Monday, February 26, 2018

The problem with President Barrow's communication strategy is the absence of one

President Barrow and his Director of Press 
Faced with mounting criticism from supporters and non-supporters alike, at home and abroad, for staying behind the fortified State House and communicating minimally, if at all, at long stretches, President Barrow appeared recently to be surrendering to the public's demand by granting press interviews and addressing an audience of Gambian immigrants during his recent trip to Turkey.

Credit goes to the president for responding positively to criticism, even if the outcome of those press outings were anything but successful.  In fact, his comments and responses to questions produced what can only be described as serious backlash, in social media and on the ground in Banjul.

The Banjulians and the urban dwellers in the Greater Banjul Area were unfortunately on the receiving end of Barrow's public scorning in a foreign country.  Fire was returned immediately and ferociously from those who felt offended by Barrow's Ankara statement and rightfully so.

Our president should be a uniter and not a divider.  He should be the president of all Gambians and not a president of a section of a country or a group.  We maintain our early characterization of Barrow's Ankara speech as ill-advised, divisive and beneath the dignity of the Office of The President of The Republic of The Gambia.

The president's recent encounters with the press appears to be in response to mounting criticisms of his management style and his government's priorities during the transition period - criticism that seems to intensify as he continues to insulate himself further from the public by surrounding himself with relatives, friends and business partners he feels comfortable to be around with but who, unfortunately, have little or no governance experience.

In a recent television interview, President Barrow seemed to take pride in not taking the time to visit Military or Police Headquarters even though he's the, and neither has be visited the Department of Customs and Excise "that collects revenue" for his government.  If we extend his logic to apply to the condition of the nation's health facilities, he will not be visiting the country's doctors and nurses any time soon or the facilities in which they toil daily without electricity most of the time and where the medicine cabinets are empty.  We would like to believe this is not what he meant but that's how his statement is being interpreted. 

Is Barrow uncaring?  We don't think so.  In fact, he is generally seen as a caring person.  His public statements, however, suggest the opposite which points to the need to develop a communication strategy to address the obvious deficiencies in his communication skills.

Listening to critical voices outside of the State House bubble can be a double-edged sword.  It can and does keep him abreast of the concerns of the population to help him govern better.  But it can also contribute to reacting inappropriately, as he has done when he appeared to have dismissed and poo pooed the financial and intellectual contributions of diaspora Gambians, Greater Banjulians and many other non-Gambians across the globe.  There was the expected reaction from the diaspora, correcting the record of their financial and other contributions that led to Jammeh's electoral defeat.

It is now obvious, especially after so many misspoken words of the president, that a communication strategy is needed at the State House to ensure uniformity and consistency in messaging of the true account of the current state of the transition government which includes but not limited to the prepping up of the president before every interview with journalists, domestic and foreign.