Malaysian Police solving wrong problems precisely with Bersih 3.0 video

Watching the Bersih 3.0 rally in Kuala Lumpur from a distance and following it on social media, Unspun was struck by the efficiency of the Malaysian police in the use of video and YouTube.

It was first very quick off the block in airing the video of the “attacked” and upturned Police car, providing “visual proof” of the thuggery of the Bersik 3.0 protesters.

Their efficiency reminds Unspun of one of the books he’s currently reading called Dirty Rotten Strategies: How We Trick Ourselves and Others into Solving the Wrong Problems Precisely by Ian Mitroff and Abrahms Silvers. Mitroff, for the uninitiated, is one of the best thinkers on crisis management.

One of the main points made in the book is that unless we frame the problems properly we will get the wrong answers or solutions, which we then go on to solve with great precision if we are capable.

If we follow this logic the Malaysian Police seems to have framed their problem has one in which the public is often fooled by others and not getting the facts right. The solution of that problem then is to give the public “the facts”, especially in visual form, then they would be convinced how good the police and government is and how bad the others are.

Thinking along such lines, getting a videoclip fired off into YouTube and the net is an great solution.

Unfortunatley that is not the problem being faced by the police. Their problem is one of credibility – unless they work hard at showing themselves to be a non-partisan professional body, most people would not want to believe them.

The “car attack” video showed a police car seemingly being attacked. A later footage showed it overturned and bashed up. Yet, because of the lack of credibility, most of the audience who saw that thought that it was a contrived video, with the police’s or the government’s agents provocateur attacking or starting the attack at the car to discredit the Bersih protesters.

On the other hand Bersih sympathizers, individuals and other groups are also using video and YouTube. They are less professionally done and was slower than the Police’s. They, however, showed footage of Police officers brutally beating up on protesters.

These, Unspun is willing to be, are believed much more than the Police’s video clips.

So instead of fooling themselves into thinking that they are doing the right things and that the Malaysian public would believe their videos the Police would be better off solving their real problem: a lack of credibility.

SBY’s say-nothing News Conference

Why does anyone or any organization call a news conference in the first place, instead of merely sending out a news release?

The reason for calling a news conference, for most people who are media savvy, will be that it gives the spokesperson the chance to deliver his messages effectively and to be able to explain and clarify any questions that the media can have.

The caveat here is that the spokesperson should be well-trained to deliver his messages and able to answer the most difficult of questions in a manner that is credible, authoritative and likable. If the spokesperson does not have such skills then its best not to expose him to journalists.

Being credible is a challenge to many politicians, government servants and corporations. Their institutions have built a culture where they communicate through institution-speak: the self-centered, which-kool-aid-are-they-drinking kind of speech in which they seem to be perfect or at least can do now wrong and that the public is eminently interested in their accomplishments.

The public generally does not care, of course, unless the spokesperson says something that connects with, or is relevant to, them. And if they feel that someone is trying to take them out for a spin they react with anger and criticisms.

The journalists, who act as the intermediary who must filter and process the information given by spokespersons and render them into a news story worthy of the public’s attention are even more skeptical. Who wouldn’t be, if faced by an endless stream of incompetent spokespersons and PR Flacks trying to pitch them newsless and self-interested stories day in and day out?

Faced with such skepticism the spokesperson has to perform to expectations and sure something new or something important or face their wrath, in the form of critical news reports and comments.

So it is strange that the President’s PR minders have decided to recommend to him to call a news conference when they are not prepared to say anything important or new, and when the President has obviously not been trained at all in the art and science of being a spokesperson.

And to top it all the minders tried to stage-manage the whole event with predetermined questions, as if anyone, especially the skeptical journalists, would be taken in and think that SBY is a forthcoming president.

Instead of enhancing his image the minders have once again degraded it. Which begs the question: which kool aid fountain have they been drinking from?

Indonesian President Says Little at Stage-Managed ‘News Conference’

It was a rare chance, albeit rehearsed, for journalists to ask questions directly of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, but the nationally televised Q&A on Monday night still came off as stilted and emasculated.

Preparations for the event, which was initially scheduled to take place last Friday, began a week earlier when journalists assigned to the State Palace were asked to submit questions they wanted the president to answer.

