THE PRIME MINISTER has performed poorly in the area of public relations and he urgently needs expertise from outside the government to help improve the situation, public relations experts say.
They also suggested that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha lay more emphasis on effective communication with the public.
The former Army chief has got into some heated arguments with reporters and has been criticised for running the country like the Army.
Kitti Chambundabongse, chairman of public relations agency Spa-Hakuhodo Co, has a long list of “do” and “don’t do” suggestions for the prime minister.
“First, General Prayut must stop his tongue-in-cheek style of speaking and stop talking about his wife or his home matters,” Kitti said. He was also concerned that the PM had “lost his cool” sometimes.
“He can be himself in his expression, but he must be serious in tone, with focus on the essence,” Kitti said.
The PR specialist called on the government to focus on dealing with the media and keep the promises given to the public.
He suggested that Prayut should have a spokesperson who is not from the military. “There are enough soldiers – active and retired – in the government,” he added.
Also, Kitti saw no need for the prime minister to address the public every week, referring to his TV programme “Returning Happiness to People in the Country” broadcast every Friday night.
Hasan Basar, managing director of the public relations agency Bangkok PR, suggested that the prime minister take charge of the government’s communications function. He said Prayut should recognise that the communications battlefield is not a place for well-meaning hobbyists.
“Judgement of his entire administration is going to be shaped by these tragic but peripheral matters rather than his grand plans of national reform and reconciliation. He has all the power and the resources to make it happen. It just needs him to say so,” Basar said.
Basar has counselled several prime ministers and is widely regarded as the country’s top PR guru.
“The international media is constantly fed unpleasant stories from Thailand, about deaths and disorder. This isn’t just going to adversely affect high-yield tourism, but it is going to sap away at international investor confidence, too,” Basar said.
Stanley Kang, chairman of the Joint Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT), said foreign chambers and investors understand that the government currently has a lot on its plate but they could definitely improve in terms of public relations by providing uniform information regarding sensitive issues and news to lessen the level of confusion.
“We understand the situation and the difficulties that the government has to face but uniformity and accuracy in terms of disclosure of information can help lessen the misperception,” he said.
Kang said government agencies should avoid creating confusion on sensitive social and economic issues and the agency in charge of public relations should discuss with related agencies when it comes to disclosing sensitive news to the public. This will ensure that the information being provided is accurate and they are all on the same page.
Stanley also said the Finance Ministry’s previous comment that the economy is currently in a “stagnation” period would not affect foreign investor confidence, as they understand that Thailand’s economy has been affected by the political turmoil at the start of the year. He said economic growth next year would be much brighter due to the announcement of plans for infrastructure projects and the possible setting-up of the international trading centre. Foreigners were waiting to see improvement and the result of the government’s anti-corruption campaign also, he said.