Sunday, March 27, 2011

Singapore General Elections 2011: High Ministerial Salaries. Is PAP's Failure to Respond a Miscalculation?

Building upon my Framework for Responding to Negative Blog Postings and Online Forum Mentions posted on 15 Mar 2011, I believe that the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has failed to fully grasp the full impact social media will have in Singapore's General Election 2011 (GE 2011).

A 2007 video clip of Workers' Party of Singapore Ms Sylvia Lim opposing the multi-million dollar salaries of ministers has gone viral on Facebook. In her statement, Sylvia raised valid points that undermined the ruling party's justifications for their high pay. As this is not a political blog, I will not go into the details of her statement, but use it to illustrate what I view as the PAP's failure to assess, analyse the impact and then respond appropriately to the video clip.

Source. The video clip (or its links) have been circulating widely on Social Networking site like Facebook and local political websites. In this instance, the credibility of the video clip is beyond question as the original video was broadcast on television in 2007. Even for those that did not view the original broadcast, the consistency in quality of the clip, the accuracy of the people shown in the clip and their demeanor lends to its authenticity. Hence, the video clip is perceived as credible.

Content. Next, the intent behind the circulation of the video clip is clear – to weaken the PAP's claims that they are building a “Singapore for Singaporeans”. The people behind the video clip are using the emotionally charged issue of high ministerial salaries to demonstrate that the PAP is no longer in touch with the average Singaporean. The intent being to urge voters to vote against the PAP in the coming election. In addition, Sylvia's statement was also well-thought out, researched and delivered. Her arguments are sound and logical and valid opposing views to that of the PAP. It is thus assessed that the Target Audience is likely to believe her.

Audience. In this case, the Apparent and Ultimate Audience are also very clear. They are the voters in GE 2011. What is however not so obvious is the Unintended Audience of potential opposition members. The publicity of high salaries that PAP ministers enjoy will make it more attractive for high calibre candidates to join the PAP. Afterall, the allure of multi-million dollar salaries is hard to ignore.

Effect. Based on the above factors, the effect of the video clip is assessed to fall into the Quadrant High Impact-High Probability. The video is assessed to have a High Impact as the demographics of the electorate has changed. Prolonged exposure to Western ideals of equity and fairness is likely to make voters “angry” at the delink between their “leaders” and themselves. The source of the video and the reach that Social Media has in 2011 makes it Highly Probable that voters will hear or view Sylvia's arguments.

Response. According to my proposed framework, a High Impact-High Probablity effect requires a Crisis Response Strategy of direct refutation. Failing to do so, and quickly, will only strengthen the perceived credibility of Sylvia's arguments. Voters will see the PAP's lack of a response as an admission that they cannot defend their position.

In summary, my view is that the PAP has miscalculated the impact of this video and has failed to respond to it appropriately. If the PAP believes that ignoring the video will keep it from being discussed further, it is sadly mistaken. In the era of Social Media, there is perfect information. Ignoring a bad Mention or Blog posting will not make it go away. Instead, the silence says more than they think.

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  1. It is often easy to analyse after the fact, it is typically difficult to recognise it as it unfolds

  2. Thanks Anonymous for your comment.

    Yes, I agree with you that hindsight is 20/20. Fortunately there are ways for us to identify potential issues and address them proactively.

    The use of this Framework is one of the ways. While we may not be able to catch all of the potential issues, PR Managers and Crisis Communicators using this Framework diligently will, in my opinion and experience, catch most of them.



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