Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Crisis Communications: Singapore Teaching Scholar Jonathan Wong Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography Charges
Singapore's The Straits Times today reported that Jonathan Wong received a suspended 2 year sentence for possessing child pornography videos. People interviewed by The Straits Times expressed mixed views on the severity of the sentence, with most being surprised (and outraged) by the leniency.
Rebuilding his Life
From a crisis communications perspective, the next question is how does Jonathan Wong rebuild his life. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, in the era of social media, the approach of avoiding media attention in the hopes of allowing public scrutiny to fade is no longer an option. Internet reports by news agencies and blogs (like this) will ensure that the issue remains "alive" for a long time to come. And the longer Jonathan remains silent on the issue, the greater the information balance will tilt towards the negative. As I have opined before, Jonathan Wong must tell his side of the story.
As a crisis communicator, my advice to Jonathan Wong is that he must address the public perception of him. Due to his silence on the issue, the stereotype of someone like him being a "monster" or "social deviant" has shaped public perception - this is demonstrated by public outrage on the perceived light punishment meted out to him. Jonathan should therefore seek to "humanise" himself by expressing remorse, showing contrition and generally showing the public that he is just a human as them. In addition, if Jonathan can also show how his family and friends are standing with, and helping, him work through this crisis, it will encourage others to come out to show support. In essence, Jonathan should reframe the issue to one where (a) "everyone makes a mistake"; and (b) "where remorse or contrition or punishment has been meted out, offenders should be given a yellow-ribbon.
In short, while everything seems stacked against Jonathan at this moment, all is not lost. Jonathan can rebuild his life by engaging the media and "humanising" himself to the stakeholders.
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