Monday, 11 June 2012

The Ngong Plane Crash- How The Media Coverage Gave Politicians Massive PR.

The late Hon Ojode and Hon G.Saitoti.
Before I give you my thoughts and opinions today, I want to first convey my heartfelt condolences to the family of the late hon Orwa Ojode and Hon George Saitoti. It’s a great loss to the nation and may their souls rest in peace. Fast forward to the issue at hand; when we received the sad news of the passing of seven people in Ngong yesterday I was with Mutugi Seth  a PR practitioner and a brilliant guy who loves politics amongst other things. After the news broke we headed to a pub; a bar is the best place to catch such stories live, why? I always want to hear what people have to say about such issues, secondly when people get high, they are very honest and expressive. They 'll speak their minds and I always probe them further to dig more out of them. If you understand public relations like me and Seth, then you got to know why and how politicians used this sad moment to further their self interests politically. The business and the world of politics can be extremely competitive, politicians typically want to have something that makes them stand out from the crowd, something that makes them more appealing and interesting to both members of the public and the media so when the crash happened they all ran to get some coverage as they 'mourned'!!
Why didn't we get a live coverage of the Sinai fire tragedy or the other national disasters where a good number of Kenyan souls were lost? That didn't make headlines in gutter press! Si ni wananchi tu walikufa? This whole issue was so overrated, people die everyday and I will also die someday! Big deal??? No? Why didn't we see much about the other 5 people that died in the plane crash? didn't they deserve some coverage too? weren't they Kenyans? Someone will argue out that their identities were unknown, but according to media reports yesterday; all the bodies were burnt beyond recognition.If that's the case then who discovered Hon Saitoti and Hon Ojode were in that plane? Whoever did so then knew the identities of the rest of the crew! Anyway the other 5 didn't deserve much coverage however the media could have at least sought to reveal their identities at least for the sake of their families and friends who must have made countless calls seeking information!
Wikipedia defines Public relations (PR) as the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public. 
Public relations is the deliberate, planned, and sustained effort to establish and maintain a preferred point of view. If you understand how the media works and a bit of PR then first you don't trust all you watch and read on the media. Its not business as usual when you see a story given prime coverage on TV or on the first few pages of the leading dailies. One reformed thug and grave digger who now preaches in town said he's surprised Daily Nation never writes about him nowadays however back in the day when he stole coffins his story used to be in the front page! I have learnt to seek to understand just why certain stories are given more limelight than more deserving newsworthy ones. Money talks so please listen; its 2012 and next year we are going to an election so every aspirant wants media coverage now more than anything else. When Musalia Mudavadi bought an armored Toyota Landcruiser it was on Tv, on the paper and a few leading blogs. Just when did it become a national issue when someone buys a new car? Never mind, someone paid for that placement!

The death of these two leaders was a major boost to the key public figures in the government and the private sector in a way. Talk of FREE coverage that enhances ones corporate image.
All the TV stations in Kenya yesterday led by Citizen TV as usual gave these big wigs national coverage; could have been paid or free PR. However this hurts me as a Kenyan, just why should we see live coverage of their deaths? Why should Citizen TV for example cover the mourning in Saitoti's Lavington home and Hon Orwa Ojode's Runda home?
It's so cruel when the media goes to such lengths to gather news and feed us on just that for a whole day. Got me thinking; when CNN's David Mckenzie gave the world a not so true story about the blasts in Nairobi, Kenyans came up #SomeoneTellCNN which was trending worldwide a few hours later. Since we are the same 'social' Kenyans who did that and reacted, we could also come up with #SomeoneTellCitizenTv just to let them know that live coverage of burials and such accidents isn't part of local programming as required of them by the CCK! Can we? Can we get a hashtag and discuss the annoying things the media does? If you feel my pain, then lets do something now before we watch a live coverage of a minister's son 18th birthday celebration live on national TV.
Seriously? during these tough moments for the families who've lost their loved ones the media should stay away from their homesteads. It's not cool to capture footage of people crying,  its even more disturbing to the audience, showing unemployed Kenyans cash that dropped from the plane isn't good too.Too much coverage also could lead to violence as some few people are of the opinion that the crash was politically motivated-more like an assassination.  If you've lost someone close to you then you know how it feels. The families of the departed need to be given privacy during these trying and tough moments. The media shouldn't cover delegations of politicians acting as 'friends' to the late as they visit the families of the bereaved. It's their time to mourn as a family, with their close friends not with politicians as they try to come into terms with the loss. After 5 hours of nothing but stories of that crash it was still "Breaking News". This issue is definitely a matter of national importance but not the only one that deserves coverage on the media. Am looking at a scenario where other journalists and reporters brought in news but they couldn't be aired. How frustrating? 
The Politicians and how they did it.

