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?

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:

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.

Eiger IV: Wow, what a turnaround – in a good way

CEOs are like the rest of us. They make mistakes.

But because of their elevated position and their egos many times its easier for them to bluster and get defensive over these mistakes. And it takes a really big man to admit theirs and ask for an apology.

After the Eiger letter berating Youtubers reviewing its products went viral, the brand came under a groundswell of criticism.

The CEO , Ronny Lukito, then issued a non-apology, failing to take responsibility for the incident, to be genuinely contrite and to explain why something like that would not happen again.

His critics weren’t assuaged and many were further inflamed. Unspun wrote about that and said that he failed to adhere to the 3Rs of crisis communications, which are Regret, Reason and Remedy and that he should seek professional help in his communications.

He must have, as today he issued a YouTube video and a statement apologizing to the affected YouTubers and taking full responsibility for the incident.

He explained that it was his idea to issue the offending letter. His PR, Marketing and legal teams tried to talk him out of it but because of arrogance he overruled them.

He has since realized his mistake and this incident has been a humbling and educational lesson for him. He has since appointed professionals to help him come up with better policies and improve their communications.

The result: if the comments on his YouTube posting are any indication, Netizens have forgiven him and appreciated his honesty and humility.

This is a good lesson for other CEOs on what to do during a crisis for their brand. I’m sure that Eiger will go from strength to strength from here if Mr Lukito maintains such an growth mindset.

I always loved their products. Now I love them more.

Eiger II: A lame apology and more trouble coming

Latest update on Eiger saga here

Yesterday the outdoor adventure gear brand Eiger got into a hot mess when its Leagal Eagle went a step too far and dissed off YouTubers reviewing their products. (See post here)

By late afternoon the Eiger CEO Ronny Lukito had had enough and decided to take matters into his own hands. He apologized for his Legal Eagle’s letter with his own letter.

All good apologizing but you have to wonder who is advising him on the PR front because the apology was not really an apology. When this happens it usually invites ongoing resentment and possible future attacks.

He started the latter with an apology to the community. He then admitted that the offending letter that had gone viral had indeed been sent by Eiger and they realize that this was a wrong and inappropriate action. So far so good.

Then he had to say that the original intent of the letter was to provide input to the reviewer so they can improve. Bang! Another shot in the foot. Although he tried to paper over the hole with “we realise that how we conveyed that was wrong”, he had stumbled.

This is what communicators classify as mixed messages. It’s when observations, inferences, feelings and wants are jumbled up.

Here it would have been fine if he said that whet they did was wrong, he as CEO takes responsibility for the act, he’s sorry for all the frustrations and angst caused. Instead he went on to explain their intent which still sounds patronizing, because its an outdoor gear maker telling a YouTuber how to improve shooting review videos.

Lukito also left out a vital element of apologies in crisis-like moments. He failed to say what action he’s taking to make sure that this does not happen again. Without stating this he is giving the impression that the company is not taking responsibility for the incident and not interested to learn from their mistakes. At worst, many would think that they will get back to business as usual once this kerfuffle is over.

All this leaves the company open to more criticism if the opportunity arises.

Lo and behold, the opportunity came this morning when some Netizens uncovered an incident where the legal department of Eiger asked the giant online e-commerce site to take down a reseller’s product posting of a Sritex face mask. And Tokopedia complied!

Now it looks like Eiger has not only shot itself on the foot but is also extending its foot fetish toTokopedia.

Like I said yesterday, I think Eiger makes great products. It has also been quite smart and savvy in its design and branding. It is now the victims of its own success but it is something that it can easily fix by seeking professional help.

It takes skill and experience to communicate well. To entrust it to a legal flunky is being careless with your hard worn reputation as it takes skill and experience to communicate well, with authenticity and ethically.

They should seek professional help in the short term while they look to hire an experienced communicator in-house expressly for reputation all management.

