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					ISSUE ON PUBLIC RELATIONS IN MALAYSIA.

Issue On Public Relations In Malaysia
A Study on Communication Management

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ISSUE ON PUBLIC RELATIONS IN MALAYSIA.

ABSTRACT The primary aim of this paper is to discuss and analyze issue of public relations in Malaysia. Several key themes of communication management were explored: the practice of public relations in Malaysia and public relations diversity and practice in multi cultural environment.

This study also is concerned with what professional practice that desired and the professional practice that exists in the real world. Discussing on this topic may reduce the gap between public relations theory and practice. It is suggested that public relations should be viewed beyond a sub-discipline of mass communication or marketing; instead, it should be a complex strategic management discipline in order to venture into globalization challenges.

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ISSUE ON PUBLIC RELATIONS IN MALAYSIA.

1.0 INTRODUCTION Since independence, public relations has successfully been practiced by the government to influence general public with regards to the implementation of their public policies (Idid, 2004, in Sriramesh, 2004: 211). Thus, there is an increase interest to study and practise this profession in several domains such as government relations, public affairs, marketing communication, and corporate social responsibility. However, it is doubtful that public relations has been vigorously practiced as a strategic way in the Government, education and commerce industries. Public relations is still being seen as technical functions for public and corporate organizations focusing on editorial publication, publicity and event management. In business environment, public relations management needs to improve their strategic and managerial roles in contributing to the internal and external strategy development of public and corporate organizations. Specifically, every public and private organization should develop a full-fledged strategic division determining strategic planning for short and long terms to build a strategic relationship between organizations and local public. Thus, this paper aim is to examine and analyze various issues regarding of public relations in term of Malaysian perspective.

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ISSUE ON PUBLIC RELATIONS IN MALAYSIA.

2.0 DEFINITION OF PUBLIC RELATIONS According to Banks in his book, Multicultural Public Relations: A Social-Interpretive Approach (1995: 21), he points out that public relations is:

The

management

of

formal

communication

between organizations and their relevant publics to create and maintain communities of interest and action that favor the organization, taking full account of the normal human variation in the systems of meaning by which groups understand and enact their everyday lives.

This definition comes close to describing best practice in public relations, which is concerned with mutual understanding between an organization/government and its publics and also stresses the importance of culture and diversity for different communities in different locations. This definition may seem simple but it has a great deal of substance, as it focuses on management, leadership and mutual understanding.

Hutton in his article for Public Relations Review, The Definition, Dimensions, and Domain of Public Relations (1999: 211) describes public relations as ‘managing strategic relationships’. By this, it can be said that the combination of Banks’ and Hutton’s definitions and the consideration of diversity management may yield a highly comprehensive public relations definition to prepare for major new challenges in future public relations roles and issues regarding it.

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3.0 THE PRACTICE OF PUBLIC RELATION IN MALAYSIA It is a true to say that public relations practice is absolutely necessary for both government/public and private sector organizations with regards to Malaysia experience. This is because with the tremendous growth of business and commerce due to liberalization of trade in South East Asia, global business entities and approach by Malaysian government to boost its economy climate, public relations has assumed a new meaning. Every organization, be it a government/public sector or private company, tertiary institution or a government department needs public relations. It is no exaggeration to say that it is an important service for everybody who has ideas, products, services or a cause to promote. As a result of this, there has been an increasing interest in the detailed workings of various organizations with particular reference to communication patterns.

Malaysia's growing public relations profession is playing a crucial communication role in support of the country's move towards industrialization. In Malaysia, issues of culture, modernization, Westernization, and globalization are both real and typical. Consequently, public relations in Malaysia can play a central role in achieving specific objectives at all levels in tertiary institutions by focusing, reinforcing, and communicating effective messages. Public relations therefore, is identifies as an excellent and cost effective method and practice of improving the image of an individual, organization or product by using relevant and appropriate media including the in-house newsletter or magazine.

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ISSUE ON PUBLIC RELATIONS IN MALAYSIA.

Obviously, an organization may survive without public relations, but a planned public relations program can produce better results and an enhanced reputation or image to business here. It is also obvious that no amount of good public relations can help sell a bad product, protect an unethical organization, or cure a sick establishment. What public relations can really do is to help promote and project positive image, and minimize the damage if something goes wrong.

So the best tools for achieving better competitiveness in global environment in Malaysia is through practice of communication in public relations. Communication is the care of modern society with includes institutions and establishment. It is crystal clear that communication commenced with the beginning of time and has not only remained a critical component of society but constitutes the very fulcrum on which society revolves. It is dynamic because it is constantly changing and shifting in response to the total situation. It is ongoing because it has no fixed beginning or end. It is transactional because the elements occur simultaneously and the people communicating are independent (which is vital in global environment) and finally there is a process of understanding and sharing of ideas and feelings among people involved.

