Listen to your PR advisors Andrew!

‘Fierce fallout’, ’nuclear explosion’, ‘baffling moment’, ’noxious interview’, ’national joke’, ‘car-crash’.

These are just some of the phrases used by the media to describe the BBC Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew on his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.

Short of absolutely not doing the interview, could Prince Andrew have done any better?

Regardless of his many questionable answers, the one and only thing his royal schooling obviously helped with was his ability to keep his cool in what was doomed to be a train wreck from the moment he agreed to do the interview. His PR advisor even quit after advising him against doing it, but could there have been a way around it?

As the prince rightly said, “there’s no good time” to talk about this issue. He did this interview thinking that if he answered the cloud of questions surrounding his friendship with Epstein, then he could move on with his royal duties. It also appears to have been sanctioned by the queen, as the interview was done in Buckingham Palace itself, so we must give both Prince Andrew and the royals credit for having the balls to expose themselves to such an obvious scandal. However the plus points for this interview, ends here.

The question now is whether he has just inadvertently given a deposition that can be used in the US courts and if he has exposed himself to a possible extradition to the US to assist in the investigations against Epstein.

So as a communicator, this interview is a journalist’s trophy; as a PR practitioner, this is a nightmare – a nuclear fallout with an ever increasing number of casualties and damage.

He really should have listened to his PR advisor, cause the Duke of Yoke may have just stripped himself of his royal title.

#PrinceAndrew #JeffreyEpstein #PRCrisis #RantauGolin

Written by Janitha Sukumaran, Founder of Rantau Golin


Own The Narrative .... even when all hell breaks loose!

February may be the shortest month in the year, but 2020 has certainly packed a punch for Malaysians this leap month.

It began on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, shaking citizens up into what (even as I write) continues to be a rollercoaster ride as politicians and monarchy play snakes and ladders with the fate of a country. A new government collapses; an old Prime Minister crumbles; the stock market tanks; a nation trembles.

As the media find spotlights turned on them as truth sayers, I suddenly found myself being sought out on three occasions by our business radio station, BFM, to contribute my 2 sens on several communications related topics. Here’s a quick take of what went down with some further thought.

Feb 24: Leadership… Leadership… Leadership?

From a PR perspective, how do the events across all of Sunday (Feb 23) affect the public perception of our leaders?

Rumours are more potent than any other source of information and rumours, compounded by word-of-mouth, which in PR is one of the most important mediums of communication, can be dangerous.

As rumours gain moment, they gather more moss, clouding and distorting the initial message. Today, we see rumours being accelerated by WhatsApp, Telegram, Twitter, Facebook.

The actions by our leaders, as we saw it being played, were interestingly unified in their very sly silence and it was probably to make their (eventual) announcements about defections, resignations and new coalitions, more monumental. The timing for this however, was totally misplaced with today’s uncertain political climate, a looming potential pandemic and a very shaky economic environment. On Monday (Feb 24), following the initial 24-hour political drama, the FBM KLCI fell below the critical 1500 level in late morning trade, the lowest since 2011, clearly indicating leaders who were more focused on their own political agenda than in the economy they were supposed to stimulate. (One week later, it sits at 1,459 edging even closer to our record low of 1,444 points.)

Also, by shunning the media at the onset of this political wrangle, our government and MPs created an environment of distrust in the official channels of news and this distrust allowed uncertainty to be fuelled by what I called ‘mamak stall’ speculations. After all, it is human nature to spread rumours, which they believe in, in the absence of real information.

The game being played out by our leaders in general, sent a clear message of disinterest in the people who put them in office. These leaders created a national motion of no confidence. By not communicating clearly and timely, they lost trust and credibility amongst many voters. This early strategy of hide-and-seek by our leaders who chose to drop hints, communicate with smug smiles or not say anything at all, over coming out with a statement (even if just to buy time), put the power of information in the hands of the common person. By doing this, our leaders pretty much lost control of their messaging, while stripping themselves of any worthy image they have built.

In today’s highly connected, always-on world, the first 12 hours is the shakiest, the most vulnerable, as it is shrouded by uncertainty, anxiety and fear. It also presents a leader with the best opportunity to take the narrative into his own hands, stop the speculations and thus stand out as a leader trying to lead.

Here is what you need to know in a crisis.

  • In the 1st 12 hours, people ask what. WHAT on earth has happened?!
  • The next 12 hours, comes the who. WHO messed up, cause as regular Joes and Janes, we need to hold someone responsible and we are not opposed to burning an entire organisation at the stake.
  • 24 to 36 hours later, as the crisis sinks in, the question that arises is why. We voted you in to make things better. So why are we in this big mess? Why is this happening now? Why is no one thinking about us, the people? Why? WHY?
  • Between 36 to 72 hours, people are questioning how. HOW is this crisis going to be fixed?! They are now fed up and angry; they just want to get on with life within a stable and calm environment.
  • After that, the conversation in interrobangs surrounds when. When are you going to get your act together?! When are you going to get down and back to the real business of governing?!

