20 years ago every company and government with a media relations team worth their salt, had a strategy in place as to how they were going to communicate with their clients, citizens or more broadly the general public.
That was then. The reality now is that it is not the organisation that is telling the story but the general public through the use of easily accepted digital media such as facebook, twitter and sites like this.
Companies and organisations now need to have a strategy in place to allow them to respond to what their clients or prospective clients have to say about them and to promote themselves in way that reflects their aims and objectives.
The events of the past 10 days have shown that there are organisations in this country that have a strategy and know how to use it and others that have shown that they clearly have no sense of dealing with the normal media let alone the digital one.
The exhibition of Brett Murray's work at the Goodman Gallery is a good example.(www.goodman-gallery.com)
I am not and will not enter into any debate as to the merits of the work or if it is appropriate to display it, irrespective of the person displayed, in public.
Instead let us look at how we got here.
The exhibition opened on the 10th May and will run until 16th June.
City Press published an article about the exhibition and a reproduction of the most controversial picture in its publication on the 13th May. Radio stations picked up on it as public interest started to spike on Thursday 17th May. By Friday we have court action being taken by an offended party along with a flurry of threats if it is not removed and cries of Constitutional infrigements if it is.
In short the official response was a more non-digital one. If anyone believes that they can enforce the non publication of the picture by making the gallery to remove it they are, in todays world, an ostrich with head firmly planted in the sand.
Although I live not far from the gallery and indeed drove past it several times last week, I have not been in to view the exhibition (parking is also not always that easy). Instead I read what the digital sites had to say and then went on to YouTube to see what was on there.
I did not even need to search for a video clip it was the top item.
It shows people being interviewed giving their reaction to the work as well as some examples of the other works on display. It seemed a balanced collection of views. And it was posted on YouTube by that's right City Press.
Clearly they know how to use the digital as well as conventional media.
If I was the government I would be more concerned about some of the other images that depict the artists views regarding what the ANC has done for the people that elected it into power.
Maybe they will put a digital response to that out instead of running to the courts because someone has depicted the President in a manner that they would not like to see.
If they succeed in their action today and the gallery acquiesces to the court order it is too late. Digitally the picture and commentary is out there for all to see.
The digital media is powerful reaching far beyond our borders and the control of the South African Courts and if someone in government is reading this here is a statistic for you.
I typically get about 300 hits for each post I put on this site. Of those about 20 are from South African based readers. so the other 280 are going to look at what South Africans are doing and saying from an International perspective.
If you go to the Goodman gallery website you will be able to see a slideshow of all the exhibits and be able to put the controversial work in context. They also publish the rational for the exhibition. A balanced used of the digital media.