Lim Guan Eng’s mandarin mistake – a forgivable faux pas

It’s a new Malaysia!

Let’s be honest, what was so terribly wrong with a message to an audience who appreciates the content to be in Chinese.

The answer, nothing.
In fact, its SOP for press statements/releases in English and BM to be accompanied by a Chinese version for the press like Sin Chew, Nanyang Siang Pau, and Kwong Wah, just to name a few.

And if our fellow Malaysians have a preference to read a news piece or statement in Chinese, is there any problem with it?

Well, a section of us were up in arms when Finance Minister YB Lim Guan Eng posted a statement in Mandarin on his personal FB profile.

We took it that he did not issue an English and BM version, which he did. This Chinese posting was to address a segment of his FB followers.

One thing is clear, we are very quick to judge and label. The right thing was to check the background of how the statement came to be, research if other languages were an issue, and find out why such a channel was chosen.

The ruckus it raised and the manhours spent of social media especially WhatsApp and Facebook just to read the various multiple points of views on the matter.

Honestly was it worth it and in the end, what did it amount to each of us individually? Nothing. Just fodder to gossip.

He made a faux pas as a public figure whatever he says or post is NOT a personal or private matter. Furthermore, social media is open to everyone and the posts became public.

Therefore as a leader, he needs to communicate effectively. Former presidential speechwriter and author James C. Hume’s sums it up best – “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

To communicate successfully, they need to be a H.I.T. with the Rakyat. The Ministers will need the following:
IKHLAS – be sincere and honest. The message must be real and from the heart.  Not some spin messaging but the truth, even if it hurts!
Be REAL, don’t FAKE it, the Rakyat can see through a phony any day. The value of Integrity is Not Only your greatest asset but should be your only asset.
Engage with the Rakyat Face to Face. Your visible presence counts, it sends a strong message that you are always listening and being there for them.

By listening well, you gain a clear understanding of another’s perspective and knowledge. Listening fosters trust, respect, and openness.

Allow people to air their gripes and complaints. Ask questions that open the door to what people really think and feel.

And pay close, respectful attention to what is said — and what’s left unsaid.
From the brickbats on social media, YB Lim Guan Eng’s response showed he listened to the Rakyat’s feedback. He did apologise and that itself is a huge victory over the human ego.

This we should give him credit for.  

The art of communicating properly is not difficult. It’s time the new Government streamlines its messages.

Its strategic key messages must be clear and concise. The PM will always be the key spokesperson, while each Ministry’s Minister is the technical subject matter experts to support the overarching message.

YB Gobind’s Ministry of Communications and Multimedia should act as the Government’s PR division and all other press statements and speeches etc should go through his team.

This should ensure dissemination of messages are standardized and no one will again shoot themselves in the foot.

More work yes, better control yes. And it’s going to be worth it, cause believe you me, those mistakes floating around social media will come back and haunt the Government come GE15.

This way it can minimize future headaches.
In the end, we all must train ourselves to be discerning consumers of digital news. Do not allow our own biasness cloud our judgment on information we receive.

Remember not all news is what seems to be. Read the piece and your own instinct will alert you if it makes proper sense or not.

Fact-finding is easy, search, research, clarify and verify.

Don’t share if you are not aware. We get excited about sensationalized stories. So relax, chill and when something “Panas” comes along, play it cool and the facts will eventually unravel itself.

So if the news will benefit the lives of others, share it. If it’s not and it just ends up upsetting you, delete it.

Trust me, you will sleep more soundly when you don’t let the noise in the digital world upset your biorhythm.
Syed Mohammed Idid bin Datuk Syed Ahmad Idid is a senior PR practitioner who consults on strategic stakeholder communications and Government Relations.

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