APCO, 1Malaysia, 1Israel and the great Jewish Conspiracy

Back in August last year when APCO clinched the job to do the public relations for Malaysian Premier Najib Tun Razak and his Cabinet, Unspun questioned the wisdom of APCO taking on the job.

Jews? Israel? What Jews? What Israel?

The reason for that is the un-PRability of Najib and gang. Any communications consultant worth their salt knows that a consultant is limited to advising, training and providing technical expertise – such as messaging, speech and press release writing – to their clients. The rest is up to the client whether they would take the advice and be able to execute it.

Back then, Unspun argued that Najib and Co would not be good clients. No matter how much they paid APCO and no mater how good APCO is, the PR campaign is doomed to failure because, even with PR, you cannot put a sign saying “Perfume Factory” over a sewerage plant and expect people to think that it smells sweet.

Why is this so? Well, politics, expediency and low morals get in the way of even the best PR efforts. This is best explained in a speech by Tengku Razaleigh, former Finance Minister and now Gua Musang MP at the launch of the Second Edition of “No Cowardly Past: James Puthucheary, Writings, Poems, Commentaries” at the PJ Civic Centre on March 22, 2010.

Here’s what he has to say:

The leap we need to make — Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
MARCH 23 — James Puthucheary lived what is by any measure an extraordinary and eventful life. He was, among  other things, a scholar, anti-colonial activist, poet, political economist and lawyer.
The thread running through these roles was his struggle for progressive politics in a multiracial society. His actions were informed by an acute sense of history and by a commitment to a more equitable and just Malaysia.
James was concerned about economic development in a way that was Malaysian in the best sense. His thinking was motivated by a concerned for socioeconomic equity and for the banishment of communalism and ethnic chauvinism from our politics.
The launch of the Second Edition of this collection of James Puthucheary’s writings, “No Cowardly Past”, invites us to think and speak about our country with intellectual honesty and courage.
Let me put down some propositions, as plainly as I can, about where I think we stand.
1. Our political system has broken down in a way that cannot be salvaged by piecemeal reform.
2. Our public institutions are compromised by politics (most disturbingly by racial politics) and by money. This is to say they have become biased, inefficient and corrupt.
3. Our economy has stagnated. Our growth is based on the export of natural resources.  Productivity remains low. We now lag our regional competitors in the quality of our people, when we were once leaders in the developing world.
4. Points 1) -3), regardless of official denials and mainstream media spin, is common knowledge. As a result, confidence is at an all time low. We are suffering debilitating levels of brain and capital drain.
Today I wanted to share some suggestions on how we might move the economy forward, but our economic stagnation is clearly not something we can tackle or even discuss in isolation from the problem of a broken political system and a compromised set of public institutions.
This country is enormously blessed with talent and natural resources. We are shielded from natural calamities and enjoy warm weather all year round. We are blessed to be located at the crossroads of India and China and the Indonesian archipelago.
We are blessed to have cultural kinship with China, India, the Middle East and Indonesia. We attained independence with an enviable institutional framework.

read more

If Ku Li is right, and Unspun’s convinced it is, then what’s wrong with Najib and Co’s PR efforts is that the whole political system has broken down and until they fix it, no amount of PR or spin will make them look good.

Which begs the question of why a company like APCO, whose business it is to provide strategies to clients so that they do not get into a position where their reputation will be trashed, decided to take the job offered by Najib (apart from the considerable fees, of course).

Did APCO not see failure as inevitable. And there is more: Did APCO not factor in the Jewish angle that will crop up sooner or later, causing reputational damage to both APCO and Najib? Could they not have set up shell companies and deniable operatives to do the advising and get the money instead of going for the whole (kosher) hog of glory and money?

Obviously someone did the maths and forgot to factor in the reputational elements so now we have Anwar ibrahim raising hell about how APCO’s staffed on the top with Jews (true), have strong connections with israel (true) and retooled the 1Israel campaign for the 1 Malaysia campaign (probably untrue).

See these links, for example:

http://malaysia-today.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=30720:getting-to-know-apco-and-its-israeli-links&catid=21:special-reports&Itemid=100135

http://themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/57122-anwar-insists-on-apcos-israel-link-

http://freemalaysiatoday.com/fmt-english/politics/pakatan-rakyat/3681-apco-claims-anwar-to-explain-next-tuesday

http://foaw.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/anwar-ibrahims-claim-about-apco-worldwide/

All this leads Unspun to conclude that his delusions are, perhaps, more prescient than the wise men at APCO.So why is Najib et al continuing to shovel the big bucks to them?

