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Effective crisis communication management in economic downturn

BY: Raymond K. Baxey
Image credit: shutterstock.com
Image credit: shutterstock.com

Undeniably, the world economy is in a recession, and Ghana is not exempt. The question, however, is how effective has government communication been in these turbulent times?

In a democracy, citizens must not only be aware of the government's policies and activities, but must also participate, when provided with reliable, accurate, and timely information, particularly in periods of growing economic challenges.

Are the boundary-spanning activities of the government's communication machinery picking up the right cues to inform the right communication strategies? Ghanaians are dissatisfied, with some demonstrating rage at current events.

Scapegoating

Responding to concerns, some government officials unfortunately chose scapegoating, a denial response strategy that places the blame for the economic crisis on the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war. Ghanaians are tired of it and think the response is lame.

What should have been adopted earlier was the rebuilding and bolstering of response strategies to acknowledge responsibility, request forgiveness, and explain government’s efforts in mitigating the situation.

Additionally, reminding Ghanaians of the government's past good works and assuring them that we are all involved in making it better, while soliciting support.

Regrettably, the growing economic hardship has threatened the expectations of stakeholders and the public, affecting not only the nation's economy, but also the safety and moral fabric of the society.

Now is the time to ensure effective crisis communication management to repair the damage. That said, strategic thinking is crucial to the nuances of crisis communication and makes the difference between effective and ineffective crisis communication.

Effective

Therefore, to prevent hate speech, misinformation and disinformation, the government must ensure effective crisis communication management.

Furthermore, it must ensure that the crisis communication is empirically tested and theory based. For instance, assess how Ghanaians are responding to the economic crisis and the response strategies being used, and adopt a theory that guides and explains why certain actions are effective and others are not.

It is, however, refreshing the President’s broadcast on Sunday, October 30, 2022, giving assurance that there was light at the end of the tunnel. It is also commendable that the Cabinet, the Economic Management Team (EMT), and the forex bureaus have met over the cedi depreciation.

Are these engagements enough? The government must broaden such consultations and also consider these crisis communication management recommendations:

It must render an official apology as a great place to start to put an end to the situation; it must be more cooperative with stakeholders and the public; it must speak with one voice and ensure consistent crisis message; it must respond quickly to issues, particularly those that have the potential to further divide the nation and exacerbate the crisis; it must not attribute the nation's economic problems to the Russia-Ukraine war and the COVID-19 pandemic; it must deconstruct financial jargons for the average Ghanaian to understand them and also employ local languages in addition to English to disseminate information; it must embrace solutions offered by experts, academics, and other key stakeholders. Outright rejection in crisis messages give an indication that you are not a listening government; it must be open and honest in crisis communication, and take post-crisis measures seriously.

All hope is not lost. The glass is half-full rather than half empty. Instead of focusing on the negative, let's consider the positive aspects of life and the things that bring us together.

The writer is a communications professional/member, Institute of Public Relations, Ghana/Ghana Journalists Association. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.