Money Monster: 6 lessons I picked from the movie

George Clooney stars as Lee Gates in TriStar Pictures' MONEY MONSTER.
Lee Gates (played by George Clooney)

Money Monster was not one of the block buster movies of the summer but as a professional, the crisis communications aspect appealed to me. I saw the movie over the weekend and boy, it is pregnant with lots of lessons.

I know some of you have watched it. For those who are yet to, I won’t spoil the fun. But let me hasten to add – it is a good movie, which has the likes of George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Giancarlo Esposito to mention a few.

It takes the viewer through the twist and turns of a hostage situation, when a financial TV host Lee Gates and his producer Patty Fenn are put under extreme pressure, after an irate investor demands answer for losing so much money for an investment Lee Gates vouched for.


For me, the major lesson i took from it was Transparency. It revealed that corporate reputation management is not only about relationship with the media but also ensuring process and event transparency as a business. As someone once noted, nothing good comes from hiding issues from the public. Allowing them to generate their own perceptions could affect the image of any issue.

Without giving too much of the story line away, let me share with you six (6) lessons I took away.

Caitriona Balfe (Diane Lester) and Dominic West (Walt Camby) 
  • The media won’t always have your back

As a PR professional, much of our work involves establishing and maintaining relationships with the media. Often, it becomes a win-win situation. However, one thing I realized in the movie was the fact that the media will not always have your back, especially if a crisis has a human-interest angle.

As the crisis intensified, CEO for IBIS Clear Capital, Walt Camby, was nowhere to be found. So, the first person Lee Gates contacted was Diane Lester, Chief Communications Officer. As he sought to interview her, she pleaded with Lee to ‘stick to the script’ because according to her, “I am in a tough position”. The Producer for Lee’s show, Patty Fenn (played by Julia Roberts), then tells her “We don’t do “gotcha” journalism. We don’t do journalism, period”.

Later when they (she, Lee and the rest of the crew) are held hostages, they realize IBIS is playing a dodgy game and begin to investigate them.

  • In a crisis situation, ask real questions and get some real answers

Patty Fenn to Diane Lester: “You have to ask some real questions and get some real answers fast.”

This was my one of my favorite quotes. After Diane Lester had indicated that she and her company don’t know what the root cause of the glitch was, she is advised to seek some real answers. At that particular point, their CEO went AWOL and the Chief Finance Officer wanted a buffer approach regarding media engagement.

As the media sought for answers, she had to provide it and began probing. With help from Patty Fenn, she was able to unravel the mystery behind the ‘glitch’.

  • Provide answers

As a business, you might have an impressive history but during a crisis, all people want/need is A-N-S-W-E-R-S. Yes, answers. Those affected in a crisis, don’t need corporate jargons and the rhetoric. They care less about what you don’t know and more about what they have lost and should know.

In the movie, Diane Lester, is heard saying during an interview, “The truth is that we don’t know…We don’t know why the algorithm suddenly went haywire.”

That response  in a later interview irked Kyle Budwell (played by Jack O’Connell), who had invested $60,000.

  • Don’t focus on the impact of a crisis on your business

One of the cardinal sins during a crisis is to focus on the impact on your business and not the affected. In some way, you might want to court public sympathy but that approach is counterproductive.

In the movie, one of the mistakes Diane Lester made, when she was interviewed during the hostage situation was to indicate: “This has affected all of us. All our Board, our Managers, including myself. Our pensions were depleted overnight. Our savings gutted like yours”.

During a crisis, the affected are everything and it is all about them and not your business.

  • Some in-house folks don’t regard the contribution of PR

Despite PR’s contribution to the strategic direction of a business, some people still disregard its efforts. The sad thing is those who do this are often in-house.

In the movie, Chief Finance Officer of IBIS, Avery Goodloe (played by Dennis Boutsikaris) wanted Diane Lester to stop talking to the media. When she questioned him, he demeaned her contribution as Chief Communications Officer by stating; “Now you listen to me, Diane. You are a CCO. And that is all you are and that is nothing. I’ve seen a dozen girls like you come and go”.

He even threatened to fire her if she doesn’t obey his directive but she was not scared to lose her job.

  • Having a Transparency Say-Do gap can affect your business

Transparency is in vogue and a new goal for many businesses. It is a basis of ensuring legitimacy in the eyes of shareholders, employees, and the general public. When a business is open about its operations, it earns a level of trust from stakeholders.

In the case of IBIS Clear Capitial, the CEO had a good track record but what boggles the mind is why he decided to breaching the trust of his clients by committing fraud. Even when the crisis had hit his company, he discloses to the public that an algorithm managing its portfolio ‘suddenly went haywire’; when that was a blatant lie.