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In Malaysia, public relations play a key role in helping business industries create strong relationships with customers. Public relations involve supervising and assessing public attitudes, and maintaining mutual relations and understanding between an organization and its public. Big private companies such as Proton, Media Prima Berhad, Petronas and TM Berhad as well of political bodies and non-profit organizations (NGO’s) realize the importance of this approach.

These private companies as well as political bodies and NGOs have adapted and practise public relations approach as tools to improve channels of communication and to institute new ways of setting up a two-way flow of information and understanding in areas effectively. It is done by:

a) Convey information about their products or services to potential customers b) Convey information and suggestion to the government and legislators c) Political bodies as to attract votes, raise money and craft their public image and legacy d) Non-profit organizations, including schools, hospitals, social service agencies, as to boost support of their programs such as awareness programs, fund-raising programs and to increase patronage of their services

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Communication is therefore a vital tool for public relations practice. With regards to this, public relations practice specially among private companies in Malaysia at the present times employs diverse techniques such as opinion polling and focus groups to evaluate public opinion, combined with a variety of high-tech techniques for distributing information on behalf of their clients, including the internet, satellite feeds, broadcast faxes, and database-driven phone banks. For the public relations program or plans to succeed in tertiary institutions, these companies have successfully utilizing the service of the various media platform of communication effectively. One of such media which is identifies as a fast moving communication tools, globally accepted and often adapted to public relations use in Malaysia, is the Internet.

In a highly global and fast setting environment, most organizations in Malaysia seems to have focused their strategic public relation program on a diverse range of stakeholder groups, ranging from an individual stakeholder to local communities, instead of focusing on a single public. As today, dealing with the dynamic business environment, most organizations have also employed multicultural public relation practitioners from different educational backgrounds, cultures and characteristics, as well as from different countries to run the strategic program for their public relations. Diversity management, which is unique in Malaysia is based on a symmetrical approach to public relations, requires this approach. Understanding cultural diversity and multiculturalism is very important to articulate a sensitive and multi-aspect approach to excellent public relations, especially in a rapidly developing country like Malaysia.

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4.0 PUBLIC RELATION PRACTICE AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN MALAYSIA In Malaysia, communication campaigns have always been aligned with ‘intercultural harmony’ (Sriramesh, 2003). Examples are the celebration of ‘31 Ogos Hari Merdeka’, which is concerned with local cultures for all races in those countries. To cater for such circumstances, ‘every public relations professional must become a multicultural communicator’ (Sriramesh, 2003), with specialized training and development on multicultural facets such as corporate culture, religion, language and such like taken into account. This concept gives special advantages to public relations Malaysian professionals who may work with any ethnic group and any country in the world. Thus, it is hypothesized that in the globalization era, becoming a multicultural communicator can add value to public relations roles and practice. Thus, it is unique to see how the organizational leaders perceived managing cultural diversity can improve their organizational strategy development with the global expectation.

Because of public relations is a crucial part of organizational systems, it is important to every CEO or head of government departments to be at a level of expectation on how public relations can be used to manage stakeholders through the management of cultural diversity whether cultural diversity is seen as a barrier or opportunity to improving their business strategy.

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Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country where multicultural facets can affect organizational strategy development directly and indirectly. It is important to explore the role public relations practitioners can play to improve public relations on business strategy and reduce any complexities in understanding multi-cultural issues among the three major ethnic groups, the Malay, Chinese and Indian, as well as other ethnicities, including expatriates. They also must emphasized that in global business practice, business and multicultural facets cannot be separated, as understanding different cultures may benefit their organizational strategy development. Therefore, managing their business services using a public relations strategy which takes account of multicultural sensitivities is vital for business success.

Nurturing local public relation here is about encouraging global and local firms to employ diverse local employees in order to understand cultural sensitivities such as taboos, religious values, and norms that have been practiced over the decades in the particular country throughout the world. It is a great challenge for public relation practitioners to be cultural diversity experts who can adapt their public relations strategy to the country’s cultural values and norms in order to harmonies the relationships between the organization and its stakeholders. Team building, dialogue sessions and management briefings are several key cultural diversity management tools.

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The standard of public relations practice must be at the same level with global needs, with the ability to cater differences in getting the right message out. In Malaysia, business and industry leaders were also asked whether they see any difference in multicultural public relations in the country where they operate their business. (Zulhamri Abdullah, 2007). They see that every country has a unique multiculturalism but they are all the same in terms of understanding cultural sensitivity, as there is diversity of major races such as Chinese and Indian being employed by global corporations and being located in both Western and Eastern worlds.

There is a need for public relations professional is to understand the dominant religions such as Islam, Christianity and Hinduism that are practiced all over the world. Importantly, global public relations professionals must play a substantial role in researching, informing and advising top management about cultural issues in the country in which they want to invest.