Unspun on the Toyota recall crisis

The Toyota recall incident is turning into an unmitigated crisis of disaster-like proportions for the company. In between pretending to listen to speakers at a conference today Unspun‘s alter ego managed to communicate with a Reuters reporter who wanted to know his opinions about how Toyota seems to be handling the incident. Never short of opinions, he shot his mouth off and resulted in this story as well as the (extract) of the one below:

CRISIS MANAGEMENT

The problems have raised questions about the handling of the crisis by Toyota executives, led by president and founding family member Akio Toyoda.

“In moments of a business crisis, people want to see a company take full responsibility, be empathic to the victims and their families and be in control by outlining the problem and how they intend to solve it. They also expect the CEO doing all this,” said Ong Hock Chuan, technical adviser of Jakarta-based PR consultancy Maverick who specialises in crisis management.

“Toyota seems to have failed in all counts. It’s admission of the problem has been half hearted and almost reluctant, it has failed to apologise unequivocally to victims and their families, and its failed to articulate and communicate what it intends to do to regain control of the situation.”

Toyota will have a further opportunity to address the issue at its third-quarter results, due on Thursday. Honda, the first Japanese automaker to post third-quarter earnings, raised its full-year operating profit forecast to 320 billion yen, a third above consensus forecasts.

Students of Crisis Management may also want to read about how Toyota missed the early warning signals of an impending crisis here. Crises are man-made, which means they have early warning signs that something big is going to happen. When companies ignore these warning signals or unable to process them they get into a crisis-like situation.

APCO clinches job to make Najib et al look good

Interesting news about APCO winning the PA/PR contract with the Malaysian Government (see extract below).

The question, raised here between Unspun and Kay Peng (who still hasn’t released my comment in his blog), is whether anything can be done to improve the image of Najib and the Malaysian government, regardless of how good, experienced or high powered the consultants are.

President Jimmy Carter’s spokesperson Jodie Foster once remarked that “sometimes you have a PR problem, other times you just have a problem.” Observers of the Malaysian political scene would no doubt argue that Najib and Co have a problem (of political, personal credibility, living in denial  and calibre of people dimensions) that in turn triggers as PR problem.

Reading the article below, one of APCO’s main tasks will be to neutralize Najib’s critics in the blogs. They would not be so stupid as to try to silence the bloggers, or to push pabulum and good news to an angry and skeptical audience  so Unspun’s guess is that they will go on the assault by engaging the bloggers. It will probably be an aggressive engagement as they deploy bloggers sympathetic to Najib and the government to out argue the critics. Will sock puppets be used? Will there be astroturfing? Who knows, but the Malaysian interactive space is worth watching over the next few months.

Can APCO help guide Najib and Co to solve their problem so that they can solve their image problem? It remains to be seen but Unspun wouldn’t hold his breath. This is no reflection on APCO (except perhaps their choice to take the business if they are not convinced they can make a real difference) but more on Najib et al. Malaysians might want to press their government to let them know what the deliverables and KPIs are for APCO if their tax money is being spent.

APCO secures key Malaysian contract

Global PA operator APCO is to expand its business in Malaysia after securing a key contract from the country’s government.

The move comes as APCO restructures its South East Asia operation – with London PA expert Paul Stadlen heading to Malaysia to become managing director of the new office amid changes to its operations in the region.

The firm is to broaden its activities in Malaysia with the creation of an office in Kuala Lumpur – which will service the government of Malaysia and prime minister Najib Razak.

Larry Snoddon, APCO’s Asia CEO, said winning a major piece of government work underlined the changing dynamic in the public affairs arena.

“Governments today are facing similar challenges to global business that require dealing simultaneously with public policy, public opinion and finance,” he told PublicAffairsAsia.

“This environment requires diversified skills and a deep knowledge of world affairs. This has been the historic basis for APCO’s creation and its mission.”

The contract was awarded after what industry insiders say was quick fire pitch – with APCO beating off competitors including Burson-Marsteller to secure the PR and comms role with the Malaysian government.

