Najib Razak’s lessons on spinning about MH370

Though he said nothing new it is nonetheless interesting to dissect Malaysian Prime Minister’s messaging strategy over the MH370.

As we all know, the Malaysian government has been roundly criticised for their handling of the search and rescue operation of MH370.

Najib’s response, in this instance by proactively offering an op-ed piece to the Wall Street Journal, is an attempt to repair the damaged reputation.

So what does he do? If you read the article carefully he does three things:

  1. Paint the Malaysian government as a victim with his opening line: “Nobody saw this coming, nobody knows why it happened, and nobody knows precisely where it is.” Why  does he do this? In a crisis you are either a victim, or a perpetrator. If you are the former people will not hold you to high standards because, after all, you’re the victim
  2. Admit to a minor fault. But we didn’t get everything right. In the first few days after the plane disappeared, we were so focused on trying to find the aircraft that we did not prioritize our communications”. Why? In debates there is a rhetorical technic called Admit to a Small Fault to Cover a Big Denia.” By admitting to not “getting everything right” he thinks he can cover the big denial that the Malaysian government screwed up big time over the handling. Sure its was a difficult situation to control, but which crisis is easy to handle? By definition a crisis is something that wipes out all your carefully wrought exigency plans so you are left depending on the robustness of your information gathering and decision-making processes. Malaysia failed miserably in all those.
  3. Become the righteous evangelist. So now all of a sudden Najib and the Malaysian Government has seen the Burning Bush and have become righteous evangelists to the cause of airplane tracking? So much so that they feel compelled to lecture the global community of its importance? Good try but not very original and an old, common trick. Example: The Jakarta International School, after news broke that its janitors were molesting one and possibly other kindergarten children, was advised by consultants to become evangelists in the need for Indonesia to confront the problem of child molestation, down to even fashioning a mascot for this movement.  Thank God the idea for the mascot was nixed by saner parents, although the messaging for the movement wasn’t stopped. Does anyone believe their evangelism when they haven’t answered why things went wrong and what they have done to make sure it does not happen again? No. On both counts.

When, oh when will people realise that good Public relations is not about spin but about doing the right thing- and then communicating about it?

Malaysia’s Lessons From the Vanished Airplane

My government didn’t get everything right. Yet other parties, too, must learn from MH370—and make changes.

Nobody saw this coming, nobody knows why it happened, and nobody knows precisely where it is. That, essentially, is the story of Flight MH370—at least for now. The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines 3786.KU -4.76% Boeing BA -1.34% 777 on March 8 has been one of the most extraordinary events ever to befall Malaysia—and one of the world’s greatest aviation mysteries.

On a routine flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, moments after air-traffic controllers in Kuala Lumpur handed the flight over to their counterparts in Ho Chi Minh City, the plane’s communications systems were disabled. MH370 went dark.

Instead of heading to Beijing, the plane made a sharp turn across peninsular Malaysia, traveled north up the Straits of Malacca, made a U-turn south over the coast of Sumatra and ended in the southern Indian Ocean, half way to Antarctica. Little wonder that words commonly used to describe MH370 include “bizarre” and “unprecedented.”

Also unprecedented are the techniques used to search for the plane. In the absence of contact via normal aircraft communications, the international investigation team—which includes the world’s best aviation experts—was forced to turn to satellite “handshakes,” mathematics and sophisticated techniques never before used to find a missing aircraft. The team managed to identify where flight MH370 ended, and it has narrowed down a search area off Western Australia. Yet, despite the efforts of the world’s brightest minds and best militaries, the search area remains huge. Finding the plane will be neither quick nor easy.

To read the rest of Najib’s article click here

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