Brown Jesus says Happy Easter

Good writing is hard to come by, so what we do with recruits at my workplace is to teach them to write well.

Being a former journalist and being one who writes moderately well, the task fell on Unspun to conduct the class.

Being a firm believer that writing is a reflection of your mental processes, I’ve always started the course with Critical Thinking 101 and the first slide in this presentation asks the participants to tell me which of the two images is a more accurate depiction of Christ.

Jesus

To Unspun the comparion is a no brainer. Jesus was a Jew and a middle easterner, a native of Galilee.

People like that, as in the BBC reconstruction from a skull found there during the period of Jesus, tended to look like the chap on the right. He may not looked exactly like the man portrayed but for sure he would have been swarthy and would NIT look like an Anglo-Saxon savior right out of the paintings of Byzantine artists.

Inevitably, however, there would be one or two – sometimes more – participants in the class who said that Jesus would have looked like the person on the left. The reason? That’s the image of Jesus they’ve seen growing up and the image that adorns the churches they go to.

Which was perfect for us to begin our discourse on critical thinking, the importance of not accepting anything at face value and why we need to ask questions more.

Inevitably too, someone would raise the argument that too much critical thinking is bad for us because it makes us cynical. We should just accept things based on faith.

The answer is that too much of anything is not good for anyone. At any rate critical thinking, if practiced skillfully leads one not to cynicism but to skepticism, which is not a bad thing.

In this world, if we question more without becoming cynical (which Oscar Wilde defines as “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”) we’d be enjoying oour lives more, not less; and socially and politically we would be ensuring that much of the ugliness and hate in this world we see today would be minimized.

Happy Easter everyone.

 

 

Leica ad draws heat in China for a photo shot by a Nikon

The advertisement below is dramatic to say the least. It depicts how journalists risk their lives to bring us the images that will change the world.

One of the most iconic images in the world is one shot in Tiananmen  Square on June 4 1989 when a lone man carrying shopping bags stopped a column of tanks by standing in their way. It came to stand for the students defiance against an authoritarian regime and was dubbed the Tank Man.

tank man

Leica released an advertisement last week telling a story of what it must have been like for the journalist who took the photograph. All powerful stuff and expertly shot and quickly drew the ire of the Chinese Government and other Chinese.

The Tiananmen Incident remains till today one of the most sensitive issues in Chinese society. The Govenment has banned all mention of the incident. Other Chinese, however, have hailed the ad as something that needs to be said. Still other point out that by airing the ad, Leica is jeopardizing Huawei in a sensitive time, because Huawei uses Leica lenses in its handphones.

Leica has since disowned the ad, saying that it was unsanctioned by Leica and it was the fault of the agency that produced it for loading it onto the net. Yeah.

The political fallout is one thing but what strikes Unspun as ridiculous is that the journalist depicted were almost certainly using Nikons than Leicas. There were actually four journalists that managed to snap photos of the tank man.

Three of them told The New York Times that they were using Nikons. The fourth did not say but there is no evidence he used a Leica.

So you decide whether the Leica ad was a good ad that spoke truth to power, an ad where poetic licence was more important than facts, or a needless provocation of the Chinese Government and some of the Chinese?

 

The Biden affair: emerging stock phrases for harassment allegations?

Since the #MeToo movement, one of the dreaded developments for male politicians in America must be to be accused of inappropriate behavior toward women colleagues.

Former US Vice President Joe Biden was accused last week of “inappropriate behavior” by a Nevada politician. She said he tried to kiss the back of her head.

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Nevada politician Lucy Flores started the ball rolling by accusing Joe Biden of inappropriate behavior

This was followed by another woman who also alleged that Biden acted inappropriately toward her.

Was this it for Biden, who may still want to run in the upcoming presidential elections? Has Uncle Joe morphed into Creepy Joe almost overnight? And what is one to do in the face of such potentially damaging allegations at a time when men in high and powerful have regularly been outed for inappropriate behavior toward women and have had their careers destroyed, sometimes deservedly, sometimes not?

Biden’s carefully crafted response to the allegations is worthwhile looking into for crisis managers looking for clues to handle such situations.

In many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort and not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested that I did so I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.

