KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 27 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Transport Minister Anthony Loke were picked by Malaysians as the best communicators of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s policies.
In the independent survey on the PH ministers’ communication strategy by communications agency Citrine One Sdn Bhd, Malaysians were asked an open-ended question of which minister communicated his or her policies best, and to provide the reasons for the ministers named.
Out of the 20 ministers and deputy ministers that were named by respondents, Dr Mahathir came in first with 43 votes, followed closely by Loke at 41, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng at 24 votes and Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo at 22.
Yeo Bee Yin, the minister of energy, science, technology, environment and climate change, also received relatively high votes at 11.
Citrine One managing partner and crisis communications lead counsel Ivlynn Yap noted that Yeo has been shown to think things through before communicating her ministry’s policies.
Yap lauded Yeo as someone who “does her homework” before making announcements and commenting on issues, despite the latter having to juggle multiple portfolios under her ministry.
“You can see she does her homework because she is able to answer,” Yap said, citing Yeo’s handling of the Lynas rare earth refinery in Kuantan, Pahang as an example.
Yap noted that Yeo had first engaged with Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh to find out about the matter as well as the Attorney-General’s Chambers on legal matters linked to Lynas, which she said led to the Australian miner backing off from launching a lawsuit as Yeo “knows her stuff”.
“This is the kind of skill that we need from our ministers,” she said.
Yap also highlighted Gobind as another example of a minister who communicates well.
“Let’s say there’s an issue, he will immediately respond and manage the issue, so he gained the respect and trustworthiness from the public. So these are the top five,” she said of Gobind.
The survey respondents commonly described their top five Cabinet picks as being “clear”, “precise”, “concise”, “consistent” and making “no U-turns” when communicating their policies.
The other ministers named by survey respondents as communicating their policies best include Education Minister Maszlee Malik at nine votes, followed by eight votes for both Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail who is also the women, family and community development minister.
Dr Wan Azizah's deputy Hannah Yeoh and minister in charge of national unity and social wellbeing P. Waytha Moorthy both received five votes, followed by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali at four votes, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad at three votes.
Those with nominations each were Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran, minister in charge of religion Datuk Mujahid Yusof and Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu while Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Ong Kian Ming, deputy minister in charge of religion Fuziah Salleh each had one.
In summing up the comments by respondents, Citrine One noted the general feedback received was that the new ministers were “merely announcing their plans rather than actually ‘communicating’” and that the public expects them to “properly explain their policies based on a reliable roadmap to justify their position as a credible improvement from the previous government”, with the latter practice being allegedly absent so far.
Dr Mahathir and his Cabinet
The survey also showed Dr Mahathir as the preferred choice when it comes to making government announcements, as compared to the ministers themselves.
When asked if they felt assured with the way ministers handle issues or if they still preferred to hear directly from Dr Mahathir, 57.3 per cent of 314 respondents said they were more assured when the PM spoke as compared to 42.7 per cent who said the other ministers are fine.
Yap however indicated that the work to communicate the policies of various ministries should not be left for Dr Mahathir alone to shoulder.
“But how long can we continue to have our Tun Dr Mahathir, who is 93 years old, continue to speak on behalf of so many ministers?
“I kind of sympathise with Tun Dr Mahathir, having to manage so many ministers when the ministers talk off the cuff, not sure about their planning and he has to be the one who have to manage those issues for them and come up with more firm answers,” she said, adding that it was time for ministers to be more careful when announcing policies.
Consistency, engagement, full strategy?
Among other things, the survey also showed that 53.3 per cent of 317 respondents felt that ministers’ announcements have not gone through the due process including engagement with stakeholders against 46.7 per cent who felt due process has been done.
As for whether the respondents felt the ministers had a comprehensive communication strategy for their policies, 44.3 per cent of 316 respondents said the communication feels very “piecemeal”, while 38 per cent agreed that ministers’ announcements on new plans do identify the challenge, objective, action plan and desired outcome. The remaining 17.7 per cent replied that they do not see a strategy from the way the ministers communicate.
As for consistency, the bulk or 46.4 per cent of 209 respondents felt ministers were not consistent in their announcements or speeches, while 22.9 per cent felt there was consistency, 4.8 per cent were neutral and 25.8 per cent gave other responses.
On a whole, Yap said there was room for improvement.
“I’m not saying that the entire Pakatan Harapan government is no good, there are good ministers who are communicating well, but they need to improve further. The public, I think, needs to see some improvement. And the better they do it, the better for everyone.”
The full survey report can be downloaded for free at http://www.citrineone.com/v3/survey.html, with the report including comments by respondents on why they felt certain ministers were the best in communicating policies.
Citrine One conducted the survey online with 321 respondents nationwide from January 22 to February 21 to gauge the public’s opinion on the fairly new ministers’ communications style and the effectiveness of their communication strategy. Respondents did not necessarily answer all the questions posed.
The respondents were mostly youths with the 18-30 year old age group forming 53.6 per cent, with the bulk of the 321 respondents from Selangor (31.2 per cent), Johor (19 per cent) and Kuala Lumpur (17.1 per cent).
Of the respondents, the majority were Malays (43.69 per cent), followed by Indians (34.6 per cent), Chinese (17.8 per cent) and those from other ethnic groups at four per cent. Over half or 56.4 per cent of the 321 respondents were female, with 43.6 per cent male.
Yap told reporters that the survey was the 18-year-old public relations and crisis management agency’s own initiative, and that it was not commissioned by anyone.
This is the first of Citrine One’s surveys to highlight the importance of having effective communications strategy locally, including within government, companies or non-governmental organisations, and is also aimed at uplifting communication skills in Malaysia.
Malay Mail yesterday also wrote about the survey’s findings on what Malaysians think of regarding ministers’ communication strategies, and how Malaysians consider three other issues to be more of a top priority for the government to act on as compared to tackling corruption.