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?

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.

First Media: Snark can’t buy them love

First Media’s blundering tweet last night is a lesson why corporations and brands should be concerned about their social capital.

At about 10pm First Media social media admin thought they’d be clever and ride on the Eiger letter fiasco that earned the ire of Indonesian netizens.

Through its twitter account @FirstMediaCares they posted a letter similar in format to one sent out by Eiger competitor Arei, which was used to shade Eiger’s obtuse letter because its invitation for consumers to review its products was very laid back and inclusive.

Obviously, the First Media admin thought they were being smart and witty. Afterall, many companies had done the same and they raised a chuckle and approving plaudits from Netizens.

The posting attracted the attention of Uber influencer Ernest Prakarsa who simply commented: “Aduh. First Media. Aduh.”

He followed this with another tweet saying “Heads gonna roll” and attached the image of the First Media letter.

What followed was a long chain of replies and comments from other Netizens and disgruntled First media customers spewing invective with the common refrain: get the bloody service right before trying something snarky

PANIC!

The First Media admin began their first aid by deleting the posting with the image of the letter, thinking that they could mitigate the barrage of criticism.

As always, on the internet once something is posted there is bound to be a Smart Alec out there who has downloaded or screen captured the image. You just can’t put the Jinn back into the bottle.

True enough, netizens began posting the taken down image and First Media became the laughing stock on Twitter.

This incident provides a good example why corporations without strong social capital are often attacked and criticized.

Social Capital is about a network of relationships built on shared values, trust, cooperation and reciprocity. In other words you have to take care of your stakeholders and win their trust instead of just taking their money and shafting them when it comes to after sales service.

Social Capital, if you observe from the many complaints and invective of dissatisfied and angry customers directed to First Media on social media, is something that the company obviously has a deficit of.

As such trust in the company is low and at any given opportunity the tendency of its users is to trash it. Even an innocuous attempt at humor like the letter last night backfires because the brand has such low social capital.

What can the brand do? It can start by listening to its customers and acting on their complaints for a start. The number of people who feel like they were banging their heads against a wall when trying to get First Media to restore their service is legendary.

I know that there are many disgruntled First Media customers out there. If any of you are disgruntled and think First Media is unresponsive or ineffective in servicing you, just leave a comment below for them to know how low their Social Capital is among their most important stakeholder – you the consumer.

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

Kurawa, Big Media, and the GoodBener who would be president

A battle royale is raging on Twitter between established online media houses including kompas.com, kumparan.com and professional buzzer @Kurawa and so far there have been threats of legal suits, applying the Draconian UU ITE and others.

The story unfolded on January 5 when Rudy Valinka, aka @kurawa, tweeted an accusation against Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan for media placement carrying the messages that he was GoodBener (rally good, a play on Gubener) to become President. Kurawa said it must have cost a few hundred million rupiahs, an unnecessary expense that could have been used to alleviate the plight of flood victims.

 

 

He then followed up with screen grabs of how several media outlets seem to have similar headlines and quotes.

Here’s one from Kumparan.com

 

 

This one from detik.com

 

And this one from Kompas.com

Then @Kurawa started saying he was disappointed by kompas.com for receiving a media placement from Anies, as he thought that Kompas.com was really objective.

@Kurawa also attacked other media, including Jawa Post. The editor replied to him on Twitter saying that their reporter had not ”complied with proper procedures” when uploading this story and they were therefore removing their story.

Kompas  fought back, saying that their journalist wrote the original story and others had copied their content. Kumparan also disagreed to allegations. From there, as with the way of social media, things all got heated up and murky because everyone started weighing in.

There was talk of lawsuits, the use of the UU ITE, going to the press council and other remedies. As usual, everyone had strong opinions.

What lessons can the rest of us get from this incident? Here’s Unspun’s list:

1. Kurawa may or may not have jumped to a premature conclusion that the publications all had been bought over by Anies to report the incident. The media, however,  still needs to look at themselves and how they report the news

2. What’s obvious is that there was a lot of cut-and-paste and story/photo sharing on the level of the reporters. How   This managed to evade the scrutiny of the editors is the real story here. And even if they had, surely a good editor would look at the competitors’ stories the next day and call in the reporters for the cut-and-paste stories?