I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel that they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention, and I will.

I will also remain the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women. I will fight to build on the work I’ve done in my career to end violence against women and ensure women are treated with the equality they deserve. I will continue to surround myself with trusted women advisors who challenge me to see different perspectives than my own.

And I will continue to speak out on these vitally-important issues where there is much more progress to be made and crucial fights that must be waged and won.

It is a clever response. Not apologizing and not admitting to any wrong doing or inappropriate behavior yet not dismissing the allegation. In fact he paid lip service to the importance of how we have “arrived at an important time when women feel that they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention”

All reverential and paying tribute to women and their views. Then he moves on to his track record of defending women’s rights and how he will continue to do so.

The rest of the response was in the hands of his defenders – co-workers and colleagues. There is little else that he can do really. To try to defend himself more would make him sound defensive and only third party voices would have credibility at this stage.

One of his defenders was Susan Rice, the US’s Ambassador to the United nations during the Obama administration. Her choice of words was also interesting and her words, taken together with Joe Biden’s statement, seems to suggest that some new stock phrases for facing allegations of inappropriate behavior may be in the making.

Rice tweeted:

I respect every woman who chooses to share her uncomfortable (and worse) experiences with men. Their perspectives must be heard and taken seriously. I have worked closely with @JoeBiden for many years. In my experience, he is warm and affectionate with women (and men). But never have I found his actions inappropriate or uncomfortable. I have always appreciated his kindness and warmth.”

Most importantly, I know @JoeBidento be a dedicated ally, champion and defender of women and all of our rights. There is no one I would rather be with in a foxhole. He is one of the most decent, honorable men I have been privileged to work with.

There it is again. That reverence (I respect every woman who chooses to share her uncomfortable (and worse) experiences with men. Their perspectives must be heard and taken seriously) before stating her position supporting Biden.

So you have it, expect to see more of the  reverence-denial stock phrases cropping up more in the future.

 

Award, award, my kingdom for award

In his dotage Unspun forgets things and gets worked up with what he has forgotten.

What’s been making Unspun envious and full of FOOM the past two days is his timeline on Linked in and FB of colleagues in the PR Industry beating their chests in absolute humility and congratulating themselves, being grateful to their colleagues, cousin and their dogs for winning a REGIONAL PR AWARD!

Why aren’t we in the limelight, wearing decent clothes and tuxes receiving such awards. Did we even bother to enter for the prestigious award? In a foul mood Unspun rounded on the junior Mavbro who’s been charged with entering our work for PR Awards.

“Why aren’t we winning any of those awards?” Unspun bellowed. “Did we even submit any entries/”

The hapless junior stammered, “Well, we didn’t submit for it this year. We did but it ended in a bad way…”

Then it clicked. Unspun’s grey cells rallied for a reach into the distant past 12 months. Luckily he had chronicled the incident here.

It turns out that the whole enterprise had been a rapacious scheme to squeeze hard earned fees from PR firms. We were called early by he organizer to attend because we would win an award, but to attend it we had to pay. And pay for the award and the accompanying video.

We decided that it was not worth it. And time has proven us right. Our business has not suffered an iota without that award. In fact we have been doing very well, with an EBIDTA that would make some of the big boys green with envy.

So now Unspundoesn’t feel that bad anymore not being on stage, smiling the pepsodent smile, proclaiming to all the world how humbled I feel while blasting his humility all over social media, thanking colleagues and wonderful people whose support he could not have done without.

What this means at the end of the day, though, is that the tux would have to be mothballed  for another year, another award.

 

Did Bukalapak’s Achmad Zaky really apologize?

For years we have been using Achmad Zaky interview tapes to demonstrate to media training clients what not to do when speaking to the Press or, in his case, to anybody really.

That’s because when he speaks before cameras the performance is usually cringeworthy for any PR professional. he usually comes across as cavalier, gruff and unpolished and saying things that aren’t always relevant and sometimes comes across as offensive.

Now, of course, Achmad Zaky has outdone himself.

Yesterday he took to Twitter to rail against the Government’s allocation to R&D:

Bad enough that he implicitly criticized the government for paying lip service to Industry 4.0 (if anyone knows what 4.0 is supposed to mean please let me) without providing the funding for it.

