“It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute” (Will Rogers)
Whilst many employees enjoy working from home, this is a time of uncertainty for them. They read of people being retrenched or furloughed and wonder if they are next. The isolation of working from home can fuel this uncertainty.
Yet it is these employees who daily interact with customers and other stakeholders. If staff have negative feelings about the company, this can be quickly picked up by customers. Social media can spread this quickly and suddenly management have to start undertaking damage control. Recently, an English business decided to not pay staff until the government’s wage subsidy kicked in. Following an outcry, management swiftly reversed this and paid the staff.
Contrast this with Quickbooks who kept their cleaning staff on full pay despite empty offices. L’Oreal have made a point of paying small suppliers quicker than usual.
Don’t think short term
The decisions you make send out signals to your staff and they are much more likely to view you favourably if you are showing fairness to your stakeholders.
Think also of your investors – they tend to support businesses where carefully considered long-term decisions are made by management. Don’t forget having a holistic outlook and making the environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria part of your strategies.
In a recent case, staff supported management putting them on furlough after they were persuaded by management that this was the best long-term strategy to preserve jobs in the business.
Staff are more motivated if they know they have commitment and active support from their bosses.
IBM have started a program of supporting employees who need to take out time to educate their children or look after family members. They have also encouraged their staff to raise any individual difficulties they have with their managers. Introducing this type of flexibility makes managers’ jobs harder to do and IBM have created separate online chat channels for managers to network with their peers and find solutions to employees’ problems.
Other companies with diversity in the workplace have openly supported Black Lives Matter and have made sure that when there are pay cuts or retrenchments, there is no discrimination against minorities.
The world has changed and become more uncertain and more flexible. You need to plan carefully and act to ensure you stay on top of the situation and keep the support of your staff.
Tiger Brands has asked consumers to remove any Enterprise ready-to-eat meat products from their fridges and place it in a plastic bag – away from other foods.
The reputational damage suffered by Tiger Brands following the outbreak of listeriosis that has claimed 180 lives in South Africa since last year is likely to hurt the diversified food giant’s balance sheet over the short to medium term only, analysts said yesterday.
Ron Kiplin, a portfolio manager at Cratos Wealth, said yesterday it would take Tiger Brands some time to turn operations around after Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi identified its Enterprise Foods factory in Polokwane as the source of the food-borne disease.
“They (Tiger Brands) appear not to have had the right controls in place, and it is an indictment on operational management,” he said, adding that operational management at the factory had to be held accountable, although the buck stopped with top management.
“They need to hold a proper inquiry to be able to tell their customers they have the right controls in place, otherwise the reputational damage will continue for longer,” he said.
Kiplin said the company’s processed foods division was likely to take a knock, but it would not have a major impact on group profits, because Tiger Brands was highly diversified.
Chris Moerdyk, a corporate marketing analyst, said although the immediate damage to the brand was enormous, it was likely that it would recover.
Moerdyk said wealthy people would start moving away from processed meats.
“The bulk of their market is people in the lower economic group,” Moerdyk said. “This group of people buy processed meat because it is cheaper. Polony is almost a staple food for many poor South Africans. They do not have alternatives.”
He said the damage to the brand would be limited to the medium term.
“Not long ago, Ford Kuga cars burnt and killed people. Ford is now back to sales of before that period. People thought that the Ford Kuga would not sell again, but people continue to buy the cars,” said Moerdyk.
Tiger Brands recalled its processed food products and halted production at its factories in Polokwane and Germiston after the report by Motsoaledi.
The move prompted Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and Botswana to ban cold meat imports from South Africa.
Bomikazi Molapo, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff), said the department would not be involved in the disposal of the processed meat products.
“The recall was instituted by the National Consumer Commission, and the suspension by the Department of Health. Therefore, the Daff will not be involved in the disposal of the products,” said Molapo.
By Dineo Faku for IOL
Recent events in both South Africa and abroad have highlighted the problem of the spreading of false information disguised as news.
These fake news stories can cause a lot of damage to the reputations of people and companies alike, whilst diverting attention from more relevant news items.
University of KwaZulu-Natal media expert Professor Jean-Phillipe Wade said the inventing and sharing of such stories is merely “an ego boost”.
Wade called for a massive increase in media and literary studies to be taught at schools as “often people are genuinely taken with these stories and share them without consultation”. “With social media there is no requirement for editorial gate-keeping. Rumours spread far and wide and there’s no way of stopping it but we need to educate people on how to identify what is verified news,” Wade said.
He drew attention to politicians using fake news to boost their image and their political agenda.
Wade said internationally and nationally, politicians often spread fake news to “cover up their tracks”. He mentioned President Donald Trump and President Jacob Zuma as both using false information to justify their decisions or bolster their campaigns.
Reports that South African football star Benni McCarthy committed suicide in London also surfaced this week and journalists from legitimate newsrooms scrambled to track McCarthy down, who squashed the fake reports.
A social media post claiming that 250 cats, dogs, birds, hamsters and horses in the Germiston and Bedfordview SPCA kennels would be euthanised was also circulated this week.
Chairperson of the Gauteng-based SPCA Elroy Parkinson said that as a result of the false information, their phone lines, e-mail and social media channels were flooded by concerned supporters, making it difficult for staff to respond to everyone.
A NUMBER of media experts around the world have published lists and tips on how to spot fake news. Here are some that relate to South Africa:
• Look to see if reputable news sites are also reporting on the story;
• Check for odd-looking domain names;
• Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on snopes.com for more information about the source;
• Watch out for common news websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources;
• Bad web design and use of all caps can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified;
• If the story makes you really angry it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry in order to generate shares and advertising revenue.
By Kailene Pillay and Alet Janse van Rensburg for News24