Is there a way to regain public trust or improve their public image after this: 

Firstly, this trust has been very hard fought. It was a trust on trial from the last election and it was a very shaky trust. I feel that by what these politicians have done here, by not being forthright, by not coming clean over what was happening, by not sharing the processes that were taking place – that trust, that the people had given them, has been taken away. Regaining it is going to be tough, but the good news is that people generally have short-term memory.

By focusing on more pressing and monumental issues, by deflecting attention from this royal mess, the chances of framing a new image is not that difficult. It just takes a conscious effort and the right support.

Feb 25: Does Malaysia Need An Injection Of Fresh Blood In Our Leadership?

What would fresh blood bring to the table and if so, why does Malaysia need this?

The way we function as a government is basically by rehashing the old ways of doing things.

Ideally, fresh blood should bring in new ideas of how to communicate, how to create a new image for the country, a better knowledge of what the people want as opposed to what they think the people need.

This new situation that has been created, should not be looked at with fear, but as means to a fresh start for the country (remember, in Malaysia, a second chance to form a new government within 24 months has never happened). There is so much distrust for the old guards. An equal amount of distrust for the ex new guards. We have already witnessed first hand that this country is not ready for too many new faces, let alone a complete overhaul. As a society, it appears that we need to hang on to as much of the past as possible – almost a necessary crutch for the majority of the population.

However, fresh blood, which not necessary means younger leaders, will definitely make a difference even if it means only 20% of the government. It is a start; so I think if there are more Hannahs, Dzulkeflys, Anthonys, Gobinds (even a KJ and a Saddiq thrown in) – we are on the right track.

We need to start transitioning into a more youth inspired government, while keeping some stalwarts for continuity, instead of the reverse.

Feb 26: Managing Crisis & Change With Communication

For the successor of this very chequered legacy, how would you advise them to reinvent the brand image of Malaysian politicians and politics?

In any crisis there are opportunities; that’s what we say in business, and the incoming government is actually being given a very clean slate to rebrand itself and they should see it as a gift to make a change.

People are so confused and exhausted that you can shape a compelling narrative.

If we go back to the Malaysian Coat of Arms, it actually reads, ‘Unity is Strength’ and I think this is a great place to start. It is time to play up this motto and actually showcase it by going back to the people and engaging with the people; exactly like what PH did to win the elections in 2018 in the first place. It is a chance to tell Malaysians that there is a place and opportunity for each person.

When this whole incident blew up, a question to ask is how many MPs reached out to their constituents and attempted to allay growing anxiety and fear, and told them that, “Things are going to be okay”.

With today’s technology and social platforms, MPs should have access to their voters to communicate with them. It is time for voters to really know who their representatives are and not solely during campaign trails, but after and always. MPs need to continuously engage with the people and not only when they need them to cast a vote. Malaysian politics needs to build a fresher image of being more involved, more caring, more transparent. They need to project an image of altruism.

If you were to develop how future politicians communicate, especially in terms of crisis, what would you say?

I am a very firm believer that in a crisis you must take charge of the narrative and to communicate as honestly as the law allows you to. When the core of the crisis are people, one of the most important action is to actually apologise for the confusion and fear that had been caused. In this case, apologise for not having said anything for so long. (Agree to disagree about Tun Dr M, but he knows PR. He apologised for his silence live on TV and many felt a little teary; you know who you are.)

Forget about politicians feeling betrayed; the people of this country are nursing a bigger betrayal from an entire government, from leaders they trusted to take them into an era of change and betterment. The immediate focus is to regain some measure of trust and my suggestion is for the interim government to be clear and bold – enough of politicking! Let’s get down to dealing with our economy and the COVID-19 infection; these are pure survival issues for our nation right now. Communicate boldly that the government has a plan (i.e the budget stimuli that was announced on Feb 27) and that it will manage these issues.

People need to feel safe and since they cannot trust in politics, then make them trust in the economy and healthcare.

So, definitely, a higher level of commitment must be exhibited; an honest concern for the people should be emphasised on. It is really time to be more vocal about the job these leaders are chosen to do. Just doing it is no longer enough. Bring attention to it and be sure that you are not going to be known as a one-hit wonder Minister or worse, a complete miss. Call it idealistic, but The People are tired of self-serving politics. It is time to undo the politician skin and wear a civil servant one.

Feb 27: It has been over 72 hours and political fatigue has set in. I, like every other Malaysian is asking HOW are you going to fix this!

#MalaysianPolitics #BFM #CrisisCommunications #RantauGolin #RantauGolinSays #PublicRelations #MalaysianPoliticalCrisis

Written by Janitha Sukumaran, Founder of Rantau Golin


Managing Your Communications During Covid-19

The big question: Do I need to communicate my business when the world is shutting down?

The short answer: No. Not if this pandemic has beaten you and you are calling it quits.

However, if you are planning to move along with your business, then you probably have a continuity plan in place (or you need to develop one urgently) to counter the obstacles that the Covid-19 pandemic has inadvertently created, and you need to communicate this plan. Then you need to communicate how you are acting on this plan. You need to communicate with people who matter to your business, on how they are part of your plan.