The biggest mistake in his Tweet, however, is when her seeming attacked the president personally in this sensitive runup to the president elections. “Hopefully, the next president would be able to increase (the funding).”

This Tweet caused a Tweetstorm from Jokowi’s supporters using the hashtag #uninstallbukalapak They feel particularly betrayed because Jokowi recently graced Bukalapak’s anniversary celebrations and appeared side-by-side with Zaky before the Press.

This is a favor, according to industry insiders, that Ahmad Zaky has been clamoring for. They say that Zaky has been envious his rival, Tokopedia’s William Tanuwijaya who seem to get much more attention from the media and the President than Zaky. So when Zaky was seen criticising the president and asking for his ouster with the “next president” reference, it hurt particularly bad.

When the criticisms started raining down on him Zaky tried to explain his way out of it with another Tweets:

It’s one of those non-apology apologies where he explained how his intent was misconstrued and misrepresented.

He then tried the maaf  word, but here again it was a non-apology apology. “Sorry to Jokowi’s supporters if there was anything amiss in my words has caused any misconceptions. I know Jokowi as someone who is good whom I consider like my own father (we’re both from Solo). Recently he visited us at our anniversary. There is certainly no ill will in my Tweet.

It is apologies like this that infuriate people. Explanations and justifications instead of an admission of wrong doing followed by an absence of proper contrition. It would not be surprising if it inflames rather than abates the fury of Jakowi’s supporters toward Zaky.

Indonesia has few unicorns as it is and Bukalapak provides a good challenge to Tokopedia and other other players. It would be a pity if Zaky’s lack of communications skills sinks his promising business.

He should get professional help, or at least listen to his professional PR advisors if they are any good, before he utters the next public statement or Tweets his thoughts. And while he’s at it he would do well to also whether his gruff communication style has rubbed off on the rest of Bukalapak, resulting in his minions treating their vendors and partners with the same perceived lack of care and respect.

 

 

 

Time for old dogs in new Malaysian government to learn new tricks?

Many Malaysians have heaped scorn on Bloomberg Gadfly columnist Andy Mukherjee for suggesting that the country’s new Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng should exercise more tact when speaking about the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) issue.

The anger is understandable. After 9 years of Najib and his cronies, Malaysians feel they have achieved something substantial by ousting the scoundrels. Some feel that after the lies and cover ups of the Najib regime, Lim’s statement comes as a welcome breath of fresh air.

Still others argue that the main concerns of Malaysia these days is reform and statements like that would not affect Malaysia’s long-term financial standing. Others argue that Lim’s outbursts are justified against the rapaciousness and nefariousness of the the last government.

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Photo of Lim Guan Eng from the Malay Mail 

All very understandable emotions for Malaysians to hold. After all, it’s not everyday that you get to dislodge a corrupt government that does not hesitate to use every means at its disposal to stay in power.

These views, however, also try to gloss over the fact that Lim and many of the new ministers are short of some vital skillsets to become effective governors.

 

One skillset they need come under the collective term of media training. Media training, done well, teaches the politicians to do several things, among them messaging and message discipline, what they should and should not talk about and how to control the course of any interview so that they, rather than journalists or others, determine the message they want to deliver.

Messaging is important, especially for groups such as the Cabinet because it allows everyone to sing from the same hymn sheet. Messaging is also about the crafting of messages so that they resonate with the audience. Every effective message must pass the “so what?” test from a skeptical audience. for instance, and must never be defensive or overstate the case.

Message discipline is the understanding that you do not depart from the messages agreed. If the government wants to, for instance, talk about its attempts to stabilise the national debt then every minister should be delivering this message and not be diverted into taking about who or what caused the debt, the nefariousness of the former government or other topics. In US political circles, until the chaos brought on by Trump, the biggest communications sin a politician could make was to break message discipline.

How to keep message disciple? A tried and true technique is what they call Bridging, or as the Americans would have it, the Bump and Switch. The basis of this technique is that all spokespersons will get ultimately two types of questions: The Productive Question that allows you to deliver your messages easily (e.g. “tell us about your financial policy” – assuming you’ve formulate one and ready to share it with the public). In such instances they spokesperson should just answer in a straightforward manner.

