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?

 

Trending Topics Exposed

I remember a colleague coming up to me with pride in his voice, saying that we managed to get our event last night on the Trending Topic of Twitter.

I applauded his enthusiasm but then asked him what did it mean for our company and the event?

He couldn’t really explain, apart from saying that theoretically a lot of people would be aware of our event, and therefore our company, because the hashtag made it to the Trending Topic.

I then asked him how does one get on Trending Topic on Twitter. He wasn’t sure but mumbled something about x number of retweets, y of them by users with huge followings.

This incident underscores the difficulty a rational mind would have when it comes to the question of how to measure for success on social media.

I come from an old school tradition that says that whenever a client pays us to help them communicate, whether using media relations or through paid, earned, shared or owned media, the communications must yield a result: it should either increase awareness of a brand or corporation, shift people’s attitude toward it or change people’s behaviour. All else is meaningless.

But because social media is so relatively new, many people do not understand that it is a tool, a channel like any others. Taking advantage of this misunderstanding, charlatans posing as messiahs of a new age have introduced all sorts of fancy terms and measurements so that they can make marketeers feel comfortable in hiring them.

So now in social media we have success measured in terms of reach, impressions and engagement. How these metrics will help a company or brand remain mysterious. Output is mistaken for outtakes and outcomes.

So its refreshing to see articles like this below that strip the mystique of Trending Topics as a measure of success. What do you think?

Trending’ on Social Media Is Worthless

By Brian Feldman  @bafeldman

In the wake of last week’s Parkland high-school shooting, right-wing conspiracy theorists are pushing the ludicrous story that the teenage survivors speaking out against gun violence are “crisis actors” — dupes hired to pretend to be victims of tragedy.

Earlier this morning, the top trending video on YouTube was one implying that David Hogg, one of the students pushing for legislative action on gun control, is an actor. What does it mean, exactly, for something to be “trending”?

YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter all make frequent use of the term, but none of them have a public or transparent definition — let alone a common one. When we sort through our feeds, “latest” has an obvious chronological sorting mechanism; even “popular” has a fairly clear and agreed-upon definition.

“Trending,” however, does not. It’s similar, but not the same as “popular”; generally speaking, it means “popular, in some relative, technically defined way.” That is, the “trending” sections of major platforms are, as of now, algorithmically determined, their contents selected by formulas developed internally at those companies and kept private.

Automated software determines what is trending, and it does so by examining the content according to a set collection of factors. YouTube, for instance, identifies trending videos by examining aspects like the view count, the rate of audience growth, and the age of the content.

A five-hour-old video is more likely to be trending than a five-year-old video; a video that goes from 100 views to 1 million is more likely to trend (yeah, it’s a verb now) than a video that goes from 250 million views to 251 million. Other factors might be considered as well.

A YouTube star with millions of subscribers and hundreds of uploads might be judged on a different acceleration rate than breaking-news footage uploaded by a guy with 19 subscribers.

Read more

That ahensi influencer blacklist

A blacklist, apparently compiled by communications agency professionals of social media influencers, caused a stir last week when it began to be circulated over Whatsapp groups and then on social media.

The list divided these influencers, aka KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) aka Buzzers into those with Bad and Good Behavior and invited comments. Since it was prepared on Google Docs it was a collaborative effort to list down agencies’ experience in dealing with the influencers.

Bad Behaviour included not keeping to deadlines, acting like prima donnas, having managers that were difficult, not delivering what was promised and shoddy work. Good Behaviour was generally the opposite.

As expected, anak ahensi, influencers and wannabe influencers took to Twitter and other social platforms to express their approval or disdain for such a list and affront what the Brahmin class of the Netizenry. After all, who dared to question the behaviour of the influencers who theoretically commanded thousands and thousands of followers and supposedly can influence them?

The fact that some anak ahensi did, and that heaven did not fall on their heads, however, is quite telling of the influence of the influencers. Some, such as Elinor Cohen,  would say that it exposes the fact that the Influencer Emperors has no clothes. I think a bit differently, that Naked Emperors have some function – to attract attention and therefore to build awareness of a brand or some messaging. But that’s where their usefulness stops as they hardly influence decisions to buy or change attitudes.

So why then do clients and their marketeers turn to the influencers? I’d think its largely because of laziness and fear.

Laziness because without outsourcing the noise making business to influencers, the marketers would have to work very hard to generate the kind of content that keeps them relevant to their audiences. So they get the agencies to hire the influencers who generate noise, that in turn generate impressions, reach and sometimes even engagement. But does all of this help push the sales of their products or change attitudes toward a brand? Questionable.

Fear is the other motivator that keeps influencers employed. Clients do not want to confront the fact that with social media the audience rather than the brands is in control. And the end of the day there is no guarantee that the customer would be herded down the Purchase Funnel to buy your products. So they resort to agencies who resort to professional noise makers.

The Blacklist has since been taken down in the social media hubbub that followed. But it’s actually a good thing. Although some of the influencers are a joy to work with many of them are very young – in their early 20s – who discover they have a knack of attracting followers because they can amuse them with their passion for clothes, make up or other past times or propensity to scold others with acerbic wit.

The path from nobody to Influencer for  them is short and devoid of the many stumbles and lessons learned along the way. As such, many of these influencers exhibit the behaviour of people with arrested development, relative children suddenly vested with great superpowers before they learned responsibility, the art of getting along with others and the compromises that one has to make in a collaborative effort. Hence the list of bad behaviour.

If some of these influencers can come to grips that the Blacklist is good, honest feedback then there is hope that they would mature faster and be great guys to work with. If they decide to take umbrage then it’s likely that they will flame out within a short time as the Net throws up influencers by the hundreds every few weeks and the some form or other of The Blacklist would persist, probably in closed social media channels such as WhatsaApp.

As a payback to this Blacklist, some in the influencer camp has threatened to come up with a Blacklist of their own – of agencies who delay payment to the influencers and other vendors for services rendered. I think it would be a good thing if they came up with such a list. There are too many agencies who delay payment to their vendors because the client has yet to pay them.This is unfair on the vendors, some of whom are freelancers or small outfits who rely on a steady cash flow and timely payments to stay in business. Agencies should honour their agreements with their vendors, and if clients do not pay them that shuld not be an excuse to renege on this agreement.

I guess the lesson here is that Blacklists may have silver linings. One of the things the Net does well is to make things more transparent and more transparency can only be the better for the communications business, large swaths of which are riddled with unprofessional and unethical behaviour, both on the side of the influencers and agencies.

Let there be more light.