In other words if you intend to keep selling to a consumer, then you need to communicate clearly that you are open for business, that you have products or services that they need now or will need in the immediate future, and that you have a plan of how you will deliver it to them, safely, while keeping your employees and partners safe.

This is a form of crisis communications within risk management and in light of our current situation, I am calling it PRCC (pronounced prick) – pandemic recovery crisis communications.

Now that you have gotten over the shock of the Covid-19 destruction to lives and economy, it is time to gather your team and ramp up operations and communications.

The bad news is that the people whom you generally deal with can’t meet you. Call it quarantine, restricted movement, lockdown – it all means the same – your typical freedom to cultivate relations has been curbed by a new police in town, #SocialDistancing. Media are working remotely, vendors are immobile, logistics are chaotic, supplies are stuck at ports, shops are closed; all resulting from actions to contain the spread of the virus and keep people safe and healthy. You feel like a hapless soul.

The good news is that you are not in this alone. The entire world is stuck in a whirlpool of uncertainty and this is the time to share best practices with one another on how to circumvent regular processes with new ways of operating. The other good news is that today’s business couldn’t be luckier in terms of marketing and communications.

Technology has set us up to deal with this business obstruction head on. You just need to reengineer the way you do business and that goes for your public relations.

Technology Will Save Your Business

This 21st century pandemic has not chained you to the traditional mediums of telephone and fax when doing business remotely. Today, technology has provided some seamless opportunities to quickly migrate your business to digitised operations such as:

  • E-platforms that have created safe and tried havens to do business outside your bricks & mortar operations. Today you do not even have to build your own process from scratch, as you can piggyback on existing ones that work best for your business like Lazada, Shopify, Rakuten and Amazon.
  • The recent surge in easy-to-use e-wallet apps, such as Big Pay, Boost, Touch ‘n Go, WeChatPay and Alipay that have already become lifestyle accessories, make it effortless to securely transact with suppliers, vendors, financial services and customers from anywhere and at anytime.
  • Widely available delivery companies, covering a wide range of logistics services have come in over the last five years delivering everything from food to medicines, computers to furniture from the traditional DHL, FedEx and UPS to Grab, Lalamove, Postmates, Dolly and BigBasket.

Once you have sorted your operations and are now ready to communicate with your audiences, technology once again comes to the rescue with:

  • Social communication platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and Telegram to engage with stakeholders from media to customers to educate, inform, sell and share.
  • Interactive web-based tools such as Google Meet, Hangout, Zoom and Skype are acceptable forms to ‘meet’ vendors, suppliers, partners, even media and bloggers to collaborate, discuss and explain.

Change It Up!

So you may not be able to have a large rah rah event to launch a new car or workshops to educate resellers on your new baby product, or a press conference to announce your new corporate direction.

Change it up! Use animations, video, infographics, online interactive platforms that will get you even closer to your stakeholders.

This is a chance to actually know who you are doing business with and why someone is interested in your brand.

Without the distraction of mass, one-size-fits-all style of communicating, you can now actually put a face and name to the media and blogger you have been engaging with. This will give you the opportunity to work with writers to customise stories suitable to their publications or sites. The new norm must be about quality coverage instead of counting the number of clips your PR agency secures.

Show Empathy Internally

As in any crisis communications, the biggest hurdle in engaging with stakeholders with new forms and formats, and in light of the avalanche of fake information freely viralised, will be securing the trust of people whom you identify as your target audience.

Start reestablishing this trust first with your closest and most important audience – your people. Educate your employees on safety and health issues – communicate clearly health benefits in place and how they can access it. Communicate with them on new ways of working to remain valuable and effective to the organisation. Show them they matter.

Create Trust and Acceptance Externally

Be transparent if there is a problem – an employee has tested positive to Covid; delays in delivery; shortage of supply; cancelled activities / events. Develop possible scenarios and actions plans, also statements that can be customised.

In being transparent, remember to ensure that you have created channels for direct communications using the apps and platforms mentioned above and beef up your customer care lines – retrain your frontliners to be more mindful in dealing with impatient, angry and stressed customers. This is the time to build loyalty amongst your customers. So show them you care.

Your target audience whom you already have a relationship with need to hear from you and your must maintain communications, even if your business has ground to a halt like the travel and tourism industry. This is the time to show customers that you respect their patronage with relevant refunds, flexibilities in rescheduling, customised changes.

If you choose to maintain radio silence, you will lose your customers and partners.

Ensure that your spokespersons recondition the way they communicate by being more human, emphatic, reassuring, confident and sensitive. This is a great time for leaders who tend to lead from the background to step forward and take charge of the organisation and brand’s personality. Show them who you are.

Be Caring, Gain Respect

This pandemic strangely enough has also provided us with a big red RESET button. It is allowing businesses around the globe to sit back, take a breather and reassess their organisation’s mission and core brand values.

Leaders are being given a chance card to decide if they will go back to the old ways of doing things or to press that red button that will redefine who they are as a company and brand of the future.

The two areas that the new generation of consumers are looking for in a brand to trust, is one that looks inwards at its cultural ethics and wellbeing of its own people, and outwards in embracing communities and the environment. If your brand has struggled to effectively deliver on these values, then you have the greatest opportunity today to make a change. Show them why you are different.