Then there is the Unproductive Question, a question that you’d rather not answer (e.g. “We hear that many people in your party are unhappy with your actions…”). When confronted with the Unproductive Question you could give a short answer or Bump (e.g. “Disagreements are part of a healthy political process…”) then “bridge” or “switch” to your key messages via a bridging statement such as “what’s important now is…” or “what your readers should be more concerned about is…”.

The theory is simple but it takes a lot of practice to perfect this into an art so that you always sound credible, authentic and authoritative.

Journalists hate this technique because it robs them of their sense of control during an interview and it allows you to send the messages you want, not dance to their tune. They also have some mistaken notion that an unskilled politicians would be more honest than one skilled in media handling techniques because spontaneity is a measure of honesty.

Media training is also about sensitivity training, the “tact” referred to in Mukerjee’s article. It’s sensitising the spokesperson or politician to what should be said, what’s acceptable and what not, and how things could be delivered better.

Media training, however, is a double edged sword. Used by politicians of integrity it allows them to set the national agenda, to persuade and educate others and to build consensus. Used by unscrupulous politicians it can be a skill to obfuscate, to evade and to bury the truth.

While passion, honesty and being forthright are certainly virtues that every politician in the new Malaysian government has or should embrace it also makes sense for them to complement these qualities with media handling skills.

It is difficult, especially for Lim, who has spent most of his professional life as a persecuted opposition figure.  There were few people he and his party members could trust, and outspokenness was a virtue they could not do without. Bravery trumped skill.

But times change and so do circumstances. It is not enough that the new Finance Minister be brave, outspoken and passionate to speak agains wrongdoings. He should do it in a manner that reassures others, investors, the public, supporters and even opponents that the new government would be one that is fair and respects due process, that is thoughtful and refrains from emotional outbursts and that it has a solid plan to make things right, or at least better, for the new Malaysia.

The opportunity for Lim and the new government to usher in a prosperous, vibrant and confident Malaysia is here. All it takes is to acknowledge that they may need to learn some new skills to seize the day. Will they take it?

 

 

 

 

 

Why one should never repeat an emotionally-charged negativism, even in denial

In media training we tell our clients that they should never repeat an emotionally-charged negativism, even when denying it.

This, appearing on the cover of the latest edition of Tempo, is a very obvious reason why.

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Former Armed Forces Chief General (Retired) Gatot Nurmayanto has been jockeying to get into big-time politics in the upcoming 2019 presidential elections. He’s been known to be courting lots of parties and factions to become the Vice president Candidate.

Here, he denies being a “Political Whore”.

What effect do you think that this denial will have on his image? When the front page quotes you as saying “I am not a political whore (literal translation of pelacur is prostitute) the only thing that such a denial does is to associate the idea you’ve just denied with you.

From now on, no one who’s seen the cover of the nation’s foremost  politics and public affairs magazine can look at Gatot and not think “political Whore.”

Normally public figures make a mistake like this when they are trapped by journalists trying to provoke them or out to snare a good headline. The journalist might ask, for instance, “Some people say that your courtship of various politicians including Jokowi and the religious right makes you a political whore. What do you say to that?”

if that happens then Gatot should ideally frame his answer that is the antithesis of that idea with an answer such as, “I stand on my principles and my desire to serve the people. I’ll work with anyone who’s embraces similar values.” It’s not the best answer but it would avoid the “I am not a political whore headline.”

Ironically, however, the journalist at Tempo wasn’t even trolling for a sensationalist quote when Gatot exposed his vile thought. In Page 41 of the 2-8 April edition of Tempo  the question put to him was: “Are you attracted to the idea of becoming President Jokowi’s  aide?”.

So go figure how someone like this could have become the Chief of the Armed Forces in the first place. What total hand, eye or mind could have selected him to possibly lead brave sons and daughters of the republic into battle?

But there you have it. Indonesian politics is replete with little Gatots running everywhere, especially during this election season.

People often ask why we avoid taking on politicians and political parties as clients. The answer is simple: We didn’t but even if we advised  and trained Gatot on what to say and how to say it would he have listened, or would the ego and bluster get in the way?