Anyone in charge of gate-keeping information between Luthuli House and the media will likely become a reporter’s worst nightmare.
This default position comes with the territory, dear media relations operative. Let’s explore why. Your communications machinery has been configured in such a way that there is a separation of the party and state.
It’s a noble idea, except when the media seeks comment, and we might forget that rule.
Take Cyril Ramaphosa for instance. We know he has a chief of media relations at the Union Buildings and another one handling party communications at Luthuli House. There will be days when we will suffer amnesia.
Any one of the top six national officials will be hounded by the media in the next few hours as soon as new party boss Ramaphosa has delivered his closing address to the conference, where it is expected to set a tone for his presidency.
Zizi Kodwa had misgivings this morning about commanding a communications division for an executive that had stopped “caring” for the electorate.
Kodwa, you charted those dangerous waters with effeciency and professionalism. We salute you.
Where the ruling party shocked many of us was how their communications officials allocated to chaperone the media for various aspects of the conference were overruled by the police and what were suspected to be state security agents.
Jacob Zuma’s opening address to the conference got off to a startling note when he expressed reservations about the media. We are not saying this is the reason a journalist was physically assaulted and some threatened with being kicked out of Nasrec and some manhandled for simply asking “why?”.
Post the national conference, let us hope to turn a new leaf. There are a few rules of engagement already in place that can be spruced up.
Deliver those press releases with contacts of people who can unpack the jargon and convoluted language when needed. We will call at odd times, so please return calls or acknowledge emails. We like that, as it makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside, actually.
When we feel like that, our job becomes that much more enjoyable. We are able to reach a balance. We also remember our own opinions are irrelevant. We are also able to rely less on sources.
This is a win-win situation, no one has to walk into the office the next morning wondering if they are suspected of opening floodgates. We hate for you to pretend you are too busy to visit the coffee dispenser just to avoid colleagues.
And finally, this is said with love from the bottom of my pencil case, leak information to us.
Please don’t leak to more than one recepient at once. This is very important, our version of ‘all protocol observed.’
Distribute exclusive interviews and scoops across the media landscape. And yes, do provide strategic counsel to your compatriots in government departments.
You will be happy to know we are easy to please. And generally play nice. After all we do have rules to follow remember.
Gosebo Mathope is a Senior Political Reporter for Citizen Online. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org