Transfer a portion of your marketing budget or resources into giving back during this pandemic by:

  • donating to help boost national healthcare, provide for the poor and destitute, bolster business communities or cottage industries in your area that are badly hit
  • migrating parts of manufacturing facilities toward producing items greatly needed such as sanitising products, protective gear, hospital equipment
  • dedicating buildings and products to support essential service front-liners with lodging, transport, communication equipment
  • giving your time to share your skills or expertise with people who may benefit and learn something new

These are worthwhile actions that translate into feel-good communications and in these trying times, people appreciate such selfless acts and will willingly share such news. By embracing your role as a corporate citizen or an individual who cares, you will find yourself with new followers and may even grow your business with carefully crafted messaging to suit your actions.

Enough said. Whether you are a B2B, B2C or B2M organisation, the first rule of business is to stay in business. Stay quiet and you will survive; communicate and engage and you will succeed.

In the next PRCC article, I will share a collection of examples of local and international organisations and individuals who have taken communications to new levels during this pandemic.

#CrisisCommunications #RantauGolin #RantauGolinSays #PublicRelations #CommunicatingDuringCovid19 #RiskCommunications #PandemicRecoveryCrisisCommunications

Written by Janitha Sukumaran, Founder of Rantau Golin, a public relations agency that has helped numerous companies manage crisis over the last 28 years


Talent In The Time Of Corona

With the announcement of the latest Economic Stimulus Package by the Prime Minister on 27 March to tide Malaysians over as we battle Covid-19, the SME sector in particular was left holding the short end of a very thin rope.

Can we take a step back and understand the impact the Movement Control Order (MCO) and the lopsided economic stimulus package on SME workforce?

On the whole, the SME sector has always had a hard fight to garner the best talent.  So, when we do find them, we work hard to retain them – offering competitive packages, a flexible work environment and job security for those who make the cut. The bottom line is that companies need good talent, so we work hard to build our portfolio to attract the best fit for us. I speak for my agency here – if we have a role that allows you to work from home (WFH), count your lucky stars.

No one expected this…PERIOD!

As front-liners, policymakers and the pharmaceutical industry battle to stop the spread and find a cure for this deadly disease, companies are fighting their own battles – finding ways to stay afloat with cost-cutting measures, in the short and long term.

In countries with mature and clued-in governments, immediate solid plans have been put in place to mitigate the burden of business owners and unemployment among the working populace due to drastic lockdowns or movement control orders. In Denmark, for example, a 3-month scheme was put in place, whereby the government covers 75% of the monthly salaries of employees who would otherwise have to be let go, with companies paying the remaining 25%.  While in Australia, the JobKeeper Payment programme allows employers to claim a fortnightly payment of AUD1,500 per eligible employee for 6 months beginning 30 March.   It should be mentioned, though, that Danes pay one the highest overall tax rates in the world, but it is great to see the Danish and Australian government using the tax income for the right segment at this time.

No alt text provided for this image

Published by The Star on 28 March 2020

In Malaysia, the government provisioned a measly RM600 salary subsidy (coupled with legal scare tactics), in a barely sufficient effort for companies to keep staff on during the MCO.   This is a mere 50% of the Minimum Wage Order 2020 that came into effect on 1 February 2020.   The ‘stimulus package for everyone’ certainly left out the majority of taxpayers and undervalued the contribution of SMEs to employment and the economy.  To understand your rights as an employer do read the opinion of Advocate & Solicitor  Su Tiang Joo as published by the Malaysian Bar.

“There is no law as it stands that provides the Minister with the power to impose liability on the employer to pay wages for work not done and which could not be done through no fault of the employer”. Su Tiang Joo, Advocate & Solicitor, Cheah, Teh & Su

However, let’s keep legalities out of the equation.   This unprecedented situation needs firm leadership and if it’s not coming from policy makers then business leaders have to take care of their own, #kitajagakita.

How do I live without you?

Business owners have hard decisions to make at this time, beyond MCOs and legalities. Are they making the best possible choices? For an organisation like ours, a WFH situation is nothing new. We have offered that flexibility to employees from time-to-time. Used productively, it’s actually a good solution. As we enter the second phase of this MCO, let us look at how we manage our greatest assets – our talent, as we stay apart to stay together.

There are a number of lessons that we have been forced to learn from this situation:

1.     Readiness – weeks before the actual MCO was ordered, we had looked at the global trends and discussed solutions that were right for us. When the time came and the announcement was finally made, our senior management had a face-to-face with the entire team to discuss everything from SOPs to health insurance.

2.     Keeping BAU – with the unprecedented situation, keep a sense of normality. From simple to-do lists, calls to catch up and weekly WIPs, all these are ways to keep the flame alive. Being cooped up at home 24×7 with the family, kids and your spouse, the situation is certainly different, but weekly morning meetings can help you focus and complete work tasks effectively. Apart from WIPs with your immediate team, arrange conference calls with clients to keep things going.

