Who can speak for the G20 spokesperson?

What qualities, skills and experience do you need to be an effective spokesperson?

For chair of the G20 Summit Indonesia all that’s needed to become the spokesperson for this prestigious event is evidently looks, youth, pop iconicity and privileged education.

Photo of celebrity Maudy Ayunda who was appointed as G20 spokesperson. Her appointment is being criticised as a way for Indonesia’s president to woo the youth population. Photo: Facebook

Credit: Facebook

The appointee, 27-year old Maudy Ayunda has a plenty in the looks department but is she savvy in handling tough questions that surely comes with the job?

“At her first briefing, she appeared to ignore questions about Putin’s attendance. Organisers told journalists to ask about her personality instead,” reports The South China Morning Post.

The paper further adds: “As part of a team of spokespeople, her role is to report the G20 meeting results that are relevant to Indonesia while sensitive issues would be handled by other representatives, Ayunda said in response to Bloomberg questions.”

One wonders what PR Professionals and feminists would think about this interesting role carved out for Ayunda.

Who’s really responsible for the trashing of Ade Armando?

OK, let’s get this out of the way: Unspun believes that voilence in retaliation for words is almost always not justified.

Having said that, I cannot help but to think that Ade Armando and the society that has elevated him into a public icon of sorts has brought the violence upon themselves.

Armando is of course the lecturer and social media influencer who got beat up badly when he attended a demonstration on April 11. He literally lost his pants in the beating and he was hospitalised after students and police rescued him from the mob.

Many Indonesians took to Twitter to express their disagreement with his views but also condemned the violence as excessive. Others pointed to the excessiveness of the khadruns.

These are valid opinions but I think it misses the point of why the violence occurred – a point that implicates Indonesian society and the media because they have allowed public discourse to degenerated into a pissing match on Twitter, or whatever social platform platform is current for the day.

Consider Armando. What is his claim to fame? He’s a lecturer in communications but has he distinguished himself in scholarship? Has he published any noteworthy papers to qualify himself as an expert or authority in politics or society?

Armando is also often described as a social media influencer. What does that mean? That he tweets loudest and often on subjects? That he clickbait his content so they evoke emotions and increases their talkability? And since when does someone with a huge following on social media qualify to influence public discourse on important matters?

Yet there he was being quoted by the Press because of his provocative tweets, being asked to host or moderate talk shows, being invited as a commentator in politics and society.

By doing so the Press has failed in its duty to exercise judgement in the shaping of public discourse. Instead of giving a platform to only those who exercise common sense, moderation and clear articulation of values, and also skilled in the art of disagreement, they have, in building up Armando, unleaded on Indonesian society a troll in the guise of a thought leader.

With people like him on pedestals public discourse is now a shouting match over Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. It has also become an arena for gang warfare where might makes right. Armando and a few others like him, buzzers one and all, throttle measured public discourse in the name of free speech.

Confronted by the might of buzzers, rumoured to have government backing, you can begin to understand the pent up frustration and anger of those who position themselves on the other side of the fence. Add to that a very uneven enforcement of the law and you have a powder keg.

The April 11 beating up of Armando is one of the manifestations of this pressure building up.

Perhaps it is time for those in a position if real influence to reflect on the harmful path we are in and the need to bring public discourse back to where it can do most good for society?

When everyone sounds sassy and is an expert

Remember that iconic cartoon from the early days of the Internet in the New Yorker?

The Internet has moved on a lot since then. Apps and other services now make it so much easier to create and upload great looking content.

So much so that I think the saying “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” needs to be updated to: “On the Internet, everybody can look and sound like an expert.”

This is what I am seeing on my social media feeds, no matter if they are Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Reels….

Everyone, even if they are green behind the ears and have not done anything to win them respect in the industry, is now capable and do try to come across as an expert dispensing tips, advice and listicles like they are going out of fashion.

They are aided in their quest for their 2 minutes of fame by platforms such as Glints and other headhunting outfits out to find a cheap way of generating relevant content.

