This morning my inbox spat out a press release from the DA’s Lindiwe Mazibuko. I usually read DA communication at arms’ length, scared that it’s usual super-aggressive tone will snap at my eyes. Instead, Ms. Mazibuko’s lengthy campaign document was easy to read, and didn’t make me feel like I was being shat on.
I’m certainly not saying that there is a right or wrong way to do it, merely what I prefer dealing with. For example, here are some quotes from Helen Zille’s weekly newsletter:
7 Feb: “Being an “all-weather friend” to authoritarian rulers is clearly more important to the ANC than promoting economic growth.”
10 Jan: “The ANC will ensure that SADC continues to protect former "freedom fighters" who have morphed into despots.”
10 Jan: “Perhaps the biggest flaw of all is Zuma’s continued delusion that the state can play a leading role in planning, managing and leading sustainable economic growth and job creation.”
These are just three examples. And I am not debating whether Mrs. Zille is right or wrong in the points she is making. What I do think is that the way she writes is not conducive to changing people’s minds. If someone shouts at you or speaks to you like you are stupid, you are unlikely to listen to the points they are making. Mrs. Zille’s tone is very aggressive.
Hlongwane, who strikes me as distinctly mediocre, suggests it was a good thing that Mbeki avoided accounting for his various Aids madnesses; that he did well to give Coetzee a good 'tuning'. It's the analysis of someone who doesn't know the facts and thus, suggests Mbeki was doing the right thing by avoiding being held to account. But perhaps that is exactly what Hlongwane thinks - transparency is a bad idea and anyone who avoids it, 'deserves a generous helping of grog'. Certainly I don't remember him speaking out against Mbeki at the time. How idiotic.
Once again, I am not here to debate what he says. But I do notice his tone. And it isn’t pleasant. He was possibly commenting in his personal capacity, but to expect viewers to think this has noting to do with the DA when he’s debating in a public arena is silly.
This is what made Lindiwe Mazibuko’s press release so different. Read it. She writes beautifully and explains the DA’s municipal records – persuading people rather than telling them they are stupid for voting for anyone else. (While you may never find that written down in DA communication, tone-wise it does allude to it.) Am I seeing something that isn’t there? Possibly. But communication specialists should make me avoid doing so, surely?
While both Mrs Zille and Ms Mazibuko both present arguments, I find Ms Mazibuko’s far easier to engage with. She points out where the ANC has fallen down and in comparison shows where and how the DA has done better. Take this, for example – a snippet from the release:
In its 2006 manifesto, the ANC said:
"By 2010, when South Africa hosts the Soccer World Cup, all households will have access to clean running water and decent sanitation."
Now the ANC says the target is no longer 2010, but 2014, and the Cooperative Governance report shows why. In Tshwane, for instance, one in five residents still do not even have access to the most basic level of sanitation.
In Cape Town, on the other hand, 94% of residents have access to basic sanitation.
Personally, I think that if the DA are to make massive inroads into government like they aim to, it will be due to communication like Ms. Mazibuko’s that gets them there. People care about what she has written about and she doesn’t alienate people who aren’t DA-voters. She has shown what he DA has done well without hysterical angry-white-people-tone. She has shown DA solutions and advancements, a stark differentiation to the yapping opposition political fox terrier which the DA is often accused of. She hasn’t used terms like”deluded”, “crony”, “blind” or “idiotic”. She’s presented facts in a very personable way.
And it's is far harder to argue with facts than it is to resent and ignore a crap tone.