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The limited role of African strategic communication practitioners in ethical communication practices

Abyshey Nhedzi (Department of Strategic Communication, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Caroline Muyaluka Azionya (Department of Strategic Communication, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 20 December 2022

32

Abstract

Purpose

This study answers the call for research and theorising exploring ethical communication and brand risk from the African continent. The study's purpose was to identify the challenges that strategic communication practitioners face in enacting ethical crisis communication in South Africa.

Design/methodology/approach

The researchers conducted ten in-depth interviews with South African strategic communication professionals.

Findings

The dominant theme emerging from the study is the marginalisation and exclusion of the communication function in decision-making during crisis situations. Communicators were viewed as implementers, technicians and not strategic counsel. The protection of organisational reputation was done at the expense of the ethics and moral conscience of practitioners. Practitioners were viewed and deployed as spin doctors and tools to face unwanted media interactions.

Originality/value

The article sheds light on the concepts of ethical communication and decision-making in a multicultural African context using the moral theory of Ubuntu and strategic communication. It demonstrates the tension professionals experience as they toggle between unethical capitalist approaches and African values. The practitioner's role as organisational moral conscience is hindered, suppressed and undermined by organisational leadership's directives to use opaque, complex communication, selective transparency and misrepresentation of facts.

Keywords

Citation

Nhedzi, A. and Azionya, C.M. (2022), "The limited role of African strategic communication practitioners in ethical communication practices", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/CCIJ-10-2021-0115

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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