I

KPAI isn’t all wrong about PB Djarum

Something important is lost in the rancour against KPAI (The Commission for the Protection of Children) for calling out PB Djarum’s (Djarum Badminton Association) badminton auditions.

KPAI, as we know has accused the cigarette maker Djarum of using its foundation, PB Djarum (Djarum Badminton Association) to exploit children.

To be sure, KPAI has chosen its accusation poorly, using the word manipulate instead of exploitation or a more neutral used. It has caused a groundswell of opinion and invective against its stand, drowning out the one important issue that should be addressed: how should corporations discharge their Corporate Social Responsibility?

If KPAI had been more measured it could have advanced a more persuasive argument against Djarum because it does have a point. Djarum is indeed using PB Djarum to give it visibility in the youth segment where the Djarum tobacco brand has been forbidden to enter.

PB Djarum has undoubtedly contributed immensely to Indonesia’s domination of badminton worldwide/ But setting up a foundation or creating an event that is seemingly divorced from the parent brand’s activities, yet giving the brand a high visibility is one of the oldest tricks in the book of corporate communications.

Why else, you might ask, would the foundation still carry the logo and brand name of the parent brand? In this instance, you cannot look at the PB Djarum logo

Without being reminded of the tobacco company’s parent brand.

Why can’t Djarum (and other Indonesian companies). for instance, adopt the route taken by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that is in part funded by Microsoft Stock dividends. The Foundation’s logo.

And why, among all the gin joints and causes, does Djarum have to alight on a cause to do with the target demographic for continuing tobacco sales? Why can’t it, instead, channel its vast resources in, say, helping improve the lot of tobacco farming families?

Study the marketing campaigns and events of other Tobacco companies and you will see the same cynical insertion of their branding elements.

On the other hand, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation can never be accused

Can never be accused as a vehicle for Microsoft.

The problem in Indonesia, I think, is that most corporations have not thought through the role of business in helping the nation develop economically and socially.

What is their role? How should they go about it? In which causes or issues? And will they have credibility and trust if they proceed.

Many corporations Here grasp at the most convenient concept around: Corporate Social Responsibility.

It’s a concept that sounds nice but is dated and ineffective, especially during these times when trust in business is at an all-time low.

Harvard Business Professor Michael Porter have argued convincingly that CSR doesn’t quite work because it does not reconcile a business’ imperative to make profits with the need to contribute to economic or social development in the Harvard Business Review on Creating Shared Value. Here is a video of Michael Porter speaking on CSV to business leaders

To me CSV makes more sense. It posits the notion that businesses are aware that unless the communities with which they work with prosper, neither can they. As such, the corporations – because of the resources at their disposal – should take the lead in helping these communities generate economic or social value in their activities. By doing this they are effectively creating shared values.

This will help them to rebuild the trust that Business Has been losing ground on. An with this trust comes greater social capital with which they can achieve more and perform better. It’s a virtuous circle.

The KPAI-PB Djarum issue has given us a chance to reexamine and review the role of business in society, especially the businesses in controversial industries such as tobacco, alcohol, large-scale agriculture and mining. because of their huge revenues they are under scrutiny by many activists, NGOs, social organizations and regulators.

Business has a great opportunity to do it right and embrace CSV, or they can continue to dwell in their comfort zones and keep plugging away at CSR – and then wonder why, after all the money and effort they have altruistically committed to an activity, people still distrust them.

Maverick’s views on the Garuda fiasco

This is what I co-wrote with my colleague Marsha Imaniara on the fiasco surrounding Garuda after it issued a circular banning passengers from taking photos and video clips on board its airplanes.

https://m.kumparan.com/marsha-imaniara-1563432131140003103/alasan-garuda-indonesia-terjepit-akibat-menu-tulis-tangan-1rUXfXMLbKX?utm_source=Mobilesite&utm_medium=copy-to-clipboard&utm_campaign=Share

And this is the English version in the Maverick blog

https://maverick.co.id/the-reason-why-garudas-in-a-tight-spot-over-hand-written-menu/

The Monsanto Dossier case puts stakeholder mapping on back footing

It is now being dubbed by the Press as the Monsanto Dossier case, where a usual public affairs practice – stakeholder mapping – is perceived as a crime and a sinister move that violates privacy.

