Saturday, 27 August 2016


How the choice of words can Make or Mal your communication.
Ishola Ayodele (ANIPR).

Good intentions and sincerity of purpose alone do not guarantee public acceptance of a policy. It must be powered through a well thought and structured message and supporting information/communication.

On July 16, 2009, Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. returned home to Cambridge after a trip to China to research the ancestry of Yo-Yo Ma for ‘Faces of America’. Prof. Gates found the front door to his home jammed shut and, with the help of his driver, tried to force it open. A local witness reported their activity to the police as a potential burglary in progress. He was arrested but on July 21, the charges against Gates were dropped.

On July 22, President Barack Obama while trying to sell his Obamacare health care policy to the nation through a media conference and during the Q&A session a reporter brought the incident of prof. Gate up and asked if it had a racial undertone.
President Obama responded: "I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. (He should have stopped here).
He continued: But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, the Cambridge police acted stupidly.

The following day the media were not reporting Obamacare, the headline was “Cambridge police are stupid”, Obama. And that was the beginning of the crisis the PR team of the president battled for weeks.

Rather than the whole nation talking about his Obamacare, they were criticizing him for saying the Cambridge police are stupid.

Fastward to August, 2016. The presidential economic team realized that there were some laws that were making it impossible for a seamless injection of fund into the economy.

To achieve this the  executive wanted to propose the 'emergency economic stabilization bill' which seek to
1) Amends Section 34(3) which stipulates that procurement process should be minimum of six months.
2) Give powers to give contractors 50 per cent mobilization fees unlike 15 per cent obtainable today.
3) Fast-track the process of sale or lease of public assets e.g. the presidential jets. And many more bottlenecks.

Unfortunately, for FG the screaming headlines were
-President Muhammadu Buhari’s proposal to assume *emergency powers* to revamp the nation's ailing economy. vanguardngr
- Buhari seeks *emergency powers* to tackle economy. The Nation
-The executive will be asking for the President to be given *sweeping powers* to set aside some extant laws. Independent

This bill that is yet to be submitted to the national assembly has started generating lots of criticism and has already divided the national assembly with some law makers already kicking against it.

This whole brouhaha was caused by one word yes one word *power*.
The Media have framed the word *power* has in the headlines to mean *absolute control* which the opposition sees as *dictatorship*(An attempt to crush them).

Consequently, what people are debating is not the merit or demerit of the bill but the perception they get from how it was framed by the media.

So, who is to be blamed? The FG off course, the special adviser on media knows the how powerful the media can be in framing issues and shaping public opinion he should have carried them along.

The FG's economic team would have gotten their idea framed well if they had hired a good PR firm to help them put together an effective media pally and table their idea directly to the media framing it this way.
“*The economy of Nigeria is heading towards a recession, Thus it beckons on us to amend some of our laws that is hindering the immediate injection of funds into the economy in other to revive it.

Consequently, the FG is proposing a bill to the National Assembly to *help the nation* amend these laws that may serve as bottlenecks to our rapid economic recovery*”

The statement, *help the nation* would have removed the partisan dichotomy and put the FG in good light as well as portraying antagonists of the bill as enemy of the nation.

At worse the headlines would have been
Buhari seeks to amend the constitution for economic recovery”
Or “Buhari bows to restructuring seeks constitution amendment to revamp the economy” 

This is why Kristen Saulnier, (Communications Assistant TSNE) opined that
*“Framing is everything when it comes to getting your message across in the way that you intended”*

She also gave some ways we can frame our messages to include:
*Frame it so that it connects with societal issues such as economy, poverty unemployment.
*Frame it in such a way that it allies opposition’s fear.
The opposition wouldn't want a sitting president to have more power to crush them.
* Don’t deny people’s experiences or knowledge.
Denying people's experience/knowledge is a turn-off to the viewer/listener, who is put on the defensive or feels patronized or ignored.
* Frame it so it connects, rather than separates, various stakeholders.
This approach requires more footwork, but radically increases your reach.

Effective framing of messages can be achieved through what Dr. Vincent T. Covello, Director of the Center for Risk Communication, USA called *Message Mapping*

Some of the advantages of message mapping is that it helps in: 
(1) Identifying stakeholders early in the communication process;
(2) Anticipating stakeholder questions and concerns before they are raised;
(3) Organizing our thinking and developing prepared messages in response to anticipated stakeholder questions and concerns;
(4) Developing key messages and supporting information within a clear, concise, transparent, and accessible framework;
(5) Promoting open dialogue about messages both inside and outside the organization;
(6) Providing user friendly guidance and direction to spokespersons;
(7) Ensuring that the organization has a central repository of consistent messages;
(8) Encouraging the organization to speak with one voice.

Next page

Ishola Ayodele is a Public Relations practitioner and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.

He offers the following services to Large Corporations, SMEs and Individuals.

Result Oriented Communication,
Effective Crisis Communication,
Effectual Political Communication,
Reputation and Image management,
And Impactful Presentation Coaching.

He can be reached on
BBM 58ED6030,
twitter @ishopr and via

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