Tuesday, July 25, 2017

SAFRA Mount Faber vs Koh Jee Leong

Two weeks back, a Mr Koh Jee Leong turned up at the SAFRA Mount Faber gym wearing a tank top with the words "gay but not yet equal." He was subsequently told by the gym manager that other gym users were unhappy with the political statement and had “reported” him.

safra mount faber gay koh jee leong

Considering the conservative nature of Singaporeans and the blatant attempt by Mr Koh to push his agenda, this simple incident could have resulted in a major PR crisis for SAFRA and MINDEF. If Koh was denied usage of the gym, he would talk about it online and make a hue and cry about being denied his rights to free expression. In fact, even when Koh had gotten his way, he also pushed his agenda online.

SAFRA however did well to manage this incident and, in our opinion, came out smelling like roses. In crisis communications, we always say that good communications cannot overcome bad policies, and in this instance, SAFRA did well as their policy towards Koh was spot on.

As a MINDEF related organisation, SAFRA could not discriminate against any Singaporeans – especially one who had served NS. At the same time, SAFRA also had to operate a club for all Singaporeans. In this instance, SAFRA’s response was instructional.

Strategically, SAFRA did well to shift the issue away from free speech (or LGBT) to one about respecting each other’s views. In SAFRA's communications with Koh and the complainants, SAFRA’s position was clear: (a) SAFRA’s role (as a club) is to create a positive environment for all members; and (b) where members disagree, SAFRA’s role is to then mediate between the parties to seek common understanding.

In short, successful crisis management is not about spin or fanciful methods of saying things. Successful crisis communications begins with having a sound company policy. 

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