Setting the Record Straight.
Net 1 and its subsidiary, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), found themselves in the eye of the storm of one of the biggest socio-economic crises in South Africa. We set out to shift sentiment, change shareholder perceptions, engage with journalists, and communicate with beneficiaries through corrective action and on-point media relationship management.
Crisis Communications and Reputation Management to Settle the Social Grants Storm.
CPS had been highly effective in managing the contract for the South African South Security Agency (SASSA), including developing and updating a database of 10.8m social grant beneficiaries and managing the payments for over six years when the storm broke.
It started because SASSA had not identified a new service provider to replace Net1/CPS, and it became obvious that SASSA would need to renew the contract.
Net 1 faced huge pressure for insisting that SASSA provide it with a new contract rather than renew the existing contract. Major reputational damage was also caused by civil rights organisations such as Black Sash and Corruption Watch when they applied to the courts to have the contract cancelled, calling it ‘illegal’.
Following due process, the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled that the contract was not illegal and deemed it invalid due to the processes followed by SASSA at the time of awarding it. The judgment ordered that the contract should be enforced until a new service provider could be found.
Managing the Fallout.
We were mandated to manage the resulting fallout with media and stakeholders and to empower Net 1 with response measures and strategic counsel to weather the storm.
Shifting the Sentiment.
Setting out to shift the sentiment, change shareholder perceptions, engage with journalists, and communicate with beneficiaries, we focused on corrective action, rolling out rectifying measures and putting the record straight.
Emerging from Crisis Mode with New Levels of Media Trust for Net 1.
Within one month of crisis management support, BCW Africa undertook to neutralise the most urgent issues through the preparation and issuing of media statements in response to a Constitutional Court ruling awarding Net 1 the extended contract. During the same period, key management went through a crisis training workshop, and media training and the risk register was interrogated.
Communicating with the Media.
We opened channels of communication with strategic stakeholders, including journalists, by ensuring that there was accurate information at hand for them at any time. Media and social media platforms were constantly monitored to review if action or responses were required.
Strategic journalists reporting on the issue were identified and invited to desk-side briefings. In addition to ensuring the availability of accurate and updated information, we pursued closer media relations with the establishment of roundtables and media tours to Net 1 pay points in the Eastern Cape, North West and Gauteng. This allowed the media to obtain information directly from Net 1 and get a better understanding of the Net1/CPS processes and high-security measures and protection of the beneficiary.
Changing the Narrative.
Through media engagement and management, the majority of the media felt that Net 1 had become more available to engage with the public. Improved media relations within 12 months of our work saw a move away from hostile and negative reporting to fair reporting on the company.