In compiling our annual Best and Worst Communicators list we partnered with the Nation Media Group to invite nominations from the public of which we received close to Three Hundred nominations using various online survey platforms. From the analysis, it is clear the overarching theme for Kenyan Audiences in 2016 was on a Communicator’s Credibility. How an individual frames their Initial Credibility, gains their Derived Credibility and earns Terminal Credibility with Audiences is key to determining a good or bad communicator.
We also deduced that an individual’s hierarchy/Position in society may accord them a bigger Megaphone, but it does not guarantee an automatic elevation into a good or effective communicator who connects with Audiences. (We share in our annex a brief Media analysis report to illustrate this aspect).
Applied and Academic Communication Practitioners compiled the 2016 list, led by Paul Achar a Speech Coach & Communication practitioner, Kentice Tikolo, CEO of Impact Africa, Dr. Sam Kamau, a tenured Lecturer at Aga Khan University, Wangui Kiili a communication coach and the CEO of Lead, Speak Reach and Mukurima Muriuki an Analyst and Conflict and Diversity expert based in Los Angeles and the Online Research team from Nation Media Group. Judging from the past, the list is bound to generate heated debate, but hopefully based on the examples and tangible communication takeaways, readers should use it as a learning opportunity and select some lessons for their own use.
- Fred Matiangi- Authoritative Communication
From a Communication Style perspective, the Education Cabinet secretary is a Direct Communicator. It means he deploys a bold, assertive no holds barred approach to communication. His appointment to the Education portfolio and the eventual emphasis on a hands on, high-energy approach reinvigorated the Education Sector and it is no wonder he was mentioned in various forums as among the top public servants in 2016. Communicating with diverse stakeholders, the Cabinet Secretary impressed many with his articulate, knowledgeable presentations on matters education. A key attribute great communicators possess is “Passion” and the CS was certainly not lacking in this. He is also big in deploying imagery a technique of language that helps to enhance the understanding of a message.
His Assertive and Authoritative communication style helped to inspire confidence in a sector, which has been plagued by corruption and low morale. It helped elevate him into a credible leader and he was clearly the fresh breath of air the Kenyan Education sector needed.
- Raphael Obonyo- Inspirational Authentic Storyteller
There are people whose life story leaves you inspired and aspiring to become a better person, Raphael Obonyo is one such individual. He is an Authentic Storyteller, who is able to masterfully weave Youth Policy ideas with his own life story that began in the informal settlements of Korogocho in Nairobi. He has authored “Conversations About the Youth in Kenya” also serves as Africa’s representative to the World Bank’s Global Coordination Board on Youth and Anti-Corruption, the UNHabitat’s Youth Advisory Board among others. He comes across as Authentic an attribute key to building Audience Connection and in a country plagued by many “Successful Motivational/Inspirational “speakers whose narratives don’t add up Raphael stands head over shoulders over so many others in spite of his relative youth.
He is also a good storyteller. The reason humans love stories is that Stories are as old as our existence and were originally created as a means for communicating with each other, when reading and writing were not available. Therefore, storytelling is hardwired into all of us, since this is how we see, interpret and explain the world. Well, told stories have the effect of transforming presentations from merely a recital of facts or statistics into compelling narratives that have the special effect of capturing the attention of audiences. Stories are the bridges that help us to humanize narratives and great communicators deploy a myriad of techniques to tell interesting stories and connect with their audiences. The young storyteller from Korogocho, who nowadays strides the world stage speaking on Youth Policy Issues is a compelling speaker who deserves to be among the Best Communicators of 2016.
- Daisy Amdany- Passionate, Purposeful Communication
If you are looking for somebody to passionately and eloquently advocate for an issue that affects women in society with conviction, then Daisy Amdany is your person. As the co-convener of the National Women Steering Committee, a consortium of women’s advocacy groups, she has been at the forefront of the push for the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule guaranteeing the place of women in political leadership. Despite the numerous challenges that womenfolk face in their quest for public leadership and relevance in society, Daisy remains a voice of hope. You don’t need to have met or listened to Daisy previously for her passion on women issues to warm your heart.
Regardless of the platform or occasion – a TV interview, roundtable discussion, podium presentation or a face-to face conversation, three things always stand out – her eloquence, passion for her cause and commanding presence. As a gender advocate, she champions the (political) rights of women in a society that is essentially paternalistic. Despite the open resistance and sometimes-hostile political chatter, Daisy wins her audiences hearts and minds with sincere enthusiasm, force of reasoning and a compelling message. Gifted with a uniquely expressive voice, she passionately defends women’s rights without alienating her male audience. She has managed to escape the trap of elitist use of language that holds many in her sector captive by deploying the first level of language to simplify complicated topics and does not resort to jargon. She demonstrates the uncanny ability to elevate gender issues even when the discussion is not necessarily focused on gender.
