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Managing Corporate Reputation in the Digital Space: Coltart vs ZOL showdown

Thursday, September 14, 2017
Written By: 
Dr M. C. Tapera

In the last month there was a major confrontation between a consumer and service provider on Facebook. Some have some to term it the Coltart vs ZOL showdown. A brief background to the issue is that David Coltart, Former Education Minister, attacked ZOL by claiming that their adverts are misleading. Some of the exact words as posted by Coltart are as follows:

ZOL #FibroniksFast really need to be called out on their misleading advertising in the Zimbabwe Independent today. They promise that getting linked is “as easy as ABC” and that installation takes between 3 and 5 days and the clock starts ticking from the moment you make payment. My experience has been different. I paid $154 on the 26th of October 2016 and entered into a contract with them. Almost 8 months down the road and there is still no sign of installation. Despite repeated emails complaining I remain in the dark. This is appalling service from what purports to be first rate business. Their advertisement bears no relation to the reality of disservice…..

However what really then sparked the debate was the following response from ZOL:


Mr Coltart, your recent post accusing ZOL of misleading advertising regarding our installation time frames is unfortunately incorrect and disingenuous on your part. You are fully aware that your installation has been stalled due to delays in issuance of way leaves by City of Bulawayo. There are policy issues that need o be resolved in order to secure permissions to trench the road ………..

In your post you act ignorant of this fact yet you, at one point, offered to engage City of Bulawayo on our behalf with regard to the way leave issue…..

We were of the understanding that you fully appreciated the uniqueness of your circumstance however we will proceed to issue you a refund….

This caused an outrage on social media where many began to throw stones at ZOL citing poor customer service and how the consumer is now being treated like a second class citizen. However the chairman of ZOL, David Behr responded and made an apology, condemning the response from whoever made the response from ZOL. This made the issue a bit calm. Later CEO, Denny Marandure also issued an apology reiterating that ZOL is a customer centric business whose mandate is to serve and delight customers.

At the recently held Annual Continuous Development Master Class (Winter School), which is hosted by MAZ, Dr Musekiwa Tapera delivered a presentation titled, “Managing Corporate reputation in the Digital Space”. As an Association we felt it imperative that we share some of the insights he presented to marketers who gathered for the training programme in Nyanga from 21 – 24 June. Some of these insights will help prevent situations illustrated in the “showdown” above. Dr Tapera chare

Five Key Principles for Managing Corporate Reputation in the Digital World

  1. 1. Prepare globally

In today’s digital age, an organisation is global as much as local.The internet helps to spread news widely, with bad news travelling instantly amongst affinity groups and by language.To prepare, companies need to understand the dynamics of these communications and how they work together as an ecosystem.In addition, they must analyse and understand sources of influence and the types of information that motivate the communities and the key individuals within them both locally and globally.

  1. 2. Be genuine

We now operate in a networked world in which partial truths and untruths are dismantled too easily, it is now critical that corporates are seen as genuine. Being genuine is about aligning one’s corporate agenda and priorities with those of your core stakeholders. It involves engaging stakeholders in dialogue and activity.

  1. 3. Engage openly

It is important to engage stakeholders openly. You should manage their conversations but not to seek to close down discussions that were negative.

  1. 4. Lift the veil

The expectations for organisations to be more open about their business policies and activities have increased significantly in recent years, with the internet playing a key role in levelling the information playing field and strengthening the hands of activists, local communities and consumers.

  1. 5. Listen closely and be seen as a listener

“It takes twenty years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently (Warren Buffet). Damage to reputation is almost impossible to cost before an event and always easier after it

How Your Online Reputation Can Be Damaged

Using Negative, misleading, inaccurate and damaging content can be detrimental. Your reputation can also be damaged when rumours, lies, or other hurtful material shows up in your search results as well as harmful reviews or anonymous posts from troublesome sites

How to repair your reputation

  • DON’T write your own reviews, even under a different name.
  • DON’T engage in a flame war or respond to a blog comment, especially using harsh or unprofessional language.
  • DON’T defame or write critical posts
  • DON’T ask an intern, your nephew or friends to help with social media responses unless they are professionals or are very experienced
  • DON’T use shortcuts such as “link farms”

For more information on this presentation, you can reach Dr M. C Tapera on taperamc@gmail.com. Dr. Musekiwa Cliton Tapera is the Director of Marketing and PR at Chinhoyi University of Technology

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