By Nor Farazuha Aripin
KUALA LUMPUR, 15 November 2019: The Kuala Lumpur International Public Relations Conference (KLIP 2020) that took place at Renaissance Hotel yesterday had gathered some 200 public relations and communication practitioners and academics from Malaysia and around the globe for an opportunity to discuss, deliberate and network on public relations issues in facing future challenges of the profession.
It was an eventful occasion on the theme “PR Face Off” as the year 2020 was seen as a milestone in facing global and regional challenges. KLIP 2020 was organised by World Communications Network Resources in partnership with the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia (IPRM), the ASEAN Public Relations Network (APRN), based in Jakarta, and the Global Alliance, based in Switzerland.
A total of 12 speakers from Thailand, Indonesia (representing APRN), New Zealand, China, India, Malaysia and the Global Alliance, gave their presentations, deliberated and shared the challenges facing public relations and communication on topics that ranged from government relations and building trust, managing reputation, stakeholders management, brand communication, reigniting professionalism, effective communication and public relations tactics for better business (the case of China and ASEAN) to youth communication, building trust in a world of fake news, Artificial Intelligence (AI) in public relations, managing digital transformation, the Internet of things and AI in public relations, and leadership issues in managing crisis (the case of Christchurch).
Among the highlights, this conference was aimed to create awareness on changes that have evolved in public relations field in the 20th century in facing future challenges of the industry.
The Managing Director of World Communications Network, Jaffri Amin Osman, who was also the Conference Director, in his opening remarks, ignited the conference by setting a tone on his “ANGEL” and ‘SATAN” approaches to emphasise the importance for brands to be trustworthy and believable. The acronym ANGEL stood for Advertising, New Media, Generations, Engagement and Love while SATAN stood for Say, Always, Together, Awesome and Naturally.
The President of ASEAN Public Relations Network (APRN), Prita Kemal Gani, highlighted the integration between all communicators and public relations practitioners in uplifting the spirit of “I am ASEAN, We are ASEAN”. She deliberated her views on building relations in the spirit of ASEAN on the topic “Effective ASEAN Communication for Better Business Results”.
The usage of internet and social media has given abrupt changes on how brand and organisation’s reputation is to be maintained. Managing Director of FTI Consulting, Liz Kamaruddin, said if the previous generations are familiar with Information Technology (IT), the millennials and generation Z are the leading pioneers for Internet of Things (IOT). Hence, she said, public relations practitioners must be able to work with different generations and recognise the difference.
Liz Kamaruddin’s statement was supported by Fiona Cassidy, Secretary of the Global Alliance for PR and Communications Management who said that “if public relations practitioners refused to work with young people, we would not survive.” Hence, she remarked that it is important for public relations practitioners to remove the generation gap.
On being like the Eagle
Shahreen Kamaluddin, a senior fellow of IPRM, in her presentation titled “Reigniting the true PR professional”, shared her views on public relations professionals to have an in-built capacity to change where public relations, she said, should elevate their functions to take on a strategic role and be on the management team in synergy with other functions in the organisation like sales, marketing, HR, legal, risk management, finance and research.
She suggested public relations professionals be like the eagle in strategic public relations counselling, to be the eyes and ears to the organisation, to scan the environment for issues and concerns that impact the organisation’s brand and reputation, to use data and data analysis, to advise management on the best action to take in everyone’s interest, and to include public relations perspectives in management decisions and policies.
AI, Government Relations and Fake News
In the era of PR 5.0, public relations practitioners must embrace change and take up the challenge, said Nuttaboon Pornrattanacharoen, the representative from Thailand Public Relations Association. “This advancement of technology allows public relations practitioners to generate and publish stories without human interaction,” he said.
The Dean of Academic, School of Communications and Reputation, India, Hemant Gaule, said that public relations professionals and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can create content that is extremely engaging. However, according to Pamela Yin Xiaodong, the founder of 17PR.com China, through the digitalisation and the new media scope, the total budget for each public relations works has increased up to 25%. “This somehow does not really affect the public relations field, since the aim is to make all PR works impactful for the audience,” she said.