3.     Be their North Star – it is easy to lose the plot, especially when there is a lot of negativity floating about. With businesses unable to sustain, and news of job losses across the globe, the struggle is real. Your team needs to know where you stand. No one expects you to be a bleeding heart – but listen, understand and now more than ever, communicate. Also keep your employees abreast with policies – be it government or corporate.

4.     Accountability – a two-way street (or three-way if you count clients), so ensure that extra effort is made in communicating with your stakeholders. This does not mean hourly check-ins, but a heads-up when work is done or a message to say that ‘you’ve got mail’. Let’s face it, no one is staring at their computers all day. This is also a good opportunity to review plans and start thinking out of the box.

5.     Respect – if you are at work, lunch is lunch and the end of the work day is the end of the work day, and most importantly, weekends are weekends. If things can wait, it just should. The biggest lesson this MCO has taught is to slow down and evaluate what is important.

6.     Be Real – the struggle of day-to-day work is now coupled with uncertainty, do not ignore that rent has to be paid and food has to be put on the table.  While we discuss work and deadlines, check-up on your team to see how they are coping.

When companies get back to the rat race, there will be a lot of procedures and roles to be re-evaluated. The way we do business and the way we manage our talent will never be the same again. Sacrifices will have to be made all around. Now is the time to set challenges for your biggest assets and see who will rise to the occasion. You never know – you may just find what you never knew you were looking for.  If you have talent strategy in place , or even if you do not – this would be a good time to evaluate.


If you’re not in pole position, you’re just playing catch-up

As most of the world goes into lockdown in an attempt to #flattenthecurve, it’s increasingly apparent that nobody really knows when or even how this will all end. Until a cure can be found, and immunity built up, it looks like COVID-19 is here to stay for a while at least. The big question on everyone’s mind now is ‘What’s the new norm?’

I do believe we are in the worst of it now. With the infection still spreading in most countries, many businesses are also having to scale down or shut their doors completely. Rising unemployment and the impending global recession has taken its toll on consumer confidence everywhere. Things will get worse before it gets better.

But one thing’s for certain. Things will definitely get better.

Planning ahead for when the skies clear, is as important as riding the storm itself. Many things that are happening now will shape the way we navigate our lives in the future, and this is the most game-changing period of our lifetime. Be concerned, be cautious even, but know that this is the time to be in the driver’s seat and drive the change.

Don’t give up on retail. We are undoubtedly seeing a spike in ecommerce activity now, but it’s important to note that this is out of necessity and not choice. Many ecommerce businesses have boomed in the past month. A good problem to have. But in many ways, it also shows up how unprepared the e-commerce infrastructure on the whole is right now. Many retailers are hastily switching focus to e-commerce, and the supply chain is struggling to cope with demand. If there’s one thing that will change, it is that the race for technology transformation will intensify.

Consumers are now spending far less on non-essential purchases, for as long as there is uncertainty in the market. Making an ecommerce purchase has far more ‘checkpoints’ in the purchase journey that makes the consumer think before buying. Browsing or shopping requires affirmative navigation across platforms and going through the ordering and purchasing process is equally stepped. This is even before considering what you pay for now, will take a week or more to get delivered. With consumers in a cautious mindset, it’s very easy to be dissuaded from the purchase journey. In a retail setting, this whole process is far more seamless, and there’s instant gratification at the end. Retail spending helps stimulate domestic economic growth, especially in the coming months.

Loyalty in question. In a period where mobility and supplies are limited, people buy what they can and not always what they want. Brand loyalty takes second stage to urgency. This is especially evident in the F&B and FMCG segments. If a particular brand of soap at your supermarket has run out, you’re likely to just make an alternative choice. If your restaurant is unable to deliver for dinner today, you’ll just pick another. Perhaps inadvertently, this change is forcing consumers of all demographics to go back into a brand discovery phase. Brands can either be prepared to lose loyalty or fight to gain a bigger slice of the pie. Many will be open for business in the coming weeks, if not months, and that plan of attack is more evident now than ever.

Go Local. Each country has its own way of dealing with economic recovery, and cross-border trade will take time. What this means at a micro-level is that supply of imported goods will be slow to recover. For businesses who rely on imported products and services, now’s the time to re-formulate with more locally-sourced content. This ensures a more sustainable and consistent supply base. Export-driven brands should also begin exploring domestic markets for short- and medium-term survival. With consumers now willing to forego brand loyalty to look for more options, brands that take this route are more likely to come out on top.

The first big wave of change took everyone by surprise, but we now have every opportunity to plan for the next. It’s a matter of weeks or a month before the nation re-opens for business. So, make plans, get help, make sure it’s watertight, and get cracking. Because if you’re not in pole position by then, you’re just playing catch-up.

Published by

Marketing Strategist, CMO and Ideas guy


Reimaging Business With Disruptive Communications During Covid-19 (Part 1 of 2)

“Stay quiet and you will survive; communicate and engage and you will succeed.”

I wrote this in my last article ‘Managing Communications During Covid-19’ and while researching this article, my team found so many examples of change that have been successfully adopted during this crisis that you can use today to communicate with your audiences. Whether you are a conglomerate or a stay home entrepreneur, we have got you covered.