So in the PR industry, for instance, you have consultants with less than a year’s experience lecturing their peers on media relations, engaging influencers, client servicing…every topic that is sellable to aspiring industry workers.

Then there are the masterclasses carried out by hoods who can’t even qualify as apprentices. Same MO. Young, ambitious people who don’t expect to be paid but grateful to be given a platform to show off to their peers.

No doubt some of these speakers are good and have fresh insights but most of them, I suspect, would be pedestrian.

So the question that needs to be asked here is whether this democratization of the ability to look and sound clever on the internet (for materials all you need is to do a Google or YouTube search on the subject matter and presto! You can sound like a pro!) – actually helps enlighten or dumb the audience.

What do you guys think?

Startups and their irresistible offers to our employees

If, like me, you run a small to mid-sized business then I’m sure you’d empathize when I say that the startups are the bane of our lives when it comes to staff retention.

Like voracious vultures their HR officers and talent scouts circle our businesses for any of our staff who show promise. When they spot them, they open their deep wallets and swoop in on these young workers with offers so they will find difficult to resist.

I’ve been wondering if these enterprises end up empowering these young talents or ruin the rest of their lives. The source of this musings is because I know of the daughter of a family friend that quit her present job because this startup offered her, a person who has been in the workforce for 3 years, about Rp60 million per month basic salary, plus share options in the company.

To be sure. She is bright and talented. She could cobble together a good-looking PowerPoint deck and present fairly convincingly. But when it came to managing people she was still green, unable to convey instructions concisely and clearly and making sure that her direct reports understood and executed her instructions well. She still had to, like good wine, mature. Her ego still got too much in the way and she became defensive under pressure.

Someone like that, in a world not distorted by startups and e-commerce companies, would find it difficult to command a monthly salary a third of what she’s being offered in the communications industry.

To her credit, she sought some advice before she accepted the offer. Asked what I thought, I had one question for her: “What skills and experience of yours, do you think, their generous offer is based on?” She never gave me a clear answer but said she was fearful that an opportunity like this would not come again.

Pressed to elaborate what I thought I said she should not be to worried about missed opportunities. Indonesia today is awash with investors pouring money into startups, even those with dubious business models. They would still be around in a couple of years.

If she spent this time in a conventional business where she could be mentored properly she would, at the end of this period, be so much stronger professionally. She could then command an even higher salary then but more importantly she would be more equipped to handle the other aspects of a competitive professional environment – the internal politics, the art of managing upward, and the measured responses required when things go terribly wrong.

On the other hand, if she joined a startup now, she could end up like so many of the highly-paid young and talented people in startups today – good to look at and listen to, but not too closely, or the superficiality or immaturity will start to show, contributing to bad decisions, tamper tantrums and anxiety.

My pitch, however, lost out to the prospect of drawing a fat paycheck, a grand sounding title and the allure of working in a startup. She decided to join them in the end.

I didn’t feel too flustered by that because she was not working for me and she might be able to land on her feet after a few stumbles. But I can’t help wondering whether, on the whole the startups are doing any favors to these young talents and the industry with the irresistible offers.

Helping out journalists when they need it

What I wrote in the Maverick blog today. Journalists are getting Covid and this causes many of them financial difficulties.

Many companies expect their help in publicising their messages in good times. Now when times are tough, they need out help

https://maverick.co.id/uncategorized/plight-of-the-information-front-liners/

Mining for trouble

This is a post I wrote for our company’s blog

Those who have an interest in media handling skills would find this interview — between the BBC’s Rebecca Henschke and Terry Filbert, the CEO of Baru Gold Corp that runs Tambang Mas Sangihe — a masterclass on what and how not to say things.

The company has been attracting a lot of attention lately following the sudden death of Sangihe Deputy Bupati Helmund Hontong, after the BBC reported that he openly wrote to the national government opposing the setting up of the mine.

Two days after that report, he collapsed and died on a Lion Air flight between Denpasar and Makassar.

Read the rest of the story by clicking on the link below:

Was Naomi Osaka professional in not wanting to take press conferences?