Stadlen said Malaysia was now poised to become a global leader in key economic areas.

“This is a time of opportunities for Malaysia,” said Stadlen. “APCO is delighted to share media expertise and strategic communication services with the Malaysian government and other clients in Malaysia. We are excited about Malaysia’s future and our ability to participate in it.”

Read more here

IM2 Rant #2: Now watch them get into trouble

One of the things Unspun teachs clients and students in his classes on crisis management is that not everything is a crisis.

In the beginning, you have an incident, which is something that is a departure from best practice.

If you pay attention to the incident and solve it in a timely manner it usually goes away. But if you don’t then there is a good chance that it turns into an emergency situation.

An emergency is something that rquires timely involvement from senior management. It has become a serious matter and unless you resulve it in good time it would likelu turn into a crisis-like situation.

A crisis is an emergency out of control. It is out of control because the media would have gotten involved and focussed public scrutiny on your company’s every action and word uttered. At this stage everyone is watching how you handle the event. They are quick to judge and judge you they will based on how your respond to the situation at hand.

One thing worth noting, I usually tell clients, is that a crisis is a man-made situation and like anything man-made it has lots of early warning signals. It is when these signals are ignored, not acted on or dismissed without basis that the situation turns ugly for the corporation and they have a business crisis in their hands.

By this reckoning Indosat’s IM2, the so-called HSDPA service, is on the cusp between an emergency and crisis-like situation. Why?

In spite of all the warnings that IM2 has had about how bad their service has become (see Unspun‘s postings here, here, here here and here, plus do a Google search yourself, or a Twitter search and you’ll see what I mean) they’ve ignored all early warning signals. So far they have been lucky. Apart from a small article or two about customer dissatisfaction they’ve escaped media scrutiny.

But their streak of good luck may just be running out. Why?im2

If you are on Twitter you would know that The Jakarta Globe is about to write either an investigative piece or at least an in depth piece about customer dissatisfaction over IM@s service. This would spill the issue out ofthe net and blogosphere onto the tradition media. If IM@’s streak of bad luck holds, then other papers will pick up on the story and before you know it IM2 directors would have to answer to their shareholders and other stakeholders on why they have allowed this issue to simmer and make its way from an incident to and emergency and finally to a crisis-like situation. (You have to ask yourself whether a supposedly established and large corporation like Indosat/ IM2 monitors what goes on in the net and blogosphere at all. If they did they would have known how many unhappy customers are out there, the extent of their unhappiness and the fact that a newspaper has been soliciting views from Twitters on who’s unhappy about IM2 – this includes Unspun who will sing like a bird about his sufferings as a narrowband user of IM2)

Personally, Unspun hopes that some high-powered and highly-paid person in Indosat/IM2 will be held accountable for all those senseless minutes that we users have had to endure because of how slow the service has become lately, and for thrashing IM@’s brand.

When Unspun’s contract with them runs out in May, guess who they’ll be losing as a customer forever?

Prabowo on why he’s engaging bloggers

Whatever you may think of the man’s politics, human rights record or temperament, Presidential Candidate and Gerindra boss Prabowo seems to have taken his online initiatives seriously. His Facebook page, for instance, has more than 16,000 fans and he has a plethora of sites listed on it:

He’d got a team on Facebook and has asked bloggers for a meet up tomorrow. Through his e-minders Prabowo speaks to Maverick Network on his party’s internet strategy, budgetary allocations for online campaign efforts (2% but how large is the pie for this seemingly well-funded political party) and why he’s engaging bloggers.

Hmmm. Perhaps Prabowo could give a few pointers to incoming Malaysian Premier Najib Abdul Razak on how to engage bloggers etc on the net. They would get on like a house on fire. Both men love military stuff, weapons, explosives….

clipped from mavericknetwork.biz

Headline


March 30, 2009


Prabowo Alokasikan 2% Dana Kampanye untuk Ranah Online


by: Hanny
Seorang kawan (yang dalam kesempatan ini memilih untuk tidak mengungkapkan identitasnya di depan publik), menginformasikan kepada kami bahwa ia tengah bekerja bersama tim kampanye online capres dari Partai Gerindra, Prabowo Subianto.
Selain menangani segala hal yang berhubungan dengan Facebook Page resmi Prabowo, tim ini juga mengorganisasi pertemuan antara Prabowo dan blogger besok malam, sekitar pukul 8, di Amigos, Belagio, Kuningan. Pertemuan ini sendiri dinamakan “Ngariung Blogger dan Sahabat FbPS (Facebook Prabowo Subianto) bersama Prabowo Subianto”.… Read more…

blog it

Mana Rihanna-anna-anna?