The context: Bayer had hired international PR/PA firms FlieshmanHillard (FH) and Publicis Consultants for public affairs work for its pestiside company Monsanto.  The year was 2016 when there was a high-profile debate on renewing authorization for glyphosate, the key ingredient in its controversial Roundup weedkiller.

FILE PHOTO:    A woman uses a Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller spray without glyphosate in a garden in Ercuis near ParisLike all PR/public affairs outfits FH and Publicis set about trying to know the influencers in this debate. One of them is the media and they compiled information on 200 journalists from public sources and possibly private sources as well.

Learning about the list of journalists, French newspaper Le Monde and broadcaster France 24 filed a complaint with French prosecutors alleging that the list broke several laws:

  • ‘Implementation of the processing of unlawful personal data’;
  • ‘Collection of personal data by fraudulent, dishonest or unlawful means’;
  • ‘Computerized storage of personal data revealing the political and philosophical opinions of a person without his consent’; and
  • ‘Unlawful transfer of personal data which is or is intended for processing to a State not belonging to the European Union or to an international organization’.

Bayer has taken the unusual step of suspending FH and Publicis. It’s actions as well as the complaint by le Monde and France 24, however, rises important questions on where to draw the line where gathering information on professional journalists that can influence the course of debate on an issue.

Stakeholder Mapping is standard practice in public relations and and public affairs. You gather information about stakeholders. There is nothing sinister about this but its a matter of framing.  Supporters of this practice ask how else can you understand and hope to educate or persuade stakeholders on an issue. Opponents, however, see this as some sinister attempt by underground forces to compile dossiers on others for nefarious ends. 

Yet this is a process that we all do, even in our daily lives when we compile a mental list of impressions of people, what their LinkedIn accounts say or do not say, what they like on Facebook and what they post on Instagram.

The line, if one is to be drawn, is between information obtained from public sources including public posts social media, or information obtained from muck raking, including hacking into accounts and databases.

In the meantime, however, all European  companies that have to adhere to the GDPR (general Data Protection Regulation) should keep a close eye on how the Monsanto Dossier case pans out.

For a thorough analysis of this case check out The Holmes Report.

 

 

 

 

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.

190331094527-lucy-flores-exlarge-169.jpg
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.

 

PR 5.0 – the height of ridiculousness

I received this in my inbox today:

PR5.0

PR 5.0? What is that? I thought that PR 4.0 was ridiculous enough but 4.0 at least has some basis. Its unoriginal thinking and cribbing but it borrows from what is considered the Fourth Industrial Revolution where the manufacturing world progresses from computer and automation to cyber physical systems.

4th

I thought it was ridiculous enough to postulate that there is a PR 4.0, as if there are new principles of communications at work when manufacturing has a revolution. But while the dust has yet to settle on 4.0, some speculators with more time than work on their hands have begun speculating of an Industry 5.0 where personalisation is the name of the game.

That may be a big step for industry but does it correlate to even a small step for PR? I can’t see much a connection where the tools and means for personalisation are already here with us today.

That hasn’t stopped organizations like PR Indonesia to cash in on  what they think as the glossiest,  sexiest next wave in PR (that would hopefully attract more paying guests to their workshops).

If they are really ahead of the curve then it would be great and maybe the speakers listed in their flyer can explain what PR 5.0 is all about. But if they aren’t, then it would make them cynical showmen and women trawling for the gullible.

Given the appalling state of the PR Industry – where many so-called PR professionals are so unskilled and uninformed to perform basic PR functions – it would be better for organizations like PR Indonesia to focus on teaching the professionals how to walk than to try to outrun their own competency and the needs of the Indonesian PR industry.

Maybe they should practice ShutUp5.0 instead.