3. The established media’s standards have been dropping for a long time and they are not functioning as a vigilant Forth Estate should. Issues and incidents arise and just as fast sink into obscurity and neglect. There is no follow-through of stories to their end. Hard questions are not asked.

4. The established media houses should realize that the only way they can recover from this tailspin of diminishing advertising revenues is to boost their credibility. It is only with good, hard reporting that they can stand any chance of staying alive, let alone return to profitability. The Guardian is a good example where good journalism pays.

In a time in Indonesia when all the three estates of the country – the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary – have shown themselves to be dysfunctional, it is more important now than ever for the Press – the Fourth Estate – to  provide the checks and balances that would ensure that Indonesia remain a vibrant democracy.

One can only hope that this incident forces everyone involved to do some introspection of their rights and obligations to Indonesian society, and then go ahead to discharge them.

 

 

 

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

Tremble Facebook, Google and WhatsApp because the FPI is onto you

The FPI is known for many things but not exactly for digital or intellectual prowess. But no more. The FPI’s Secretary General for Jakarta Novel Bakumin has a novel suggestion for the faithful to avoid those Satan-inspired search engines and chat platforms with good ole Indonesian ones.

Novel imparted the information for the interview with Tirto via WhatsApp.

FPI Promosikan 3 Aplikasi Pengganti Facebook, WhatsApp, dan Google

 

FPI Promosikan 3 Aplikasi Pengganti Facebook, WhatsApp, dan Google
Ilustrasi Front Pembela Islam (FPI). Tirto.id/Andrey Gromico

  • Novel Bamukmin

    Novel Bamukmin

    tiMeter: -33

Reporter: M. Ahsan Ridhoi
25 Desember, 2017dibaca normal 1 menit
Novel mengirimkan tiga tautan situs aplikasi alternatif untuk menggantikan Facebook http://redaksitimes.com, pengganti Google http://geevv.com, dan pengganti WhatsApp http://callind.com.

tirto.id – Front Pembela Islam (FPI) membuktikan pernyataan mereka tentang boikot menggunakan Facebook tepat di hari Natal, Senin (25/12/2017). Sekjen DPD FPI DKI Jakarta, Novel Bamukmin mengatakan pihaknya sudah menemukan aplikasi media sosial yakni Geevv, Callind, dan Redaksitimes.

Kepada Tirto, Novel mengirimkan tiga tautan situs aplikasi alternatif untuk menggantikan Facebookhttp://redaksitimes.com, pengganti Googlehttp://geevv.com, dan pengganti WhatsApphttp://callind.com.

Menurut Novel, ketiga aplikasi tersebut masih dalam tahap pengembangan, tapi sudah layak untuk digunakan dan bisa dijadikan alternatif selain FacebookWhatsApp, dan Google yang menurutnya produk Amerika Serikat.

“Cintai produk-produk Indonesia untuk kebangkitan bangsa,” kata Novel kepada Tirto saat dihubungi melalui pesan WhatsApp.

Reporter: M. Ahsan Ridhoi

25 Desember, 2017

Ketiga aplikasi masih dalam tahap pengembangan, tapi sudah layak untuk digunakan.

Novel mengirimkan tiga tautan situs aplikasi alternatif untuk menggantikan Facebook http://redaksitimes.com, pengganti Google http://geevv.com, dan pengganti WhatsApp http://callind.com. tirto.id – Front Pembela Islam (FPI) membuktikan pernyataan mereka tentang boikot menggunakan Facebook tepat di hari Natal, Senin (25/12/2017).

Sekjen DPD FPI DKI Jakarta, Novel Bamukmin mengatakan pihaknya sudah menemukan aplikasi media sosial yakni Geevv, Callind, dan Redaksitimes. Kepada Tirto, Novel mengirimkan tiga tautan situs aplikasi alternatif untuk menggantikan Facebook: http://redaksitimes.com, pengganti Google: http://geevv.com, dan pengganti WhatsApp: http://callind.com.