Masters in the Art of Persuasion know how to appeal to Ethos (Credibility of the Persuader) Pathos (Emotions) and Logos (Logic), since human beings typically make their decisions based on emotions and then look for facts to support or justify it, Daisy enhances her credibility through her words, appeals to her audiences emotions and then supports her arguments with facts and analysis without missing a beat.
- Patrick Njoroge- Humble Authentic Confidence
The Central Bank of Kenya Governor Dr. Patrick Njoroge is a Systematic Communicator. Systematic Communicators can appear introverted but are generally good with tasks that require a mastery of facts and statistics. He speaks in measured tones, expresses deep knowledge and exudes confidence and humility. In a context where public officials are obsessed with title and the trappings that come with them, Dr. Njoroge’s outlook and approach, which communicated freedom from the trappings of title greatly impressed and appealed to Kenyans.
To quote him, “It’s not my faith, my life is my marathon. I don’t distinguish my faith from my profession, from my relations with others, it’s one package, it’s a seamless package.” It is unique to hear a Kenyan leader express the guiding philosophy towards public service so candidly. By openly communicating his beliefs and values, he was ultimately viewed as an as an Authentic, Humble and Confident leader, A good fit at a time when the banking sector has been fraught with many challenges, Dr. Njoroge has inspired many and proved that humility is indeed a great strength.
- Phyllis Wakiaga- Knowledgeable and Credible Communication
The Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers comes across as a Spirited Communicator. Her friendly demeanor, mastery of issues relating to the manufacturing sector and an articulate presentation style makes her one of the Best Communicators on the scene in 2016. Major topics of her presentations in 2016 revolved around “multiple taxation by Kenya Revenue Authority on Manufacturers”, “The Trade Bill”, “Regional Integration” and “The Mining Forum”, subjects she knowledgeably addressed.
Good Communicators are able to enhance their credibility either by invoking Knowledge, Experience or Associations and Phyllis gets it. Whether on the television set for an interview or standing in front of diverse audiences, she knows what aspects to deploy ultimately gaining greater credibility and connection. Our research also focused on Media appearances/mentions, revealed she may not have made to many appearances (245 in total) but she reinforced our belief that it is not the number of times one features on Media rather it is the quality of their presentations when accorded a platform which will ultimately matters.
- Sunny Bindra- Ethical Leadership Champion
Perhaps the reason why Sunny resonates with many as an excellent communicator is because he lends a firm voice to a diversity of issues that touch on people’s lives; from basic manners, leadership, social ethics, conversational norms and many others; pretty much subjects that a majority of people resonate with. He has a strong voice on social media and additionally, the self-confessed introvert is a very able voice in person. His crisp delivery of information in a neutral tone of voice and facial expressions works to command the attention of his audience. He is a Considerate Communicator but possessing the Direct Communicators ‘tell it like it is’ attribute when he speaks and writes.
Sunny brings on the refreshing insight of an introvert’s mind and when he shares orally or through the written word, one can see the simplicity with which he presents complex insights. His work on online coaching is a testament to this as his “Bigger Deal” series demonstrates; it features video nuggets Five slides with Sunny & Three minute Insight as well back seat interviews with different personalities. In exploring new mediums to pass his ideas, he has demonstrated his versatility as a communicator.
Sunny’s Influence evidenced by a large following on Social Media and wide readership of his articles attests to the fact that he plays a role as a mirror through which Kenya reflects on itself. In 2016, his commitment to ethical governance and leadership was effectively communicated through multiple platforms.
6. Jacquline Kitulu – Confident, Knowledgeable
The Chairperson of the Kenya Medical Association is gifted with a “good broadcast voice,” eloquence, a great command of language and a genial personality, Dr. kitulu’s intelligence, Credibility and Professionalism are aspects you cannot miss when she stands behind a lectern. She radiates confidence, passion and demonstrates wide knowledge on Healthcare and Social Policy issues and her mastery of the Vocal, Visual and Verbal aspects of communication enhance her competency.
A Considerate Communicator, who speaks in a soft, assertive style, she is comfortable in different contexts and has learned how to leverage her strengths to connect with her Audience.
- Wesley Korir- Authentic Communication
Cherangany is home to arguably some of the great orators in Kenya. Remember one-time M.P Kipruto Arap Kirwa? Well, the current M.P. has not only presented himself as a great orator, but as outstanding long-distance runner, as well. Wesley Korir’s name is best remembered for winning the 2012 Boston Marathon, a race Kenya has dominated for eons.
