POSTSCRIPT / November 4, 2010 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Obama’s slide in polls offers lessons for Pinoys

OBAMA SLIDES: Just two years after Barack Obama swept into the White House on the wings of his rhetoric of change, it appears from the just-concluded midterm US elections that Americans are having second thoughts about his claimed reformist agenda.

Too many voters have not been happy with Obama’s handling of the economy, his style of leadership and, it seems, the persona of the first black US president. That ruined the election chances of many Democratic candidates.

Voters gave back to the opposition Republicans control of the 435-seat House of Representatives. The Grand Old Party failed, however, to capture control of the US Senate after losing populous California and other states. (Scorecard in news section)

Politicians in Manila need not strain to see lessons in what happened to Obama halfway into his term that began auspiciously with high expectations. A president is actually on probation in his first years and any inadequacies will show in time.

It is not that voters are fickle – and even if they were, they have a right to be. It is just that more and more of them are becoming extra discerning and demanding

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MULTIMEDIA BLITZ: Last Tuesday’s US polls firmed up the Internet’s pivotal part both in the election campaign and the reporting of the results.

In the same way that candidates tapped the speed and reach of multimedia devices — from desktop to laptops to handheld devices — news organizations churned out poll reports and analyses faster than ever before seen and heard on traditional media.

These include, as it is in the Philippines, interactive media, social networking systems and mobile applications. Among the more prominently used are Facebook and Twitter.

Newspapers and other print media, including the venerable mainstream giants, fell behind their broadcast brothers in coverage. What they lacked in speed, they tried to compensate with depth and color, and their linking up with radio and TV.

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P.R. FOREVER: The interactive media phenomenon has had people asking “Will social networks replace public relations”?

Veteran PR practitioners – one of them Charlie Agatep, president and CEO of Agatep Associates Inc. — would have none of that “nonsense”! He quoted Harold Burson, founding chairman of the global PR giant Burson-Marsteller, saying that “public relations is forever.”

Burson further said: “Public relations has been practiced from the time one person first wanted to persuade another to change an opinion or to take a specific course of action.

“The Internet is a powerful tool in (PR’s) communication arsenal, perhaps the most versatile ever. But it is (just) one of many tools. No other medium has the capability to reach such large and widespread audiences so quickly and so 

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SOCIAL MEDIA: Agatep commented: “Social networking can cause tremendous mischief because of the ease of access and total lack of discrimination in its acceptance of misinformation. Look at what happened when Asec Maria Carmen Mislang tweeted ‘Wine sucks,’referring to the wine that was offered by the Vietnam host.

“Only the passage of time and through experimentation can we master this wondermedium. I have been in PR for the longest time, and I see that the need for PR has never been greater in almost all aspects of our lives.

“Public confidence across almost all institutions is at an all-time low. In the public esteem, businesses have declined. Product recalls and environmental violations have increased.”

Burson said: “Restoring one’s good name is increasingly an objective of enlightenedmanagement. To a greater degree than ever before, public relations has a seat at themanagement table as plans are created and programs are implemented to improve publicattitudes.

Call it what you will — communications, corporate affairs, public affairs — publicrelations will be the function that creates the equilibrium that is so necessary to social, political and economic stability.”

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INDISPENSABLE?: It is amazing, disappointing to some, that President Noynoy Aquino appears to have been held hostage by people who had conditioned him to think they are indispensable.

Earlier, DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno bragged to newspaper editors that he has been with Noynoy from way back and knows so much of him that the President would hesitate firing him.

Assuming that is true, Puno should not be caught saying those things. But as he had boasted, the President kept him despite his display of incompetence in the Aug. 23 hostage fiasco and his integrity put in question when he was linked to jueteng payola.

Then, days ago Assistant Secretary Mislang of the Malacañang communication office committed a grave faux pas by publicly insulting on Twitter their Vietnamese hosts during the President’s state visit to Hanoi.

The President’s handling of that incident shows that he was afraid to lose Mislang. He must have fallen in love with her speechwriting style that she has become, well, indispensable.

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BREEDING: As if on cue, Cabinet communication bigwigs are falling all over themselves defending Mislang, saying that the poor girl was not aware of the code of conduct for state visits and the implications of posting comments on social networking media.

Besides, it was added, their Vietnamese hosts themselves appeared to have not minded her cocky tweets. Anyway daw Mislang has apologized and stopped tweeting.

An adult, talented at that, need not have the rules read to her to know that insulting one’s hosts (who incidentally paid for the expenses of the state visit) is bad manners.

Breeding comes with the person’s total makeup. One either has it or does not.

What Mislang did reeks of arrogance of one who feels she shares in the power of a big client.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 4, 2010)

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