Business Politics Survey Weirdness

PR firm releases survey showing Harapan gomen is “inconsistent” and “confusing”

Recently, CILISOS was invited to the oddly titled “Citrine One Strategic Communications Survey“. Citrine One is a PR agency based in KL, and specialises in turning crisis into opportunity. What was the survey about? Well, it seems to track the success (or apparent lack thereof) of the Pakatan government in communications. Here’s an excerpt from the press conference.

You can read the full report here on the Citrine One site, but here are some of the findings.

  • 42.6% felt the Ministers communications strategy were inconsistent, confusing (42.3%) with u-turns on decisions (28.2%), lack of consistency (46.1%) and flip-flop-py (25.7%)
  • On ICERD, 47.8% of respondents felt that the government made a decision to decline ICERD under pressure while 41.2% stated that they were unclear about the issue as a whole. 11% of participants affirmed that the issue was handled well by the government.
  • On the Seafield temple issue, 53.8% feel that there is need for improvement in the way the riots were managed and 30.1% felt that the actions of the government were not timely or effective. 16.1% of the respondents agreed that the action plan by the government was effective.
  • On affordable broadband, 49.1% of respondents felt that the broadband price reduction plan still needs a lot of work, while 35.3% believed it was well planned while 15.6% felt it won’t work at all.
  • On the prices of commodities? 45.3% of the respondents are unclear about this matter while 26.6% feel that the ministers have come up with effective plans. 28.2% disagree to this statement.
  • Malaysians prefer to hear their news from Tun M, who they also think is the best communicating minister. Anthony Loke came a close 2nd, and everyone else was much lower.
citrine one communications survey

Which Minister communicate his/her policies best? – from Citrine One’s survey

Wait wait… why is a PR company doing a survey about how badly the gomen is doing?

citrine racial breakdownFirst off, the caveats. This survey covered 321 respondents. For comparison,  Merdeka Centre usually does 1000 (but population demographic weighted), and CILISOS surveys usually get about 1.5-7k #plug. Citrine mainly sent it out to their media database (they claim 10% of the respondents are journalists), friends, and an independent database they bought… all in all, 150,000 emails, of which 321 replied. Also, a surprising chunk (34.5%) of their respondents were Indian.

To their credit, Citrine One did acknowledge this shortcoming, citing that it was their first time doing a public survey, as well as a less than ideal survey period (Jan 22 – Feb 21 2019) during CNY as reasons they didn’t hit their target of 1000 respondents. However, a bigger question we had, which honestly was the reason we went for the press conference was – who wanted the survey done?

Let’s be clear about this.

Criticism of the government is an integral part of the democratic process. However, it’s usually left to the public, the media, research companies (like Merdeka Centre) and civil society (and of course, other politicians). It’s unusual for a PR company who actually has had GLC clients like Putrajaya Perdana, Petronas and even LYNAS (in 2012), to want to release a survey that highlights criticisms about the government. Furthermore, both SOSCILI and CILISOS editors thought the tone of the presentation focused highly on the negative aspects, with the exception of questions specifically about Tun M. So we asked them why …

“Our intention is to uplift the communications skills and expertise in Malaysia so that people have a more thorough thought process before they speak. We are a trading nation, people are looking at us. With the new government, the pressure is greater. People chose you because of higher standards, so expectations are going to be higher than the previous government.” – Ivlynn Yap, Managing Partner Citrine One.

This is the description of the survey results online

This is the description of the survey results online. Anyone can download the survey and view the results.

Importantly, Citrine One has stated strongly that no one commissioned or paid for the survey, and transparently revealed that LYNAS was their client 5 years ago (but no longer). It’s possible that the survey was conducted to achieve thought leadership in crisis management communication (their motto is “Turning Crisis into Opportunity“), which is indeed one of Citrine One’s core offerings.


But one part of the press conference turned a bit weird

Ivlynn Yap and Sharveswary Balakirustnan, Managing Partners at Citrine One during the press conference

Ivlynn Yap and Sharveswary Balakrishnan, Managing Partners at Citrine One during the press conference

Towards the end of the conference after the presentation, CILISOS asked Ivlynn Yap what her thoughts were on the communication efficacy of the Opposition. Her first reaction was “Off record ar?“.

We re-iterated that we were on-record, and she talked about non-BN opposition groups for a while, and this to say about BN’s comm strategies.

“With Bossku, it’s interesting to monitor – how far-fetched it would go in terms of influencing the public. That’s where the government limitation is capped. They can say they’ll serve another 4 years, so don’t worry about that. But if they’re not careful, they might lose all these by-elections.” – Ivlynn Yap

You can view the entirety of that recorded segment on our YouTube channel.

Our goal to highlight the strangeness of this survey report and subsequent press conference is not in support of the current government. As you might have read, we have highlighted some of their weaknesses in articles here, and here, and similarly highlighted good BN’s strategies here and here. However, we have always done so with the intent of ensuring Malaysians are well-informed. In the case of this survey, as journalists, we feel the need to not just highlight the statistics revealed, but also the background of the survey and press conference itself.

This blogpost was posted around the same time the survey ended

This blogpost was posted around the same time the survey ended

Interestingly, we also found a blogpost on Citrine One’s site, dated around the same time the survey closed. It talks about Citizen Journalism, and was contributed by Citrine One’s Thiviyah Manicam and Sharveswary Balakrishnan, who were both at the survey press conference. Here’s a line from it.

“Journalism is not about quoting A who says it is black, and quoting B who says it is white. Responsible journalism is about finding out if it is indeed black or white”.

We’d like to apologise to the peeps at Citrine One if we sound a bit dubious about the motivations behind the survey, but we hope you’ll appreciate that it’s only because we feel it’s the responsible thing to do 🙂

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