In 2016, Wesley was part of Kenya’s marathon team at the Rio Olympic games. A mix-up of his water would cause him stomach upsets, forcing him to exit the race on the 30-kilometer mark. The water mix-up was one of the many hiccups Wesley, as well as his colleagues representing Kenya at the Olympics had to endure-missing kits, disorganization, name it!
Hon. Korir, would become the face of frustration the Kenyan Rio team went through. He became a source of information on what was going on in Rio, via his social media platform and in subsequent television interviews. A major strength is that he comes across as an Authentic Communicator. Authentic Communication is about being honest and open about one’s feelings, needs, and ideas without a façade or front. He was effective in challenging the half-truths the Team managers were propagating and in so doing became a voice of reason and common sense.
- Houghton Irungu- Differences Don’t mean Disrespect
The passionate articulation with which Houghton presents the causes he advocates earned him a place as a top communicator. Advocacy and extensive experience in the development world lent him credibility plus his mastery of content was a factor that rated high in the nominations.
He was involved in various high profile civil protests including the widely publicized protest against the grabbing of Langata Road Primary School playground in Nairobi, which translated into a media circuit where he was paired with persons holding opposing views at times. Listening to him in discussions with panelists opposing his perspectives, it was clear that Irungu uses his words with intention, as should any good speaker and that it was possible to disagree without being disrespectful. He also came across as driven by certain values and ideals, which he eloquently espoused during interviews; in the world of activism, when audiences sense that the Activist/Speaker is benevolent and not a self-seeker, they become more receptive to their message.
His arrest during the Langata Road Primary school saga and the sobriety in subsequent interviews worked to position him as a calm and articulate speaker even in the face of opposition. His likeable, easy manner and mastery of storytelling peppered with quirky humor, resonated with Audiences.
- CS Siciliy Kariuki- Reflective Listener
The famed Theologian John Powell postulated that in true listening, we reach behind the words and see through them, to find the person who is being revealed.
Sicily Kariuki replaced Ann Waiguru as the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs docket, a docket that had been mired in controversy summed up in the NYS Scandal where billions of shillings are reported to have been embezzled.
The Devolution Ministry has bore the image of everything that is wrong, corrupt, and, unethical. Sicily Kariuk has however, tactfully brought sanity back to the ministry. Her use of reflective communication skills is remarkable and compelling. Reflective listening involves restating the feeling that the other party has communicated in a way that demonstrates understanding and acceptance. Evidently, Sicily has not taken a defensive route, a near-admission that things in the ministry are not all right, but can be better. This means she is listening to the public mood and what the public is communicating is for her to get things right, and she gets it.
Sicily has also shown a down to earth demeanor and is effective with her nonverbal communication which most of the time does the talking for her.
- IEBC Selection Panel- Closed Interview Process
In a year where various selection panels were involved in open processes streamed on live television interviewing various candidates for high level public appointments, the IEBC selection Panel’s decision to conduct most of the new commissioners recruitment interviews away from the glare of cameras, effectively limiting public participation in a process as important to a nation moving into an electoral year was a huge oversight.
Effective communicators possess the ability to analyze the societal context in which they are operating and then use the analysis as the basis to guide their strategic communication. The IEBC Selection Panel clearly misread the social context or completely disregarded it with disastrous consequences already being felt. They were conducting interviews in a context in which the outgoing IEBC has been plagued by Credibility concerns among various segments of Kenyans and in order to ensure that the incoming team gained the initial goodwill and credibility required, they needed to exhibit transparency by encouraging public participation through live television broadcasting of the interviews ultimately ensuring that public confidence in the eventual nominees was high that the best candidates had been nominated.
- Adan Duale -Divisive Rhetoric
Majority leader Aden Duale leads a fractured parliament, whose divisions further widened in 2016. Within the period between1st January 2016 to 31st December 2016; 3065 stories that tagged or involved the actions of Aden Duale (majority Leader in the National Assembly), were published by various mainstream media and were captured in the online space. The content of these stories had a potential reach of 518,283,508 people globally.
The stories around Hon. Aden Duale that were majorly publicized revolved around “Amendment of Electoral Laws”, “IEBC”, “Jubilee Party”, “Hon Duale’s responses to the opposition” and the “Garissa University Attack”. Among the top 10 publications that disseminated news involving Hon Duale throughout the year 2016 were The Star, Standard Digital News – Kenya, Citizen TV, Daily Nation, Hivisasa.com, Mediamax Network, Kenya Today, EABizInfo.Com, AllAfrica.com and News 24 Kenya.
