Running out of good sense?

The Nike Bajak Jakarta run yesterday has propelled itself into a storm of controversy because of the massive traffic jams it caused in the city. The reason why it caused gridlock in the traffic was because Nike decided to hold the run in a busy part of town at 4pm on a Saturday – when traffic is at the best of times heavy.

(Note: for a first hand runners account read Romeo Gadungan’s posting here)

What ensued are furious commuters forced unnecessarily to sit in their cars or on their bikes as runners, egged on by Nike Indonesia’s tagline #BajakJKT and slogan of “You Vs JKT”, smugly showed their mastery on the roads with their branded and expensive shoes, heart rate monitors, water bottle holders and other accessories.

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This smugness caused even more resentment on the part of the fuming commuters  against the runners and the brand. How would you feel when, after fuming for hours on the road, you checked your twitter feed and you see lots of complaints on one hand and self-congratulating, self-congratulating runners on the other?

Runners are now being called douchebags, hipsters etc.

Nuelhip

This is not entirely fair to the runners but Unspun thinks that there is a lesson to be learned here by runners, bikers and other performing athletic feats on public roads: Jakarta roads are already crowded with too much traffic, so if you get a chance to use these roads you need to be aware that you are sharing these roads and you need to be considerate to the motorists.

Too often Unspun has seen runners and cyclists (and Harley Davidson owners too, although they somehow don’t fit into the athletic category) acting as if they owned the road during Sundays and when they are out in packs. They expect all other motorists and commuters to give way to them or be bawled out by them.

Most of the runners on the Nike run, however, were the victims of enthusiasm to the point of not exercising running prudence, perhaps because of the desperation to do something physical and outdoors in shopping mall-obsessed Jakarta.

So many of them signed up for the run even when they did not know the route and time of the Bajak Jakarta run.

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If you are into running (and Unspun knows a little about this, having completed two marathons and several 10Ks and half marathons, albeit about 3 decades ago) you would want to be fussy about the route, the organisation (does it look like they will have good traffic control, crowd control, first aid, water, is it hilly or flat etc) and definitely the time.

We are living in the equatorial region. It gets very hot very quickly once the sun rises. It is for this reason that most runs are timed at 5am or so because by the time it gets to be about 9am it starts to get scorchingly hot for runners.

The other reason why runs are scheduled so early is because there is still little traffic on the roads thereby causing minimal disruption to the other road users.

Why Nike, a brand that must have deep experience in running and organizing such events chose to have it at 4pm in a busy part of town is intriguing to say the least unless it too is inflicted with her mentality when it comes to running.

Over the past two years, we have seen the rise of running as the sport of choice for hip, young and not to young Jakartans. The fact that they can now clock their performance on electronic gadgets and then show them off to the world through apps such as Nike’s +,  Endomondo, ICardio and Runkeeper has helped to fuel the popularity of running (and also cycling).

The popularity has reached such a stage that any enthusiastic but unimaginative marketeer will suggest to their bosses to hold a run if the brand wants to “connect” with the masses and the young.

So we have seen a plethora of runs happening almost every week being sponsored by all sorts of companies with the money such as insurance companies, health product manufacturers and banks (although the irony of a bank run does not seem to have fazed them).

This eagerness has resulted in some less than well organised events. In the Standard Chartered Half Marathon recently, for instance, the organisers ran out of water in the later checkpoints causing some runners to suffer from dehydration. Two were hospitalised. One of them apparently had a heart attack.

It is perhaps time for every body involved in such public runs to get together to discuss how to ensure that runs do take into account the safety and health of the runners as well as the commuters.

From the city government that issues permits, to the police who are in charge of diverting and directing traffic, to the athletic bodies, event organisers and sponsors, there should be clear guidelines on the timing, route, logistics and safety provisions for the runners.

Runners should also be more discerning about which events they join. There is no lack of choice these days so unless organisers publish the timing and the routes before hand, they should not sign up like desperados. Force them to be more responsible or they won’t get your participation.

Running is a great sport and recreation. Runs can be enjoyable – both of runners and the rest of the people they share the road with. But like that Sub 4 that most marathoners aim for, you need to work hard at it. Now hit the road!

A sorry apology over the “opportunity” arising from Robin Williams’ death

This is a timely reminder for all of us in the communications industry not to get carried away by our literary abilities and thought leadership skills, to the extent that we become insensitive on matters that matter to people most.

A mistake has been made, an apology issued but I wonder what PR professionals would make of the Twitter apology? To me it did not go enough. There was no mea culpa and then it segued straight into intent. It falls short of an ernest apology, especially for professional wordsmiths.

