Saturday, April 19, 2014

Crisis Communications: Can the Singapore Government do no Right?

If you follow social media, you will be forgiven if you believe that the Singapore government can do no right. Any policy announced, no matter how well intentioned, will find its critics and be slammed by "netizens". While most are rants, some couch themselves as academics offering empirical proof that our government's policies are deliberately flawed to benefit the self-serving interests of our Ministers. What these "netizens" will have you believe is that they represent the majority. Just look at the recent backlash against the National Environment Agency's (NEA) licensing requirement for tissue sellers.

As a crisis communications consultant specializing in social media, I firmly believe that social media amplifies sentiments but does not create it. Thus, the unhappiness expressed by these netizens exists and is real. However, having said that, I must caution that while social media does offer a hint at stakeholder sentiments, how representative it is of the entire population cannot be easily inferred. This is because there will always be that percentage of Internet Trolls who are out to stir emotions.

The challenge for the Government is how to filter out the "noise" so as to know what are the true ground sentiments. One simple, but effective, technique that I teach companies (who have embarked on a social media presence) is to monitor and measure social media engagements so as to establish thresholds. Once a "base" level of trolling activities has been identified, social media managers can then confidently ignore the noise and have a trigger point at which they will know that a response is necessary.

As long as social media exists, trolling will be a part of it. Companies and politicians with social media presence must accept that they will be targets and not be distracted by the actions of trolls. In my opinion, while it may appear that the Singapore government can do no right, I believe this is just a perception which can only be verified once the thresholds have been identified.

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