At inaugural WOWComm conference, media practitioners share tips on getting environmental messages across effectively

Melanie Chalil

Malay Mail editor-in-chief Datuk Wong Sai Wan speaks at the inaugural WOWComm 2019 sustainability conference at the Putrajaya Marriott Hotel December 5, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 5 — Got a strong environmental and sustainability message but feel the information constantly falls on deaf ears?

Know your target audience before you start communicating to make the messaging more impactful, said Malay Mail editor-in-chief Datuk Wong Sai Wan.

Sai Wan was speaking at the inaugural Workshops of the World Communicate (WOWComm) 2019: Communication & Sustainability Conference here at the Putrajaya Marriott Hotel during a panel session titled Pushing Environment Beyond the Media.

When it comes to corporations and enterprises communicating their sustainability messages to the public, Sai Wan suggested to look beyond traditional media.

Many, he said, have been informed by public relations practitioners that the best way to get the message across is through traditional media.

“That is no longer true because print is dying. It’s actually dead.

“But the good news is you can refine your targets — look at your programme, what you want to do and who are your audiences.

“Once you’ve done that, turn to the digital side of the media, it could be social media, sites, blogs or TikTok even,” he said, adding that harnessing the immediacy of social media was a much more effective communication method.

Former Bernama chief executive Datuk Yong Soo Heong who was part of the panel session said media outlets played an important role in the fight to save the planet and that the media must do its part in informing the public.

“Awareness on the environment is increasing but not enough is being done,” said Yong.

He cited examples such as the lack of awareness of ground covers and its role in preventing landslides, and the ecological significance of sites like the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve in Kuala Sepetang in Perak which many Malaysians are not aware of.

Also present at the session was SL Wong, an environmental journalist who runs Macaranga, a Malaysian environmental journalism site who spoke about the importance of sincerity in one’s messaging.

“For businesses and corporations who want to get into the environmental game to show your credibility in terms of environment and sustainability, make sure you be as sincere as possible,” she said.

SL cautioned against the use of terms such as “eco” or “sustainable” in front of a programme or initiative without consulting subject matter experts such as conservationists, scientists and non-governmental organisations.

“Only then get the message out because then you have a very good basis for something that is genuine.

“Audiences can smell sincerity from a mile away,” said SL.

(From left) Former Bernama chief executive Datuk Yong Soo Heong, Malay Mail editor-in-chief Datuk Wong Sai Wan, environmental journalist SL Wong and moderator Terrence Dass during the panel session ‘Pushing Environment Beyond the Media’. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Echoing SL’s thoughts on transparency, Sai Wan added that the intention of sustainability initiatives and a company’s objective must be included in the process.

“Sit down and look at your company’s objective — are they doing it because Bank Negara, KLSE (Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange) or the Securities Commission demand it or is it because you can get a tax break?

“Be honest with yourself first, then whatever you write and send out will be reflected in your honesty and you won’t be caught out.

“Don’t do something just for corporate benefits, if you don’t believe in what you’re writing, don’t send it out,” Sai Wan said.

The WOWComm 2019 sustainability conference was attended by industry leaders, enterprises, non-governmental organisations, media and public relations practitioners.

The one-day conference was organised for business owners, public and private sector professionals, environment advocates, students, and other individuals to gain knowledge on how to adopt sustainable practices to become more eco-friendly.

Malay Mail and Bernama are media partners of the event.

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