Friday, September 2, 2011

People's Association (PA) Replies to Forum Letter on Appointment of Grassroots Advisor

The 31 Aug 2011 People's Association (PA)'s response, to a Straits Times forum letter by Mr Muhammad Yusuf Osman supporting the idea that Advisers to grassroots bodies should be the elected Member of Parliament (MP), is a classic example of the refrain that “good communications cannot help bad policies.”

This is because communications is about presenting the truth to affected stakeholders. No amount of sugar coating or reframing or, in this case, double-speak, can change the fact that the policy is flawed and biased in support of the government. To put it simply, a rose by any other name still has thorns.

So what could the PA have done?

For this particular case, instead of attempting a feeble attempt to explain the issue, my advice as a crisis communicator would be for the PA to first “elevate” Mr Muhammad Yusuf Osman question to one about fairness (which, by the way, is the writer's main concern). And, once having established that, gone on to try to explain why it is more “fair” to the public for the Government to appoint grassroots advisers who support its programmes.

While this approach may not address the root issues of fairness and equity, it would in my opinion (a) show an understanding of the issue raised; (b) demonstrate empathy to the writer; and (c) perhaps make a bad policy sound more palatable.

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