Johannesburg, 24 March 2020: With Covid-19 cases increasing at an alarming rate, communication and reputation management specialist, Tshepo Matseba, PRISA past president, founder and managing director of Reputation 1st Group has sent a strong message for South Africans to refrain from creating or sharing fake news regarding Covid-19, often dubbed ‘Corona Virus.’
“We are acutely aware of the growing number of people around the world who are sharing information regarding this pandemic with good intentions. However, we are also seeing a trend of misleading information often crafted by people with malicious intent,” he says, adding that this “trend is now influencing the narrative in South Africa and thereby places millions of lives at risk.”
“Besides the economic impact of spreading incorrect information, the critical danger here is that someone might take what may seem like legitimate information or advise and act on that information. It is, therefore, crucial for us to explain key centres of communication globally and here at home in South Africa.
Spreading misinformation may also result in significant reputational damage for countries and organisations as well,” he adds. Matseba says that the first point of reference globally, is the World Health Organisation which hosts various insights on the pandemic on its website and social media platforms.
The central place for South Africans is the Department of Health, the National Institute for Communicable Deceases and the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa. “Of course there are many other platforms supported and created by the private sector and civil society.
It’s important to note and use the very basic channels of communication that were designed centrally by the government of the country. This will minimize the chances of picking up and disseminating wrong information. While there are a plethora of fact-checking websites around the world, we strongly recommend that citizens use existing platforms such as mainstream media houses in the country who invest a significant amount of resources every day to gather information on Covid-19 and tell stories.
The media is also instrumental in unpacking complex statements in simple and easy to consume language. Some fact-checking websites such as APFactCheck and Full Fact may be instrumental in verifying the authenticity of stories,” laments Matseba.
Victor Sibeko, PRISA also past president and current CEO says “In this time of uncertainty, PRISA is at its peak in honoring its members value proposition. Members and strategic stakeholders are looking to their institute for answers, continuing education and empowerment. We are delighted that we can gladly point members and organisations to the likes of Tshepo Matseba at Reputation 1st for guidance.”
Large businesses should also take heed and draft messages to their stakeholders in plain language. “There is absolutely no value in trying to complicate messages in such a complex global communication ecosystem. You must write for the audience and do so to be understood,” he concludes.