The President of Institute Public Relations Malaysia (IPRM), Dato’ Sri Haji Ibrahim Abdul Rahman had a fair share by emphasising on Government Relations 2020. According to him, social media play an important role in changing the government. This was proven by the result of previous general election on how the Pakatan Harapan government built trust through usage of social media. He said the new government (Government 2.0) is all about building trust in public.
However, the new media could be less reliable with the existence of fake news. According to the research conducted by Prof. Dato’ Sri Dr. Syed Arabi Syed Abdullah Idid of IIUM, people do not believe in mass media because they are part of the fake news environment. Hence, he said, people are always going back to traditional media in terms of trust.
In his presentation titled “Fake News, Media Credibility and Trust on Institutions” Prof. Dr. Syed Arabi Idid, said that fake news have existed several decades or centuries and have been part of human vocabulary all these years.
In his conclusion, Prof. Syed Arabi stated that fake news had affected the reputation of the media organisations. It had affected the credibility of the news media and the low credibility suffered by the media had caused poor circulation and low demand. He also said that the audience become sceptical to use the media. Misinformation or disinformation, he added, if widely spread, would create distrust and mistrust in institutions.
Given the new technology, Prof. Syed Arabi stressed, members in society must go the extra mile to verify sources and messages to isolate fake news. He called on organisations and society members to come forward to generate ideas on how to combat misinformation.
The Executive Director of PR Knowledge Hub, Catherine Arrow, emphasised on the importance of empathy among leaders in her session on “Impactful Leadership in Times of Crisis: The Christchurch Sharing.”
Through the portrayal of compassion during a crisis, Catherine said, it could create strength in character of leadership. However, in order to make this practice a norm, public relations practitioners need to make swift changes in order to make a significant impact in maintaining the trust among public, she added.
Meanwhile, in her keynote address to the conference, Secretary General of Ministry of Communication and Multimedia, Dato’ Suriani Dato’ Ahmad, called on the practitioners to be “disrupters for good, all the time.” She said, “Take your inspiration from over the world. Innovate. Implement. Be game changers.”
Speaking on the topic “Embracing Disruption: Empowering All with Local and Global Information” she shed some of her insights and experience on how “we could use disruption as our tool.” She said that in a sense “today’s PR challenges are about Face Off or confrontations and disruptions and how we embrace disruptions.”
She said modern technology has allowed all citizens to be journalists. “What is dynamic, however, is the way Malaysia wants to use information as a tool to bring about new growth in the country. Those who do would know that Malaysians are among the top users of social media, worldwide. While this empowers us with information and tools to get ahead, the same pathways to information have also been misused by some.”
She said, “As communicators at one level or another, all of us understand the potential of good and destructive possibilities that information can have.”
“We are all familiar with the chaos that fake news can cause to government, business and individuals. As communicators, we have a personal and professional stake in how we manage news and information. This is where all of us have to grapple with the idea of Disruption.”
APRN Accredited Fellowship Awards
This conference was also commemorated with the awards of fellowship accreditation on Malaysian public relations practitioners by the ASEAN Public Relations Network (APRN) in recognition of their distinguished contributions to public relations practice and education.
In the list of recipients of the fellowship awards are two past presidents, Prof. Dato’ Sri Dr. Syed Arabi Idid and Datin Dr. Shameem Abdul Jalil of IPRM, and a Senior Fellow, Shahreen Kamaluddin. Other recipients of fellowship award are eight senior members on the present council of IPRM. They are President, Dato’ Sri Ibrahim Abdul Rahman, Vice President, Jaffri Amin Osman, Honorary Secretary, Aznan Mat Piah, Honorary Treasurer, Ravindran Raman Kutty, and Council Members Prof. Dr. Kiranjit Kaur, Doris Lim Swee Lian, J. D. Lovrenciear and Datuk Poziah Abdul Rahman.
Prof. Dr. Syed Arabi and Aznan are both from the Department of Communication, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences (IRKHS), IIUM.
Meanwhile, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) became the first university in Malaysia to be presented with the Accredited University award by APRN for promoting public relations education whose history went back to the year 1972 with the establishment of the School of Mass Communication. Prof. Kiranjit Kaur received the award on behalf of UiTM.
The awards were conferred on the recipients by the President of APRN, Prita Kemal Gani. ***
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