All of the questions were screened by Julian Aldrin Pasha, the president’s spokesman, who asked two journalists to tone down their questions and rejected a query on the controversial Bank Century bailout.

“Please use soft words and don’t mention names,” he said to one of the reporters.

“Don’t ask that question,” he told another. “The president will address it directly on another occasion, but not tonight.”

That the president’s answers had been prepared long before journalists could pose them on Monday night was evident when Yudhoyono consulted a bundle of notes after someone asked him a question about national debt.

Stale news

But even with all the screening and preparation, observers noted, Yudhoyono’s answers were tepid and lacked any insight.

Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, a political analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), pointed out that when Yudhoyono spoke about the talk he had with Muhammad Nazaruddin shortly before the former Democratic Party treasurer fled the country, he revealed nothing the public did not already know.

Yudhoyono said he asked Nazaruddin to resign due to the corruption allegations against him, but that Nazaruddin, who is now on trial for bid-rigging, refused.

“It’s a shame that he didn’t go into detail about it, because this is a really important issue that is still unfolding,” Ikrar said. “I thought that when Yudhoyono wanted to do the Q&A he was going to address some urgent points that we didn’t know about, but it was all just stale news.”

Critics were also not satisfied with the president’s answer about mounting allegations of human rights abuses by security forces.

In his seven years as president, Yudhoyono said, Indonesia has “never experienced any incident of human rights violations that could be considered serious.”

That contradicts findings by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) about gross rights abuses in a deadly crackdown on a peaceful protest in Papua last year, as well as indications of violations in a host of clashes over land disputes across the country.

Resolutions, resolutions

Yudhoyono said that in the latter cases, including in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, and Mesuji, Lampung, he was fully committed to resolving all claims of rights violations.

“I stress that there will be no leniency and the cases will be resolved,” he said. “The government is responding swiftly to prevent future clashes.”

His oft-repeated call for a resolution also cropped up in his response to the standoff over the GKI Yasmin church in Bogor that the local administration has continued to seal off in violation of a Supreme Court ruling.

“I hope the regional leaders, the mayor and governor, can fully resolve this case,” Yudhoyono said. “What’s important is that the case is resolved so that it doesn’t drag on for years.”

The beleaguered church congregation has been forced to hold services, including for Christmas and Easter, on the street or in parishioners’ homes since 2008 as a result of the state’s illegal seizure of their property.

Yudhoyono said he was committed to ending the dispute “so that Christians, along with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians and others, can practice their faith in an orderly, calm and peaceful manner.”

Sympathy for the FPI

On the issue of banning the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the notorious hard-line organization known for its intimidation of and attacks on minority groups, the president’s answer was just as noncommittal.

“Organizations in Indonesia are allowed to operate on the basis of freedom of speech and freedom of action,” he said.

“Any organization that violates the laws must face due legal process, with no exceptions.”

The FPI has frequently raided stores selling alcoholic drinks and destroyed property as part of its self-professed moral crusade. Its members have rarely faced prosecution for these acts.

Yudhoyono defended the FPI’s right to organize, saying he was concerned about a recent development in which members of the indigenous Dayak tribe in Central Kalimantan took over a local airport to block the arrival of FPI members.

“Why should others be allowed to carry out their activities while our brothers in the FPI are forbidden?,” he said.

He said he discussed the incident with Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi, hoping to determine whether the 1985 Law on Mass Organizations should be amended to prevent that kind of protest. He also called on regional officials to improve security conditions to avoid more “acts of provocation” such as the one against the FPI.

Iberamsjah, a political analyst from the University of Indonesia, said he was disappointed with a lack of meaningful or informative answers from the president.

Given the quality of Yudhoyono’s responses, Iberamsjah questioned why the president would even need to prepare for the Q&A beforehand.

He said the presence of the full cabinet at the Q&A made the event too formal, saying it could have been more down-to-earth as a gathering simply between Yudhoyono and the journalists.

“Just look at Barack Obama,” Iberamsjah said.

“At press conferences, he’s rarely accompanied by a complete set of ministers because he has high self-confidence.”

Malaysian Leaders fall for another PR consultant

Here we go again with Najib and his cohorts thinking that some spin doctor will provide them with the magic bullet that will boost their popularity, ensure that they will be continously  voted into office and live happily ever after.

