Words are not enough to express the emptiness that Madiba’s loss has left in us. The tempest of the mournful situation is unbearable to figure, to understand, to fathom. Indeed, the burden of his demise has struck a chord in the fabric of Africans and the whole world at large. Is there anything that we can’t say of Nelson tata Mandela? Is there anything we can utter- to fill up our hearts- about him, just for consolation, even remembrance…perhaps?
As PR practitioners there are some deep lessons to learn from this very marvelous –human-man.
Building a positive reputation/image for organisations. Nelson Mandela cut himself a suit of unrivaled character and unparalleled style of leadership. This man had dignity, grace and humility. He has been regarded by former British Prime Minister John Major as a man who had a larger than life personal presence. According to Major, this image wasn’t created by power and position; it was created by the sheer force of his character, which-far from being ground during his 27 years’ imprisonment-emerged untouched, even enhanced. Just as Mandela built his reputation, we are reminded that we are charged with the noble responsibility of building our client/organization’s image. This is because a company’s longevity and success depends entirely on its reputation.
PR too needs its freedom.The struggle continues until PR is fully acknowledged – Throughout his political life and hardships, Mandela made it clear that he wouldn’t mind dying for his cause. His anti-apartheid struggle made him a true Pan-Africanist and great reformer. There have been various negative forces that challenge the notion of public relations as a worthy discipline, function or career. But just as other disciplines like sociology- which struggled and evolved- Public Relations is no exception. Like Mandela, PR professionals need to understand that there will always be a light at the end of every pocket hole. We all need to embrace the dream that one day Public Relations will be seen as a critical component of business and business strategy, and it will forever remain. Quite frankly we can borrow from Mohamed Ali’s reference of Mandela’s character and stance with the statement ‘Impossible is nothing’.
Reconciliation as a factor in building relationships.Mr. Mandela’s call for blacks to support an all white Springboks team –the South African national rugby team -has been highlighted as a masterly move toward racial reconciliation. An important cue when it comes to managing relationships in PR. As PR practitioners, we are bridge builders; literally connecting the organization to its stakeholders- more so disgruntled publics. Our day in and out activities should revolve around creating or cementing unbreakable bond between the organization and its key publics. If it happens that this link faces an unprecedented breakage, we are the ones to have anticipated and essentially –down the line-provide a solution to it.
Lobbying as a key element of PR– During his 27 years in prison, Mandela always sought opportunities to argue and persuade the Afrikaners-Boer-warders to the ANC line of thinking. Walter Sisulu-Mandela’s friend and freedom fighter- saw those talks as the tone setter of later negotiations with the apartheid government. This in itself helped develop his persuasive skills. Lobbying is an essential part of PR and it’s quite essential for Public affairs professionals since it fundamentally aims to influence the decisions of government either by approaching local, national or international politicians or administrators. Madiba shuttle diplomacy is a classic case of Lobbying in action.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”~ Nelson Mandela
In conclusion, one thing is for certain; Madiba practiced PR. If it wasn’t for his PR skills, democracy would not have graduated from its kindergarten tertiary level to where it is now. Thanks so much “Nelly” for your selfless and down to earth memorable actions.