Yes and No.
Yes, if they don’t want to get flak and be misquoted all the time.
No, if they don’t mind all the negative publicity because that’s part of the popularity game.
A local radio station which featured the same topic on whether our ministers needed media training or not, had an editor of a Malaysian online portal saying our ministers got into trouble all the time now because they speak their minds like they used to when they were in the opposition.
Besides, Malaysians also love looking for mistakes and listening to them. Hence, putting more importance on what he or she said rather than the job he or she is doing.
The more honest and transparent our ministers are, the more they are likely to invite flak.
All the more reason why our ministers need to realise that they are no longer in the opposition but IS the government of the day.
Everything that they do and say becomes public scrutiny especially with the bitter Barisan Nasional opposition’s criticisms keeping them on their toes.
But honesty aside, they wouldn’t be getting flak if they were clear of their key messages and knew what to expect from the media.
All hell breaks loose
Say the wrong thing and once it’s out there in the media, it is picked up on social media and all hell breaks loose.
You and I know what damage that will spell.
The power of social media: tried and tested in Malaysia’s historic 14th General Elections.
According to R.Age, 22 million out of Malaysia’s 35 million population are on social media, making Malaysia one of the biggest Facebook markets in the world.
Unsurprisingly, the battle for the hearts and minds of Malaysian voters was played out online.
The night before GE14, both prime minister candidates
How you “engage” with the people and not “talk at them”.
Burger King’s social media campaign strategy of mocking MacDonald’s succeeded in engaging with the people.
Knowing them well helps you handle them well.
Be media trained
Hence, in the absence of a powerful and reliable Public Relations team, every government, every minister needs to know the importance of being media trained.
If you are not prepared to face the media, do not know what to anticipate, do not know your key messages, your dos and don’ts then you’re most likely to be misquoted, coerced into saying things you probably never dreamt of saying.
You end up washing your dirty linen in public.
We saw the Pakatan Harapan government do this in the whole of 2018.
From contradictory statements to a salvo of public accusations, here are some of the open barbs PH leaders have traded with each other after winning the 14th general election, according to Malay Mail:
Lim Guan Eng’s appointment as finance minister
On May 16, PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim voiced his concern over the appointment of Lim Guan Eng as finance minister, since the latter would be the first ethnic Chinese to hold the powerful Cabinet portfolio in four decades.
This followed Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s announcement on May 13 of Lim’s position in the Cabinet along with PPBM president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as home minister and Amanah President Mohamad Sabu as Defence minister.
Former PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli had also accused Dr Mahathir of announcing Lim, Muhyiddin and Mohamad’s Cabinet portfolios without proper consultation with the PKR leadership.
Maszlee’s rejection of Chinese school funding
Education Minister Maszlee Malik drew the ire of members of his own coalition following a written reply from his ministry on July 26 stating that Chinese independent high schools would not be funded by the Education Ministry.
This led to criticism from MCA leader Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong, as well as Ipoh Timor MP Wong Kah Won and Bercham state assemblyman Ong Boon Piow, both of whom are from DAP.
They slammed Maszlee and urged the prime minister to review whether the PPBM lawmaker was fit to helm the portfolio.
Maszlee taking up IIUM presidency
On September 5, Maszlee was appointed the seventh International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) president after approval by IIUM chancellor, Pahang ruler Sultan Ahmad Shah.
Politicians from both sides of the political divide criticised the education minister, stating it was a clear conflict of interest.
Among the critics was Kampung Tunku state assemblyman Lim Yi Wei from DAP, who urged Maszlee to relinquish the IIUM president’s post on the very same day that he was appointed.
Demands for P. Waytha Moorthy to resign
PPBM’s Youth wing Armada, which is led by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, reportedly sent a memorandum to the prime minister’s office on December 19 asking Waytha, who is minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of unity, to be sacked.
Waytha was accused of failing to prevent, or even contributing to the riots at the Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam temple in Subang Jaya in November that led to the death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim on December 17.
Armada’s push for a fellow minister’s sacking prompted Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy to demand action against Syed Saddiq on December 20.
Ramkarpal had also said Syed Saddiq was “highly irresponsible” by avoiding collective ministerial responsibility that requires all ministers to publicly back every Cabinet decision.
Maszlee’s ‘medan dakwah’ call
On December 20, Sarawak PH chairman’s special assistant Abdul Aziz Isa called for Maszlee’s resignation, following his remarks a day earlier asking religious teachers from the peninsula to treat Sabah and Sarawak as “medan dakwah” or arena to evangelise.
DAP’s Bukit Assek state lawmaker Irene Mary Chang also told Maszlee to get his priorities right by resolving problems related to education and schools in Sarawak and Sabah, instead of making gaffes from time to time.
Aziz retracted his statement a day later following Maszlee’s claim that he used the word in a “wider context” to mean “bringing mankind towards good” — which could be done through various means including education.
PKR leader’s sudden attack on Dr M
On December 21, Kedah PKR chief Datuk Johari Abdul accused the prime minister of being uncertain about what to do after removing former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak from power as well as spending too much time abroad.
The chairman of the Government Backbenchers Club in Parliament urged Dr Mahathir to stop playing up the alleged misappropriation of government funds by Najib, as the former BN chairman has already been charged in court.
Dr Mahathir’s supporter Khairuddin Abu Hassan, who is an Amanah member, then claimed that those who failed to get government positions were plotting to oust the prime minister.
Stop sweeping things under the carpet
Interesting story but all the more damaging and putting a stop to all this bickering needs a head-on approach.
Firstly, stop sweeping things under the carpet.
Our ministers need to admit their mistakes and be brave enough to say, “Yes! We need media training!”.
“We need to control the interview, we need to be clear of our key messages and stick to them and yes, we need to win this interview!”
We will prepare you and your company to handle the most difficult of interviews and ace it! Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile: 0193453213 and we will get right back to you.
For power tips on our training programs do watch our series of “Media Buzz with Anne Edwards” videos.