A government with a good reputation reaps the rewards of its good standing. But that good standing can easily suffer reputational damage when a link or two is broken, as was seen in the case of Dharamlall vs. the teenager who displayed on social media the details of rape and sodomy that she experienced by the public figure, a Minister of the Government, a Member of Parliament.
The story made headlines day after day. The public was outraged. Demonstrations were organized to let the Government know how serious was the alleged crime. The call for immediate action to remove the accused from office went unheeded. Instead, the government waited for investigation to reveal the guilt or innocence, claiming ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ However, while awaiting investigation of the charges, the Minister voluntarily resigned from his public offices. Subsequently, we learn that the teen under protection of the Child Advocacy Services dropped the charges against the accused.
This did not satisfy the public, and it was not the only incident where the government came under pressure to take action against an employee. The former Ambassador to India was accused of using abusive language at an elderly, who was feeding stray dogs in his compound. A third incident occurred with yet another Government employee, who is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs. She was searched at the United States immigration while in transit, and her phone was taken away. Subsequently, her U.S visa was revoked.
The public demanded information about the Permanent Secretary and so far, none was given. Concerning the Dharamlall and the former Ambassador to India, they believed strict measures were needed in dealing with such immoral and distasteful behaviour regarding officials in such high office. As of date, we learn that the former ambassador is still on the Ministry’s payroll.
There is no arguing that the government’s non-action in answering public demands cause damage to its reputation. I would therefore, like to contribute some guidance according to my training, on how to safeguard a reputation that is in danger of crumbling.
It is an arduous task, but not impossible. With everyone holding smart phones in hand and communicating 24/7, news travel in fractions of a second. With this constant flow of information, a negative comment can quickly spiral out of control and cause significant damage. Therefore, to minimize any potential harm from escalating, it is important to keep abreast of all news and activities, and the myriads of information-sharing on a 24-our basis. I will explain below some proven activities for your guidance. They include strict monitoring, investigation and social responsibility practices.
The government needs to be proactive in monitoring all accounts, website, blogs, newsletters, social media and all other platforms. This helps to find dissatisfied persons, investors, stakeholders, unwanted comments, unfavorable reviews and to reduce or prevent any negatives from circulating. When you find any such substandard news you can counteract them by providing positive feedback. When an unhappy public surfaces, immediate action should be taken. The first step is to issue a sincere apology. Second, offer a solution, and follow up to demonstrate your commitment to follow through on that solution. Then you need to circulate on your various sites to inform the public how you intend to resolve any issues. Most of all, be sincere.
In the meantime, further investigate the source of the issue, whether it is internal or external. If it is internal, communication is advised to address any issues arising within, with staff or leaders. Everyone needs to be accountable. Any inadequacies can quickly lead to rifts within, cause cultural discord or negative media coverage. If it is external, follow the procedures as described above.
Alternatively, other paid resources to help bury negative news can be found on-line. The program consists of controlling the narrative, removing or resolving negative statements and promoting the good ones.
Another important aspect of reputational damage can arise from not conforming to the rules of social responsibility. This practice covers a wide area and pertains to organizations in the corporate world, but since government’s programs and policies are based on social responsibility, I will emphasize and remind the government on the benefits of duly practicing the section that needs better supervision.
These include strictly upholding the code of conduct, ethical and moral standards. Regular training and updating values will remind officials of the work they are selected to perform, and ensure they commit to it. It is also important to engage in positive feedback about concerns, dissatisfaction and issues where remedies can be recommended. Engage in marketing strategies, policies and programs to satisfy and educate the public on your commitment to govern in a fair, equitable and transparent manner.
Reputational damage may not be easy to avoid in this digital world, but the above practices can help to minimize the worst cases. The action you choose to control any infringement is important. You are serving the public, serving the country and, as a result, your reputation is important to gain the public's trust, to abide by your oath of office and to maintain your standing in the community that is deserving of the higest office in the country.