marcusbrewster newsletter March
marcusbrewster is the most awarded communication firm in the history of the PRISM Awards.

marcusbrewster newsletter March

Intersexions cleans up at the SAFTA Awards

The acclaimed SABC1 series Intersexions has cut a swathe through the 6th annual SA Film and Television Awards, winning 11 of the 13 TV drama categories in which it had been nominated.

Among the TV Drama SAFTAs it garnered at a glamorous function in Gallagher Estate on the evening of 10 March were the awards for Best TV Drama, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Cinematographer, Best Writer/Writing Team, Best Editor, Best Production Design, Best Sound Design, Best Music Composition, and Best Make-up/Hairstylist.

In the Best Sound Design, Best Editor and Best Actor categories, all the nominations had been for Intersexions. In all, the series boasted 23 nominations.

Co-produced by Curious Pictures and Ants Multimedia, in partnership with Johns Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa (JHHESA) and SABC Education, with funding from USAID and PEPFAR, Intersexions comprised 25 standalone but interlinked episodes, which mimicked the human sexual network and showed how HIV exploits the network to spread. The 26th episode was a hard-hitting documentary laying out the progression of HIV – from the perspective of the virus.

The series was first broadcast on SABC1 in late 2010 and early 2011, and rebroadcast on the channel in the latter half of 2011. During its first broadcast, it quickly became one of the most popular shows across all genres on South African television, taking second place only to the juggernaut soap opera Generations.

“We’re over the moon about the immense success that Intersexions has enjoyed at the SAFTA Awards. It really shows that it kept everyone talking, debating and doing some introspection,” says Pontsho Makhetha, General Manager (Acting) for SABC Education.

“This overwhelming recognition for Intersexions is testament to the great talent and hard work of so many people, who took the original idea for the series and ran with it. The result was compelling television with a strong social message, which has been a hit with the television industry and audiences alike.”

Richard Delate, managing director of JHHESA, the health communications NGO that commissioned the series, paid tribute to the series’ funders, USAID and PEPFAR, saying that the SAFTA awards tally – over and above the show’s hit status among audiences – proved that their support had been well-placed.

“Without the financial backing of USAID and PEPFAR, Intersexions would have remained a great idea, but never become reality. We need to recognise this support, and thank them sincerely for having the faith in us to do so,” he says.

The sheer number of awards that Intersexions took at the SAFTAs is testament to the fact that entertainment containing critically-important health messaging need never be boring or average, says series producer Harriet Gavshon, of Curious Pictures.

“Intersexions shows how important talent and imagination are when you want to have a social impact. Even though it had a crucial message, it was communicated in an engaging and compelling way. We are gratified that the audience and the SAFTA jury recognised this. That it has also had a remarkable impact on the audience’s understanding of their own risk of contracting the HIV virus, makes it even more gratifying,” says Gavshon.

Co-producer Uzanenkosi Mahlangu, of Ants Multimedia, points out that Intersexions was unique among television series: it did not have a defined target audience.

“Where other series go for a specific audience segment – by age, gender, race or income group – Intersexions did not. It targeted every single one of us, which is appropriate for a series that addresses a disease that does not discriminate.

“It was an enormous gamble to do this, as it could very easily have backfired and not won over any audience segments; instead, it caught on and its popularity spread like wildfire. These 11 SAFTAs are recognition of Intersexions as a trailblazer, and one that has set fresh standards of excellence for television drama in this country,” says Mahlangu.

Delate says that fans are as delighted at Intersexions’ SAFTA success as those who were involved in making the series. Two tweets received during the awards ceremony sum up how they feel:
• “Congrats, this is the best tv drama eva made! Keep it up, hope season 2 wud b even much better!”
• “Props to u guys for all those awards … Eleven awards for informing and getting conversations started about sex and relationships … Producers must b quite chuffed. Well done!”

He continues that not only has Intersexions set the bar high for other series, but also for itself.

“I congratulate and applaud every single person who helped to make Intersexions the fantastic series that it is; you proved that not only are we able to make world-class TV drama, but also that we can make social issues so compelling that audiences dare not miss out. The challenge is to do that again for the second series of Intersexions, which is now in pre-production!” he quips.

