Communication students gain insight on stakeholder management

By Hafiz Asnawi

GOMBAK, 13 November 2016: Communication students were exposed to the real knowledge of stakeholder management when they heard the explanation and experience shared by two prominent speakers from the industry during ChaLK 2.0 session, hosted by the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia Students’ Association (IPRMSA) – IIUM Chapter at Mini Auditorium on Friday (11 November).

Both speakers at the event, Adelina Iskandar, the senior public relations consultant of World Communication Network Resource and Dato’ Najmuddin Abdullah, the Director of Strategic Communication and Stakeholder Relations of MRT Corporation, spoke at length on the challenges in their role as communicators in handling stakeholders either within their organisations or having to engage stakeholders outside.

Adelina explained that ‘stakeholder’ means a person or groups of individuals or parties that are of concern or of interest to an organisation where one works. “In Public Relations, it is essential to know who your stakeholders are and how they work,” she said highlighting the importance for every public relations practitioner to understand their stakeholders as they represent the interest of the organisation or company.

She stated, “You need to remember when you are dealing or managing stakeholders, the fact is that they want to trust you and you want to trust them and most importantly, you must make your company look good at all times because that is the key in establishing relationship and maintaining it.”

Adelina shared her experience more on the internal form of stakeholder management, one of which is ‘prepping’ which means to understand the role of a communicator in establishing relationship with the stakeholder, keeping the relationship in transparency of information, including scrutinising the annual report for the company, and “creating informal networking by attending festivities, social functions and events, to keep updating with information on what’s happening around you”.

Dato’ Najmuddin Abdullah, meanwhile, shared his knowledge and experience on various scopes of his work and responsibilities in stakeholder relations and strategic communication, such as in corporate management and marketing, media and social media relations, including crisis management.

In particular, Najmuddin’s lecture drew great attention from the audience when he shared his experience in handling Malaysia Airlines air incidents involving MH370 and MH17 during 2014, when he was the corporate communication and stakeholder relations director of the airline, where he said he was faced with various kinds of challenges including having “sleepless nights” and having to deal with emotions of stakeholders during the crises.

“Handling crisis is not an easy task, you have to be a team player with a strong will to save your company and give the fullest treatment and satisfaction to your stakeholders and shareholders as well,” Dato’ Najmuddin stressed in his talk.

He also shared some useful tips on crisis management such as creating media announcement, and handling continuous updating of information to the media, and having to act fast in responding to the demands for communication.

He highlighted, “In corporate communication, it is not all about eating fancy food or wearing some fancy dresses, it is about creating a bond with your stakeholders to make them comfortable with you, and an ability to handle various scopes of job is very important.”

“It’s okay if you are not the best at it, but at least, you know how to do it, and be able to understand people and that is important not only in this field but to the world too.”

Dato’ Najmuddin summed up his talk by highlighting the key points in stakeholder relations and management as follows: “To be truthful to yourself, meaning to be able to tell an objective story; learn to adapt and adopt to different work situations; to have stamina not only in physical terms but stamina and patience in attending to the challenges of the nitty gritty things, especially during a crisis; to be able to walk a marathon, that is an ability to withstand long hours of continuous work; to develop ‘poker face’ to hide your feelings; and learn to establish yourself so you would be visible in your job.”

Adelina Iskandar had several years of experience in corporate communication having previously worked in Tenaga Nasional, SYABAS Water, and Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission. While Dato’ Najmuddin Abdullah had also been in corporate communication with Celcom and with the news division of NTV7.

ChaLK is the acronym for Chat, Listen and gain Knowledge and the objective of the event, as reflected in the acronym, is to serve as a platform for communication students to listen, interact with practitioners from the industry and to gain exposure to knowledge and experiences of the public relations profession.

The event was attended by the Head of the Department of Communication, Dr. Zeti Azreen Ahmad, senior Professor Dato’ Sri Dr. Syed Arabi Idid, and lecturers from the department.***

Hafiz Asnawi

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