Within the same period, 1st January 2016 to 31st December 2016; 32820 posts were made on various Social Media platforms. 10273 posts out of the 32820 posts (33.34%) received a negative sentiment score, and terms like arrogant, divisive, insensitive were bandied around. He only had 16.65% positive and the remaining 50.01% having neutral sentiment score. The impact of a Majority Leader transcends Social Media punditry and can be seen through the results of their actions. The question is does a Majority leader have a role to play in bringing about National cohesiveness in a divided nation whose history of past divisions has led to dire consequences? We believe that they do.
Adan Duale is a Direct Communicator whose strengths lie in the fact that he will speak what is in his mind, but a major weakness is at times he fails to assess the impact of his words. His aggressive communication style may have worked to get him elected but upon assuming the elevated National platform of a Majority he has failed to use his Megaphone to promote greater National cohesiveness.
- Josephine Kabura -Deceitful Inconsistent Narrative
Josephine Kabura only 34 years, is the most famous hairdresser in Kenya. But she is no ‘mere hairdresser’. She dominated newspaper and Television headlines in 2016 as the central suspect in the much publicized NYS scandal. Her story- ‘From hairdresser to a millionaire’ would have been an inspiration for many young women, were it not for the dodgy manner in which the wealth was acquired. She was catapulted into the public limelight after she swore an explosive overly dramatized affidavit that implicated former Devolution CS, Ann Waiguru in the NYS corruption scandal.
When she appeared before a parliamentary watchdog committee to provide insight on her role in the scandal, she engaged in tactful evasiveness deploying a wry smile, give-away body language and feigned ignorance, poor memory and inability to recall details she had provided earlier in her affidavit. A common trait among deceitful communicators is their tendency at evasion, obfuscation and plain distortion of narratives. During her questioning deployed soft hesitant speech, deliberate pauses, blank stares, evasive responses and a sarcastic gleeful smile (Non verbal experts would call it the unflattering O.J Simpson smirk), seemingly oblivious of the grave accusations facing her. In the end, her measured responses did not shed light on the 1.6 billion worth of questionable business dealings involving her companies, nor did it enhance her credibility.
The young hairdresser successfully stonewalled MPs and made mockery of the whole investigation process and her unsatisfactory, inconsistent and unconvincing responses eventually drew the ire of the MPs questioning her who resorted to quoting Bible verses out of helplessness and frustration.
- Stephen Arap Soi- Guilty Non- Verbal Communication
Stephen Arap Soi, Kenya’s Chef De Mission at the Rio Olympics failed to provide leadership and direction for the Kenyan contingent. After the Olympics he appeared in court pending investigations into how NOCK and Sports ministry officials spent Sh25 million in Rio. His attempt to ‘clear the air’ was just, but contempt in the court of public integrity for Kenyans who expected their Olympic heroes to be treated with dignity and respect. Arap Soi eschewed a lack of credibility and his name became synonymous with failure.
His body language betrayed him and showed a leader who is not telling the truth, and nothing but the truth. He was not comfortable with what he was saying straight out of the gates and this was evident through the lack of congruence between his Words and Body in various interviews.
Albert Mehrabian stated in a widely quoted article that in situations he examined only 7% of the impact was verbal-the remaining 93% was nonverbal. It means body language is a very important medium of communicating. For example, body posture speaks volumes about feelings, self-image and energy level. In the case of Soi, his body posture communicated low energy, a guilty conscience and perhaps feelings of regret.
- Public Accounts Committee 2016- Disorganized Interviewing Processes
The Public Accounts Committee has been plagued by credibility challenges during the 11th Parliament.
The Public Accounts Committee’s role is to monitor accounts on the appropriations voted by parliament for public expenditure, or any other accounts, gather and evaluate the information and recommend courses of action to the entire house. It is in keeping with this mandate that the PAC summoned various persons to testify regarding the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal. The process aired on live TV exposed the PAC as disorganized, disjointed and lacking in basic interview techniques. The members communication at times seemed to merely seek to score political points as opposed to clearly probe and get to the bottom of the NYS scam.
Successful panels design an interviewing strategy prior to commencement of any process; the strategy should offer guidance on the questions, the mode of questioning and clarity on questions assigned to each member. It is clear that the PAC never followed such basics and ultimately ended up portraying the image of an incompetent oversight body.
- Ababu Namwamba – Incoherent Narrative (Loss of Credibility)
In early 2008, Ababu Tawfiq Namwamba introduced himself to the Kenyan scene with his oratory prowess, admirable stubbornness and youthful arrogance, when he refused to acknowledge Mwai Kibaki as the president after the 2007 disputed elections. He would go on to dazzle in debates inside and outside parliament with his gift of garb and mastery of language. The cameras loved him and he became a frequent figure on our Television screens. Within his party he positioned himself as the defender of the party leader and was fondly referred to as “Generali.”
