Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Silence. The New Comment.

Oil drop iconImage via WikipediaI know I've been going on about this, but it really is such a brilliant case study. The Great Sharjah Fuel Crisis continues, with ENOC and EPPCO stations shut down last Friday by Sharjah police after having failed to supply fuel to residents in Sharjah and the Northern Emirates for a month.

As I predicted a while ago, the story started to internationalise - this story in the UK's Daily Telegraph (kind enough to quote yours truly) talks of 'baffled' residents in this oil rich nation unable to buy fuel. Tellingly it ends with these words: "No one from either ENOC or the other main petrol company affected, Emarat, was available for comment."

Bloomberg filed an excellent piece today, linked here, which continues the trend of international interest in the story. Being a newswire, the Bloomberg piece has made it into a number of interntional newspapers and websites. Bloomberg's story, an in-depth analysis of the situation, makes an important link between the ENOC Group issue and Dubai's indebtedness and economic stability, as well as drawing some interesting conclusions regarding political stability. The story isn't going away, in short, and now it's arguably starting to affect Dubai's reputation in a broader sense. I would humbly suggest this would not have been the case if there had been an agreed and effectively implemented communications strategy to start with.

Tellingly, the Bloomberg story contains these words: "An ENOC spokesman declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg. A Dubai government spokeswoman didn’t respond to an email requesting for comment, and an official in Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. public relations division didn’t answer calls to his office and mobile phone"

Gulf News filed today with a follow-up story on the issue, which talks about the Sharjah government's resolution in solving the issue. You'd almost think journalists were keeping the story alive to punish the silent spokespeople, wouldn't you?

Somehow tenacious GN hack Deena Kamel Yousef managed to get through to the man so many journalists have failed to buttonhole and so the GN story contains this timeless quote from ENOC's Silent Spokesperson: "I cannot give a statement now, don't ask me questions I cannot answer. I agree that we should be more transparent, I agree 150 per cent, but we have directives not to talk about this issue now."

Deliciously, Deena twists the knife: "Pressed for answers, he made casual comments on the weather to change the subject."

Tellingly, the GN story also points out that: "Enoc's silent spell lasted for about two weeks while the spokesperson was on holiday after the trouble started. Repeated attempts by Gulf News to contact the company were unanswered."

On holiday? You're kidding, right?

Enhanced by Zemanta


Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

What is also horrifying about this whole fiasco, is the inability of people to connect the dots.

Now Bloomberg have stated the obvious, it is acceptable, but where were the people with this analysis before?

alexander... said...

Well, at least part of the problem for local media is they can't file speculation in lieu of 'official comment' without getting into deep water, which is why the silent treatment is so frequently meted out.

As we're now finding increasingly the case, this strategy is becoming ineffective, however. It's a good thing for both the media and the public it serves, I believe - although frustratingly slow, it's a process that I can only see as positive.

Meanwhile, we've all been talking about it online for a month now, more so because of the silence and mendacity!

Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

Really Alexander you overstate the case of online. What analysis has been expressed?

I regard local press as inadequate due to their self-censorship, the same truly does apply to online community. (Interestingly this self-censorship ensures no prosecutions to date.)

The sooner we all acknowledge this fact, the less hyperbole will be forthcoming.

Taunted said...

Us outsiders (even though I lived in UAE for 6 years) can see that Abu Dhabi through ADNOC are taking over Dubai by stealth, first it was the 52% ownership of Emirates for the $10Bn bail out, and now it'll be Enoc/Eppco/Emarat. What the sword and gun couldn't do 40 years ago, the mighty dollar can now.

Luke said...

Tellingly - what a strange word. And now I have written it myseld it looks even weirder.

Never seen it used so often in one piece. Am assuming it was intentional.

alexander... said...

Tellingly, it was. For no particular good reason other than to highlight the constant lack of comment comments. :)

Oussama said...

Ignore it and it will go away seems to be a Dubai thing. Remember when it all started way back then with the debt default. They were also on a holiday.

Anonymous said...

Oil is considered to be a matter of state security and will never be discussed in a billion years. They will never candidly discuss the situation with the public because the public (in my opinion whether local or foreign) has absolutely no say in the matter of anything petroleum related.

Go try and take a photo of any oil facility in the UAE and give me a call from Al Wathba.

Will Hardie said...

That last comment hit the nail on the head. Ultimately even if they had the capacity and desire to communicate strategically, the security politics require silence.
There are ways around it. I wonder what kind of high-level background briefing or off-the-record editorial engagement went on to orient media privately to the real and valid political reasons for the silence. Done properly this should win more sympathy and softer coverage than is evident in Deena's knife-twisting. That kind of tactic requires a professional media with whom to build a mature and trusting relationship; and professional communicators who understand media relations as engagement, not broadcast. And you can't engage off the record with social media.

christina jeni said...

Thanks for sharing this nice blog..

UAE Public Holidays 2014

From The Dungeons

Book Marketing And McNabb's Theory Of Multitouch

(Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I clearly want to tell the world about A Decent Bomber . This is perfectly natural, it's my latest...