Within the first hour of being sworn as the new cyber security tsar Djoko Setiadi lost all the things that matter for him to be effective in public office – his reputation, credibility and public standing.
Yesterday, President Joko Widodo inaugurated Djoko Setiadi as the new Head of National Cyber and Encryption Agency (BSSN), responsible for the nation’s cyberspace. The ceremony was followed by a meet-the-Press session.
Before the posse of national media Djoko said something incredulous: He said that it was natural for hoaxes to be on the Net but if they are “constructive” hoaxes (hoax membangun) then it’s OK for people to indulge in it. “Do not protest too much and engage in bad-mouthing and inappropriate speeches. I think hoaxes is slowly reduced, “he said.
This — coming from a government official whose duty it is to ensure a healthy social media environment in Indonesia, that is being plagued by all sorts of fake news, hoaxes and engineered consent –caused an immediate furor among Indonesia’s very active social media scene.
Netizens questioned what could possibly be going through Djoko’s mind to come up with the oxymoron of a positive hoax with the hashtg #HoaxMembangun that became the #1 trending topic number Twitter. This was followed with “head of national Encryption Agency” on #3, an indication of how talked about Djoko and the issue was.
Djoko was surprised by the groundswell of protest against what he said and backpedaled by clarifying that what he meant was that there could be no positive hoaxes but his use of the term was only a gimmick to get people to pay attention to the issue. With that he dug the hole even deeper for himself.
Such a spectacular self-destruction of one’s reputation and goodwill in such a short time is totally unnecessary for any would-be office holder, if he and the government would only treat dealing with the media as a serious matter that requires a particular set of skills rather than an intuitive ability to say the right things at the right time.
In the corporate world and among government officials from more politically sophisticated countries, would-be high-profile and public figures are required to be media trained, that is, trained in how to answer questions from the journalists.
Journalists interviewing new officials at an institution is commonplace. That’s what journalists do, looking for news. In interviews, journalists can ask productive (questions that enable you to deliver your positive messages) and unproductive questions (ones that ask you things that you’d rather not answer).
Productive questions are generally asked if journalists are unfamiliar with their sources, their duties, and authority.
The productive question is actually a great opportunity for the resource person to explain who he or she is, the plan, the strategy, the vision, or the mission of the institution where he works and therefore build on his credibility and goodwill that he would need to do a good job.
It is therefore important for all officials, as well as candidates, to do their homework before meeting the media. Some things to be learned are, among other things where public opinion now stands, the burning issues that they would have to address and the 5Ws pertaining to their jobs.
It is also important for spokespersons to learn about messaging – how to frame their messages in a positive light that argues for the public good, the importance of sticking to messages to prevent the session from going off-message, and how to deliver these messages with the appropriate level of authority and likeability.
Not taking dealing with the media seriously is a grievous fault, as grievously as Djoko was laid bare at his inauguration.