As someone who trains the C-Suite on Media Handling Skills, what we in the PR profession sometimes shorten to Media Training, I can empathise with Naomi Osaka for not wanting to speak with journalists after her matches.

At the same time I cannot but help wonder if Osaka was professional in citing mental health as the reason for pulling out of the French Open.

However you look at it though, the power equation between the media and their interviewees is changing because of social media ,so it should prompt journalists to do some navel gazing at how they should behave in press conferences and other interview situations. Let me explain.

Great opinion piece by Jonathan Liew in The Guardian

Firstly, Osaka deserves our sympathy because the media can be inane. How inane? see this article in Vice.

The media can ask all sorts of questions, whatever suits their fancy. This is so and has been so for a long time because of the power that the media once held over our public lives.

At their apex, the media could make you or break you because they were the only means of reaching a wider audience. They acted as gatekeepers and shaped the opinions of the public. Their influence was so pervasive that Mark Twain counselled us to “never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.”

The residual authority from its heyday makes many journalists think they have a right to question any public figure and lob hardball questions at them. Never mind the caliber of question, the interviewee should answer truthfully, honestly and openly, without losing their cool. If they lose their temper in the process, then tough luck for the interviewee and good luck for the journalist because it makes good copy or television.

Then there is Osaka. Here one needs to be careful as once mental health is invoked in this age of cancel culture, everyone gets hyper-sensitive. To be heard even questioning whether the excuse is appropriately professional is to face the possibility of being accused of insensitivity, racism, sexism and other labels.

Nonetheless what needs to be said is that she did, as a consenting adult, sign a contract with the French Open and part of the contractual requirement is that she appear at press conferences after matches. It’s not right, and may not even be informative for the viewers and fans, but let’s face it, professional tennis is not a sport but part of the entertainment industry. The industry is funded by sponsors and advertisers. To keep sponsors sponsoring and advertisers advertising they need to feed the Content Beast. When Osaka signed with the French Open she signed up for feeding the Beast, which in turn ensured a large pay checks she gets when she wins tournaments.

I am sure that someone like Osaka must have been media trained. The answers, when she was still speaking at press conferences, were good ones. Even when she was faced by stupid and inane questions. She was able to hold her own. Some of the fundamental lessons in media training is to expect the media to ask inane questions but mercifully reporters’ questions do not matter; what matters is our answer – what we say and how we say it. Another lesson is that reporters tend to ask the same questions many times, even when you’re just answered the same question.

Everyone, from this perspective, should take a leaf from Henry Kissinger’s playbook. He famously walked into a press conference saying something like “I have prepared my answers, I am now ready to take your questions.”

It is therefore a bit debatable whether Osaka’s decision to pull out of the French Open was a professional move, after all one of the definitions of a professional is someone who makes money from a certain activity or a sport. If you make money from the sport, it behoves the professional to understand how the sport is funded in the first place.

No matter which side of the debate you fall on, one issue that we should all consider seriously is the professionalism of the Press. What should professional sports journalists ask that would inform, educate and entertain (tastefully) their readers and viewers? That would be a journalist’s job.

But when they descend to inanity, then they are not doing any favours to anyone. They need to realise that in today’s world, where a player can tweet and reach more people than the entire audience of their media outlets, they no longer live in the days where they buy ink by the barrel.

Flipping the bird at cyclists

Let’s be honest. How many of you had that great feeling of satisfaction when you saw that photo of a motorcyclist flipping the bird at a group of cyclists taking up more than half the road?

There must be many of you because that photo has gone viral and spawning hundreds of conversations about the cyclists.

Like you I despise those ostentatious, spandex-clad morons who lack even an iota of social awareness.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with cycling. In my younger days I was also into cycling but then it was about the ride. It was about you, the wind on your face, pushing your limits and enjoying the view.

Which is what so many of the Jakarta cyclists is not about. To begin with there is no great view. If you cycle in Jakarta there are only bad roads, a poorly maintained concrete jungle, inconsiderate motorists and polluted air.