Regardless of what strategy you put in place, an important process in this time of risk management is the need to communicate any changes with speed and clarity with your audience. Take charge of your narrative today with some solid pandemic recovery crisis communications (PRCC) initiatives. Your audience both internally and externally will be thankful for being kept informed of how the business is developing and how you are restructuring your business to stay in business.

In this article we have identified 14 key areas where we share some amazing ideas by over 40 organisations, individuals and brands that have reinvented, reimagined and restarted their businesses to stay connected and relevant to their audiences. This is PR at its best at the very worst of times.

My team at Rantau Golin had a great time discovering these examples and getting inspired. I hope you do too. This article has been split into 2 parts for easier digestion. Today, we share the first seven areas, so please check back with us on the final set.

  1. Effecting change through mass reach

Telcos and social media platforms with their extensive databases can effectively use their reach to constantly remind people to #StayHome and of the importance of accessing reliable information. Here we take a look at telcos Digi and Maxis, as well as social media leaders Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

Instagram & YouTube
Digi & Maxis
Facebook & Twitter

2. Closed but Open

The travel and tourism industry has almost ground to a halt in these times of restricted movements. We are inundated with photos of tarmacs full of planes, empty airports and even closures of hotels. Yet some innovative organisations are not just sitting back and have instead found reasons to engage and keep their businesses going.

 National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

This has to be a winner in anyone’s book! The museum in Oklahoma, USA is closed and its security guard, Tim, has been given the additional duty of developing and uploading content on its Instagram and Twitter assets. The result is a daily dose of laughs, an exponential increase in followers, awareness of the museum that no amount of regular advertising could possible match and more importantly, engagement. (We hope he’s getting a bonus and good luck with the hashtags Tim.)

No alt text provided for this image

Qatar Airways

While airlines around the world are grounding their fleet, Qatar has realigned its business to fit the times by focusing on repatriation services and increased freight movements for products including medical supplies. It has also turned to its more fuel-efficient planes.

3. Finding Spirituality Through Technology

By far the biggest paradigm shift has to be the embracing of technology by religious bodies and for spiritual connections. From the pope to imams, from temples to memorial parks, live streams and podcasts are virtually congregating faithfuls in one of the most important attempts to keep people home and stop the spread of this virus. This April is important to almost all faiths as we celebrate Qing Ming, Hindu New Year, Easter and Ramadhan, so kudos to leaders who are placing safety over assembly.

No alt text provided for this image

4. Redistribution of Resources

With businesses half open or temporarily closed, leaders must be quick to adapt and strategise to keep employees feeling relevant amidst uncertainty, where job cuts are imminent despite government assurances. Perhaps this is the time to even give back.

Redistributing Manpower

My BurgerLab

This popular home-grown burger franchise in Malaysia has little need for so many employees to fulfil delivery and take-away orders. Instead, its young employees are being paid by the company to help senior citizens and those with disabilities run errands.

AEON Retail Malaysia

Supermarket chain, AEON has moved some of its employees into the unique role of Personnel Shoppers. This has proven to be a well-received service, especially for single shoppers and husbands venturing out into the unchartered territories of grocery shopping. It’s CEO has even taken to video, walking the talk in gloves and mask for hygiene purposes, thus putting his personal stamp to raise safety and health confidence in the brand.

No alt text provided for this image

Reallocating Production = Affinity Building With Cause Marketing

From New York to Milan, fashion and beauty houses are proving that they are not just about looking great, but also doing great, as many have reworked their resources to manufacture face masks, hand sanitizers and single use gowns, specifically for healthcare workers who need them most. This is cause marketing at its noblest.

Lux Brands

5. Win-Win Strategy

With brick & mortar stores shut and supply chain disrupted, outfits like farms, cafes, and even fine dining restaurants are struggling to stay afloat. Many of them have little to no idea of how to get onto the digital bandwagon, but thanks to quick thinking digital experts, these businesses that could die, are being migrated onto existing e-commerce platforms.

Lazada & the Cameron Highlands Vegetable Producers

Upon learning that vegetable farmers in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands were dumping their crops due to oversupply, Lazada immediately reached out with a solution. They invited the community to connect directly to buyers by selling their produce online. The specially created Cameron Farmer’s page on their site Lazada.com.my attracted over 21,000 followers in 4 days.

Lazada-CameronFarmers

Storehub

Recognising a gap caused by movement restrictions and the scattered information provided by cafe owners and even fine dining restaurants, Storehub, a technology platform for retail and F&B businesses, offered up its expertise and technology by creating the Beep Delivery e-commerce platform, that connects owners to customers, while managing its delivery. It doesn’t just stop there, as it is allowing businesses to embrace a sleeker way of operating in the future by bundling fully automated and integrated delivery sales reports for business owners who can use this to manage both online and offline orders, while forecasting demand and supply.

Storehub-Beep Delivery

6. Speaking Through Logos

When you have a powerful logo, you own a powerful tool that can be used to influence. Here are some well known logos that have been reimagined to send a message of #SocialDistancing and #StayHome while keeping to their brand identities.

