Norman Ng

Self Destruction in Crisis Communications

In Crisis Communications, Public Relations on September 4, 2011 at 12:12

It’s every Corp Comm. Director’s nightmare, politics and business is a potent ticking nuclear bomb which Fukushima would pale in comparison. This was the case for the People’s Association (PA) of Singapore which witnessed huge public outcries relating to actions / responses to their “apolitical roles”.

Background – 2 political parties with their respective agendas, both accusing each other of “restricting” activities in each other’s turfs. Caught in the brawl are Town Councils (estate management roles) and PA (social cohesion / racial harmony roles). PA incidentally appoints “Advisors” to their Grassroots Organisations (GROs), and traditionally are the ruling party’s MPs.

Fast forward to Aug 2011. The PA’s Corp Comms. office attempted to convey their rationales for this, with much brouhahas from the public.

Reading the press statement as published by Ooi Hui Mei, Director, Corp & MarComms, PA, I began to see this case as a self destructive case. First, from a reader’s perspective, it looks like a direct u-turn from the non partisan branding and portrayal it has sought to develop for almost 5 decades.

From a corp comms perspective, you NEVER state your positions without giving full context. This is a politically charged issue, and we expect a 4 para statement to give your stakeholders full perspective and effectively convey your enterprises’s position? Aptly, it’s akin to writing your own will….self destruct in 5 seconds.

What could have been done better? First, when faced with comms crisis, assess what your current positioning, portrayal and stakeholders perceptions are. So your ground sensing, media monitoring systems are critical components in an enterprise’s corp comms that it worth its salt. Because whatever you convey during crisis comms should take alignment from what’s you branding currently is. Period.

Second, explain the change. Give context to the delta, on why the enterprise has shifted its positioning, relative to current sentiments, perceptions. Try fitting it in 1 paragraph. It will never make the cut. Nothing short of a CEO fronting a press conference. This is when leadership is essential. There are times when a CEO needs to intervene, and this is it. Because it rocks to very foundations of the purpose and existence of the enterprise.

Third, integrate communications & operations functions. If I were the Corp Comms Director of PA, I would spread my tentacles into every nook and cranny of daily opertions and make an assessment on their impacts to the organisation’s branding / public perception, and put a roadblock in front of it. So integrated operations, and internal communications in this case is absolutely essential, as a preventive measure to possibly avoid this case altogether.

So the next time a crisis strikes, we now know that the all-too-convenient and fast route to churn out e statements / press releases may just accelerate your corporate’s doom.

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