So what it is that attracts so many of our city’s un-atheletes to take up this sport? My theory is the ability to show off to others. Cycles that cost hundreds of millions of rupiahs, cycling clothes and gear that are top of the line is part of the ensemble. Then there are the selfies and instagram posts. If you’re a real cyclist you’d probably post at most photos of you bike, its beautiful lines against a beautiful background. But not so in jakarta, its about pot-bellied Bapak wrapped in expensive spandex, atop a yet more expensive bike. Of the putatively trendy Ibu or Mbak with their over-the-top make up, fake eyelashes and enhanced boobs wrapped in expensive spandex on top still more expensive bikes.

The bikes they prefer seem to have one major criteria – that they are expensive. This is the reason why Bromptons are so popular here. Each bike is enough to feed a few families for a few weeks yet you see posts of a family of five parading their Bromptons.

The same show-off mentality extends to another category of bikes – the Moge. or Moto Gerde or Harley Davidsons.

Those bikes are supposed to signify freedom of the road. Again its man or woman communing with nature on their trusted metal steed.

But in Indonesia? It’s a sham. You have Harley riders riding around Jakarta with a police escort clearing traffic ahead of them (in a city with no views, bad roads, traffic jams and pollution). Yet this does not stop them from throttling their bikes in the midst of traffic jams so that the other car drivers and pedestrians can heart heir virile throaty roar.

What’s common about these bikers – whether on a Harley, an expensive road or mountain bike or a Brompton – is also their propensity to behave like they own the road when they get together. Reinforced by numbers they act as if everyone must give way to them and get really offensive when someone tries to ask them to have consideration for others or to follow road regulations.

Why do they behave so disgustingly? Is at the hear of it a low self-esteem so that they can only feel their worth through expensive things and subjugating others to their will, never mind if what they do is right or wrong?

Are they not aware that when they parade their expensive stuff in front of the rest of us, either in real life for on social media, that our thoughts are not, “Wow, how cool are these guys!” but “What an obnoxious asshole!”?

You have to wonder whether these cyclists, many of them well educated, affluent and well-traveled, are capable of social awareness. Awareness of how others really think, or has the cycling helmets stopped the blood flow to their brains.

How to get vaccinated if you’re a senior foreigner in Jakarta

There have been some confusion whether foreign residents in Indonesia are eligible to be vaccinated under the Government’s program covering certain groups including seniors (that 60 and above).

What nudged me to get vaccinated was a message from a friend who was married to a foreigner, saying that her expatriate husband got vaccinated at the Board for Development and Empowerment Human Health Resources (BPP SDM Kemkes) in Kebayoran Baru.

All that was needed was for you bring along your KTP (Identity card). No need for P+as sports, KITAP etc.

The room where you wait to get tested

So this morning I trooped to the place early. By 8am, their opening time, there were already dozens of people there seeking vaccination.

I showed my KTP to a couple of officials at the entrance and was directed into a hall where you get registered for vaccination. There are two groups here. Those who booked for a vaccination via locket.com and those walk ins like me.

The registration process was orderly and quite efficient with a name being called every 2 minutes or so. When my turn came there was a complication because they saw that the entry under citizenship in my KTP was not Indonesian.

Confusion, an official was called. He took a photo of my KTP and said he’d check. Then nothing happened. he disappeared.

Finally, I approached one of the officers to explain my situation. A bit more confusion but when the supervisor was traced down she said it wasn’t a problem for foreigners to be vaccinated.

So I registered, that took all off 3 minutes and went to the next section where they took down your details, asked you a list of questions on whether you have any underlying conditions, and had your blood pressure taken.

You then move to a nearby table and there two nurses gave you the vaccine shot.

This is where you get your shot

Then its to the “Observation Room” where, if you don’t faint or transform into an ogre, they call your name after 30 minutes or so. You get your forms from them and go into the adjacent room where you get your vaccination certificate.

There is one more step after this and its to set an appointment for your second jab. They had an officer there with an iPad to do that. All very fast. Once you agree on date and time and she keys it in, you almost instantaneously get a Whatsapp message on the details of your next appointment, complete with a barcode for the officials to scan when you come next.