Menurut Novel, ketiga aplikasi tersebut masih dalam tahap pengembangan, tapi sudah layak untuk digunakan dan bisa dijadikan alternatif selain Facebook, WhatsApp, dan Google yang menurutnya produk Amerika Serikat.

“Cintai produk-produk Indonesia untuk kebangkitan bangsa,” kata Novel kepada Tirto saat dihubungi melalui pesan WhatsApp.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding a role at The Palm Scribe

Recently I added another role to my LinkedIn account and have since been getting lots of well wishes but also a number of concerned questions on whether I had stopped working at Maverick to become advisor at The Palm Scribe.

So here’s a note of explanation to the concerned and the curious.

Palm Scribe Logo

The first thing to point out is that the new title does not change anything at Maverick.

I continue to work there but because I’ve been fortunate to have found a very capable team who are able to take over much of what I do, I have decided to take Fridays off to reflect and have some me time; as well as to take on more of a mentor and advisory rather than operational role.

At the end of the day, however, this is a people and relationship business and if the clients need me I’m always there for them.

In the meantime, however, I’ve taken on the role as advisor in a platform run under the auspices of Maverick, The Palm Scribe.

What is The Palm Scribe?

In short The Palm Scribe is a platform that supports the development of the Indonesian palm oil industry through constructive journalism.

Like all elevator pitches, that description is meant to pique rather than provide a comprehensive explanation.

So if you’re piqued here’s the reasoning behind The Palm Scribe.

To start with, consider the palm oil industry.

It is complex and controversial because it is the frontline of many opposing issues: Sustainability vs environmental destruction, conversation vs deforestation, development vs conservation, East versus West, developed vs developing countries, palm oil vs soy, people vs big business, NGOs vs planters…

Strong opinions are expressed on all sides but the playing field is a bit uneven as its tilted in favor of the Western/Green advocates. There are several reasons why this is so.

  1. The Western players are more sophisticated in lobbying and communication techniques. They take their communications seriously and are more able to put their side of the story across. Their Asian/African counterparts do not take communications seriously and are usually outflanked.
  2. NGOs are social media savvy. They are hungrier because they have to earn their funding and as a result they are more innovative and creative in using paid, earned, shared and owned media to make themselves known. Many of them also realize that to persuade is to appeal to the emotions first and foremost an they succeed admirably.
  3. The mainstream media is devastated by falling readership and revenue. As a result they have few journalists and resources left to raise the right questions and issues and to ask the right questions of and hold accountable the policymakers, players and NGOs. Reactive journalism, click baiting stories and cut and paste reporting happens more often than we would want them to be.
  4. Most journalists think that palm oil players are slimeballs because they often do not act like they are open, accessible or accountable. Combined with #3, they are disposed to carry any attacks on the palm oil players prominently and tag on their responses (if they get around to issuing one at all in a timely manner) later in the story. By then the damage is done.
  5. The palm oil players themselves are bad communicators. Many of them are owned and run by business people more accustomed to deal making in backrooms than realizing that public opinion can affect their businesses. Others are run by families where bloodlines rather than competencies determine who is the decision maker. The result is that there are almost no oil palm player that can communicate in a persuasive, authentic and credible manner.
  6. Ineffective committees and trade associations. Apart from Malaysia that has quite an active lobbying and communications effort, their Indonesian counterparts are more mired in bureaucracy and pleasing all stakeholders rather than projecting a favorable image for the industry.
  7. Most importantly, however, because of all the elements mentioned above the public discourse on palm oil has gone askew. There is a world shortage of food and in edible oil that will be more acute with time. Of all the oil crops, palm oil is the most efficient oil to help address this shortage. As such you would think that the discourse on palm oil should be on how to make the industry strong, viable and sustainable. Unfortunately, however, most of the conversation and discourse on palm oil is about violations to conservation and sustainability standards (some arbitrarily advanced by this body or that) and the wrongdoings of the players. Something needs to be done about this if palm oil is indeed the crop for the future.

