So just as my public relations guru (PR Guru) friend predicted, the spin is out for the Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) project on that sprawling green lung (and prime land) that used to be the Penang Turf Club.
The Star today reports Equine executive chairman Patrick Lim (widely known as “Patrick Badawi”) highlighting two aspects of the project, which will be officially launched on 12 September 2007:
- Two new flyovers that Equine associate Abad Naluri will build to connect the PGCC to the Penang Outer Ring Road (another controversial project); and
- The green credentials of the PGCC – 40 per cent of PGCC to be allocated to “green and open spaces”, carbon-free city, blah, blah, blah
It is no coincidence that these two aspects have been highlighted. They are obviously aimed at countering the concerns of Penang-based NGOs, which are opposed to the project because of its dire implications for the traffic (Scotland Road on the perimeter of the Turf Club is already congested) and the environment (there are so few green lungs in Penang).
The spin is of course being masterminded by new PR firm Fox Communication, which has been doing the rounds to solicit views from NGOs. The people behind Fox are ex-journalist types from the mainstream media. It shouldn’t be a big problem for these former journos to make the huge leap from journalism (the pseudo journalism they used to practise, that is) to PR. After all, they had lots of practice putting the spin on the news back then.
The PGCC project has been on the drawing board for around four years. But it is only now, just before the official launch that they want to “consult” NGOs, presumably so that they can design a more effective spin for the project to counter the NGOs’ concerns.
Even before Patrick Lim had come out with his spin, my PR guru friend, who has vast experience overseeing a similar launch for a major landmark in KL, had described to me the classic PR strategy to counter NGOs’ concerns in such controversial projects:
“As mentioned earlier on — surveys will determine what PR strategy to take and programmes developed:
- Public opinion — easy part to handle;
- Woo the NGOs so they will be on their (developer’s) side; hard to resist when they put nice girls! good food, posh venues;
- They (developer) will counter each objection with standard, rehearsed answers;
- They will use employment for the people, green lung for the people; they will talk about the number of trees they will plant — they will fantasise for you — cascading water, babylon gardens and what-have-you… remember (the) concept of a tree is very illusive
- They will dazzle (the public) with beautiful artist’s impressions — maybe even famous Mat Salleh architect — also give a beautiful video presentation how it is going to change (the) landscape of Penang — what beautiful contribution to Penang…you (the public) will be so convinced, (the) NGOs will (be forced to) shut up… “
But PR Guru tells me the “40 per cent green and open spaces” is illusory and unlikely to be achieved, going bywhat happened in the KLCC project, where plans for a large park were eventually shrunk to what amounts to little more than an oversized playground with a few trees.
For one thing, what exactly are “open spaces”, included in this 40 per cent? Is a car park an “open space”? Is some greenery planted at the top of a multi-storey car park building considered a green open space?
Watch out for more spin as the 12 September project launch date draws closer.