The problem is that spin doesn’t work. Leaders and others who want to win the popularity sweepstakes must work hard to win that popularity. PR people can help you strategize, coach you, provide you with communications skills and even write up your soundbites for you, but at the end of the day it is authenticity that wins the day. No Pr person can provide you with that. Authenticity comes with character, integrity, a commitment to ideals and a strong belief in ideals.

In other words, Najib and Co needs to change their personalities instead of their PR people. Yesterday, the flavor of the month PR consultant was APCO. They did not good because they were trying to Pr the unPR-able, as Unspun had predicted. Now it is FBC. What next? And how much taxpayer’s money would have gone into the pockets of foreign spin doctors by then?


Malaysian Leaders ‘Paid UK Firm for PR’
Hazlin Hassan – Straits Times Indonesia | August 06, 2011

Kuala Lumpur. A British-based production company with ties to well-known global television networks has found itself in the spotlight following allegations that it was paid to produce programs to burnish the international image of Malaysian leaders.

Business network CNBC has already dropped its weekend show World Business since reports about FBC Media, which also does public relations, surfaced. The BBC said it was investigating the matter, while CNN denied airing such ‘paid-for’ shows.

‘In light of serious questions raised last week, CNBC immediately initiated an examination of FBC and its business practices and has withdrawn the programme World Business indefinitely,’  Charlotte Westgate, CNBC’s vice-president of marketing and communications, told The Straits Times. She did not elaborate.

The Straits Times’ requests for a comment from the Prime Minister’s Office were not answered as of yesterday.

The allegations first appeared on Sarawak Report, the website of Clare Rewcastle Brown, a Sarawak-born environmental journalist who lives in her home country, England.

‘Allowing slots to be purchased in this way, deceiving millions of viewers who thought they were watching impartial programming, is a serious breach of broadcasting laws,’ she wrote.

Brown, 51, who is the sister-in-law of former British premier Gordon Brown, is a fierce critic of Sarawak’s long-serving Chief Minister Taib Mahmud. Her website has reported extensively on allegations about his wealth and assets abroad, and made a strong impact in the recent Sarawak state election.

via Malaysian Leaders ‘Paid UK Firm for PR’ | The Jakarta Globe.

Murdoch’s quandary a result of ignoring early warning signals

Rupert Murdoch’s PR machine  now appears to have gone into full swing. Caught underestimating the impact of the phone hacking scandal Rupert Murdoch is now trying to regain control in the crisis that is now threatening to undo his empire.

This is a case made for Crisis Management aficionados who are always looking for a case study. This one has it all.



Crisis become what they are when early warning signals are ignored and therefore not acted on. At the News of the World early warning signals of unethical behavior – the hacking of phones – was already well-known for some years.


The signals became much four years ago when Andy Coulson resigned as News of the World editor in 2007, after his former royal editor and a private detective were convicted of conspiracy to hack into the voice mails of the Royal family. When handing in his resignation, he insisted he had been unaware of the crimes and he was, strangely, not charged at the time.

After last year’s election, David Cameron became prime minister -and  appointed Coulson as his communications director. But when the scandal reignited in January Coulson resigned as Cameron’s spokesman.

Alarm bells should have been ringing at News of the World and at News Corp, Murdoch’s holding company for his media empire. Crisis managers would call this an emergency situation, where top management has to intervene decisively in a timely manner. Or the situation can easily spiral out of control.

But Murdoch and his top advisors were in denial and nothing was done to isolate and remedy the problem. News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and Murdoch’s heir apparent, his son James, remained aloof, untouchable and seemingly, to the outside world at least, unconcerned.

Then two weeks ago the emergency situation turned into a crisis when it was revealed that News of the World reporters had illegally eavesdropped on the phone of a missing girl, Milly Dowler, and deleted some of her messages to make room for more. She was later found dead.

Even then, Murdoch was slow to respond. If he had acted immediately then by apologizing, firing Brooks and perhaps his son as well and outlined the steps he would take to remedy the situation, the outcome could have been different.

But Murdoch didn’t act fast. It took him a week after the crisis erupted before he decided to close down the 168-year old News of the World. Even then he stuck by Brooks and refused to accept her resignation.

