Kenya Tourism Board’s wise decision to put advertising deal with CNN on hold

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KENYA – hotbeds of terror? Creating a problem and later charging to correct it may not be the best way to sell PR or advertising services.

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KENYA – hotbeds of terror? Creating a problem and later charging to correct it may not be the best way to sell PR or advertising services. Tourism boards in many parts of the world feel spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on non-targeted ads on a global TV network like CNN, Al Jazeera, or FOX may help their tourism arrivals, and may finally understand it’s like fishing for a needle in a haystack. How many viewers of such networks would actually consider traveling to East Africa or in this case to Kenya? Is this really money well spent?

As much as countries enjoy seeing scenes from their travel and tourism treasures on TV and have leaders look good at interviews, the reality and the results may be different and may not justify the money spent for these minutes of fame.

This may be clear to the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) after putting an advertising deal with CNN on hold. It certainly did not help for CNN to call Kenya a hotbed of terror.

Information is emerging from usually well-informed sources in Nairobi that the PR deal the Kenya Tourism Board had inked with CNN has been put on hold, subject to a comprehensive review of the channel’s recent misleading and outright negative broadcasts about Kenya.

CNN USA ahead of the ongoing visit of President Obama had described Kenya as a “Hotbed of Terror” and faced an instant social media storm, eventually leading to a half-baked apology and the withdrawal of the offensive remarks by one of their correspondents. Further faux pas, however, added only salt into the wounds already opened up, and many leading tourism stakeholders went on record on social media and elsewhere demanding that the hugely expensive CNN deal be reviewed if not scrapped outright.

It is understood that KTB’s PR advisors, Grayling, were trying to appease the incensed feelings in Nairobi, clearly also blissfully unaware if not clueless of the strong sentiments the insulting remarks prompted among Kenyans. Grayling apparently suggested to extend an olive branch and invite CNN, a news organization with a major presence in Nairobi, for a fam trip to the country in the misguided hope that the network would comprehensively change tune and tack.

The campaign was to start this Friday, coinciding with Obama’s visit to Nairobi, and it is now anyone’s guess when or even if the campaign will go ahead. It is entirely likely that Kenya might change direction and do a deal with other global networks like Al Jazeera or even Chinese networks, as that market has become of growing importance for Kenya.

Another source also suggested that the main driver of the CNN deal, Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie, is seeking a direct apology from CNN, which if either not forthcoming at all or deemed unsatisfactory, could well break the agreement before it has taken off. In such a case, the matter would no doubt head to court for Kenya to get a refund of money already paid, but in view of the negative and false reporting ahead and during the Obama visit – CNN had also suggested that Obama “lectured” his Kenyan counterpart President Kenyatta over gay rights, again a dubious use of language over a topic which was mentioned but not in the form of a lecture – there is plenty of cause to terminate the deal and give many stakeholders fundamentally opposed to it in the first place the satisfaction that the warnings they sounded were justified.

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.