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'Don't jump on everything that you see': Singapore Airlines' comms chief on responding to criticism

'Don't jump on everything that you see': Singapore Airlines' comms chief on responding to criticism

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Reputation management for a brand is always a complex and delicate thing. What more when you are dealing with a well-loved legacy brand such as Singapore Airlines (SIA).

After all, if you get complacent about your reputation, it's very easy for it to fail, according to Siva Govindasamy, Singapore Airlines’ divisional vice president of public affairs who was speaking at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's opening fireside chat at PR Asia Singapore. The conference will be coming to Malaysia next week on 8 November at Sofitel Kuala Lumpur Damansara.

Don’t miss: Singapore Airlines to reintroduce appetisers from June amidst complaints about food quality 

This is why, even when complaints and negative feedback happen, it's important that the communications team at SIA takes a step back to analyse situations before they decide how to respond and decide what kind of corrective measures need to be taken. 

“It depends on whether the complaint or feedback is true or not – is it somebody complaining about bad service, for example? We have to look at whether there’s some justification for it,” he explained. 

He added that it is also important to assess the magnitude of the situation and to look at trends. “You don't jump on every single thing that you see. You need to look at the trends and what people are saying holistically and fix what people are saying based on that.” 

After all, it is important that people look up to the brand and not down, he noted before adding that the airline owes much of its legacy to the country. He said:

There is no Singapore Airlines without Singapore. It is because of Singapore that Singapore Airlines is what it is. 

As a result, people do hold high standards for the brand. They want the brand to do well, even in times of crisis, Govindasamy said. 

“When we face issues and we have complaints online, there are many people defending us. We don’t take that for granted,” he said, adding that people are generally proud of the brand and want them to do well. 

As a result, Govindasamy pointed out, it is critical that SIA values its loyal customer base and that comes with being truthful in communications with its consumers and being mindful that when something is said, it is then backed up. 

Aligning internal and external communications 

A large part of this, according to Govindasamy, is ensuring that you maintain consistency between your internal and external communications.

Employee communications are meant to help the company disseminate what it feels people need to know within the company about its strategic direction, he said. 

As such, it is important that what you are telling people internally is the same as what you are saying externally. 

He added that the internal culture of a company is something that permeates the organisation. "A considerable fraction of the staff at Singapore Airlines have been with the company for many years. This translates into a culture that is passed down over the years as new entrants join the company’s ranks," he said. 

He went on to explain that culture is very important and is something that is beyond comms. "It's a culture and we pass that culture down over time which equates to consistency internally and externally."

He added that by celebrating staff and taking pride in doing that, the company allows people to understand where the standards are, all of which goes beyond the efforts of comms. 

"Comms doesn't exist in a vacuum. As comms professionals, we can only communicate what the businesses are actually doing. Comms is part of the strategy, but we can only communicate something tangible.” 

Comms doesn't exist in a vacuum. As comms professionals, we can only communicate what the businesses are actually doing. Comms is part of the strategy, but we can only communicate something tangible.

At the end of the day, Govindasamy admitted, when it comes to a solid brand with a strong reputation, you simply don’t want to drop the ball on your watch.

Related articles:
Singapore Airlines' CEO says it could have responded faster regarding paper boxes and appetisers
Singapore Airlines and Garuda Indonesia deepen commercial partnership with joint venture
Singapore Airlines to scrap paper boxes after complaints from netizens 

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