Just because four people each have a Mercedes does not mean they’ve achieved the same thing. One Mercedes may inherited, one may be stolen, one may be a gift, one may be the result of hard work.
The point is this - I used to have a public-sector boss whose mantra was ‘results are the best PR.’ If you take the above Mercedes analogy - you will see that this is clearly not so. The process of achievement is as important - and sometimes more so than the outcome. That’s why we football fans, watch the game and not just the goals.
I would go one step further – PR/communications that only focuses on results is actually counterproductive, particularly in a developing country like Sierra Leone. It deprives the general public of influence and collaboration, of ownership, of learning about, of appreciating the development of their own nation. Put another way, process focused PR encourages understanding, cooperation and collaboration. It educates. It informs. It may even inspire. Crucially it also produces a record for future reference.
Now I say this because in Sierra Leone a substantial strand of our Opposition’s communications strategy is to stress the results of their period in office, continuing in effect the results-focused communications strategy they employed when they were actually in office.
This became particularly apparent to me recently when I watched President Maada Bio deliver his speech at Harvard. In my view it was hard not to be engaged by Maada’s performance. He articulated a vision for our country, of dignity, self-respect, self-reliance and self-determination. He demonstrated during the talk that he has the ability to listen, the wisdom to delegate, the sense to take notes, and the confidence for humorous self-deprecation on an international stage. In the past, I’ve described him as being very charming. Someone recently explained it to me with more accuracy. He has emotional intelligence. He has it in spades and he leverages it adroitly. Newly elected leaders enjoy the significant advantages of a period of grace. I am aware of that. Personally I’m pleased to see Maada Bio using his as an opportunity to grow into his role.
Anyway, bar one or two examples, the response from the Opposition to Maada’s Harvard appearance has been to flood social media with references to the international university appearances of our previous President. This misses the point entirely. Speech giving in itself is not innately interesting – a lesson some of our nation’s political giants teach us time and time again. What distinguishes a speech are the content and delivery. As an aside, can I say how, oh how I wholeheartedly wish Sierra Leone’s party political foot soldiers would recognise that praising Maada’s performance is not a criticism of Ernest Koroma’s public speaking and vice versa.
Ernest Bai Koroma may have been equally compelling during his University appearances, he is however now and forever our former President. Can I therefore humbly suggest that the Opposition please focus on what the party is doing in the present and start to work on presenting us with big, data-driven, evidence-based plans for the future. Can I please humbly ask that the Opposition become a formidable force to challenge, scrutinise and hold the present Government to account. May I also humbly point out that there is so much to be done in Sierra Leone, we need an Opposition who will become the champion of all the things that this present Government will inevitably overlook. May I also respectfully point out that the democratic abuses do not pass unnoticed, and that these need to be challenged strategically and forensically by ….yes you’ve guessed it …. our Opposition.
It is said that there are five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It’s almost a year, and our Opposition appears still to be stuck in the first two. May I humbly, oh so humbly, suggest that it’s time to move for them to move onto stage five – acceptance - and become an Opposition to be reckoned with – for the sake of Sierra Leone.