The organising committee of Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organising Committee (PHISGOC) claimed that media reports and images making rounds in the Internet were not true. According to CNA, chairman of the PHISGOC Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters and journalists recently that 95% of the controversies that needed investigation were false media reports. He added that while quick reporting is important in the digital age, it doesn't take out the responsibility to check if it's true or not.
Since then, according to local news outlet ABS-CBN, The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has said that making such a statement is "ridiculously unacceptable when the officials responsible for the disaster resort to bashing media as well." It added that "attempting to dictate how the media should report the news has no place in a democracy." Meanwhile, another report on ABS-CBN said that the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) also shot back at the organisers for "blaming the media" for the negative reports on logistical issues that were made public by athletes.
The sports event which has already begun, gained a bad rep over the past few days as several videos and pictures made rounds on Facebook and Twitter showing ongoing construction at the venue, delayed transportation issues, alleged dietary snafu and accommodation problems in the hotel. These were uploaded by a mix of athletes, volunteers and staff members. Meanwhile, according to latest reports on CNA, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has now requested to probe the SEA Games preparations.
In a conversation with Marketing, Edwin Yeo, general manager of SPRG said that it is not enough to just say 95% of the reports were false. It has to be backed by evidence. He added that the problem with such a broad statement is that the journalist's integrity comes into question, without being able to prove that they are wrong.
"If you wish to make a statement like that, address each allegation with facts. 95% also makes the statement somewhat unbelievable without proof," he explained. He said that if the organising committee chooses to go down this route, it is responsible for publishing each claim with evidence, adding:
Showing an example of one wrong report, such as the unfinished stadium one, is not enough.
In such cases where a major event is already gaining negative traction, the best thing to do would be to ensure that the games are a success. Yeo was of the view that the committee should shift its focus on the positives rather than spend time defending itself.
"If there are further missteps, then the committee has to be the one to announce it first, detail what happened and also apologise. If the games are a roaring success, despite the missteps, publicly recognise that there were many aspects that could have been done better. If the games stutter with more disorganisation, then be transparent about the challenges they faced, take responsibility and apologise to the nation once again," he said, adding:
Reflect upon decisions made and show remorse.
Any impact on sponsors?
Currently, notable sponsors of the events such as Razer, Mastercard, Coca Cola, FamilyMart, and BMW among others, have not made any public statements about the current situation. According to Yeo, this isn't surprising given that desspite the negativity, very few would be too concerned if the brands received good exposure and brand affinity. As such, the sponsors' key concerns would be exposure and the kind of brand association it has with the games.
"Brands really only pull out if the values of the games ran counter to their own," he said. However, Yeo said that it would be good if the organising committee wrote personal letters of apology to the sponsors explaining what had happened. "Sponsors are forgiving if they were honest mistakes," he added.
Lena Soh Ng CEO of Huntington Communications said the purpose of international sports events and regional sports events such as the SEA games are not just sporting excellence but also to build cultural understanding and new relationships from shared interests. As such, she added that sponsors will hold a long term view of their brand impact and to ensure those values mirror excellence.
"At the end of the day, people are forgiving, and the sooner things are on track, the sooner the real takeaway from the SEA games will be realised," she said.