Thursday, 26 July 2012

Defending the indefensible NOT best PR practice - A tip from Ambassador Pan

There is something worth noting about the manner in which the Chinese Ambassador to Malawi recently reacted to accusations against Chinese nationals operating small businesses in rural areas in the southern african country.

According to recent media reports, small and medium scale traders in rural areas have been accusing their Chinese counterparts of ‘killing’ the locals’ businesses by flooding the market with cheap goods.

In response, the Malawi government gave an order: all Chinese traders in rural areas should relocate to urban areas or risk the revocation of their business licences.

The local media reported that Ambassador Pan Hejun agreed with the order and described the Chinese business people as ‘mere vendors/traders’, not investors. According to Zodiak Online, the ambassador further pointed out foreign traders are not supposed to operate in rural areas.

There may be nothing spectacular about Ambassador Pan’s statement. However, his reaction offers an important PR tip to organisations, especially political parties, whose conduct sometimes courts public accusations or even legal action from some quarters: refrain from defending what is obviously not right, at least not as a PR tactic. It is as simple as that.

An organisation that is always on the defensive, including on issues to do with breach of laws, sends out one message: It cares less about its stakeholders. That is a big minus.

On the other hand, an organisation that refrains from this tendency earns respect from, and acceptance by, its key stakeholders. Such an organisation earns reputation (within the establishment or outside). It should be obvious to a PR practitioner that reputation is a key element that unlocks doors towards the attainment of many organisational goals, profit related or otherwise.

From a PR perspective, Ambassador Pan’s reaction is likely to contribute towards harnessing a favourable relationship with the Malawi government. Of course PR Space acknowledges there are numerous factors that help cultivate a good relationship between governments, not just one statement in the media.

One thing to bear in mind - in order for it to attain long term and tangible results with the ‘no unjustified defense’ policy towards complaints and accusations, an organisation has to be consistent in its approach. After all, unlike in advertising, some results from PR efforts are never instant.

Refraining from unnecessary and emotional defenses does not hurt an organisation. An organisation’s PR machinery just needs to craft a well-thought out response to accusations and complaints from its publics. There is more to be gained than to be lost


For news on the Chinese ambassador's reaction, visit:

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