Last week PR expert Alice Yong talked about the most important changes in the PR in Malaysia. Learn today in part 2 of the interview how important it is in a multi-racial country to be extra sensitive to the different local customs.
1. Are there PR practices in which you think your region differs from PR in other part of the world?
Since Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-religious country, PR practitioners and foreign companies that operate here need to be extra sensitive to the different local customs and etiquette to prevent any unintentional offence. It pays to go slow and consider all possible outcomes before the execution of actual PR plans. Make thoughtful use of strategies for international public relations and be ready to listen to your local specialists.
Malaysian media also tends to shy away from asking questions in formal settings such as press conferences unless they are forced to do so. Many journalists prefer to approach their target interviewee or spokesperson on a personable one-to-one basis.
2. Can you describe common mistakes foreign companies make?
Avoid being overly agressive especially during the first few meetings. While foreign companies tend to view business transactions as being totally “cut and dried”, Malaysians don’t work the same way. Yes, they are professionals but they also prefer to have a chance to warm up to the party they’d be doing business with. It’s all about giving and saving ‘face’ i.e. not overstepping the boundary that would hurt another person’s ego or pride in the course of business. So it is best not to push one’s idea across if the other party resists; take a step back and let them buy into your idea or proposal at their own time.
3. What do clients from other markets need to keep in mind when they plan to do PR in your region?
Relationships and rapport take time to build. It is best to invest time and efforts into getting acquainted with the local media and desired target publics should foreign companies wish to communicate more effectively with these groups. A local contact or acquaintance serves as a good conduit and will help to pave the way for better PR. It also never hurts to know and be aware of the different customs in our multi-racial country – your sensitivity would gain you and your PR efforts tremendous goodwill.
Alice Yong is Director of WYSE Communications Sdn Bhd, a Kuala Lumpur-based PR consultancy – GlobalCom PR Network Partner in Malaysia. Having spent 15 years of her professional life in Marketing Communications for several major hotels, Alice became a Partner cum Director in WYSE effective from 2002. She is also a regular contributor to The Star, Malaysia’s leading English daily which has a readership of over 1million.