Personally I am saddened by the death of Robin Williams, who has been a part of so much of the lives of  people of my generation since Mork and Mindy days.

That he apparently committed suicide because depression only goes to show how vulnerable we all are to this condition. The role that depression plays in our lives, especially when we get older, is rap and scary. We all need to learn more about depression and its link with Alzheimer’s Disease.

RIP Robin Williams.

PR Giant Edelman Apologizes for Calling Robin Williams Death an Opportunity

But says blog post on sparking mental health discussion will remain live

By David GrinerAugust 14, 2014, 10:40 AM

Robin Williams died Monday. Authorities say he committed suicide. | Photo: Jay Paul/Getty Images

 

Edelman is usually tapped with helping brands avoid or disentangle themselves from public backlash, but the global PR firm instead found itself in the hot seat this week.At issue was a blog post from media relations strategy evp Lisa Kovitz, who said the suicide of comedian Robin Williams created a PR opportunity for groups advocating for better treatment of mental illness.

“As we mourn the loss of Robin Williams to depression, we must recognize it as an opportunity to engage in a national conversation,” she wrote. “His death yesterday created a carpe diem moment for mental health professionals and those people who have suffered with depression and want to make a point about the condition and the system that treats it.”

While she certainly has a point about such a high-profile tragedy bringing mental health and depression into the spotlight, quite a few readers found the post to be in poor taste.

Most of the backlash likely stemmed from Gawkers writeup calling Edelman a “soulless PR conglomerate” using a celebritys suicide to promote its own expertise.

Asked by Adweek whether she regretted the phrasing or the intent of the blog post, Kovitz directed us to Edelmans tweet of apology this morning:

 

Despite the companys apology, Kovitz said the blog post “will remain live.” Most critics of the post said they felt it was positioned as a sales message for the PR agency:”Using someones death as an opportunity to position yourself as THE PR company to walk potential clients through the best way to benefit from this conversation is callous,” said commenter Erin Blaskie, who shared her complaint with her 30,000 Twitter followers as well. “Instructing potential clients to pay your firm money to help them take advantage of this situation is gross. This isnt a PR opportunity. This is someones life lost.”

via PR Giant Edelman Apologizes for Calling Robin Williams Death an Opportunity | Adweek.

(Disclosure: I run a communications consultancy that sometimes competes with Edelman’s local operations, but this posting has more to do with how the profession should behave rather than about  competitor firm) 

 

Something to like: Friends of Captain Zaharie MH370 Facebook page

If you are family or friend of Captain Zaharie, the pilot of MH370 that went missing more than 10 days ago and feel that much of what is being said about him was unfair, careless or plain sensationalism, what would you do?

You could face the media but that would be a huge strain. The pressure would be enormous, you would be subjected to a public inquisition and a small slip of the tongue could crucify you and reflect badly on the Captain. And even if you are good with the media you could still be subject to misinterpretation and misquotes.

Yet you feel that you need to set the record straight on some matters. In the captain’s case, some media reported that authorities raided his house and confiscated his home-made simulator when apparently the facts are that they want to the house and respectfully asked if they could inspect it. Th family cooperated fully and even helped to dismantle it. It was a picture of cooperation, not of authorities busting into the defensive home of a political fanatic.

What do you do? For Captain Zaharie’s family and friends their answer lies with starting a Facebook Page “Friends of Captain Zaharie MH370“.

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It would have been better if they had identified who exactly was hosting the page to give it more credibility but under the circumstances this was enough and they have taken to providing information and clearing the air about misreports and misinterpretations.

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                     Continue Reading

This is smart use of social media during a crisis-like situation and corporations would do well to take a leaf from the Captain’s family and friends for their own crisis moments.

And why not? The Internet now allows almost anyone to own their own media. You could, in short order, set up a blog or reconfigure your webpage, set up a Facebook page and a twitter account, or use your existing one with a particular hashtag to do what the Captain’s friends have just done.

What you can do then is post notes to inform or announce information, or correct misinformation. If you want to go further you could also post your own videoclips and even open up a “press room” where you take the media’s questions and answer them through the net. The journalists would not like this very much as it takes too much control out of them, but what choice do they have if that is the only source of timely information from you?

This is not to say that a corporation should eschew the traditional face-to-face interviews, briefings and press conferences but social media now allows you to have a medium where you too can be a broadcaster to take the monopoly of power from the mass media.

Yet this is something corporations don’t do enough when confronted with emergencies and crises.is it because bad habits are hard to break, or that they feel that they are not engaging enough unless you do things in the real rather than the virtual world?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does Malaysia Airlines instil confidence in its handling of MH370 incident?

