has certain reservations:
“First off, subjects tend to be conveyed best in what might be considered their native environments. Computers might not be the best place to simulate a live philosophy seminar, but they are terrific places to teach people how to use and program computers. Second, computers should not require the humans using them to become more robotic. Some online video lectures are delivered according to a rigid script, where every action was choreographed. That’s not teaching; it’s animatronics… …….online learning needs to cater to human users. A real instructor should not simply dump data on a person, as in a scripted video, but engage with students, consider their responses and offer individualized challenges…..the good, living teacher probes the way students think and offers counterexamples that open pathways”.
“Finally, education does not happen in isolation. The course material is almost secondary to the engagement. We go to college for the people……..heterogeneous groupings of students based on their profiles and past performance… [classrooms] create ample opportunities for them to engage with one another in the spirit of learning. Perhaps this spirit of mutual aid is what built the Internet in the first place. Now that this massive collaborative learning project has succeeded, it would be a shame if we used it to take the humanity out of learning altogether”.

I second that. So let’s put our heads together to develop relevant and appropriate teaching and learning in South Africa in a way that makes optimal use of people, technology, knowledge and skills to deliver to our society thinking, caring, hardworking citizens. Education is a core aspect of our society and what it says about who we are and what values we uphold as a nation.

Watch out for my blogs on communication, education,

Many topics will be covered in my monthly blogs, starting on 1 February. All topics will be linked to current affairs and media coverage of them, as well as comments on what other writers and commentators have to say about communication, socio-political and corporate issues, as well as leadership, education and training of people for the growth and betterment of our society.