In Corporate Communication activities, it is a necessity that we must always talk to the media as part of the implementation of our duties. This is what we always instill as Public Affairs consultants to clients. Through interaction with stakeholders, mutual understanding will be established. On the other hand, non-communicative attitudes are one of the biggest mistakes companies can make.
Especially in a crisis situation, it has become a general rule that we must constantly update events and other related matters. However, there has been a unique case with a client who required us to provide reverse advice. This proves that we should not be dogmatic in dealing with problems.
Our client, let’s say his name is Robert, a businessman of a foreign mining company outside Java Island, came to Kiroyan Partners asking for help regarding the permitting problem. In fact, there must be justifiable reasons for refusing a permit application submitted by a company. I told Robert that there was no such thing as a permitting problem because there must be a more fundamental problem so that permission was not granted.
In this regard, there were differences of opinion between Robert and his company and the national and local officials regarding several environmental aspects. Robert argued that he had met the requirements and insisted he was doing the right thing. The coverage of this case was intense in the regional media where the mining operation was located. Almost every day there were news and all were negative.
Through observation over a period of time, a pattern can be seen behind the news. The local media always contradicts Robert’s opinion with the attitude of the regional head concerned. The regional head was known to be firm and very experienced in dealing with the press. In giving statements to the press he is very straightforward, especially as the highest authority in his region who has the authority to determine policies in his territory.
The regional head’s denial then angered Robert. He took the initiative to contact the press to “correct” the regional head’s statement in a language that was no less strong. Armed with Robert’s rebuttal, the local media again asked for the opinion of the regional head, who of course rejected what the leader of the mining company had said. The process repeated itself in an escalation of the war of words which was very detrimental to the company.
After analyzing the issues surrounding the relentless negative reporting, I made one request to Robert: don’t talk to the local media for a month, no matter what. Even if there is pressure to provide a statement or update the case at hand, I ask Robert to say “at the moment I can’t give a statement” and he must be consistent in running it.
Robert took our advice and the situation died down. This gave Kiroyan Partners the opportunity to investigate deeper into the real issue. I happened to know the regional head who was at odds with Robert. To make a long story short, the regional head said that the project (Robert) could run if all the requirements had been met. However, at that time the region concerned was preparing for a major international event, and environmental factors were one of the main aspects of the event. Therefore, before the event was held, he did not want to be disturbed by activities (companies/investments) that could impact the environment.
Chairman & Chief Consultant, Kiroyan Partners
This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 48th Edition, issued on March 2019, page 57.
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