No alt text provided for this image

7. Understanding Your Community & Delivering

The Hawker

This pandemic has shown us that people do help people. Like this novel idea that came about from an idle thought about the fate of hawkers in Malaysia. With movement restrictions, many of these small stalls and shops are barely making enough from take-aways to pay their rents and so “Seng” decided to use his expertise to set-up a straight forward online listing platform, The Hawkers (https://thehawkers.my), that provides an outlet’s menu, address and contact number for customers to place their order and then pick-up. #CovidBDamned – you can now still have your char kuey teow and satay from your favourite hawker. This site, jointly developed and managed pro bono by Studio Twenty and The Techy Hub, is at its infancy, so spread the word and help a hawker stay in business.

No alt text provided for this image

Burger King

This is how you position your brand during Covid-19.

Burger King developed a campaign very quickly to meet the global crisis head-on, that gives customers an idea of how to make their own Whopper right at home. The ‘Quarantine Burger’ ad fulfils the ‘quick, practical, fed’ purpose of a burger joint, while keeping to its brand values of ‘fun, novelty and quality’. This idea is already being adopted by other eateries thus securing itself as a best practice.

No alt text provided for this image

Check out the conclusion of this article, with the next 7 areas featuring other amazing ideas in Changing Up Your Marketing & Media Events; Teaching & Learning Remotely; Doing Good With Your Social Media Assets; Make The Inessential Essential; Plan With An End In Mind; Sports, Art & Music; and Keeping It Real.

#CrisisCommunications #RantauGolin #RantauGolinSays #PublicRelations #CommunicatingDuringCovid19 #RiskCommunications #PRCC #PandemicRecoveryCrisisCommunications #DisruptiveCommunications

Written & Compiled by the Rantau Golin team – Janitha, Gogulan, Julia, Adeline, Joanne, JC, Sharil, Melanie, Seema, Ashley & Cassandra. Rantau Golin is a public relations agency that has helped numerous companies manage crisis over the last 28 years.


Reimaging Business With Disruptive Communications During Covid-19 (Part 2 of 2)

In the first of this two-part article, we explored how companies are implementing many interesting and engaging pandemic recovery crisis communications (PRCC) methods to stay connected and relevant to their audiences.

Today, we continue with 7 more areas where organisations, individuals and brands are reinventing, reimagining and restarting their businesses. Let these ideas inspire you and be assured that you are not in this alone. Every business has a fighting chance.

8. Changing Up Marketing & Media Events

In the now age of #SocialDistancing and #StayHome, companies are at a dilemma on how to communicate with partners, vendors, media, influencers and bloggers, and get their messaging out there. Here are some organisations adapting to today’s new norm.

Using Live Stream & Real Time Engagement – Shanghai Fashion Week

No alt text provided for this image

Looks like a regular runway, but this one had models walk to no audience on a virtual runway with a CGI background. Shanghai Fashion Week pulled out the stops and showed us how to adapt by teaming up with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s online marketplace Tmall, to broadcast its entire roster of runway shows online from March 24 to 30 on Taobao Live, making history by being the first fashion week event to go fully digital. This virtual event opened doors to all fashionistas and not just the elite few, bringing fans closer to designers. Media representatives and viewers were encourage to engage in realtime comments and the most important agenda, purchase items on show.

On Demand Conference – Adobe

Conferences have always set the stage for businesses to exchange information and build relationships but instead of cancelling your event consider going digital like how Adobe took its annual Summit – Digital Experience Conference late March 2020, with attendees participation from around the world, from their homes. The event showcased new product innovations and even allowed participants to explore 100+ breakouts via browser and on demand.

No alt text provided for this image

You can work with some innovative companies that today have the technology to create all-in-one live online event platforms for meetings, conferences even exhibitions, where attendees can learn, interact, and connect. Yes, some of them even have virtual cocktail receptions – BYOB of course!

Opening Ceremony via Videolink – Prince Charles & Nightingale Hospital

Prince Charles officially opened London’s NHS Nightingale hospital for coronavirus patients via video link from his home in Scotland, where he is in insolation after testing positive for Covid-19 himself.

No alt text provided for this image

9. Teaching & Learning Remotely

School is closed, but not out. Teachers, lecturers and parents are working extra hard to keep students on track with lessons. Here are some organisations helping to make this happen.

Frog Classroom

YTL Foundation stepped in and offered free access to its e-learning platform, Frog Classroom, to all Malaysians. Lending a hand in this initiative are Teach For Malaysia fellows and alumni, who are volunteering their time to produce innovative and engaging online lessons covering Mathematics, Science and English for Year One to Form Five.

No alt text provided for this image

Zoom

All around the world, students are downloading the Zoom app to enter their classrooms virtually and learn online from their own homes.

10. Doing Good With Your Social Media Assets

Here are some philanthropic initiatives to help others in your community.

Makers & Co

This outfit, that usually organises pop-up markets in shopping malls for small home businesses, is using their heavily followed Instagram page to feature vendors: putting customers in touch with them thus helping them stay in business.

No alt text provided for this image

Biji-Biji Initiative

This is a popular impact-driven organisation that crowd-sources progressive ideas like this initiative that shows everyone can help by creating much-needed face shields for frontliners.

