Tag Archives: ethics

My PRISA National Conference Highlights

Some thoughts and comments on the PRISA conference held at Emperor’s Palace, Kempton Park on 9 and 10 June. The theme was “Managing Reputation on our Threatened Planet.”

As a Corporate Communication and PR consultant focussed on reputation management, I felt I had to attend. It would be the place to meet the movers and shakers, the decision makers of PR in South Africa. A great opportunity to network and meet people I could do business with……

But sadly, there were very few private business owners there, and the quasi-government organisations were represented by people unable to talk to me about possibilities. So I didn’t achieve my goal of finding connections for future work.

Regarding the speakers, the line-up on the programme was impressive, starting with Prof Jonathan Jansen, vice-chancellor and rector of the University of the Free State. In his usual irreverent style, he criticised the education department for not demanding excellence, and the general lack of a moral compass in a government that did not know the difference between social justice and transformation, between position and influence and between saying and doing. My favourite line: “Why don’t big business deliver textbooks?”

The very humbly gracious Advocate Thuli Madonsela, accepted the PRISA President’s Award and spoke on the impact of the Public Protector’s work on SA’s reputation.  Not a charismatic speaker, but wow, she spoke her truth, exuding honesty, quiet commitment and brave tenacity. She was so impressive! Best line: “I am a servant.”

Another speaker I enjoyed was Trevor Ndlazi, of the Reputation Institute. Reputation management is one of my special interests, so I was very pleased to hear that “Reputation IS a tangible asset that needs to be managed”!

Paula Fray, a media expert with a focus on development communication, was a very engaging speaker who clearly knows what she’s talking about from years of experience. You can’t beat that.

New kid on the media block, and very popular, is Emma Sadleir, a social media legal consultant, who puts the fear of g-d into you with her stories of how tweets and social media messages, if not monitored and managed, could cause a whole lot of trouble for your company’s reputation.

There were many other good and interesting talks and presentations over the two days, but the one that stands out for me is the presentation entitled “stakeholder interventions” by Nazir Allie, CEO of SANRAL. This is definitely the most inappropriate talk of the conference as it clearly showed how NOT to deal with your stakeholders! PRISA staff must be kicking themselves for such a bad choice! All Allie did was blow SANRAL’s own trumpet, and make it very clear that the only stakeholder SANRAL considers important is government legislators. Very little respect was shown to other stakeholders like the public. He firmly believed that the public must pay for what the government spends on social grants etc. Sadly, Allie has no concept of building and managing his organisation’s reputation. Great pity.

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 (ww.ethicsa.org) 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.