Effective public relations are a process and its essential first step is research. Nowadays, research is widely accepted by public relations professionals as an integral part of the planning, program development, and evaluation process. Before a public relations program is undertaken, information must be gathered, data collected, and interpretation done. Only after the first step is performed, organizations can begin to make policy decisions and map out strategies for effective communication programs.

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Indeed, cultural diversity here is seen as a universal concept, as every country has different religious and tribal groups. A term globalization has given new meaning to public relations that its must be practiced according to various ethnic groups with different religions and tribes. Thus, building mutual relationships between organizations and external stakeholders requires an understanding of cultural differences to reduce any complexities that may affect business performance.

Almost all business and industry leaders acknowledge the importance of Malaysian organizational cultures and local norms in their practice. All of them agreed that mastering English as a global language of commerce is an essential skill for competent public relations practitioners, but they did not deny that the Malay language needs to be used to maintain the identity of Malaysia. (Zulhamri Abdullah, 2007).

Malaysian public relations professionals and public relations expatriates should be more sensitive to the local norms and organizational cultures in order to yield a favorable relationship between an organization and its environment. In a multicultural country, understanding diversity management and cultural values may increase the productivity of an organization and also create harmonization between an organization and the local society, especially in Malaysia among the three main races, Malay, Chinese and Indian.

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CONCLUSION The Malaysian public relations industry has been improved over the decade and has a bright future. In the future, the improvement of this industry will largely depend on the core competencies public relation professionals among government/public sector and private companies to increase their professionalism. In the 21st century, the way corporations carry out their business has changed. Malaysian corporations have come particularly to value public opinion, compared to the last few decades. This trend requires two-way communication (counsel management) rather than one-way communication (publicity). Globalization has seen the role of the public relations practitioner today especially in Malaysia is becoming ever more demanding in various fields such as in government and private sector, with the advent of corporate social responsibility and developments in information technology such as Internet. In addition, the role of public relations professionals has also changed from handling publicity in the production line to being involved in policy making in the dominant coalition within an organization. These changing trends need to be understood as the changing role of public relations has become important to build a favorable relationship between an organization and its public.

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REFERENCE

1. Austin, Erica Weinstraub & Bruce E. Pinkleton, (2001). Strategic Public Relations Management. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Inc.

2. Banks, S. P. (1995). Multicultural Public Relations: A Social-Interpretive Approach. London: Sage Publication.

3. Carl H. Botan & Vincent Hazleton, (2006). Public Relations Theory II. London, U.K : Routledge.

4. Cornelissen, J. P. (2004). Corporate Communication: Theory and Practice. London: Sage Publication.

5. Cutlip, S. M., Center, A. H. & Broom, G. M. (2000). Effective Public Relations. London: Prentice Hall International, Inc.

6. Department of Public Services, Malaysia. (2004). An Official Homepage. Available online: (http://www.jpa.gov.my). Accessed on 2 November 2004.

7. Heath, Robert. (2001). Handbook of Public Relations, Thousand Oaks. California: Sage.

8. Hugh M. Culbertson & Ni Chen. (1996) International Public Relations: A Comparative Analysis. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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9. Hutton, J. G. (1999). The Definition, Dimensions, and Domain of Public Relations. Public Relations Review. Vol. 25 (2), pp. 199-214. Elsevier Science Inc.

10. Idid, S. A. (2004). Public Relations in Malaysia its Colonial Past to Current Practice. In Sriramesh, K. (2004). Public Relations in Asia. Australia: Thomson Learning Pte Ltd.

11. Jablin, Fredridc M. & Linda L., Putnam, (Eds.). (2001). The New Handbook of Organizational Communication. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

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15. Ledingham, John A. & Stephen D. Bruning. (Eds). (2000). Public Relations as Relationship Management. A Relationship Approach to the Study and Practice of Public Relations. New Jersey: Erlbaum.

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16. Pieczka, M. (2000). Objectives and Evaluation in Public Relations Work: What Do They Tell Us About Expertise and Professionalism. Journal of Public Relations Research, 12(3), 211-233.

17. Sriramesh, K. & Vercic, D. (2003).The Global Public Relations Handbook. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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19. Van Leuven, J. K. (1996). Public Relations in South East Asia: From Nation-building Campaigns to Regional Interdependence. In H. M. Culbertson & N. Chen (Eds.), International Public Relations: A Comparative Analysis (pp. 207-222). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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21. Wilcox, D., Ault, P., Agee, W. & Cameron, G. (2003). Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics. New York: Addison Wesley Longman Inc.

22. Zulhamri Abdullah (2007) Towards International Cultural Diversity Management of Public Relations: Viewpoints of Chairmen/CEOs. International Journal of Economics and Management 1(2): 285 – 299.

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23. Zulhamri Abdullah & Terry Threadgold (2002).Towards the Professionalisation of Public Relations in Malaysia: Perception Management and Strategy Development, Public Relations Quarterly. Vol. 66. No. 3. 298-320.

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