The Observation Room

Apparently that center vaccinates about 1,000 people per day. Throughout I found the process was very efficient and the officials polite and informative. The social distancing could be better but no cause for alarm.

So good job Kementerian Kesehatan and the officials who work there. Apparently they vaccinate about 1,000 people per day. And thanks Indonesia for the vaccine.

Meghan and the color of her son’s skin

There’s a hilarious scene in one of Jackie Chan’s Rush Hour series where he follows Chris Rock into a joint run by black brothers.

Chris, being black, goes something like “Wassup Nigga” and gets a friendly reply. Then Jackie, who plays the role of a cop from Hong Kong who knows little about American culture tries it on his black hosts – with disastrous results.

That scene of how its OK for a black to call another a Nigga while someone else of a different shade couldn’t, is, for me, emblematic about how Americans and much of the west approach color: with a hypersensitivity bordering on the ridiculous.

Color to us coloreds, or if you want to be politically correct about it, the pigmentally advantaged, is a fact of life. We talk about it all the time, joke about it, acknowledge it and the fact that darker hues are generally not that desirable even among huge swarthy of the swarthy.

But to whites, or shall we call them the pigmentally disadvantaged, and those who have drunk the liberal kool aid, all talk of color is somehow abhorrent and racist. It’s as if we are all expected to tiptoe around the room not acknowledging that there is a colored elephant in the room.

It is this mentality that has conditioned the shock and awe that greeted Meghan Markle’s revelation to Oprah Winfrey that someone from the Royal Family asked if her son might pigmentally gifted.

Why is it racist to wonder what shade the baby would come out, since the mother is partially Indian, is beyond the reasoning of many mixed couples and multiracial families.

The English language, does not different between racialism and racism. Perhaps it should. The former an acknowledgement that the world is not monochromatic and needs to be perceived in all its hues and shades; the latter a description of prejudice because of someone’s skin tone.

When I was working in Malaysia in The Star many decades ago, before the country descended into its racial stereotyping and tropes to what it is today, we all used to be totally aware of our race.

We’s rib each other mercilessly and tell racial jokes to each other, have good laugh about it and ed up in Rennie’s for a beer or eight. At the end of the day we were all racialists, in the sense that we were not color blind.

This did not shield us from the realization that beyond our racial stereotypes and traits we were all humans and friends. We could live with those difference and we did.

Clubhouse is all the rage – and the likely site of the next business crisis

Don’t get me wrong. I think Clubhouse, the audio chat app that is taking the world and Indonesia by storm is fantastic.

Here you have an app that makes interaction easy among people with same interests. And because its audio only it also creates a feeling of intimacy and ability to network during sessions.

Another added benefit is that since it is organized usually as an informal and chilled-out chat, there is little preparation needed.

The result: Every Indonesian what fancies themselves as connected has signed onto the service and many have already organized Tchaikovsky rooms from a few people to a few hundred. Either that or they are desperately waiting for an invite to get onto Clubhouse.

The ease and informality of these chat rooms are Chatroom’s great strengths. But they also harbor its great danger – the likelihood of uncontrolled blabbering, under the mistaken notion that its an informal chat and there are little consequences to speaking your mind.

Users of Clubhouse or any social media application should always remember that whatever you do or say there can be recorded or copied and shared to a wider audience. There is little control once words are written, images are shared or words are uttered and you can never be sure who will be listening in, first hand or second hand.

Today I saw a chat room discussion on PR matters in which a spokesperson for a company that was recently in a crisis-like situation agreeing to talk about their recent experience.

Sharing is great but when your company has just undergone a reputation all crisis and nerves are still tender, one wrong word or phrase can plunge it back into the couldron.

I am sure that there will be a crisis or two arising from Clubhouse chats.

This is not to say that people should avoid something new like Clubhouse . They should try it and use it by all means but they should never underestimate how whatever happens on social media can often be taken out of context.

No matter how new or sexy the technology, skill, deliberation and awareness are still needed.