When tragedy strikes, like it has with the disappearance of flight MH370, the company at the centre of it all comes under intense scrutiny. It must demonstrate that it knows what it is doing and has a difficult situation under control – or lose the confidence of the public and all other stakeholders.

If it loses control of the situation it will plunge itself into a deeper crisis as all the frustration and anger of missing loved ones come to bear full force on it.

Fortunately for the families and loved ones of MH370, however, Malaysia Airlines has so far has demonstrated its professionalism in handling this crisis-like situation. Their burden remains heavy, but they can at least take comfort that CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya and his team know what they are doing.

How can you tell if they are doing a good job?  There are several tell tale signs.

The first is that Ahmad and Malaysia Airlines’ willingness to share information. Perhaps a bit slow off the block Ahmad nevertheless addressed the issue in a Press Conference yesterday where he expressed sympathy for the friends and families of the victims, told the public what they did and did not know yet, and what they are doing. This is the Triple R of crisis communications – Regret, Reason and Remedy.

The other indication of what sort of a company Malaysia Airlines is when it comes to crisis management can be seen very evidently  from how it manages its digital assets because in this age of the super-connected public, they are the first points of contact for most people around the world who are interested in the developments of the search and rescue and recovery of MH370 and its passengers and crew. The digital assets are primarily its website, as well as its social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook.

Companies trained in crisis management usually have a Dark Site prepared for incidents such as MH370. A Dark Site is a “dormant” website that is stripped of all promotion materials and designed to provide information and updates about the incident. It is activated only during crisis-like situations.

If you go to the Malaysian Airlines website you will see that they have stripped their website of all promotional materials, with a prominent “pointer” to the Dark Site.

MAS Website

Click on that and you go directly to the Dark Site where you get the latest information that the company has on the incident.

MAS Darksite

But Malaysian Airlines does not stop there. Go to their Facebook page and you will see the same messages being posted to amplify their message on the website. The Facebook page is also stripped of all colour and the airlines logo is grey together with a grey background, to prevent any inadvertent visuals that may not be appropriate for the mood.

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This same treatment is also applied to its Twitter account which is also used to amplify the message on its website.

MAS Twitter

Such coordination and activation within hours of the incident suggests a company that takes crisis management seriously and has drilled its employees to be able to carry out such tasks under the pressure of public scrutiny. It should give confidence to the public that Ahmad Jauhari Yahya and his Core Crisis Management Team at Malaysia Airlines are competent, professional and know what they are doing.

In difficult times like this, such professionalism should be a source of comfort for aggrieved families and friends of the passengers of MH370.

 

Are Buzzers worth hiring at all?

The real question that needs to be asked is: “Are Buzzers worth hiring at all?”

All but the most naive of Indonesia’s Twittersphere have come to realise that these Buzzers are all hired guns and will tweet on any product – politicians, soap, aphrodisiacs, milk, slimming powders, you name it – for the right price.

Knowing this they don’t believe them or are not influenced by their endorsers. So why pay for buzzers at all?

The reason why so many politicians and brand managers still do is that they are lazy and have no clue how to connect with today’s savvy, hyperlinked and skeptical audiences.

They can’t get their act together to figure who their actual audience is, what makes them tick and how generate their own content that is relevant and engaging.

So they take the easy way out and hire Buzzers. The question that arises here is why aren’t the CEOs wise to this and put a stop to this futile practice?

Media monitor gives Twitter advice to political parties | The Jakarta Post.

Political parties and politicians need to consider more than just how many followers as Twitter user has when looking at hiring “buzzers” for the 2014 general election, a media monitoring company says.

“The number of followers alone does not guarantee the success of engagement created via the buzzer. There are other factors to analyze and measure,” Awesometrics business analyst Hari Ambari said in an official release on Wednesday.

Awesometrics gave a number of examples, such as actor Ringgo Agus Rahman who charged Rp 5 million per message on Twitter to promote a campaign to his 1.7 million followers, while professional corporate worker Henry Manampiring could charge between Rp 5 million and Rp 15 million to “buzz” his 70,000-plus followers.

The comparison clearly showed that users with larger amounts of followers did not always receive higher prices for a “buzz”.

Hari said political parties and politicians who wished to use buzzers had to consider four other factors: the Twitter user’s potential reach, reputation, usual topics and engagement with their followers.

 

Jilbab Hitam and Waiting for Godot

Regular readers of Unspun will know that this blog takes interest in journalistic developments in Indonesia and elsewhere.  The interest comes from Unspun having been a journalist for many years before he “sublimated” into a communications consultant.