Pss, where did Raila Amolo Odinga get the orange shirt and coat? was he that set for this? NO!, he had to cancel a planned rally to attend to more urgent matters of the state!That's good for R.A.O because if he went with the rally off course his political rivals could have talked endlessly about it. However since he knew there would be media coverage he came in orange to give ODM a good media placement.(He came in with Citizen TV by the way). He also came with his wing man, Hon Gumo who looked like his bodyguard (Looks well built and more like a goon), a few MP's including Jakoyo Midiwo who cries every time someone threatens the PM and ODM supporters were in the background with orange caps! Phewx! and you tell me they came here to mourn? NO! The PM was in Ngong and later at Saitoti's home to console the family; that was good but he ensured there ware cameras catching him live or is it the media houses that followed him? I doubt! That is so selfish! Hon Raila loves press, if something happens locally while he's away on government or private business, his PR agency or communications team prepares a press release or a statement which is sent to newsrooms. Once in a while you'll see his 'message to Kenyans' in a full page paid up placement on the leading dailies. However if the PM is around in the country he will most definitely appear for an interview because he knows media is GOOD for politics! Citizen TV by the way gave him a very good coverage, which must have been paid for!!! SK Macharia definitely knows how to make money, advertising revenue alone couldn't have made Royal Media Services what it is today!
Kalonzo Musyoka was also present to confirm the incident, KTN did a good coverage of him in the bushes as he tried to manouvre his way to the crash scene. After that he also addressed the press in a low tone looking grief stricken and shaken. Perfect! Am not implying that someone should look happy in such an incident but he had to pull such a stunt to show that he had a soft spot for departed thus act like he had lost two close friends! Cool but the VP has been in the past referred to as a watermelon and that sad face he wore looked fake to me! He also left a condolence message on Twitter.
Uhuru Kenyatta and Martha Karua also sent their messages of condolences to the families of the departed. Martha had this to say on Twitter "This evening I have consoled with the families of my departed colleagues Hon saitoti and Hon Ojode may God give them strength". While Uhuru Kenyatta tweet read "The passing of Hon. Saitoti and Hon. Ojode is a great loss to Kenya. My heartfelt prayers are with their families, friends and constituents".
However K24 is gave Uhuru Kenyatta a better coverage than the rest. That should tell you something! Is it right to say that at this point K24 is part of Team Uhuru? You tell me first!
Public relations through media coverage provides these politicians an individual exposure to their audiences(the electorate or voters) basically (ME and YOU) using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.  The plane crash provided them a great opportunity,the subsequent burials and will also be covered and you'll see them in drones.The result? Close friends and relatives of the late will be mishandled and harrased by the body guards of these big men who will attend the burials. Our leaders never miss these chances, they all want to be captured doing the good stuff, however when they are caught in scandals they blame the same media for defamation. If you have enough cash to buy off a few journalists and editors then your negative story will never make news!This is what has killed journalism in Kenya, however bloggers are becoming more influential since the genuine ones unearth and publish what the mainstream media cannot! 
That's how sad it is, and thus with all due respect to our departed, I wish the collective responsibility we witnessed yesterday when our politicians cancelled planned rallies after the Saitoti tragedy could extend to saving our motherland from bad politics. Can our waheshimiwas say they can put their selfish interests aside for the sake of Kenya? 

Finally I want to see a media that is transparent, a media that gives us nothing but the truth. I don't want to see a media that is bullied by the multinationals just because they spend millions in advertising and PR. I want a media that sets the right agenda for Kenya not one that airs propaganda. I want to see an industry where journalists are paid well so that they aren't bribed to write lies. I want to see a media that captures the BEST of KENYA, not just the negative news that sell! I want to see a BETTER KENYA.
More Resources
You can also follow me on twitter @KenyanMarketer and check out this conversation using #NgongCrash

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