20.10.17 / Posted by jirehconsult

We live in a time where sharing news and information – whether true or not – has become almost too easy, achieved with a few button presses in a blink of an eye.

How often have you seen links being shared that are of dated stories somehow resurfacing and making the rounds all over social media? We overlook the factual accuracy of these stories and share them on a whim; their sensationalised headlines whetting our fancy for drama. Side note: no Mr. Trump, contrary to what you believe, you did not coin the term ‘fake news’.

Human biases play a role in this too. Biases affect our senses and spur a reaction. If we see something that agrees with our bias, we share it in the spirit of ‘sharing is caring’ whereas if we come across something that contradicts us, we share it in outrage, hoping to garner support from like-minded individuals.

In Malaysia alone the de facto response from a person of status or power in response to a story that tarnishes their image due to their own actions is to allege that they have been misquoted or taken out of context.

Context is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as ‘the situation within which something exists or happens, and that can help explain it’. Thus, context is something that has to be understood before passing judgement on what has been said or reported.

Coupled with context is nuance. Nuances are the subtleties which alter meaning or expression. The way things are written or said may not come across as we intend them to. A simple slip of the tongue or an oversight on how the other party may digest and process the information we wish to convey may lead to dire repercussions.

Practitioners in PR have to be all the more cognisant of these two aspects. When liaising with multiple parties, one has to be as clear and concise as possible to avoid potential misunderstandings. One has to also factor in the medium of communication through and the degree of amiability and familiarity between parties.

Words exchanged between members of a clique can be deemed derogatory, racist, inappropriate, offensive and inexcusable to those outside the group. However, within it, those utterances are merely in innocent jest and harmless fun. Context and nuance are what help prevent us losing our heads over it.

Therefore, take everything you read or hear with a grain of salt. The outcome of your processing and bias may not reflect what was actually intended. And please, curb the hypocrisy and holier-than-thou stance, we are all guilty of acting a little crass within our social circles. That being said, I acknowledge that there are boundaries on what is deemed acceptable in the public eye, especially if you are a politician. Locker room talk may not be a saving grace.

October 2017