Thursday, April 7, 2011

Singapore General Elections 2011: Tin Pei Ling Saga

Since the People's Action Party's (PAP) introduction of Ms Tin Pei Ling as a candidate for the upcoming General Elections 2011 (GE 2011), the Internet has been set abuzzed with people questioning her qualifications to be Member of Parliament (MP) given her young age. Additionally, Tin Pei Ling's online reputation (as depicted on social network sites) seem to lend credibility to netizens' concerns. 

In the realm of Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media, two lessons can be derived from this saga.

Firstly, we undeniably live in a perfect information environment. Close scrutiny is inevitable given the high stakes and likely interest of voters on the candidates being presented as their possible future representative in government. Thus, while information posted on the Internet is archived permanently, there exists methods and techniques to “clean-up” one's online reputation. It is obvious that the PAP failed to do this for Tin Pei Ling.

The second lesson from this saga is the PAP's Crisis Response Strategy (CRS). As mentioned in my earlier posting (Framework for Crisis Management), stakeholders attribute blame based on perceived responsibility. In this saga, stakeholders are questioning the poor decisions, not only to field a 27 year old candidate, but also to field her as part of a Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) headed by Senior Minister (SM) Goh Chok Tong. In this scenario, attribution of responsibility to the PAP is high as (a) it was an internal party decision to field her (locus of control); (b) stakeholder concerns about her suitability was predictable (stability); and (c) the PAP had control over the final decision (controllability).

In such a situation, according to the Crisis Communication Framework, the appropriate CRS for the PAP is adopt is one of ACCEPTING responsibility and then helping stakeholders to cope with the crisis. Unfortunately, the PAP appears to have adopted a DENY CRS and has gone on to adopt the Theme of “proven government” with the Messages of “robust selection process” and “experienced grassroots leader.” Given the mismatch in the response (i.e. Deny instead of Accept), it is therefore not surprising that the PAP's responses has failed to quell stakeholder concerns.

The key lessons for PR Professionals from this saga are as follows ...

- In the Era of Social Media, stakeholders will rely on the Internet for information. A proper once over to ensure that unfavourable information is “removed” is therefore essential.
- Adopting the correct Crisis Communication Strategy is important. Failure to do so, will only prolong the crisis and allow it to spiral further out of control

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  1. Interesting piece about crisis comms on the Ms Tin sage.

  2. Thanks for the feedback.


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