Opinionista Chris Botha 26 November 2019

The power of positive sentiment, rugby and great business

We have the resources and the strength to turn this boat around. Now, all we need is the belief.

Aaaah, the silly season.

It’s the time of year when everyone can tell you how many weeks, days minutes and seconds there are left until they go on holiday. I find this quite a strange thing to do. At the time of writing, there were 40-odd days left in the year, by the way. What a thought, some might say. Holidays are loading and all that good stuff. But my logical mind says that 60 days from now (a mere 20 days later) – we’ll already be dealing with January month-end and the chaos of the 2020 new year.

But it is human nature to “look forward” to a better tomorrow. Our beloved country has been on a sentimental roller coaster of note this year. We started with the same line we start every year – “2019 can’t possibly be worse than 2018”…

The eternal optimism exists that this year has to be better than last year. Add some Thuma Mina “gees”, the upcoming elections, and hope sprang up again. But, post-elections, all it took was a few hours of load-shedding and some bad news on the corruption front and we were back in the doldrums.

But then, thank God for the Springboks. Just when the emigration offices were being overrun, 80 minutes of magical rugby united us as a nation and made us all believe that We Can Do This!

Nothing really changed in South Africa. But the sentiment did. A recent HSRC study looking at the effect of the Rugby World Cup win, found that 88% of respondents said that sport adds to their sense of belonging to South Africa, while 85% thought that sport can help South Africa to deal with xenophobia and racism.

There is definitely something to be said for that positive momentum. That sentiment. That hope. It does actually change behaviour. It makes you want to be a better person. It makes you want to work harder. It makes you want to succeed.

So this is my Christmas wish. That we as a nation start looking at the positive in our country. That we rabidly hold on to the things that work, and ferociously fight off what doesn’t.

As media and communication experts, it is our job to set the narrative for what works in our country. Why was Mbuyiseni Ndlozi (the Grinch who stole the World Cup joy) given the airtime that he got? The “Siya sentiment” is far more powerful, and will drive this country forward. We need to blindly “fake it till we make it”.

It’s been proven by many experts that once you believe you can turn the ship around, actually doing it becomes so much easier. South Africans need to believe in the promise of the rainbow nation, and we as media and marketing experts need to lead the charge.

I am not saying we should be ostriches and bury our heads in the soil when it comes to our challenges, but there is something to be said for reporting our successes as well. Just recently Mpumelelo Mhlongo – a South African Paralympic athlete – broke his own world record at the 2019 World Para Athletics Games. That’s great news!

In the past year, we have had new leadership instilled at SARS, the NPA and the Hawks. Our country is turning the corner, and we need to lead the charge in the sentiment stakes.

So, here is my request to our media owner partners, clients and staff. Let’s use positive words when referring to our industry, our country, and our people. Yes, business is tough, but we are employed, we are working hard, and we are making money (well, most of us…). When someone asks you “How is business?”, instead of replying with a short four-letter word, let’s start speaking positively. “It’s tough, but we are working to change it. We believe we can grow from here”.

A quick glance at the financial statements of every major business shows that there is cash available for investment. I think this cash will get freed up when consumer sentiment improves. We have the resources and the strength to turn this boat around. Now, all we need is the belief.

So am I looking forward to the festive season break? Hell yes. But am I also really excited to get my teeth into 2020 and make it the best year ever? Hell yes even more!

I’m looking forward to playing my tiny part in turning our country’s future around. Bring on “back to school” and “back to work”. I can’t wait. BM

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