Sunday, January 6, 2013

How not to manage irritating blog postings: Lessons in info management from PM Lee versus Alex Au's Yawning Bread blog

[Updated 11:04pm 6 Jan'13 with a quote from blogger Alex Au]

If you feel your good name has been hurt by a blog post, the last thing you need or want to do is to direct eyeballs to that blog.

Above all, having the mainstream media (MSM) publish your grievances on Page 1 and televise them on the nightly TV news bulletin is a surefire way of igniting interests in the very blog that you feel so aggrieved about.

This traffic spurt is exactly what the local blog, Yawning Bread (click here), has enjoyed.

Visitors were drawn to Yawning Bread, thanks to MSM reports that said Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had asked the blog to remove an allegedly defamatory article plus comments from readers.

For students of public relations and information management practitioners, news reports of PM Lee versus local blogger Alex Au provide an interesting case study on how the blogosphere should not be engaged.

"Traffic to my site spiked about 800 to 1,000 percent above normal in the remaining 8 hours of Friday afternoon/evening after news circulated on Facebook re the lawyer's letter," said Mr Au in response to a query on Yawning Bread's page views from Senang Diri."The total hits for Friday 4 January was almost 100,000."

While PM Lee's lawyer succeeded in getting the "defamatory post" removed from Yawning Bread, curious netizens who contributed to the spike in traffic could read about the case in four follow-up postings on the matter.

This sort of information management plan is perplexing. This is not how IOs I know and have had the benefit of learning from would run their info ops campaign.

Firstly, Yawning Bread has been elevated to the status of thought-leader since it was the blog that broke news of the relationship between information technology company, Action Information Management (AIM) and the ruling People's Action Party (PAP). Being a thought-leader in the real world and cyberworld is important because people will gravitate to such opinion shapers for their ideas, reactions and viewpoints.

Such a reputation is not earned overnight.

Secondly, by declining to comment on the number of companies the PAP owns, the system surrendered the initiative in info management regarding this episode. This loss of initiative means the system is reacting to public opinion, rather than leading it. The Facebook posting by MIW politician Grace Fu, dutifully published in full by the MSM's Sunday Times on 6 January 2013, comes after the milk has been spilled.

Thirdly, legal action is high-handed but admittedly necessary where reputations have been besmirched. However, unleashing the silks comes with a price: It gives rise to concerns among Singaporeans that perhaps the only way to sift the wheat from the chaff is to have people like Alex Au raise all sorts of scenarios and wait for the system to respond to find out where the pain points are.

It also makes one wonder if legal action is the only arrow in the system's quiver. A constant and proactive programme at cultivating engaging bloggers, coupled with a desire for transparency, would do wonders in steering both sides away from a clash of ideas.

Fourthly, the AIM business is probably not a topic you would want to raise during the National Conversation, even if you have the best intentions for Singapore at heart, because you may inadvertently blunder into a minefield.

All this intellectual energy will have to be channelled somewhere. So it flows from the real world to the cyberworld and the system loses a valuable opportunity at shaping opinions when it takes on questions, concerns and criticisms from the people squarely.

Lastly, a half-baked info ops or PR plan will backfire. If the mission intent of a legal letter is to put a stop to wayward discussions on a certain matter, this has to be done decisively.

The Sunday Times said in its report today:"Blogger Alex Au yesterday apologised to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for defamatory comments made in an article about a deal to sell computer systems used by town councils.

"He has removed the article and related comments and replaced it with a brief note saying the article has been taken down. He also provided a link to his apology."

The paper of record has spoken. A mopping up operation by the PM's lawyer to kill follow-on postings, after the MSM reported the takedown of Part 1, would point to the system's belated realisation that it could have perhaps been more precise in its letter of demand.

So with Part 1 of the multi-part discussion erased from Yawning Bread, does this mean parts 2 to 4 are kosher?

Standby for Part 6.


Anonymous said...

An insightful commentary.

Anonymous said...

From 'reputation to unreliable thought leader. How unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

If the PM can fumble so badly in his PR assault against a lone blogger, I shudder to think how he takes on the PR machinery of belligerent nations. Falling standards?

Anonymous said...

What's the point of winning the battle to lose the war, PM?

Anonymous said...

Somehow the MSM triumphed with bold words " Alex Au apologised to Pm Lee' equates to an act akin to masturbation.

Anonymous said...

Many are talking about it, so many things to hide, all thumbs down for the high and mighty big bully...

Anonymous said...

Awful mistake by Alex Au. He invited a defamation suit, allowing the PAP to claim victory and close the case in the mainstream media. As far as I can see, it's all over.

David Boey said...

Hi Anonymous 7 Jan 8:46PM,
Well Mr Alex Au is alive and kicking and Yawning Bread has gained more eyeballs, thanks to the MSM reports that trumpeted the "victory".

His Part 6 is out.

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

Singapore is & will always be at a big disadvantage to its larger neighbors.

As usual our neighbors try to mimic our best performing economic sectors & by doing it bigger & cheaper. We cannot stop them.

We just need to work smarter & harder & get ahead with some strategic advances not so easily replicated by our neighbors - of course this is more easily said than done - but is possible as we have demonstarted so far although it is & will get even tougher.

But alas, I see that Singaporeans think that our successes come easily, In fact they have not.
We seem now to be more pre occupied with lesser domestic priorities than the very long term economic issue facing us in the long term. We cannot relax and be even a little laid back. Successful city states do not have long histories. Many crumble once they become soft.