Having helped some palm oil companies manage attacks agains them as well as helping to tell their side of the story when it coms to sustainability issues, one of the things I realized is that many of the palm players are so traumatized by what they perceive is an antagonistic media/NGO environment that they do not know what to do. So many of them opt to keep their heads below the parapet instead. This does not serve them well because every negative story or article gets accumulated in Google and when investors and others want to find out about you, guess where they go to first?

Out of all this the idea of The Palm Scribe was born. Instead of fault-finding journalism we would adopt the principles of Constructive Journalism (a concept I personally poo pooed until I started to research more about it).

We would cover the palm oil industry, raise the issues that ned to be raised, ask the right questions. We would focus on the solutions the companies adopt or put in place in response to allegations of wrong doing. And we would also provide them a “non-editorial” space on our website to showcase their CSR, sustainability and community engagement efforts as well as space of their announcements and press releases.

In going into this we were aware that the success of such a platform rests on its credibility, judged by the quality of it content. As such, we scouted around and was fortunate to be able to enlist the talents of Bhimanto Suwasteyo, a veteran Indonesian journalist who has worked for AFP for years and one of the founding editors of The Jakarta Globe to generate our content. He works with Wicaksono, better known as Ndoro Kakung, who is a very respected name in social media circles, as well as a team that supports the content generation in the platform.

On the question of credibility, some might question whether a platform run by a PR consultancy can be trusted not to spin things. To them I can only say that if they understand what PR truly does they would understand that it is about getting companies and clients to communicate authentically and credibly. You cannot do that if your words are not matched with your actions.

Will The Palm Scribe work? Who knows. We live in an age of disruption where old ways of doing things no longer work and nobody can say with great certainty what does and what does not. We at Maverick think that this is worth a try because if we succeed we could potentially change how companies in controversial industries can communicate.

If you are still interested in The Palm Scribe, write to me at ong[at]maverick.co.id or check out its website.

Some questions about #SayaPancasila

The hallmark of a good campaign is that it spurs public discourse on a particular subject. In this sense, the #SayaPancasila campaign can be said to be successful, if the preponderance of the hashtag and profile pictures bering the message on social media are concerned.

Effective public discourse, however, exists when there are differences of opinion and when the participants abide by rules of rhetorical fair play. So here goes Unspun‘s contribution to the public discourse on the#SayaPancasila campaign.

Three questions spring to mind from all the #SayaIndonesia and #SayaPancasila profile photos being used on Facebook Instagram and other social media channels:

  1. Are atheists allowed to proclaim #SayaPancasila? Pancasila requires the belief God, in whatever form she exists. Arising from this should there be a discussion on which is more appropriate for Indonesia today – a concept from 1945 repurposed to knit together Indonesia in 2017; or would Embracing Diversity be a more appropriate idea to campaign on?
  2. When people these days declare #SayaPancasila can it be taken as their full subscription to the five principles formulated by Sukarno in 1945 as an instrument to rally people round Indonesian Nationalism? Or is it more a talisman to signal their rejection of the more extreme and intolerant elements of Indonesia today, i.e. Rizieq and the FPI as well as other assorted hardliners? There is a difference here: one is an embrace of something, another is a rejection of another thing.
  3. Are all these declarations of #SayaPancasila on the internet missing the target? One of the things the internet is notorious for is to create bubbles where like-minded people reinforce their own ideas and convictions. How many of these #SayaPancila proclamations are actually seen by the real targets? These are the 50+ percent who voted for Anies, the thousands of easter-clad protesters who came out on 212 and other demonstrations, that part of Indonesia who get their information more from mosques and grassroots institutions than the social media. There is also the question of whether seeing such #SayaPancasila declarations would persuade them to change their minds or reinforce their believes so that they dig down even deeper in the embrace of hardline attitudes and beliefs.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that any effort to claw Indonesia back from the clutches of the hardliners is something good for this country and society. But will it be effective? Or wilt be a distraction when resources could have been channeled elsewhere for greater effect?

So where do people stand on these three questions?

 

 

 

So who’s behind #NoWitchHuntKarHut?

