One man demolition squad: How to destroy a brand in 24 hours

Following the harrowing accident caused by a collision between two LRTs on Monday, a press conference held the next morning made headlines for all the wrong reasons. 

The chairman (at the time) of Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, led Tuesday’s press conference. However, instead of using communication to inspire confidence or earn Malaysians’ trust towards Prasarana handling what is allegedly the worst LRT crash in Malaysian history, Tajuddin used the press conference to make distasteful crash-related jokes and disrespected reporters who asked valid questions. 

Instead of showing empathy and concern towards the gravity of the situation, Tajuddin’s blatant behaviour and comments during the press conference caused even more anguish among the crash victims, their families and Malaysians who are still coping with the consequences of a third lockdown with no clear end in sight. 

Some of the first thoughts that came to my mind while watching the PC was, “doesn’t the largest public-transport company in Malaysia have a crisis communications or at the very least a public relations department?”

Because if it did, wouldn’t one of the first courses of action taken by Prasarana have been to set up a crisis communications team within an hour from when the crash happened in order to strategize every piece of external information released to assure sensitivity to the victims and their families? 

Or forget a crisis communications team; wouldn’t the company’s PR department have at least drafted a list of potential questions and appropriate responses for Tajuddin to refer to during the Q&A portion of the PC?

But then I thought maybe Prasarana doesn’t have a dedicated PR department. So I checked the company’s website and found that the closest communications-related senior management position in the company is Deputy Chief Communication & Marketing Officer, Cik Rafizah Amran.

Upon checking her LinkedIn, I found that she has had multiple experiences leading the communications strategy at several companies such as Cancer Research Malaysia and Firefly Sdn Bhd. She also spent over 5 years as Director of Kreatif Megamas, a boutique consultancy that specialises in Public Relations and Marketing Communications. 

However, bringing attention to Rafizah is not the goal of this because for all we know, there could have been a comprehensive communication strategy devised and shared with Tajuddin prior to the PC, which he could have easily ignored. 

Some might think it’s unfair to try and pin the disastrous PC on anyone else but Tajuddin especially after the media reported his other remarks to the press the next day when he was asked to comment on the Finance Minister’s letter sacking him as Chairman of Prasarana.

But given Tajuddin’s ignorant character which has been apparent during several parliament sessions, I feel it’s unfair to expect anything more from someone who has been consistently obtuse.

However Tuesday’s PC was also a sign of Malaysian GLC’s lack of understanding when it comes to the importance of communications during a crisis. Strategic communications during a crisis creates connection between an organisation and its stakeholders. Even putting stakeholders aside, this connection is key in ensuring the organisation involved can move forward with confidence for sustained growth.

The Malaysian government must catch up fast in not only recognising the importance of strategic crisis communications for all its organisations but also make concrete efforts to promote it.

The finance minister officially terminated Tajuddin’s position as chairman of Prasarana yesterday but according to the company’s website, he remains a part of its board of directors. 

The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MARKETING Magazine.

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