Despite the fact that he sought to manage the crisis by staying off the radar, his company’s Communications Officer went extraordinary lengths to find out what really happened; because in ensuring transparency, you don’t just say it. You show it.


Stratcomm Africa wins Global Award for Excellence in PR


Ms. Esther Cobbah, CEO of Stratcomm Africa receives the award from an official

Strategic Communication Africa Limited (Stratcomm Africa), a total communications and reputation management agency, has won the United Nations Award for Public Relations (PR) and Sustainable Development at the 2016 International Public Relations Association (IPRA) Golden World Awards.

The event, which took place at Doha in Qatar on Saturday, November 5, was aimed at recognising PR organisations that had performed excellently towards the achievement of some of the global goals of the United Nations (UN).   Stratcomm Africa took home the UN Prestigious Award for its PR campaign dubbed; “Colour me W” an initiative championed to accelerate the realisation of the UN Goal on Gender Equality, the number five priority of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The campaign, which seeks primarily to promote economic empowerment among Ghanaian women through the introduction of banking products that met their needs, was funded by Access Bank Ghana Limited. Ms Esther A.N Cobbah, the Chief Executive Officer of Stratcomm Africa, who received the Award with her team, said it was going to encourage the organisation to work harder.

Ms Cobbah thanked Access Bank for contributing to the organisation’s feat saying the bank had remained committed to helping the organisation grow.

“We are encouraged by this recognition from the UN and the International Public Relations Association. At Stratcomm Africa we see public relations as an important tool for Africa’s development. We are, therefore, delighted that this is an award related to the objectives of the UN for development. We are grateful to Access Bank Ghana for the opportunity to develop this campaign”, she added.

Rev. Professor Samuel K. Adjepong, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Stratcomm Africa, said the award bestowed glory on Africa.  He said the recognition indicated that Africa had a strong human resource base capable of attaining the heights of the international public relations industry.

Ms. Esther Cobbah and some officials from Stratcomm Africa

“We congratulate management and staff of Stratcomm Africa on the hard work that has earned this prestigious award,” he said. This was the second time an African company had won the UN IPRA award since it was established in 1990. Stratcomm Africa is the first company in the West African sub-region to have won the UN IPRA Golden World Award.

Source: GNA


GUEST BLOG: If I were to evaluate the litany of names associated with Public Relations

Georgina Asare Fiagbenu, IPR Ghana PR Discovery of the Year

When a baby is born, a name is given by the parents.  In Ghana, the name usually reflects when the baby was born and who gave birth to them. It also reflects the religion and tribe he belongs to. After the naming ceremony, the name given is expected to stay with the person till thy kingdom come.

That is not the same with many people. As time goes on, some people change their names and this is often done to reflect their new identify or the image they have built for themselves.

The new names may be self-acquired or imposed or inflicted on the bearers. Sometimes people are given nicknames which they have no clue of. It is also common for people to give up religious names for traditional or local names whilst others also take on new names when they take on a new religion. Some original names are sometimes traded for names like Aliiiolo, Prof, Bola Ray, DJ Black, Captain Planet, Opana and several others.

It is also very common to see people who have about five or six names for different reasons with each of them highlighting a different meaning.  It is easy to find someone who has a name that is not familiar with his/her family.

Not only do humans struggle with names and identity but some professions also face similar identity crisis. One them is the Public Relations (PR) profession.

So last Friday evening, November 4, 2016, as we gathered at La Palm Royal Beach Hotel for the Institute of Public Relations Annual Excellence Awards and Presidential Ball, I begun to think carefully about the names given to Public Relations (PR) professionals. This thinking was triggered by the acceptance remarks made by the Chairperson of the event. This was not the first time I was having this thought.  Finding an appropriate universal name for the PR profession remains a challenge in PR practice.  But the concern is not new. Way back in Communications school more than a decade ago it was discussed and the impressions people have about the name also been well documented.

Since Public relations started it has suffered an identity crisis from the time of its formation till date. Isn’t it quite ironic that the profession which is charged with the building of positive identities would suffer an identity crisis?

So far I have never seen any profession that has so many names. As we all know a doctor is a doctor but of course we have physicians, surgeons, medical practitioners etc. But the name “doctor” seem to be a universal generic name.  A nurse is also a nurse and pilots are pilots and so are accountants, Lawyers and musicians. Their names are simply cut for them and there is no doubt about who they are and what they do.

PR officers have been given several names and the list is endless. I can bet that it is the only profession in the world with so many names and identities. The myriad of names in a way reflects the evolution of the practice.

