Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tin Pei Ling: National Youth Forum 2008 Publicity Video

On 16 May 2011, Yahoo! Singapore News carried an article by Jeffrey Oon titled the “Buzz over new Tin Pei Ling Video”. In his article, Jeffrey reported that the 39-second amateur YouTube video was shot and uploaded in September 2008 and was likely made in conjunction with the National Youth Forum 2008. In the approximately 24 hours since, 808 comments have been received on the Yahoo! Site with, all but a handful, flaming Ms Tin Pei Ling and the People's Action Party (PAP).

From the crisis communications perspective, the PAP's decision to remain silent on their selection process that enabled a seemingly unqualified candidate to be elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) is dangerous. As mentioned, in my earlier postings, not framing the crisis is dangerous as it will allow the issue to spiral off into tangents which may be detrimental to the ruling party. In this instance, some netizens are already claiming that Singapore is an oligarchy and that Tin Pei Ling is a lead-in for the inclusion of the Prime Minister's son in the next General Elections. Whether truth or fiction, all this does not benefit the PAP. And judging that Tin Pei Ling is an active user of Social Media, more videos and pictures will continue to surface.

So what can the PAP do to manage this crisis?

Using my proposed Framework for Crisis Management as the model, it is clear that stakeholders have attributed responsibility for election of Tin Pei Ling into Parliament to the PAP. Thus, the appropriate Crisis Response Strategy (CRS) is for the PAP to accept responsibility and provide stakeholders with information to deal with their anger (the aim being to shift stakeholder emotions from anger to neutrality, and eventually (if possible) to one of sympathy). Only when the crisis has been “managed” should the PAP attempt to “build” Tin Pei Ling's reputation. Any attempts to do so prior to managing the crisis will likely be viewed negatively.

As a Public Relations Professional, my proposed Crisis Response Strategy is as follows:

Step 1: The PAP to accept responsibility for making a “mistake” in fielding Tin Pei Ling. This they can do my explaining their selection process and, in particular, explain the specific factors that led them to select Tin Pin Ling over other “more qualified” candidates.

Step 2: Next, and most importantly, the PAP needs to acknowledge stakeholders' anger by showing empathy and then suggesting ways that the stakeholders can deal with any unhappiness they may have with dealing with Tin Pei Ling as a MP. This may be as simple as appointing a “senior” MP to supervise Tin Pei Ling during her Meet the People Sessions, or even instituting regular surveys of constituents on how Tin Pei Ling is performing her duties as an MP.

The bottom line is this. Perception is reality and stakeholders have already “decided” that Tin Pei Ling is unqualified to be a MP. Remaining silent does not help and will only add fuel to the fire. And a fire left uncontrolled, in the worst case scenario, will consume everything it is in contact with. The PAP must therefore act and act quickly to frame the crisis to its benefit and mitigate further fall-out that may impact the party as a whole.

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