Friday, April 15, 2011

Singapore General Elections 2011: Tin Pei Ling Responds

On 14 April 2011, Yahoo News! Singapore, carried an article by Alicia Wong titled “My Conscience is clear: Tin Pei Ling.” In the article, Alicia reports that Tin Pei Ling has finally broken her silence on the criticisms levelled at her since she was introduced as a candidate for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) 2 weeks ago.

Tin Pei Ling's response was done via an interview by the Lianhe Zaobao, which was eventually carried by The New Paper and subsequently Yahoo! News Singapore. In her interview, Tin Pei Ling attempted to add context to the pictures circulating from her Facebook account, while attempting to deliver the following Messages: (a) “I cannot change the fact that I am young”; (b) "I just hope that Singaporeans can have confidence in me and give me the opportunity to prove myself"; (c) "I'm prepared to face whatever comes my way"; (d) "The most important thing is that my conscience is clear”; (e) "I have also tried to see where they are coming from and why they say certain things about me"; (f) “I want to serve society”; and (g) “I like participating in things and I thoroughly enjoyed my seven years as a grassroots activist”.

From the Crisis Communications perspective, there are several lessons which the PR Professional can learn.

Firstly, the timing of the response. It is interesting to note that since the controversy started, Tin Pei Ling made no real attempt to respond to netizens' criticisms. Instead, she chose to lay low, allowing interest to wane before responding. This is a calculated move. By choosing to remain silent, Tin Pei Ling did not “add fuel to the fire.” However, by choosing to remain silent, it only added to stakeholders' perception that she is not “strong enough” to stand up for herself.

Secondly, the choice of medium. It is also interesting to note that she chose the Lianhe Zaobao as the primary source to tell her side of the story. It is interesting as the demographics of Marine Parade (as provided by ShowNearby Analytics) show that PMETs account for 43% of residents, 33.2% are Diploma holders or higher, and language literacy is 59.2% for English and 35.5% for Chinese. Hence, if Tin Pei Ling's Target Audience was the majority of voters in Marine Parade, then perhaps an “English” newspaper would have been the more logical choice. Unfortunately, the English newspaper appear to be the most critical of her.

Thirdly, the Theme and Messages. An analysis of Tin Pei Ling's Messages reveals that she had 7 Messages to convey and this was based on the Theme of “maturity beyond my age”. Unfortunately, Tin Pei Ling did not realise that too many Messages confuse stakeholders. And, from the media reports that I have read, her Theme of “maturity” did not come across. Tin Pei Ling would have been better off choosing 3 key Messages, repeating them often and backing them up with examples.

In summary, the key take-aways for PR Professionals are this ...

- the timing of the response is important. In this instance where the Theme is “maturity”, delaying the response is not inline with the Theme and may be counter-productive
- sometimes the most logical medium is not the best option. In situations like this, using a neutral reporter or newspaper is the best way to get your side of the story out
- when it comes to Messages, more is not necessarily better. As a rule, choose no more than 3 and keep emphasising them so that the stakeholder gets the Message.

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