Update August 28: One of the buzzers involved in the campaign has admitted to being asked to Tweet, the client remains a mystery, and he has apologised for taking on the assignment here.  Unspun thinks it takes a big man to admit that they were wrong and to ask for forgiveness. Perhaps the Netizens should cut him some slack from now on.

Since my post some netizens have named the alleged digital agency and one of them have come up with a shitlist of all the buzzers involved. The company or alliance financing the campaign remains a mystery (at least to Unspun).

The original post:

The hashtag #NoWitchHuntKarHut (KarHut stands for Kebakaran Hutan or Forest Fire) began life on Twitter ostensibly on August 20, three days ago, by a buzzer. It sat there innocuously until this morning, when it seemingly caused a civil war among the Twitterati of Indonesia.

What was it about and why did it cause such a furore?

burning-13As far as can be pieced together the hashtag was a campaign initiated by a digital agency based in Jakarta. It gathered and paid some buzzers to use the hastag and get through the message that large corporations have been unfairly singled out when apportioning blame for forest fires. The unfairness resulted from the fact that smaller corporations were just as guilty for starting forest fires.

All sorts of buzzers were recruited, even those who normally would be more comfortable with lifestyle and consumer consumption than environment and public affairs. They were apparently told by the digital agency that the campaign was also an Indonesian reaction against Singapore that has been trying to assert pressure on Indonesia. Naively some of the buzzers swallowed that story, hook, line and sinker.

So when the buzzers got to work, a civil war, not unlike that in  Marvel comic that many of them are fond of,  broke out between them and the other buzzers who smelt something fishy about their fellow-buzzers suddenly taking up the cause of Big Palm Oil. Not being wall flowers, they spoke, or rather tweeted their minds, and soon there seemed to be a groundswell of sentiment against their fellow buzzers that had apparently sold out to land grubbing, environment-destroying, cynical large corporations.

The war  got so bad that one prominent buzzer was reported to have closed his account because of all the criticisms he was receiving.

Being curious about such things and having a suspicious mind Unspun thought that the usual large corporation suspects were behind the move so he checked with friends he had in their woodwork. They told him that they were flummoxed as anyone as to who was behind the campaign as they weren’t. These are friends, not the organisations, talking so Unspun tended to give them the benefit of the doubt.

So if it is not the usual suspects who could it be? Who was sophisticated enough to engineer a campaign ostensibly on behalf of the large corporations but in reality aimed to discredit them? And who else would have the kind of money to pay the digital agency to run the campaign and pay the buzzers? And why that peculiar hashtag #NoWitchHuntKarHut? It is a clumsily long hashtag. The use of the “no withch hunt” idiom suggests a Western mind or one brought up on western education (or an agency whose strategy is led by a Westerner).

One source, who corroborated on the identity of the agency, said he heard that an alliance of companies (that was not part of the usual suspects) was behind the funding of the campaign. But there was no more information. This deepens the mystery. Are there other players out there out there trying to discredit the established Big Boys? Who would gain from such a move, if true? Are we about to see a round of musical chairs in the Palm Oil industry? What is going on?

The incredible silence and welcome to China’s effrontery to Malaysia

Something incredible, unprecedented and potentially dangerous happened in Malaysia last Friday that most Malaysians do not seem to have paid much notice to.

In fact many of the Malaysian Chinese actually welcomed it, fed up as they were by Malay hooligans trying to stir up Malay supremacist and anti-Chinese sentiments in Malaysia.

Photo from Free Malaysia Today: “He was there to assure Chinese traders that they will be safe tomorrow and that the police were watching over them in the event there was trouble.”

The incident took place in Petaling Street, an enclave of Chinese traders and shopkeepers right smack in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, that has become the symbol of Chinese presence in Malaysia ever since the Red Shirt Rally on September 16.

Before we go on, a bit of context for those that don’t follow Malaysian political developments closely. The Malaysian Prime Minister is in trouble, not least because of his own stupidity. Already unpopular, he was caught with a smoking gun – US$700 million deposited in his personal account.