Readers will know from the two previous posts that Unspun found the Jilbab Hitam issue fascinating since it involves several prominent names, the allegations of a putative ex-Tempo journalist and of extortion of well-known institutions.

That, however, was where Unspun’s involvement with the case ends. Ditto Maverick, the communications firm where Unspun works at.

It was therefore very surprising last Thursday night when the names of Unspun and Maverick started cropping up on Twitter. The head of a research firm in Indonesia (let’s call him Godot), who is also an occasional newspaper contributor and commentator on anything from politics to economics had insinuated that Maverick was involved with a corporation (let’s call it AA), whose name had been bandied about as the possible instigator behind the Jilbab Hitam posting in Kompasiana.

AA was supposed to be involved, so the rumour mill has it, because they wanted payback for a book claiming to expose questionable practices in the corporation.

Now, sometime during the last week or so a blogger, who had almost the same name as one of our employees (let’s call him RF) , had posted an opinion piece in a Detik.com blog criticising the book. In the posting the blogger had said that he was a student of a lecturer  in University Indonesia who had also earlier posted a critique of the book in Kompasiana.

The detik.com posting sent Godot’s research juices flowing and somehow (presumably through something more sophisticated than a Google search, for he is, after all, a researcher) he came up with the allegation that Maverick and RF were in cahoots with AA to run down the author of the investigative boo. Without further ado Godot started to post Tweets about his suspicions.

As with most things that come up out of  the blue, Maverick’s crisis management training has taught us to seek and verify facts before reacting rashly. So we methodologically called up RF’s personnel files and found out that unlike Godot’s insinuations, RF did not go to school in University Indonesia. We then asked RF if he had known the particular lecturer. Negative. Had RF written any opinion pieces and posted them on any blogs, let alone Detik.com? Negative. Curiouser and curiouser.

We then went on the next stage of fact-finding. Going to source is usually the most reliable means of arriving at the truth. So since Twitter seemed the communications channel of choice for Godot, we asked him a simple question : why did he think that the blogger was the same person as our employee RF, since it was a common name and a Google search came up with dozens of RFs. Why did he think our RF was the RF?

That’s when the Twitter conversation turned weird. Godot dissembled and never answered the question. That didn’t stop him from casting aspersions on us and the PR profession though.

Normally, we would dismiss Godot as a troll and ignore him but because this issue was emotionally charged among a community we are close to – journalists – we thought we needed to resolve the matter conclusively and give it a decent burial. In social media, anything that doesn’t get a decent burial can come back to haunt you.

So we asked Godot for a face-to-face meeting so that he can explain how he came to his conclusions and we can set the record straight. By then the Twitter exchange had attracted the attention of some prominent Twitterati, a few of whom are senior journalists. They felt it was a good idea and encouraged Godot to meet with us to clear the air.

In spite of all this willingness to engage though, Godot has not replied. If he felt that he was right there was no indication that he desired to get to the bottom of things. If he realised that he had been wrong there was no hint of owning up and an apology for wrongfully insinuating that Maverick was in cahoots with AA.

So we are now…. waiting for Godot

(Thanks @julianto_irwan for being our muse with the name)

Strange things on the Net: Jilbab Hitam, Tempo, Abraham Samad, SBY

Strange things are happening on the Net in Indonesia.

The latest is the kerfuffle on Twitter yesterday after a putative ex-Tempo journalist with the nom de plume Jilbab Hitam wrote in a blogpost accusing Tempo and the other large newspapers of systematically extorting money and being in collusion with vested powers.

The post was taken down from its blog. It appeared briefly in Kompasiana and then was taken down. A copy now resides in Rima. news (click here). The articles named names, some of which are the most respected in journalism; made accusations and also dragged in a prominent ex-journalist turned researcher as well as a columnist turned researcher.

Reaction to the posting has been mixed but noisy. Some jumped straight away to condemning the accused prominent media and journalists. Others claimed it was an act of fitnah (libel). Others too the cautious time-will-tell route and asked the media houses named to tell their side of the story, even against an anonymous writer.

In an era when the even the highest institutions of law such as the Constitutional Court are enmeshed in allegations of corruption, one does not know what to believe.

Similarly confusing and seemingly improbably was an article in Kabarnet yesterday where the head of the Anti Corruption Commission (KPK) Abraham Samad apparently railed and threatened President SBY with arrest. Kabarnet quoted a Twitter account apparently belonging to Abraham Samad, but the article did not say whether it tried to verify that the Tweets were from Abraham Samad or whether his account was hijacked.

These are strange days on the Net, that was once supposed to unleash an era of openness and transparency now pulls a veil of confusion over its Netizenry. What is one to make of these stories?