The COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit Malaysia really hard. We remain in an extended “lockdown” via the various MCOs, and the pace of recovery is much slower than our expectation. Obviously, this has impacted the socio-economic landscape of our country and many, particularly the lower income group, are gravely affected.
On top of that, the recent crisis of confidence and poor communication by leaders in a number of high profile incidents have also widened the trust deficit amongst the general public. There were also questions about the role of PR and Communications in these infamous incidences including the public transport “communications disaster” recently. In fact, some of our esteemed colleagues have attempted to clarify and explain some of these issues as well as the misconceptions that may arise because of these blunders.
As an industry, we must remain steadfast and showcase our leadership in this challenging time. Indeed, it is during a crisis that a leader’s mettle is revealed. It takes a lot of leadership for us to remain steadfast in upholding our highest standards and integrity as well as continue to engage with our stakeholders, including our clients and people.
Importantly, I wish to remind ourselves that it is timely for communication professionals to “PR our own PR” and reclaim our reputation as behind-the-scenes supporters and strategic counsellors who help make GOOD leaders GREAT. We need to let stakeholders know that the world needs authentic leadership more than ever in these difficult and uncertain times, and there is no way PR can spin poor leadership.
The fact is that communication without leadership is nothing but empty words. Important issues, such as public health (including vaccination), well-being of the people, and from a corporate perspective, the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda, cannot be just all talk – it requires people and organisations to take real actions to make it work. Instead of superficial exercises, purposeful leadership must involve fundamental efforts to really make a difference.
“Spinning” stories about a cause or promise without taking meaningful action is hollow. People will see through it eventually. This is a major reason why PR has gained a somewhat unsavoury reputation among some quarters, because there is this misconception that we are “spin masters” trying to cover up wrongs or incompetence by painting an unrealistic or even false picture of things.
Certainly, this is far from the truth of what PR is about or what PR professionals with integrity stand for.
The reality is, no amount of PR, no matter how great, can build on what isn’t really there in the first place. Embarking on a PR exercise to “put a positive spin” on things will only make things worse if people and organisations are not already walking the talk. It is just a matter of time when “spin” will come back and haunt the organisation.
Leadership must be demonstrated by accountability, responsibility and empathy to others. When leadership action is in place, PR and Communication can play a great role to clearly articulate these values.
Similarly, we too, as an industry, must demonstrate our leadership. Whilst the second half of the year remains extremely difficult, we must resist the temptation to take the short cut, be it in matters of our business, people, values and standards. We must not “cakap kosong” but hold dearly to our integrity, values and standards. It is tempting to compromise for quick fixes but I am confident the rewards for real leadership is much, much more for our industry and businesses.
On our part, PRCA Malaysia is committed to the industry’s leadership role and will be engaging you directly in the second half of this year particularly in the areas of industry standards and integrity. This is on top of the other industry-level activities such as the Malaysia PR Awards and the PRCA Malaysia Insights and Dialogue Series.
We look forward to your support.