His refusal to explain how a large sum come to be in his account, apart from it being from a mysterious Middle East donor, has added to the attacks on him and his government. Adding on the pressure was a huge rally of about 500,000 people that was organised by Bersih, originally an elections watchdog grouping on August 29.

Besieged, Najib or his followers retaliated with a Red Shirt Rally on September 16. The Red Shirts ostensibly were rallying to protect “Malay dignity” and the disrespect the Chinese (the predominant ethnic group in the Bearish rally) have shown to the Malays and their leader, Najib. During their rally a group of the Red Shirts attempted to enter Petaling Street but they were stopped by Malaysia’s Federal Reserve Unit, a specialist division of the police that deals with crowd control.

They were left licking their wounds but threatened to stage a comeback on September 26 where the Red Shirts would enter Petaling Street to stage a protest and demand better conditions for Malay traders so they can also do business there. That was the ostensible reason but in the meantime the organiser Jamal Yunos threatened violence and was, rightly arrested by the police on September 25, a day before the planned rally.

In the meantime, though, the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Hui Kang made a bizarre visit to the traders at Petaling Street on the evening of September 26 where he calmed the nerves of the traders by saying, as reported by Free Malaysia Today:

PETALING JAYA: China’s Ambassador to Malaysia has stated his firm belief that all Malaysians, save a handful, already enjoyed racial harmony and appealed to those bent on causing trouble tomorrow, to kindly refrain from doing so.

At a press conference, after distributing mooncakes to those present, Huang Hui Kang said, “I believe that 99 per cent of the Chinese and Malays live harmoniously and only a small number of them want to cause trouble tomorrow.

“We told businesspeople here that they can open as usual tomorrow if they want but if they feel unsafe, the choice is theirs to close instead.”

He also said that the traders at Petaling Street only wanted to carry out their business in peace and that for those who chose to open tomorrow, the police would be on standby to offer security in the event there was trouble.

“So far, about 50 per cent of traders, which equals to around 600 in number, are still fearful of opening tomorrow. However we will keep abreast of the news and act accordingly,” he said.

If you look at the social media feeds, his actions have been lauded and praised. The Chinese welcomed his comments and visit as a show of solidarity and brotherhood. Some even gave the impression that they would welcome China being their benefactor.

Others, including Chinese and Malay leaders in the Government and Opposition have been strangely silent. Only Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry, Wisma Putra, seems to be concerned by this development and has leaked the news that they will be summoning the Chinese Ambassador  for a discussion.

Where foreign relations go this is an incredible development on some levels.

On one level you have China blatantly meddling in the internal affairs of another sovereign country. The ambassador was making statements more appropriate for a Malaysian Minister than an envoy. Who begs the question of whether his message and gesture was sanctioned by China’s government. If it had been we should all shudder as you ask what China has to gain by stoking the racial fire. If it had not, was the Ambassador totally out of line and why has he not been recalled yet? The Chinese Embassy’s explanation sounds as credible as Mao doing a hip hop song. 

On another level, the Malaysian Chinese are making a grave mistake by accepting the Ambassador’s words and deeds as a sign of solidarity and empathy. The ancestors of the malaysian Chinese have been migrating out of China for at least the last couple of centuries – and for good reason, China is not a place that they would want to live in because of the socio, political and economic hardships. IN the intervening years, whole generation of Malaysian Chinese have grown up in a different political and social environment. The last thing they would want is China dictating their politics and social norms. China’s interest is not necessarily the same as those of the Malaysian Chinese and they should never forget that. Yet no prominent Chinese leader has come forward to denounce the Ambassador’s blatant assault to Malaysia’s sovereignty. And why? Because what’s popular now among the Chinese is anything slamming Najib and Umno. They won’t do the right but popular thing. 

 

On the third level is the response of the government. Has it become so weak that Wisma Putra has to leak stories to the media that it was summoning the Ambassador to chastise him? His offence has very clearly broken diplomatic protocols. Will this weakness lead to even bolder moves by China? The only criticism so far has come from the Government mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia and Umno Youth but no officials?