When faced with controversy that led to loss of his chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee he seemed to lose his communication mojo. He struggled to develop a coherent, logical narrative to explain his dilemma and when he also broke ties with his political party, he has struggled with a message to credibly position himself in his next political dispensation.
In his strategic communication struggles a key aspect, which suffered, is his Credibility and while he may just reinvent himself and regain his communication groove, a key lesson is that even in the murky realm of Politics, audiences still expect Coherent, Credible Communication.
Eric Kiraithe- Government of Kenya Spokesperson
Eric Kiraithe’s tenure as government spokesman has been lackluster. A Government Spokesperson’s role involves guiding the design and development of a comprehensive Government Communication Strategy and overseeing the tactical implementation of the communication strategy. A Spokesperson must be articulate, be versatile in handling diverse communication situations and earn respect as a credible authority on government messaging.
Against this backdrop, Eric who is eloquent has had challenges in transforming himself into a Credible Authority whose word is respected as the government’s official position on various issues. His messaging has majorly come across as defensive most of the times rather than proactive and guided by a well thought out strategy. The Government Spokesman also failed to clearly distinguish his office and official role with that of the Presidential Strategic Communication Unit (PSCU)
Regarding his Style of delivery, in his press conferences he has failed to adopt an extemporaneous style and tends to read reports rather than speak directly to his audience. This does not inspire confidence and combine this to the reactionary messaging, it is clear that the government spokesman needs to re-invent himself in 2017 in order to enhance the connection between the government and its citizens.
- Philip Kinisu- Diversionary- In- Chief
In August 2016, Philip Kinisu, the EACC chairman tendered his resignation to President Uhuru Kenyatta. Kinisu was under investigations because a firm he is associated with supplied goods to NYS, which was embroiled in a scam of its own-call it conflict of interest.
Integrity, explained, includes the ability to communicate even those bit and pieces that may be uncomfortable in the short term, but are actually redeeming in the long run. Kinisu failed to let the integrity which got him the EACC top job in the first place, walk the talk. When questions were raised regarding his actions, he failed the first test in crisis communication; he blamed everybody else, but himself-best summed up as diversion tactics. People resort to diversion when they are uncomfortable with emotions stimulated by the conversation.
His eventual resignation from office was a culmination of diminished integrity, lack of good judgment in combination with poor communication.
- CS Wario- Defensive Communication
If there was one distinct aspect about Sports Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario’s communication; it was his defensive outlook. When news emerged that the Olympic team representing Kenya in Rio had faced challenges that brought national shame, the CS was more interested in defending rather than empathizing with the team that represented the nation’s brand at the Olympics. His appearances in parliament and in news conferences after the Rio fiasco fueled his audience’s anger, as he seemed more interested in protecting himself than being contrite. Why did this earn him a worst communicator spot? Because when caught in a crisis in which many people are affected a leaders greatest tool is empathy. Empathy combined with accountability can help mediate between all parties involved.
CS Wario did not seem to get it! At the briefing he called to dismiss the National Olympic Committee Kenya (NOCK), he stopped a few second into his reading to take a long sip of water and then stumbled through the first sentences of his statement. The non-verbal cues on that clip revealed his seeming glee at getting back at NOCK. All the while he failed to understand that the failure of NOCK was an embarrassment to Kenya, hurtful to the athletes and the buck stopped with him.
CS Wario would do well to conduct audience analysis, understand their mood and strive frame his communication in manner that connects with them. He could also work on his listening and message construction skills in the 2017.
- Ezekiel Mutua- Braggadocios Communication
The Head of the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) failed to understand that a key attribute that great communicators posses regardless of their achievements is Humility. Mutua’s communication lacked the discretion and general sensibilities required of his position. Using his Social Media platforms where he bragged about various things from his diplomatic passport to his Business Class Air travels, actions many would have expected a younger generation to engage in.
His attempt to frame his braggadocios communication as “god’s blessings” aimed to inspire others coming from a social background of extreme depravation like himself failed miserably if social media and mainstream media conversations are anything to go by.
In 2017, Mutua could benefit by expressing more humility in his communication. Another attribute key to connecting with audiences is “Likeability” an aspect his bragging robbed him off. To successfully steer the KFCB and gain the goodwill needed to effectively persuade Kenyans to embrace it’s “controversial” Policy’s, Dr. Mutua must avoid becoming a distraction by shifting the spotlight from himself to the agenda of the Organization he leads.