It was only on Friday, nearly two weeks since the crisis erupted, that Murdoch swung into action. He accepted the resignation of Brooks and her predecessor Les Hinton. He also visited the family of the late Milly Downer to apologize.

And on Saturday – 12 days after the crisis occurred – Murdoch placed prominent “We’re Sorry” advertisements in newspapers which read:

We are sorry

The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself. We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected….

On Saturday he ran more advertisements.

In moments of crisis, those at the center of the storm, as expressed so eloquently by Andrew Carapiet of Media Friendly, should express the 3Rs. Regret, Reason and Remedy.

Murdoch did express Regret, but he did a big mistake by doing so only in a letter, well advertised as it was. This is because people judge a person’s contrition emotionally. They want to see Murdoch in the flesh or on video apologizing, subconsciously they will not be convinced by Murdoch unless they can judge him not so much by what he says but by how he speaks – his body language, his voice, his eye contact. In short the hundreds of micro cues that tell us on a subconscious level whether he’s truly contrite and deserving of our empathy and forgiveness. Anything short of this is fatal for someone in Murdoch’s position.

His expression of the Reasons behind the crisis were cursory and, IMHO, not enough. Given the gravity of the situation he should not just have stopped with the written word and the brevity of advertising copy. He would have done well to have gone on air, perhaps with a sympathetic journalist who can ask him questions and allow him to elaborate on what went wrong. Two weeks is enough time for him to have some facts ready.

The third R, Remedy, was also hinted at in Murdoch’s advertisement copy:

In the coming days, as we take further concrete steps to resolve these issues and make amends for the damage they have caused, you will hear more from us.

Again, this was too little too late.

The consequence of Murdoch’s dithering will be terrible. As I write this Rebekah Brooks apparently has been arrested. On Tuesday Murdoch and James will face the wrath of Parliamentarians, a wrath particularly vicious because in the past they have toadied up to Murdoch and Rebekah. Murdoch’s empire stands to unravel. His son James will have is hopes of succeeding his father at the helm of News Corp. dashed.

It is hindsight but it would not bee to blithe to say that things would probably not have become so severed if Murdoch and the News Corp has paid attention to, and acted on the early warning signals in the first place.

Murdoch’s campaign of apologies continues with new ads

By the CNN Wire Staff
July 17, 2011 6:39 a.m. EDT

London (CNN) — Rupert Murdoch’s British media empire said Sunday it would “not tolerate wrongdoing” and was determined to rebuild its reputation in the face of widespread anger at accusations of eavesdropping on voice mails and bribery of police.

News International said it would compensate those affected by its illegal phone hacking, cooperate fully with the police, and hired a law firm to “examine past failings” and recommend new procedures to make sure they are not repeated.

The promise comes in national newspaper advertisements in all the major Sunday British newspapers — a group that this week does not include the News of the World for the first time in 168 years.

Murdoch closed the paper last week, less than a week after it came out that reporters working for him had illegally eavesdropped on the phone of a missing girl, Milly Dowler, and deleted some of her messages to make room for more. She was later found dead.

Media baron Murdoch apologized to the British public with full-page advertisements in seven national newspapers Saturday.

He signed Saturday’s ads, but not Sunday’s.

“We are sorry,” says Saturday’s ad, which was signed by Murdoch.

“The News of the World was in the business of holding others to account. It failed when it came to itself. We are sorry for the serious wrongdoing that occurred. We are deeply sorry for the hurt suffered by the individuals affected.”

Story continues here

Time for a change

After mucking around for a few years with this blog it is time for a change. Why? People change, priorities change. Unspun is no exception and will now focus on what has been fascinating me for the past few years – the art and science of persuasion and how that relates to communications, which is what I do at work.

One of the things that I do with the team is also crisis management, which has everything to do with persuasion, and the ability to keep a cool head when control is slipping out of your hands. So from now on Unspun will write mainly about persuasion, communications, crisis management and only make occasional forays into politics and other subjects, then again when they mostly touch on persuasion and communications.

I suppose this will mean the loss of some readers and the gain of others. To those who have been faithful readers of this blog so far I remain humbled and grateful that there are people out there who appreciate these scratchings. But change is inevitable so let’s move on.