The profession can boast of the following names: Public Relations, Public Affairs, Corporate Affairs, Corporate Communications, External Communications, External Affairs. In the government and political circles names like Press Secretary, Government Spokespersons office, Government Affairs, Propaganda secretary are used to describe PR people. Names like Publicity, Promotions, Protocol, Publications, and Fundraising departments are also quite popular. Some other names are also given to reflect the functions the role player covers. Some are called Media relations, Community relations, etc. In the Western world the term Publicists and Lobbyists are also existent. Recent emerging names include Corporate Relations, Consumer Relations, Consumer Affairs and Reputation Management.

Some of the names sound very corporate, whilst others sound fanciful but it doesn’t take away the fact that there is a lot of perspective and dimensions of the practice. It may appear confusing and murky but it doesn’t take away the fact that Public Relations is an important and strategic role that seeks to influence the bottom-line.

The strategic role includes being analytical, critical thinking, understanding trends and interpreting facts and figures. It requires a good understanding of the industry and business that you are in and it requires the ability to build good relations. Indeed a good practitioner must be a well-rounded person who adds value to everything. Without public relations a big gap will be created in Corporates, Public Institutions and many other fields of endeavor.

I have realized that a lot of people go into Public relations without a good understanding of what the role entails. Just like an octopus, the profession has various tentacles but it still doesn’t change who we are and what we do. We must keep our focus on the key tenets of the profession and work towards working to contribute to the deliverable of measurable inputs and results that helps to influence the bottom line.

As I continued to think through this issue I heard my name being mentioned by the MC and I quickly had to move to the podium. I had been adjudged the PR Discovery of the year and I had to go and collect my plaque. I am really excited about this award.

The night turned out well.  MTN won three awards, followed by Vodafone who won two. Other companies who won are Stanbic Bank, Global Media Alliance and a few others.

In all, it was a beautiful night. The program started late.  Regardless, it turned out to be an enjoyable night. The event was attended by many of the IPR gurus. The MCs were at their best. One of them was my friend Esi Hammond, PR Manager for Bank of Ghana who looked splendid in her beautiful green gown. The décor was really well done and the food was good.   The music was excellent. My personal “Discovery of the Night” was the Fire service band. They were fantastic.  They did a fabulous rendition of some popular songs and they made the night very enjoyable. I commend the Planning committee and the entire executives of IPR.  I am already looking forward to the next IPR event.

The writer is Georgina Asare Fiagbenu, Senior Manager Corporate Communications at MTN Ghana


IPR Ghana holds 5th Excellence Awards

…recognises Gayheart Mensah and Georgina Asare Fiagbenu.

Elain Sam-Kwami, President of IPR Ghana with Mr. Gayheart Mensah and Georgina Asare Fiagbenu

The Institute of Public Relations (IPR) Ghana, the professional body for Public Relations practitioners in Ghana has held its 5th IPR Ghana Excellence Awards and Presidential Dinner. Since its inception, the IPR Ghana Excellence Awards has recognized the sterling achievements and positive contributions of personalities and public relations department of various organizations.

This year’s awards ceremony, which was under the theme: “PR and Peaceful Elections: My Role, Your Role”, saw Yolanda Zoleka Cuba, the Chief Executive of Vodafone Ghana as the Special Guest of Honour.

In her speech, Mrs. Cuba noted that PR is integral part of every organisations and so practitioners must use their role to ensure that organisations, they represent see the return on investment.

She also called on PR practitioners to use their role to promote peace in Ghana especially, as Ghana heads to the polls later this year; adding “Ghana is a beautiful country and you must jealously guard the peace”.

This year, Mr. Gayheart Mensah, External Affairs and Legal Director at Vodafone Ghana, was adjudged the PR Personality for 2015, while the PR Discovery of the Year award went to Georgina Asare Fiagbenu of MTN Ghana.

Below is the full list of  winners and some pictures from the event.

  • PR Personality of the Year 2015 – Gayheart Mensah (Vodafone Ghana)
  • PR Discovery of the Year 2015 – Georgina Asare Fiagbenu (MTN Ghana)
  • PR Organisation of the Year (Telecommunications) – MTN Ghana
  • PR Organisation of the Year (Public sector) – Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA)
  • PR Organisation of the Year (Finance) – Stanbic Bank 
  • PR Consultancy of the Year  – Global Media Alliance (GMA)
  • Social Media organisation of the Year – Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA)
  • PR Campaign of the Year – Vodafone X
  • CSR Project of the Year – MTN Heroes of Change

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