Saturday, September 3, 2011

PA's 2nd Straits Times Forum Response Once Again Misses the Point

In an attempt to correct an earlier botched response to a Straits Times Forum letter questioning the appointment of PAP Advisers to Grassroots Organisations, Ms Ooi Hui Mei (Director Corporate Communications for the People's Association) 2nd response was carried in the 3 Sep 2011 edition of The Straits Times. In her response, Ms Ooi (a) once again failed to acknowledge the concern of the writer but instead trivialised it by saying that the “Government appreciates the public's interest” in this matter; and (b) attempted to explain why the PA needed to be pro-government.

In an earlier blog posting of mine, I shared with readers 2 principles which I believe are essential in handling negative stakeholder feedback. They are ...

Firstly, the stakeholder's unhappiness must be acknowledged as genuine and the response must directly address this. A common mistake made is to provide a general response to the concern raised. Doing so, the organisation not only "trivialises" the stakeholder's concerns, but demonstrates a lack of understanding of the situation. This is likely to instigate the stakeholder to continue his "attacks" on the organisation as he feels that he has not been “heard”.

Secondly, as I mentioned in my post yesterday, the organisation must avoid addressing the concern at the "tactical" level. The stakeholder's concern must be elevated and linked to universal principles like fairness, safety or perhaps corporate social responsibilities. Doing this will avoid a drawn out PR battle as it is very difficult for an unhappy stakeholder to argue against universally accepted principles.

Hence, in order to effectively address negative stakeholder feedback, the PA must do 2 things - (a) acknowledge the stakeholder's concerns; and (b) elevate and link the concern to a "universal principle" before offering a solution.

Based on Ms Ooi's second response, it is my opinion that this is not likely to be the end of this matter.

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