The political year will pose significant impacts to companies. Thus, companies need Public Relations (PR) and Public Affairs consultants to conduct analysis and monitoring in order to provide guidance for business moving forward.

The 2024 election is in sight. In this political year, PR and Public Affairs consultants not only partner with political clients or election contestants but usually also help corporations, especially multinational and public companies, to conduct analysis. Verlyana Hitipeuw, CEO and Principal Consultant of Kiroyan Partners (KP), stated in an interview with PR INDONESIA on Friday (10/02/2023).

According to her, this is due to the fact that the political year brings its own set of challenges and risks for companies. Based on political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal (PESTEL) analysis, politics is one of the non-market issues that can affect business.

Its influence is generally felt by companies involved in government strategic projects. Entering a political year, it is possible for the said companies to opt in voluntarily changing or forced to change the project’s timeline due to a change in leadership.

Companies must not only conduct analysis but also monitor the trends in political and electoral issues. In fact, several companies have asked PR and Public Affairs consultants/agencies to conduct monitoring regarding these issues, two years before the political contestation began.

Veve, as she is often called by her acquaintances, continued that monitoring is part of the company’s risk management. “Based on monitoring results, companies can map stakeholders and carry out more appropriate engagement strategies,” said the practitioner who is also a lecturer at Swiss German University (SGU).

She provided an example from a client company that wanted to expand its business. Here, the company must be able to map its stakeholders starting from the local government, local politicians, local organizations, and so on. From there, the company can assess matters that are of concern to each stakeholder. “So, this square-off is useful for navigating business in the political year,” she said.

Another risk that may be faced by companies is bias. Companies need information regarding leader candidates and parties supporting these leaders. In addition, national political issues can also affect investment. A stable political condition can support the sustainability of an investment, while on the other hand, a tense political condition may worsen the investment climate in Indonesia. Thus, certainty in investment is crucial for companies.

At Kiroyan Partners, political risk advisory is a service provided to clients to assist them in analyzing political candidates. Clients will obtain regular updated information about the strongest candidates both at the national level and regional level where the company operates.

Strict Guide

To date, KP has assisted countless clients from ministries, institutions, and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). However, Veve underlined that KP has never assisted public officials individually. The reason is because KP has strict guidelines regarding ethical issues. “Creating a reputable image is completely fine, but it must be backed by performance and attitude,” she said.

These supporting facts will strengthen the key messages conveyed by the candidate in building reputation. Because, KP believes, a good reputation is a combination of performance, behavior, and communication.

Another reason is that politics is closely related to conflict of interest. The woman who holds a master’s degree from Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences and the University of Bonn, Germany, said that political candidates do not stand alone. There are many stakeholders around the candidates who have different interests. Starting from the party to other actors and the people who support the candidates.

Another important consideration is that political communication has only one goal, which is to win. The way to win can be done with different strategies. It is possible that the decisions of the surrounding stakeholders are contrary to the consultant’s ethics and conscience.

Reputational risk is also a reason for this. According to Veve, there will be consequences for the company’s reputation if PR or public affairs agencies/consultants are involved in campaigning for political figures. If you support the wrong candidate, for example, it will put the agency in question at risk. Conversely, if the consultant supports candidates who adhere to Good Corporate Governance (GCG), it will increase the company’s reputation.

This KP’s guide also applies to corporate clients. For instance, if a company experiences a crisis because of one particular mistake, the company must admit its mistake. Instead of spinning or diverting the issues. “As long as the client admits mistakes and seeks improvement, we are committed to being willing to assist them through difficult times,” said the reputation management lecturer.

Prevent Polarization

Veve believes that public literacy has improved this year as we approach the 2024 political year. However, these improvements cannot be generalized across all regions. The vastness of the country’s regions means that education and literacy cannot be evenly distributed. “There are still voters who are not good at distinguishing the best candidates. This is due to gaps in digital, economic, and educational aspects,” ​​said Veve.

On one side, she claims that low literacy can lead to a “war” on social media. People defend their favorite candidate and bring down political opponents. “That resentment can lead to unfollowing and blocking each other,” Veve explained. The next challenge is young voters who will take part in elections for the first time. Despite being digitally literate, this generation generally has a lower level of political awareness than previous generations. That requires a special approach to them.

They also need to be educated not to attack other parties who have different political views. Instead, they should see it as a trigger to verify information. “We have to find out why someone doesn’t have the same political views as us,” she added.

As a communication practitioner at the strategic level, PR and public affairs consultants can take part in educating the public to minimize polarization. One way is by writing opinions in the media. This step was also taken by Veve as a form of her concern regarding the potential for polarization in the last 2019 political year.

Veve hopes that whoever wins the election will have the mindset on advancing Indonesia. “Healthy competition is not easy to do, but every time there is good intention, there will be a way,” she concluded.

Verlyana V. Hitipeuw
CEO & Principal Consultant, Kiroyan Partners

This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 95th edition issued on February 2023, page 12-13.

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