Dumbest PR Nightmare They Made President SBY Do

5 Tips For SBY Not To Blow A PR Opportunity
By N. Mark Castro

Whoever is the PR/Image Adviser of President SBY should be fired. Now.

Any amateur strategic communications adviser can tell you, when in doubt, SHUT THE EFF UP.


President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, center, and Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, left, roll up their pants as they inspect the yard of the presidential palace in Central Jakarta inundated by up to 30-centimeter-high water.

Now let’s look at the elements of this picture from a PR perspective.


  • If the message you wish to convey is the president’s immediate response and to project him as an action figure, well, too bad … you failed in so many levels.

Location is very important in showbitness and the president’s empathy to the public he serves:

    • Are there many people to see it?

    • Would there be many people that could be given assistance?

    • Would the local media be there?

    • Would the foreign media be there?

Making him inspect the presidential grounds doesn’t look important at all.

There aren’t even any presidential household help that could be assisted to justify the phrase: “Charity Begins At Home.”


  • I have the highest regard for the Minister of Foreign Affairs Marty Natalegawa but, in all honesty, why must he be subjected to sheer torture in this picture? At this hour of need of the citizens, are we instead sending a message to our foreign allies that he had to be there?

  • Where’s the Image Consultant? Couldn’t they have advised him to take off the coat?


  • Where is the Minister of Health Dr Nafsiah Mboi-Walinono? Because in times like these:

With the public clamoring for guidance …

And people don’t know any better …

It is incumbent upon the Minister of Health to provide guidance and assistance in dealing with the potential outbreak of flood-related diseases, which could cost not only the citizens but the government as well.

And most of all, Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi should come in full flood-combat regalia and pinch the president’s ears if necessary — including those who followed his Einsten-like intelligence — for wading into the rat feces-infested flood waters of Jakarta.

Because, really … what were you thinking?

Some images evoke courage … others, just plain lack of common sense.


What the Minister of Health should address is the high possibility of Leptospirosis, coordinating with her entire ministry and even regional agencies, but ADDRESS the nation, EDUCATE the public, and ENFORCE a massive cleanup, especially since symptoms of the disease do not become evident even up to 10 days … and especially when you see this —


There is much to be learned from Indonesia’s ASEAN neighbor, the flood-stricken Philippines, which is visited by floods several times in a year and has recorded incidents of Leptospirosis as high as 3,410 (from Jan. 1 to Aug. 25) last year, with 149 people reportedly dead.

While there are at least 6,000 people displaced by the flood in Jakarta, the Philippines had to relocate as many as 250,000 people from its flood last year.

4. The Red Flag Is Up

  • This picture would have served better purpose if Palang Merah (Red Cross) was involved in providing assistance and relief. In order to mitigate the political advantage of Palang Merah’s media-savvy chair Jusuf Kalla, it would’ve been easy for the president to quell it by inviting his former vice-president into the fold with direct orders.

5. Managing the Image and Disaster

  • This picture is craving for the presence of the National Agency for Disaster Management to provide guidance and assistance, instead, we’re subjected to a bunch of people supervising the grounds.

I’m not saying that they’re not doing their jobs. Far from it, but if the Palace Communications handlers would be dumb enough to post an image of the president, then they better back it up with a credible message.

And please, do not insist that this shouldn’t fall under PR or Communications or Image Projection … believe me, the moment you let somebody take that shot and post it, it became so.


About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on January 17, 2013, in Gallery, General, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Very well said. I had the privilege to be involved in a relief goods operation to a flooded area in the city I work for. True enough the city government’s immediate reaction is to maximize on the PR and goodwill that this big operation can do for the image of the incumbent mayor.No less than the mayor , scoured the city for big garbage trucks to help us reach the areas that are truly submerged in water. The big garbage truck had streamers “Operation Tulong by Mayor ___” posted on both sides of the truck. So yes, Marky, I had my share of riding a garbage truck filled with relief goods for flood stricken residents.
    In fairness to Mr Mayor, he has motorized rafts to ferry people to disaster areas to help out his constituents…But you can imagine the publicity and goodwill generated by Mr. Mayor for mobilizing both the public and private groups in helping the flood victims. I guess the Philippines has truly mastered situations like this…I think your President could use a lot of your help.

  2. www.google.co.id

    By the way, it’s Palang Merah Indonesia, not Paling Merah.

  3. perhaps the sartorial requirements of the job in the foreign ministry dictates so, , ,

    • Hello Mr Mercado, it is understandable that the requirements of the esteemed Minister of Foreign Affairs be held as often as possible and I have no issue whatsoever with him per se, nor with his impeccable outfit, but rather his Image Adviser, nay, the Image Adviser of whoever allowed for this shot to be taken that sends the wrong message.

      All I wish for the next generation of PR and Communications practitioners is that they be sharp and keen with the “message” and not the knee-jerk reactions just to put out something.

      Not all published pictures or content are worthy to be published.

      Take this blog, for instance.

      You can call it Exhibit A.


  4. Hi Angelia, thanks for the visit. Every thing a public servant does involves publicity in the “true sense” of the word and, professionally and personally, the public deserve to know the service they are doing. I do not mind also that public servants benefit from this as long as they do their jobs and that, further, they acknowledge that it is from the public funds and not out of their own pocket.

    Your volunteerism shows your generosity and kindness and our region would do well in receiving such. More importantly, it’s people like you who should run for office.

  5. For no. 2, Marty was in the Palace because SBY was scheduled to receive the President of Argentina that morning at 10.30 a.m., which was later rescheduled to the afternoon on the same day. So I guess Marty was in the wrong (right?) place at the wrong (right?) time.
    Other than that, yeah the PR team screwed up pretty bad.

  6. Hi Mark,
    Your viewpoint is interesting. I actually saw the message of this picture was that the water didn’t care a hierarchy of social status (LoL)

  7. nice article! 😀 but i have to inform you that on thursday, Minister Marty had to be there to accompany Mr. SBY’s meeting with Argentinian President, Mrs. Cristina Kirchner. The President even must to cancel the meeting from 11.am to 13.00 PM. Mr. Natalegawa of course had to be there earlier.

  8. Hi Wellasherlita! Thanks for the visit!

    Yes, we have been informed of Minister Marty’s presence in the Palace and of course we admire his dedication to his work, including the president’s; however, our take is simply that this photo was mishandled the communications team of the president as it provided varying degrees of failed messages, putting even the president himself in such an awkward position.

    The piece was written to dissect how a simple photo can provide a study case for the next generation of communicators how to best convey powerful images with clear messages. It could’ve been done better, handled well, and arrive at a better solution rather than letting the current communications team of president shoot the camera like wayward guns.

    Your visit and comments are much appreciated. 🙂

  9. Its his last term as President. Unless he wants to be the Supreme Silent Ruler of the Galaxy, I don’t think PR is a major concern for him. I have only one concern though, where’s the rubber ducky?

  10. Well his team certainly sends out that message. Meanwhile, the rubber ducky is with Bert just to piss of Ernie.

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