These are the 2012 SAFTA awards given to Intersexions, with specific winners:
• Best TV Drama Series (Curious Pictures and Ants Multimedia)
• Best Director of a TV Drama Series (Rolie Nikiwe – ep 4 and 8 )
• Best Actor in a TV Drama Series (Siyabonga Radebe as “Muzi”)
• Best Actress in a TV Drama Series (Lungelo Dladla as “Buhle”)
• Best Writing Team of a TV Drama Series (for ep 20)
• Best Cinematographer of a TV Drama Series (Trevor Calverley – ep 8 )
• Best Editor of a TV Drama Series (Melanie Golden – ep 20)
• Best Production Design of a TV Drama Series (Marna Heunis)
• Best Music Composition of a TV Drama Series (Sue Lubner)
• Best Make-up & Hair stylist of a TV Drama Series (Smartie Olifant)
• Best Sound Design of a TV Drama Series (Janno Muller and Tim Pringle – ep 4)


Long-term clients were the big winners for leading public relations agency marcusbrewster at the 2012 PRISM Awards, which took place in Johannesburg Sunday night.

Five PRISM Awards were garnered for Mango and one for the Rezidor Hotel Group, both of which are marcusbrewster clients of five years’ standing. Two special mentions were also received for Johns Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa (JHHESA), a client since 2009.

“We’re very proud of the success of our long-standing clients at the 2012 PRISM Awards, which is a clear indicator of the value of cementing long-term, sustainable relationships with key clients,” says marcusbrewster chairman Marcus Brewster.

“It takes time for PR agencies and their clients to build solid relationships, founded on trust, value and first-class service – but there are dividends in the long run for both parties, not least of which are prestigious awards such as these.”

Awards went to marcusbrewster clients in the following categories:
• Business to Business: the Rezidor Hotel Group (bronze)
• Travel and Tourism: Mango (silver)
• Corporate Communications: Mango (silver)
• Publications: Mango (silver)
• Social Media for PR: Mango (bronze)
• PR on a Shoestring: Mango (bronze)

In addition, special mentions were received for JHHESA in the Media Relations and Public Sector categories.

“Through having established enduring links with key clients such as these three, we have been able to get to know them intimately as corporate entities, as well as their personalities, their industries and their particular needs and desires.

“In doing so, we have been in a position to provide them with even stronger and better service over time, helping substantively to enhance their brands in the minds of their target audiences and to contribute positively to their bottom line. That, after all, is what great PR is all about, and that is what has been recognised in the form of these PRISM Awards,” says Brewster.

By San Reddy

MD marcusbrewster

One of the best things a company or individual facing a crisis can do, is call in the assistance of expert professionals – but what happens when their advice clashes?

In particular, the counsel of attorneys and those of crisis and reputation management specialists are often at odds. And the upshot for the client is disaster.

Attorneys tend to default to a “say nothing” position, for fear of saying or doing something incriminating, or opening one up to civil litigation. In doing so, they are fulfilling their mandate: keep the client out of the courts, and thus out of trouble, as far as possible.

But the problem is that while the client attempts to avoid being held to account legally, he or she is swiftly and mercilessly being tried in the court of public opinion. That’s what the crisis communications practitioner is trying to manage. Without the ability to speak up in one’s own defence, however, the communications battle is all but lost.

The first rule of effective crisis and reputation management is, defend yourself at every opportunity. The second rule is, don’t waste time about it; the longer you take, the worse the drubbing for you and your reputation. And the more difficult it will become to communicate your way out of your pickle.

When media have the bit between their teeth on a story about you, they’re going to publish, whether or not you use the opportunity to defend yourself. If you won’t talk, they’ll get someone who will – and that person won’t necessarily say things you want in the public domain.

And in the court of public opinion, someone who won’t comment is guilty. It’s a less-stringent test than our courts would require, but it’s potentially a lot more damaging to one’s reputation (and bottom line.)

