Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No more blunder, no more lame excuse

THERE were red faces at the Tourism Ministry and Malaysian Tourism Board recently over the revelation of spelling boo-boos in their marketing brochures distributed to visitors to the Malaysia Pavilion at Shanghai World Exposition 2010.

Apparently, there were in total 11 errors identified in the brochure, which bore the official emblem of “Malaysia, Truly Asia”, the country’s famous tourism tagline.

Taman Negara was spelled “Taman Nerara” (luckily not “Taman Neraka” as commented by The Malay Mail online reader) and among other misspelled words in the brochure were “nulticultural” (multicultural), “decelopment” (development), “visitous” (visitors), ctry (city), beautuful (beautiful) and locationgs (locations).

“To know more about Malaysia, we ‘incite’ you to step into the Malaysia Pavilion, which gives fascinating glimpses of the country’s attractions,” read one sentence, using “incite” instead of “invite”. Or, did they mean to arouse or excite you to enter the pavilion?

The blunder was highlighted by Member of Parliament (MP) Loke Siew Fook (DAP — Rasah), on Oct 28, who showed the brochure to reporters at Parliament and said it was an embarrassment and gave Malaysia a bad impression as there were too many stupid mistakes.

He also questioned why it was not proof read by ministry officials.

I had wanted a copy but unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get hold of it.

Our online story, headlined “Mistakes in international brochure put country to shame, says MP”, was an instant hit, attracting thousands of reads to become one of the most read stories last week. Naturally, the story was also one of the most commented by readers who, to put it mildly, offered no comforting words to the ministry and their officers over the embarrassing blunder.

The ministry was flayed and of course, the minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen became the subject of ridicule in some of the comments.

Although Ng apologised for the mistakes several days later, clarifying that there were none (no mistakes) in the final draft which she checked and the errors were by the printer in Shanghai, it was already too late. The news had already spread like wild fire in the cyberworld. It was even picked up by foreign news portals. It had become a laughing stock.

All these aside, let me point out some interesting arguments put forth by readers and acquaintances surrounding this debacle. Now, the fact is the Shanghai World Exposition 2010 ran for six months from May. Could the errors have been spotted by ministry officials throughout the period?

Logically speaking, they should as any secondary school student could easily identify the mistakes. But, they didn’t.

Let’s give the benefit of the doubt that there were no mistakes in the final artwork sent to the printer. So, didn’t the ministry officials double check or proof read the sample copy from the printer, which is a common practice in the printing industry, before the brochures went to print?

Okay, fine, there were no mistakes in the sample copy from the printer. Or, it is not a common industry practice for printers in China to provide a sample copy to their clients for their final approval before any materials go to print. The next question goes back to the same one posed earlier — why didn’t any official spot the errors throughout the expo?

Wait. There is another scenario. Ministry officials did discover the mistakes and they stopped distributing the brochures right after the discovery, save for some which had already landed into the visitors’ hands, including the one with MP Loke Siew Fook. The argument now is why wait for the blunder to be highlighted, resulting in damage of sorts to the ministry and country, for the ministry to scramble issuing a clarification and apology.

Unlike the media, which deals with tight deadlines on a daily basis, the ministry had all the time to ensure that there were no mistakes in their marketing paraphernalia. They knew about their participation in the expo months ahead.

There are lessons to be learnt here by ministry officials, which they should by now. Such an embarrassing blunder should not have occurred. But, it occurred nonetheless; hence it should not be repeated.

Otherwise, I don’t care about any subsequent clarifications or apologies, like what was offered by the minister, because to me, it was just a lame excuse.

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