Telling China's story to the world
Updated: 2016-11-07 08:08
In order to respond to questions about national defense and the development of the military, the Ministry of National Defense set up spokesperson and routine publication systems, below are our experience.
Information released by the Ministry of National Defense frequently involves sensitive issues. The best way to tackle these issues is to respond to them in a timely manner. A sensitive issue is like a ticking bomb, if you don't defuse it the bomb will go off. As long as the spokesperson is well-prepared and deals with any difficult questions skillfully, these sensitive issues can help enhance our credibility.
A timely response is the best way to take the heat out of a hot topic, as it will guide public opinion both at home and abroad.
Being frank and transparent about negative issues can also create a positive impression and win over public opinion.
Therefore, the best response to a sensitive issue is to handle it swiftly and openly with flexible strategies, so the information process is under control.
In any argument, the power of a spokesperson does not depend on the height from which the information is being released, nor strong words, but the legal and moral weight behind the words and how much truth they convey. These will ensure the spokesperson's message is delivered in an honest and advantageous way, which is the most effective way of guiding public opinion.
The growing importance of the government's public relations work for the nation's development has also increased the public's expectations for and of information, which requires spokespersons to have confidence in the message they deliver.
The type of information released can vary, for instance news release, incident response, or policy interpretation. As a result, a spokesperson needs to find the right tone.
The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is a department closely related to people's livelihoods, and so attracts lots of public attention. I believe a spokesperson's confidence comes from the following:
In order to be a good spokesperson on issues concerning people's well-being, we must do the job well, knowing that if a policy solves a practical problem the public will respond favorably.
So to be a good spokesperson in this field, we must have a thorough understanding of the problems people face and how a policy will affect them. Especially sensitive policies, any slight omission or mistake will undoubtedly lead to speculation. In order to keep control of a news conference, the spokesperson should be familiar with the reason a policy is being introduced and what its foreseeable effects will be.
To be a good spokesperson about issues concerning people's livelihoods, we must have a precise judgment of public's needs and opinions. Before a news conference, a spokesperson must be well-prepared. The spokesperson needs to know the focus of public opinion, the questions that can be expected from reporters, what will become the public focus after the news is reported. The spokesperson should be aware of the importance of the media. An announcement of public policy should be open and frank, and should appreciate the role of new media as a channel for promoting policies.
To be a good spokesperson about people's livelihoods, we must also have a system that allows mistakes. A spokesperson should be responsible and dare to have a voice. The confidence of a spokesperson comes from the support and courage he or she receives from the department he or she serves.
After a decade's operation, the spokesperson system in China has gained influence and changed society in various ways.
And thanks to the spokesperson system, the public's opinion of Sinopec has become more positive over the past five years.
I still remember the worst of times, which was in 2012, when 42.6 percent of the annual 5.5 million information releases related to Sinopec was negative, which means 639 news items a day.
After taking a proactive stance to our statements released to the public, the negative information was down to 25.7 percent in 2013, 9.1 percent in 2014, and 8.7 percent in 2015.
What we did was threefold.
First, we improved our system to guarantee the quality of the spokesperson's message.
Second, we innovated the way we release information. In the past five years, apart from organizing more than 30 formal news conferences, we've also invited industrial experts to give lectures to reporters on a monthly basis, helping them gain more knowledge of what we do. Furthermore, we use social media to get our message across.
The third thing is we release information proactively. Over the past few years, the nearly 40 news conferences we have organized have been well received. In addition, we have also organized branding activities, as we realized that corporate culture is part of a company's core competitiveness. As one-third of Sinopec's business and assets are overseas, we are also actively promoting the spokesperson system abroad.
In 2015, we established a 50-member overseas spokespersons' team and recruited 82 part-time foreign information staff. The twitter account of Sinopec was launched in August, 2015, and we opened a Facebook account in July.