EDITORIAL: A Notice Here for Press Secretary Kula Fofana

THE OTHER DAY, The Analyst Newspaper ran a news story lifting the ire, disgust and disappointment of a number of Liberians, including those working with presidential press secretary Kula Fofana, over what they consider nonchalance, arrogance and carefreeness characterizing her working relationship and performance since she took over that revered post at the Executive Mansion. Sources who spoke to The Analyst contended rather unanimously that the Press Secretary has brought to the job a spirit of conceitedness, pride and slothfulness which are they think is undesirable, untypical and ultra-virus to such an important office. Each of the sources told their own real-time experience with her and with her outputs, requesting she must rise from her stupor and improve.

IN THE ANALYST’S TWENTY-FIVE years of existence, this is the first time the newspaper has reported on a Liberian presidential press secretary as to be discussed so widely unfavorably if not negatively. While many before Madam Fofana might not have proved so unreproachable and infallible, it is strange at this time that someone who is—or supposed to be—the chief communication strategist, gatekeeper and public relations expert for the President of the Republic of Liberia would be so openly ill-discussed for dismal performance—dismal performance principally believed to be underpinned and triggered by bad human relations.

WE DON’T VIEW the barrage of outrage and ire vented by the public as hateful, covetous and harmful. We rather think all is meant to call her to attention, wake her up from her slumber and to make her put on those public relations and communications attributes so that the enviable office she occupies regains its prestige, so the presidency she represents as the polisher and link to the public will be seen in like of the dignity and affection it deserves.

SOME OF MADAM Fofana’s critics say the Executive Mansion website and the Facebook page that she is cardinally responsible to populate with presidential news have been virtually dormant. Posting of stories and information is infrequent and haphazard ironically even though the President continues to make news—good, tasty news—nearly hourly. We are not sure that what the critics are saying means anyone needs her job. It only means she must double up and improve, as the public, apparently, is hungry for the good news from the presidency and about Liberia at large.

OTHERS SAY SHE hardly relates to independent and even pro-government journalists, and because of this attitude, reporting on the presidency is rendered nearly difficult if not inhibited, and it also lends the president vulnerable to half-baked coverage and reportage. Good journalists and communicators, let alone those serving highly placed public relations posts, don’t work in isolation. They find delight in building and working in networks, always sensitive and curious about who have or need what information about their chief. They are gatekeepers and “gate-openers” for their clients, in Ms. Fofana’s case the presidency, and therefore obliged to be humble and respectful. Her critics think she’s wanting of these virtues, and the sooner she listens to these criticisms and counsels, the better for the Liberian presidency.

STILL THERE ARE some people, particularly individuals working closely with her, who also say the presidential press secretary is domineering, selfish and not given to the virtue of teamwork. The critics say evidence of this criticism could be inferred in the poor management of the major communications channels of the Executive Mansion – the Emansion website and the Facebook page. One person can’t do it all—gathering the news, writing releases, editing both articles and photos, and uploading. Even Shakespeare could not be effective a Press Secretary working alone. She must learn to delegate responsibility to other media persons within her office, even if it means subtly coopting the independent journalists assigned at the Executive Mansion.

EXPERIENCE SHOWS THAT the presidential press corps, when humbly handled, can be a huge assistance in building the presidential image. They often do their reportorial duties not as adversaries and opposition as may be the case in other countries but as partners. Befriend them and you will see how they help ease and enhance your work; agonize them and see how they put the presidency on the Golgotha.

OUR FINAL CANDID advice for Boakai’s presidential press secretary is this: Calm down. Cool off. Pause. Look around you. Humble yourself. Jump out of the narrow confines of that parochial box. Liberate from yourself. Work with your press colleagues, within and without of the Executive Mansion. Remember, a press secretary is a journalist, a Liberian journalist for that matter, and not a strange creature from space. Get to know, or ask, and familiarize with, how the Liberian media ecosystem works, and adjust yourself—soon. Don’t forget: Boakai’s public image is in the hands of none other but you to perfect or to damage. A free counsel!!

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