Project Description

Case Study 1: Could a denigrated sector heal from the utterances of a CEO?

Sybil Rose Advertising & PR (Pty) Ltd was requested by a reputable CEO who had used unpalatable language to refer to a group of certain employees in a specific sector. The language was unacceptable, her demeanour was contemptuous and her word was final.

The trade unions were up in arms. They wanted her head. She was on the verge of losing her job. No amount of conviction could do a push back by the unions and the employees concerned.

As far as they were concerned, the case was closed and the CEO had to go. Was she ready to go? No; she left her communications manager to deal with the media and this made things worse. Within a period of 24 hours, the aggrieved had torn the CEO to pieces and she had gone to ground.

Sybil Rose Advertising & PR was appointed to do the damage control and spin the story. The starting point was to create a plan as follows:

  1. Research & analysis: What had really happened?
  2. Which platforms had been used to convey the message?
  3. What was the context?
  4. What had been the response from the CEO and her communications manager?
  5. To what extent had the media entertained this-what were the AVES?

A: Research & analysis: What had really happened?

The CEO had been presenting an annual report during a press briefing and drifted to a little topic within the annual report. One sharp journalist asked a question from that little topic and the CEO’s attention was diverted. She delved on the little topic which had nothing to do with the core achievements the organisation had wanted to present. Talk radio stations began receiving numerous calls of complaints and threats to the CEO. Untruths were added to what she said and a single response spiralled into chaos and was uncontrollable.

c: Dilemmas faced by the CEO

  • Organisational wrath
  • Externally stakeholders doubted her business acumen
  • The media was setting the agenda fast and furiously


  • engage stakeholders face to face and show them the entire report and how the single message had seemed to disrupt the intention of the original briefing
  • honesty played an important role
  • messages were crafted with each stakeholder grouping
  • message was retracted and received amicably

What had been the response?

  • We were misunderstood
  • That was not our aim
  • We actually did not mean that

The spin

  1. Acknowledgement of an error in communication
  2. display humility
  3. Rectify
  4. meet and kiss
  5. Use integrated media to drive the message home
  6. Go there in person.