Friday, March 12, 2010

PR goes old school to get message across

DAP advisor, Lim Kit Siang explains that the distibution of pamphlets are common practice among PR parties as it is almost impossible for them to get access to mainstream media.

Finding it hard to get their side of the story told in the Barisan Nasional-controlled mainstream media, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has resorted to old-fashioned pamphleteering.

Two years ago, it made historic gains at Election 2008 using online tools such as blogs and social networking sites like Facebook, Friendster, etc.

Today, Barisan Nasional (BN) has woken up and is using similar tools while still controlling the mass media, leaving PR with little option but stick to tried-and-tested communication channels.

The Penang government recently printed a two-page newsletter listing their numerous policies that benefitted the Malay community.

This, according to PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, was to dispel the perception that the DAP-led Penang government was “anti-Malay.”

“There are cold, hard facts listed down here. I hope we get to spread these facts to the people so that they know what is really happening and not listen to the false accusations printed in mainstream papers like Utusan Malaysia,” he said at a press conference recently.

According to DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang, the distribution of such materials was common practice for PR parties, who found it close to impossible to gain publicity in mainstream media.

He noted that not only do the media fail to publish or air Pakatan’s stories, it was often used as a tool by BN to spread negative stories, rumours and even lies about the coalition.

“The only way to overcome this media blackout and total control is through the distribution of pamphlets. It may seem old-fashioned in the age of the Internet and Twitter but in rural areas, online media is not effective because of the lack of accessibility so we organise ceramahs, hand out leaflets, brochures, pamphlets...,” he said when contacted yesterday.

He noted that BN was currently on a PR-bashing drive, starting with stories about Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s anti-Islam stance and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s moral character.

“This is very bad because it can poison the community’s mindset,” said the senior Lim.

According to him, Pakatan had little choice but to reach out to the masses by distributing newsletters/pamphlets, especially to the Malay community in the rural areas.

“I think this method does have some kind of impact. We hope that it works,” he said.

DAP Socialist Youth chief Anthony Loke, however, pointed out that since PR parties had to spend a substantial amount of money for such materials, they would only print them for specific campaigns.

“It is very tough. And we are talking about mass circulation here, so we also need the manpower. This is why we usually do it only during special campaigns or for specific issues like the GST, for example,” he said.

He noted that on most occasions, each state would have to purchase about 20,000 copies just to distribute the news to the masses.

“This can become costly. Like last year, when Utusan Malaysia went on its campaign to label us as anti-Malay. At a minimum, each state had to purchase at least 20,000 copies which cost about RM6,000. The bigger states had to buy more. So imagine if we did this often, how much money do you think we would be spending then?” he asked.

Batu MP Chua Tian Chang said PKR had been using this method for 10 years now, confidently noting that it was very effective.

“This is why we are still not afraid to speak up on controversial issues although we know it will be twisted out of context in the mainstream media. At the end of the day, we will bring our message across to the people through these means in order to change their perception,” he said.

He added that for this to really work, Pakatan needed to beef up its membership base, especially in the rural areas.

“We need good membership in the villages. Otherwise, our news will never reach there. And of course, our people here cannot drive all the way to these small towns just to distribute leaflets. What we need is more muscle strength from the locals, and then our leaders can go there to speak at ceramahs,” he said.

Chua also claimed that the Barisan’s act of utilising the media to spread “false news” had only served to backfire on them.

“The people are not so stupid to be blinded all the time. In fact, because of what Barisan is doing, now there are people who simply do not believe a single thing reported in the mass media. They may not have facts of the truth but they are just convinced that everything reported in, for example, Utusan Malaysia, is a lie,” he said.

He added that the Barisan was only destroying itself when it refused to allow the mainstream media to be objective and unbiased.

“At the end of the day, it is about the news that you spread and not really how you spread it. This is what will determine the people’s support for you. A racist remark is a racist remark, no matter where it is reported, whether in the mainstream news or not, and the people will be able to see that,” he said.

PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub added that although it was hard to make the headlines in the mainstream media, the people these days sought out alternative media sources to get the other side of the story.

“For PAS, we have our machinery like Harakah and Siasah to help us. Also, we use the new media to spread the word – like using Facebook or our bloggers,” he said.

He agreed that those in the rural areas did not enjoy easy accessibility to the Internet media, but added that this was not a stumbling block for Pakatan.

“Many of these people have children living in the urban areas where they have good Internet access and they can read the news or obtain information through these alternative media websites. When these children go home to visit their families, this information is then shared with their families,” he said.

courtesy of Malaysian Insider

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