Crisis- PR’s Worst Nightmare

Well, for most of us PR professionals I am sure you can relate to the above heading. Crisis can be as dramatic as that headline. The unexpected will always happen. The balance between credibility and acting with speed to avoid speculation from your audiences is the intricate balance that theories, books, lectures cannot teach us. It requires personal experience where we burn our fingers and learn or dive into the deep end and emerge a hero.


Brad Phillips clearly outlines that crisis has moved beyond traditional forms and we are relying more on digital platforms for our hunger for news, customer service, relationships and the desire for fame.

“You need to be prepared for today’s media culture, in which a tweet can become newsworthy and a news interview can become tweet-worthy.” – Brad Phillips of Phillips Media Relations

However, a holding statement is a critical communique that the communications team must churn out fast. What does it cover? Well, 5W, 1H is our daily bread- Who, What, Why, When, Where and How.

The holding statement should at least cover the following:

  • The date should always be indicated
  • Always have a well thought through factual headline
  • Only outline confirmed and true details to avoid opening another pandora box
  • Assure the audience with actions that your organisation is taking to mitigate the risks
  • Always employ empathy. Humans speak to humans- heart to heart
  • Avoid blame game or speculative kind of information
  • Do not respond to unsubstantiated rumours
  • Avoid names of victims of death if any
  • Contact details of the PR person/ spokesperson of the firm

Well looks simple, however, this is a simple guide. The pressure that comes with a crisis is not as straightforward as above. However, at least you have the guide.

All the best. Remember, every crisis is a learning point…it is how you handle yourself as a professional that will give you space at the table.


The Art of Brand Building: The Old Science of Survival

If you think that the idea of branding is modern, then you are mistaken. Since the time people created goods to trade or sell, or as far back in time as when people owned cattle, there have been trademarks, symbols, signs or posters, pictorials, and hawkers. In order to distinguish their goods, craftsmen imprinted trademarks on their goods and creations to signify the maker and origin. Ultimately, trademarks assured the buyer or trader of the quality of the merchandise. To denote ownership of property, at first cattle were branded with paint or pine tar; later, unfortunately, as seen in the history of our forefathers, cattle and sheep were branded with hot irons. Sadly, humans were also branded for various reasons. Slaves were branded to mark ownership; criminals were branded with disgrace.

Times have changed. In the 1800s, people bought goods out of need through barter trade. As the years passed, towards the end of the 19th Century, we saw a massive shift in attitudes to products and purchasing of things. This push was led by a collection of new technology and methods of communication such as the invention of mail order catalogues, the advancement of railways and the expansion of the postal service. The age of communication was born, giving people the ability to shape their worlds. The population was empowered to buy status. By the 1920’s, especially in the West, society evolved from a culture of need to a culture of desire.

The end of the Second World War saw a manufacturing boom as many factories, which were set up in order to produce military equipment, could now be used to manufacture products. With the mass production capability, brands could now reach most of the population. By 1960s, the stiff competition had begun and companies had to distinguish themselves from competition through unique key selling points. Companies had to differentiate their services and their identities in terms of logos and slogans. During the 1980s era, brands began to personify themselves to the consumers as offering more than just a product. Brands began communicating aspiration and identity.

Today, brands have built emotional connections by meeting human needs. We have thousands of companies, with thousands of taglines and logos, each calling out to the attention of the consumer. Our attention spans are incredibly short and brands are dying to capture us with their adverts, billboards and communications. In the age of technology, unfortunately, brands live and die by the will of the consumer in an instant.

The rise of mass media in industrialized countries contributed greatly to the rise of a “brand world” and a desire for brands. The psychology of brand communication has influenced the growth of brand name. We believe that brand name X cleans your clothes better than the others…the power of branding. We spend millions of shillings on commercial spots, exhibitions, marketing collateral so that we can resonate with a consumer-top of mind awareness through a consistent look, style, image and personality of the brand.

But what is in a name you may ask? Everything! A great name identifies you. A great name speaks for you. It offers the unusual. Building a name, a brand… takes time and effort. It is not a quick fix; brands have been built before. It requires dedication, money and love. You cannot build what you do not believe in.


Take a look at the Java House Brand that has consistently grown to be a homegrown brand. Every corner of Nairobi, now has a Java House, making it one of the favourite coffee spots for business meetings, lovers or just people looking to find a chill spot.

Everyone has sampled the ‘coke side of life’. The Coca-Cola brand is present in every country and arguably it’s the world’s first true global brand having started from humble beginnings through a Pharmacist, John Pemberton. Coca-Cola began its marketing through a newspaper advert that invited people to try the new and popular soda fountain drink. The brand began with a great vision and soon communicated this through a marketing campaign. Look at the brand now, it keeps reinventing itself, currently focusing on promoting global happiness, communication that is focused on tying its brand association to happy feelings.

Another global giant is Google. Google began its mission of organizing the world’s information and making it accessible and useful. Google has redefined the world of the internet space. The key to the growth of this brand has been tapping into the consumer’s needs. How can we make the user experience smoother and enjoyable? The consistency of the brand through Google Images, Google Stories, Google News, Gmail among others, and integrating these services has grown the brand to great levels globally.

Other great brands such as Virgin, Apple, Cytonn, P&G, among others, have one thing in common-blending analytics, strategy and creativity.

There is no successful recipe to building a great brand; it lies in innovating yourself for the future. The challenge for today’s brands is designing brand experiences that are strategic and relevant to the consumer—and that is simply the smart business of creating clients, actually partners for life.

Office Politics: The Blame Game

Ever been in an office where doing a good job is like wetting your pants in a dark suit. You get a warm feeling about it but no one else notices. All the employees look forward to is the WEEKEND ( read as time away from toxic work environment).


'That's our mission statement.'
Source: Online –

This is a growing menace that is slowly eating up productivity levels and blocking energy and innovation levels in the 21st-century office set ups.  It results in emotional stress and creates biases. New graduates, fresh to the working career life, are adopting blame game as the ideal work culture and ethics.

The culture of blame game is an individual vice where one tries to protect his image and ego at the expense of anything or anyone.

Office politics for the purposes of this article refers to backstabbing, power grabbing, gossiping, idea stealing, sabotage/withholding information among other vices.



Take a scenario of the Boss. The Boss has the key role of creating a synergy of efforts of all the team players, identifying weaknesses of the team and using her position to address that and strengthening the strong points of her team members. However, if he or she has the “blame game virus” then such will not be accomplished, instead, he/she will kill the freedom of expression, innovation levels of the team and thus morale of the team.

The end goal of any team leader is to have evidence of great work done.

Unfortunately, blame game only manifests when a mistake is done. In fact, when a good deed is done, most types of such character will not give credit where it is due.

Ownership of failure builds loyalty within a team and gives an employee somewhat confidence levels in dealing with their colleagues. It is also a key learning experience for the individual and for the team.

So how do you deal with this menace:


  1. Check your ego. Find solutions and always learn
  2. Use effective communication techniques which consider other perspectives and check assumptions before reacting.Email communication is the official platform of communicating business matters.
  3. Be a source of good energy and make your choices in terms of ethics. Let is it be known ( especially if in a position of power) that blame game is not a solution
  4. Use HR and internal communications training and efforts to curb the menace

When leaders focus on values, behaviours, processes, shared purpose and communicating effectively – blame based behaviours gradually lessen over time.  Trust among team members gradually grows over time as a result and staff can begin focusing on hitting targets and hitting them well 🙂


To get the best results, you have to get the best out of people in your human resource management processes. To do this, you have to inculcate the best culture in your people.