Rihanna, the singer who singlehandedly became as annoying as Whitney Houston a few years ago with her Umbrella song, has cancelled her Jakarta visit for the second time.

This time the excuse is a spat with her boyfriend. Serious as love is there’s another matter of what would a professional do in situations like this? Mope over the breakup or get on with the show?

The first time Rihanna cancelled Jakarta was over a US Travel warning. Fair enough for Americans to be frightened by their own government (under Bush that time) and to heed its warnings. But , huffed one US EMbassy staffer in Jakarta, “The trouble was that Rihanna isn’t even a US citizen.” He’s right. She’s Barbadian.

ballads-of-rihanna

Rihanna’s no show naturally does not endure him to her fan and one of them ent Unspun the following cartoon strip:

Rihanna cancels Jakarta concert for second time

The Jakarta Post | Tue, 02/10/2009 9:03 PM | Life

Rising pop star Rihanna canceled her concert in Jakarta for the second time on Tuesday following news of a violent row with her boyfriend.

“We regretfully announce that the concert has been canceled for the second time,” the spokesperson for the Jakarta concert sponsor-promoter, Anita Avianty, said as quoted by

tempointeraktif.com.

Anita said the cancellation came after an incident that happened last week between Rihanna and boyfriend, singer Chris Brown.

The Associated Press reported earlier that on a night in which Brown was supposed to deliver a prime-time Grammy performance, he was instead being processed in a Los Angeles police station on a charge connected to an alleged assault on a woman reports have identified as his girlfriend Rihanna, the 20-year-old pop princess.

Brown was booked on a suspicion of making a criminal threat after he and an unidentified woman had an argument that escalated into a fight in a ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood, according to police; Rihanna and Brown pulled out of the Grammys hours before the Sunday telecast.

Anita said the cancellation was beyond the promoter’s control. However, she said, all paying customers would get a full refund plus Rp 200,000 worth of phone credit each from the main sponsor, GSM telecommunication service provider Axis.

Customers would also be given priority sales offer for a ticket to see the life performance of Jazon Mraz at the Axis Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival on March 7.

via Rihanna cancels Jakarta concert for second time | The Jakarta Post.

Is there hope for the Police in Indonesia?

Something incredible has been happening during Unspun‘s morning treks to the gym and back: policeman were actually vigilant next to busy interactions and – get this – they were even directing traffic!

This is normal in other countries but in Indonesia where the police have the reputation as the most corrupt institution, policemen doing their jobs is actually abnormal.

Usually the only time a driver or motorist would have contact with the police is when they have committed an obscure traffic violation and the policespring out from whatever bush they were hiding behind to shake them down for a bribe.

But with the new police chief in charge things seem to have changed. Or have they? As the story in The Jakarta Post below demonstrates, skepticism runs deep where the police are concerned. There have been too many cases of new brooms sweeping clean that even when the service has improved at the Integrated Service Office (Samsat) in Daan Mogot for the past two years at least (Unspun has to make a pilgrimage there every year to renew his car license) the conventional wisdom is that it is too good to be true.

Is this a case where an institution is doing the right thing but is unable to communicate how well it is doing? If you were the Chief of Police how would you go about changing the perception of the police as a bunch of low level crooks?

Police service improvements: How long will they last?

Desy Nurhayati , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Tue, 02/10/2009 11:14 AM | Cit

Although the police force was dubbed the most bribe-riddled institution by a recent survey, some people have acknowledged improvements in the administration of police services.

Drivers said they had noticed improvements when applying for licenses or arranging renewals.

Rather than a strict adherence to its motto, “Serving and protecting the community”, the police were believed only to be ready to serve when the money was ready.

But sentiment among drivers at the Integrated Service Office (Samsat) in Daan Mogot, West Jakarta, was a little different.

“When applying for a driver’s license, service should be just like this, quick and with no extra fees,” said Ameria, a Pasar Minggu resident renewing his license at Samsat.

via Police service improvements: How long will they last? | The Jakarta Post.