By Azanis Shahila Aman
PUTRAJAYA, 30 November 2018: It was a happy occasion for the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia (IPRM) when two of its senior members were admitted to the Court of Fellows and another distinguished member received the Accreditation Award for their contributions to the public relations profession, in a ceremony that took place at Putrajaya yesterday (29 November), witnessed by some 200 members representing the fraternity.
Prof. Dr. Sankaran Ramanathan APR, MIPR, and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chang Peng Kee MIPR, APR, received the Fellowship Awards while the Accreditation Award was conferred on Nelson Rudolf Labangka, MIPR from Sabah.
These awards were testimony and a recognition of their contributions not only towards the public relations body of knowledge but also as a benchmark of their professional distinctions towards the public relations fraternity that set them apart from other practitioners.
In congratulating the recipients of the awards, IPRM President, Dato’ Haji Ibrahim Abdul Rahman said, “Practitioners who achieved distinction and recognition are demonstrating their commitment, not only to our public relations profession but also to a strong code of ethics towards the betterment of their organisation and clients.”
One of the earliest Life Members of IPRM, Dr. Sankaran was an Academic Consultant to the Stamford Group of Colleges and among the pioneer trainers for certificate and diploma programmes of IPRM conducted from 1970s to 1990s. Dr. Sankaran had been lecturing at the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) since the establishment of the faculty as the School of Mass Communication during the days when the institution was known as MARA Institute of Technology in 1972.
On receiving the Fellowship, Dr. Sankaran said, “I am most honoured to receive this award and I am sorry for not being able to mention everyone’s name who have always been there for me until I managed to receive this prestigious award.”
The second recipient of the Fellowship award, Dr. Chang Peng Kee, was a former aircraft technician of the Royal Malaysian Air Force in his younger days. He was first introduced to IPRM as a student member by his public relations mentor, Prof. Dato’ Sri Dr. Syed Arabi Idid FIPR, who was the past President of IPRM in late 1980’s when he was studying for his BA (Honours) in Communication in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM).
Dr. Chang in his acceptance speech later paid tribute to his mentor, Prof. Syed Arabi idid, whom he felt “most grateful for his significant part in mentoring him in public relations”.
Recognised as a man in three decades – studies public relations (PR), practises PR, researches PR, teaches PR, and now also supervises bachelor, masters, and PhD students in researching PR – a PR enduring Dr. Chang had served IPRM in various positions including as a Council Member and Auditor.
In his speech, Dr. Chang said, “I can see the light in PR especially with the participation from the younger generation of public relations practitioners.”
“I am sure later in the future, there will be more young public relations practitioners receiving the award and I wish to see that one day,” he added.
As a person who never stops learning, Chang encourages the young public relations practitioners to participate actively in public relations and put the business or the organisation that they represent on the right path towards success.
Mandated an Accreditation status in public relations, Nelson Rudolf Labangka, shared his journey in getting the recognition. As a change management leader at Petronas’ Digital Transformation, having spent five years in evangelising an industry-wide shift towards transformation, he has helped positioned Petronas Sabah Asset as a leader in the Integration Operation space.
Nelson credited several people for his award, expressing special thanks to the IPRM Council and also the Fellow award recipients for their contribution towards the public relations community.
He underlined the fact that public relations practitioners play an overarching job to build, protect and maintain the reputation of the organisation.
Meanwhile, IPRM’s Honorary Secretary, Mr. Aznan Mat Piah, APR, FIPR, who had been cited by Sankaran in his acceptance speech to specifically indicate his long years of journey in communication and public relations field, congratulated Dr. Sankaran and welcomed him to the Court of Fellows.
Aznan said, “We both have been associated with IPRM for a long time (of course being my sifu, he has been with IPRM much longer, and myself too as a Fellow and currently still serving in the Council), to serve the communication and the public relations fraternity, which include our involvement in the academic world as well, linked to the profession.”
Commenting on public relations in the current era, Dr. Sankaran responded, “We are in a new era, and I perceive that this would be a difficult time when we have to re-examine lots of previous conviction. I would like to urge that as public relations practitioners we play our part well.”
In an interview with IIUMToday, Dr. Sankran, who is an internationally-recognised Asian communication scholar, a researcher and a writer, suggested that it was important for public relations practitioners to be partnering with the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) that engages actively in “Track Two diplomacy”, and this would promote the exchange of views and opinions at both the national and international fronts.
In his acceptance speech, Sankaran emphasised that we are witnessing the dawn of a new era in Malaysia with the return of the Malaysian Jedi, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. “This will have a profound political, social and economic repercussions, at least for the foreseeable future, if not for the distant future as well.” Without digressing further, he said, “I wish to focus on the need for public relations professionals to steer away from the hint of corruption and to be professional at all times, both in their private capacity and also in their official capacity.”
Our country, he said, has been suffering negative public relations image and this has a lot to do with misuse of public relations in the past. In this context, he urged not only the government but IPRM together with ISIS, to play a role to raise the image of Malaysia.
“We need everybody, especially the young public relations practitioners to work together, so that the image of Malaysia will be positively positioned internationally as a stable, peaceful and practising harmony among its people,” Sankran added.
Earlier, sharing his valued insights with public relations practitioners in a key presentation on the topic “Future Challenges for Communicators in an Increasingly Unpredictable World”, the Managing Director (Strategic Communications) at FTi Consulting, Singapore, Nick Wood, spoke of an organisation being a platform for learning.
Nick also touched on the many challenges faced by policy makers by several governments of the day and the corporate sector in terms of current political, economic and social conditions that require strategic communications approach and solutions to move the organisations.
Present at the event yesterday were IPRM members and guests from all sectors representing government agencies, corporations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), consultancies and educational institutions. ***