|CRISIS COMMUNICATION & PUBLIC RELATIONS SEMINAR|
The Seminar was attended by 24 Senior Public Relations practitioners from all over the nation. It was a lively and interactive seminar with participants asking all kinds of very pertinent questions and giving penetrating comments on what were presented.
Mr. T. Selva (Maritime Editor, Star Publications stressing the importance of effective communication and media relations during any crisis so as to resolve it fast and without too much publicity during a Seminar cum Forum on Crisis Communication and Public Relations, organised by Wawasan Open University on 21 April 2010. Listening attentively were paper presenters cum panelists and Forum Chairperson, Mr. U.K. Menon (centre) and Dr. Sankaran Ramanathan (IPRM Chapter Chairperson), MS Aisha Rashid (IPRM Council Member) and Professor Dato’ Mohd Hamdan bin Haji Adnan (IPRM’s President).
The first paper presenter, Dr. Sankaran talks on “The Changing Nature of Public Relations and Crisis”. According to Dr. Sankaran PR is important for all organisations and members of a free society that adopts and practices democratic principles. It is becoming even more important as we move towards the concept of being civil societies. Proliferation of new communication technologies associated with the development of the knowledge and information society implies that there will be greater significance for public relations in the 21st century. Additionally, there will be greater demands from the public and private sector organisations to be responsive and participative at all levels of decision-making.
Dr. Sankaran said that while we are aware of the critical approach to the study of PR, we shall focus on the functionalist approach. He said that this is because the primary aim or function of this Seminar is to provide participants with an overview of selected issues in contemporary PR. I feel this is the appropriate or necessary approach as participants have come to master certain skills rather than to be critical about PR which are their current profession.
Dr. Sankaran discussed briefly on “The Paradigm Shift in Public Relations Theory, Public Relations as a Management Process and some Main Areas of Public Relations Activity.”
Dr. Sankaran also presented his second paper which was entitled “Crisis Communication”. According to him, throughout the world, business crisies have increased in scope and mangnitude. The causes of crisises have shifted from industrial and environmental accidents to management, financial, technology and socio-economic problesms.
Dr. Sankaran noted that often, organisations do not adequately respond to crisis situations and tend to ignore or downplay public relations strategies in dealing with crisis. He added that as the consequences can be potentially costly to organisations, there needs to be a collaborative approach to crisis management.
Further, Dr. Sankaran offered the six basic causes of crisis. It includes “the act of God, mechanical problems, human error, management decisions, actions or inactions, economic causes and socio-political causes”. He gave warning on the consequences of a lack of crisis planning and offered tips on effective handling of communication during crisis.
The second presenter, Ms Aisha Rashid discussed on corporate social responsibility (CSR). She said that social responsibility for companies is a vague trend, neither is it another business fad that everyone is talking about. According to Ms Aisha, the Bursa Malaysia perceives CSR as not about how the firm spends its money but it is about how the firm makes money. For the Bursa, CSR is open and transparent business practices that are based on ethical values and respect of the community, employee, the environments, shareholdes, etc.
In Malaysia, all public-listed companies are mandated to include CSR reporting in their Annual Reports as part of their corporate governance. Despite this, according to Ms Aisha, Malaysian PLCs lag behind international trends and practices of CSR. She based her conclusion on the Bursa Malaysia Malaysian PLCs Status Report which showed that less than half of the 200 companies surveyed complied with Bursa’s requirements to report on CSR activities. Ms Aisha warned that by not engaging in CSR, companies are not only under-managing their effect on society and the environment, but are under-managing their own economic advantage.
The third paper presenter Mr. T. Selva noted that one of the most significant tests for any company comes when it is hit by a major accident or disaster. He observed that a true crisis is a turning point, after which things may change drastically, and if an organisation is not prepared to deal with crisis, it is in constantly at risk.
The fourth paper presenter Dato’Professor Mohd Hamdan noted that effective government relations is critical in dealing with the authorities at all levels. This is especially so in the 21st century society when government and political decisions can affect virtually every aspect of our lives. Hamdan said this is where public relations officers should help organisations anticipate and respond to issues or policies affecting their environments or activities.
For those who want to be successful in government relations Hamdan adviced them to know as much as possible about the government including deep knowledge of the Federal Constitution and key officers of the targeted agencies.
In his presentation, Hamdan offered six benefits of effective government relations. It includes guaranteeing support, ensuring approval, easy access, good business, and good reputation/image, ensuring friendly laws and enhancing proactivism.
Further, Hamdan offered eleven reasons to the growing needs to have an effective government relations programmes. He cited increasing complexity of government, citizens’ demand, public scrutiny, exposure, globalisation, competition, transparency, corporate governance, laws and regulations, corporate responsibility, and specialisation.
Hamdan noted that big corporations have the edge in government relations. In Malaysia, they have distinguished citizens comprising of many senior civil servants and top politicians on their board of directors. They invest huge sums of money to ensure that their key officers’ continously rub shoulders with senior civil servants by putting them members of clubs regularly frequented by top government officers.
Hamdan added that it is essential that PRO establish good contact with government officials that his or her organisaton have a lot of dealing with. Good rapport with them will create opportunities for the organisation to present its case effectively. (For Hamdan’s full paper please go to IPRM’s Homepage)
IPRM is working with Wawasan Open University to ensure that all its seminars and workshops relating to public relations can be given the accreditated points to enable participants to be an Accreditated Public Relations (APR) members.