No alt text provided for this image

11. Make The Inessential Essential

Tourists and businessmen are staying home, which means millions of unoccupied hotel rooms around the world and cars for hire lying idle in parking lots. Instead of looking at this situation as a loss, here are some companies that have chosen to take a positive stand and convert revenue loss as marketing budgets instead. It helps people like frontliners have access to beds and transportation, and it helps employees feel relevant.

OYO Hotels & Homes

Around the world, OYO Hotels & Homes is converting its buildings into free-to-stay hotels for frontliners such as medical staff who are grateful to be able to get some much needed rest somewhere close to work, instead of going home. Select OYO facilities are even working with adjacent hospitals, offering support as quarantine facilities. So good on you OYO!

Trevo

No alt text provided for this image

While it may sound like an oxymoron, you actually still need a vehicle even when you are not supposed to be moving around. How else are you going to make that periodic supply run. visit the doctor in an emergency, or commute if you are a frontliner? Recognising that not everyone has the luxury of a car and the lack of e-hailing vehicles right now, newly launched Trevo, the Airbnb for cars, is not letting this pandemic shut it down before it has even started. Instead, it developed a promising promotion with special care packages that allow customers to rent cars for extended periods at lower rates.

12. Plan With An End In Mind

If you say and do nothing during a crisis, then kick starting your business once movement restrictions are lifted is going to be tough. Think of simple things that you can do. Like the above examples, change your mindset as providing something free can be looked at as a marketing or branding opportunity.

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Magazines

No alt text provided for this image

SPH is offering some of its online magazines complimentary to keep readers occupied during their stay home period. This offer has been finding its way virally via WhatsApp, with people from even outside of Singapore cashing in on this offer. What’s more, SPH’s myNEWSSTAND app is gaining traction.

The Met Kuala Lumpur Grand Salon

This couture hair salon in uptown KL will still have its regular clientele when it reopens, but it has made a grand gesture in support of our healthcare professionals by inviting them in for a professional hair cut once this pandemic is under control. A simple, heart-warming communication that has probably gained this salon new followers.

No alt text provided for this image

13. Sports, Art & Music

Tour Of Flanders Virtual Race

Rather that postpone the highly anticipated race in the cycling circuit, the organisers, Flounders Classic, held a “lockdown” edition by teaming up with TV broadcaster Sporza and technology firms Bkool and Kiswe to develop a digital platform for a virtual route as well as a live streaming app that allowed fans to follow the race, The race itself only featured the last 32 kilometres of the route with 13 professional riders tackling the punishing Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs from the comfort of their houses, on home trainers. Congratulations to Belgian Olympic road-race champion Greg van Avermaet who was crowned winner. Will Tour de France follow suit?

No alt text provided for this image

Live Concerts on Instagram – Various Artists

Covid-19 is not keeping artists from their fans, as Insta Stories become the new concert halls. If you are in Malaysia, check our jazz queen Sheila Majid’s daily jam sessions on her Instagram.

No alt text provided for this image

Photo: Vulture, Chris Martin/Instagram, Miley Cyrus/Instagram and John Legend/Instagram

Dance For All – Bolshoi Ballet

The show must go on. Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet is giving all ballet fans an open pass to watch them live as it is streaming its iconic performances online during Covid-19.

No alt text provided for this image

14. Keeping It Real

The biggest culprit in today’s always connected, always on world, is fake news. It has seeped through every facet of our communications and this pandemic has not been spared. The biggest challenge then is to ensure that people recognise, verify and share only correct information. So it is really about funnelling your PRCC to the audience.

National Security Council Malaysia

Sitting in Malaysia, our vote goes to our NSC on Telegram. At the onset of this pandemic, the digital team at NSC took to Telegram with up-to-the-minute information and advisories, effectively quashing fake news being circulated. The use of Telegram as their preferred choice of communicating was also apt as it archives content thus allowing new members access to old information. This group has single handedly raised the adoption of Telegram in Malaysia with its present 1 million over subscribers, who recognise it as their go-to channel for verified content – statements, infographics, pictorials, videos and links.

No alt text provided for this image

All these examples are merely a handful, of how organisations around the world are employing disruptive communications to engage with audiences and be more relevant.

The one thing that cannot be ignored is the role of technology that will feature heavily throughout this PRCC period and after. It is saving businesses. When once we condemned technology for isolating people, today we hail it for doing just that. Nothing can ever replace the importance of face-to-face communications, but in these times of #SocialDistancing, #WFH and #StayHome, it certainly comes close.

So good luck and all the best as we ride out this pandemic together. #CovidBDamned

#CrisisCommunications #RantauGolin #RantauGolinSays #PublicRelations #CommunicatingDuringCovid19 #RiskCommunications #PRCC #PandemicRecoveryCrisisCommunications #DisruptiveCommunications

Written & Compiled by the Rantau Golin team – Janitha, Gogulan, Julia, Adeline, Joanne, JC, Sharil, Melanie, Seema, Ashley & Cassandra. Rantau Golin is a public relations agency that has helped numerous companies manage crisis over the last 28 years.