Stuck in the middle is the beleaguered client, desperate to escape with as little damage – legal or reputational – as possible. The client will accede to a crisis communications plan, only for the attorneys to reject it. The attorneys almost always win, because they usually have a deeper relationship with the client and, well, because they’re attorneys.

The freaked-out client, feeling out of control of the situation and fearing terrible repercussions, invariably flip-flops between these competing recommendations. Yes, they want to defend themselves, but no, the lawyers say keep quiet. But now there’s a fresh allegation … say something, say the crisis people; say nothing, say the attorneys.

And so the communications response ends up lopsided, and falters. There’s half an answer here, an unsatisfactory interview there. Those media not getting a comment turn more hostile. The client makes snap decisions (with or without advice), then has a change of heart. And perhaps another before the day is out.

So how can this impasse be avoided?

The simplest solution is for a client’s attorneys and crisis communicators to be included in all decision-making, and for a mutually-acceptable communications plan to be drafted and strictly executed.

Attorneys and PR people also need to compromise. The former need to accept that saying nothing frequently says more than saying something, and the latter that there are often serious but not-very-obvious legal considerations at play.

Time allowing, as crisis communications by definition is urgent, basic media training should also be provided to the client and attorneys. The better they understand media, the more receptive they will be to the imperatives of crisis communications, and the less likely that the client’s reputation and brand will be savaged while they prepare for any legal threats.

After all, what really is the point of trying to saving a company in the courts, when it’s already been ruined in the court of public opinion?

• San Reddy, managing director of marcusbrewster, boasts more than two decades of broadcast journalism and PR experience. He has worked extensively in PR locally and internationally, both for large corporate clients and leading PR agencies. During his seven years at etv Reddy, one of the 10 core station start-up team members, created the channel’s first corporate communication division and co-ordinated all publicity and crisis communication for the CEO and management, as well as the channel’s international shareholders.
A Media Crisis is when every reporter in the world seems to want to talk with you. If you or your organisation is believed to have done something bad, then that is a Media Crisis. But if the story is Big Good News then you still have a problem, and if you don’t handle things properly you can end up turning the experience into Big Bad News.

These are general principles to use in either case. They must be used with a prepared Media Crisis Plan — something everyone in the public eye needs.

1. Never lie! Never try to cover-up. Journalists leave no wounded when they discover a lie or a cover-up. You’re much better off taking a quick sharp jab from the media for doing something stupid than twisting in the wind over a media bonfire.

2. Always comment! Like it or not the public always interprets a “No comment!” quote as proof of guilt. If you really can’t respond to a reporter’s questions then explain why you can’t. They respect that.

3. If you don’t know, say so! There is nothing wrong with admitting you don’t have an answer. If you can get the answer then offer to find out for the reporter. Don’t try to guess the answer or speculate.

4. Stick to the event and the facts! Resist with all you might the temptation to respond to hypothetical questions. Your philosophical musings have a terrible tendency to become the story.

5. Know your place! Unless you are the head of your organization don’t start commenting on policy or matters outside of your area of responsibility. It’s okay to say, “You’ll have to ask someone else.”

6. Return phone calls and follow up on promises! Your media crisis plan will help you deal with heavy media enquiry pressure but if you get a phone message from a journalist make sure there is some kind of response. If you have promised information make sure that you follow up.

7. Stay on-the-record! The quickest way to disaster in any media situation is to go off-the-record or any of its variants. Unless you are a very savvy and aware media professional you will end up in deep trouble. Never say anything that you wouldn’t want to have appear on the news.

8. Stick to your story! In good or bad news situations know what you have to say and stick to it. Without being stupid about it, try to get your message into everything you say.

9. Don’t wait for them! The moment you realise that you are sitting on news get the word out. Remember the old adage, “Take the high ground, or they’ll bury you in the valley”. Whether you are in trouble or you have done something great, being proactive allows you to get your message out before someone decides what the message is for you and you end up reeling from the blows.

10. Don’t get mad! Some coverage is bound to be off the mark or just downright wrong. If you lose your temper you will only make it worse. Your media crisis plan will contain strategies which will ensure that your message will get through in the long run.

Source: Rick Grant Communications

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