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Flying Cars? Or Flying Topic?
(Commentary by Ellie Ho)

“This year is a realistic target because we have the technology. It is all about the speed of implementation,” said the Minister of Entrepreneur Development.

I’m sure whoever has been following the news of flying cars is aware of the quote stated above; the emergence of flying cars in Malaysia, emergence of bigger backlash from the public. One commentator went as far as saying “Words fail me. I have never read so much stupidity in my life.” Memes went on to be produced as people started putting toll plazas in the sky to charge the flying cars.

Hilarious right? Now let me ask you this, where did this Minister state this opinion? If ‘I don’t know’ is your answer, you’ve reiterated my point on my behalf.

The Minister was meant to mention flying cars as a casual remark, stating that it is in the plans of the government, but it was blown out of proportion, and made headlines in newspapers instead of the actual event at which it was highlighted. From what I acknowledge there were only two (2) publications that stated that this remark was made in the particular event, further elaborating on what the event was. This is a simple example of hijacking; the Minister took the limelight away from the event by initiating something more eye-catching, whether it be intentional or unintentional.

Attention is a limited resource. Psychologically speaking, people tend to pay selective attention, so the there is only so much information people can pick up and retain. Automatically, anything that has a catchy title would grab your attention and it helps with retaining information. However, when someone is selectively attending to something, they will have to ignore other information to focus on that one thing. This phenomenon could be the reason the media disregarded the main purpose of the event, and only chose to focus on the flying car statement instead. OR, it could be because they understand this, that they chose the catchiest talking topic for readers (some may say it’s like clickbait), thus attracting readers to read the article.

Is this action understandable? Most definitely, it’s a business after all. But do I feel bad for the event organisers for having their media coverage hijacked? Most definitely. I think this initiative is great and a vast action for being progressive, and it’s a pity that it didn’t get the coverage it deserved. However, what could have softened the blow of the hijack was having a stronger PR personnel accompanying this Minister when he was receiving interviews. By having a stronger PR personnel who vetted the Minister’s speech, he / she could have helped the Minister stick to the narrative by bringing the attention back to the event itself or to limit the Minister’s comments on flying cars, which caused a backlash on them (one commentator said, “we can’t even promote hybrid and electric car properly and sell them at affordable price, now talking about flying cars. What a joke,”) and other forms of mockery.

Overall, I feel that this acts as a good reminder for other brands, one is to always have a strong PR personnel facilitating your guests when they are interacting with the media, another is to have a short briefing with your guests before the event when possible. By preparing your guests beforehand, they are reminded to bring the focus back to the event and less on irrelevant topics such as flying vehicles. That’s when it’s all eyes on you!

For further reading, do check out the following articles: 

Image source: Twitter

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