Should SIA have deleted the badly taken photos with Joseph Schooling?

On 14 August, national flagship carrier Singapore Airlines put up a post saying that much like all Singaporeans, it couldn’t be prouder of swimmer Joseph Schooling’s amazing performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

As such, the brand decided to present Schooling with his very own Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Elite Gold card, and one million KrisFlyer miles. During this presentation, photos of Schooling being handed the award were posted on its Facebook page. He was also asked to pose with the SIA staff. Unfortunately, in the images, Schooling was shoved to the back.

Check out some of the images SIA put up:


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The post which went up on social media on 14 August, quickly went viral drawing immediate shares and thousands of reactions. While many congratulated the brand on the heartfelt move, other netizens were quick to point out that the young national hero was “hidden” and the brand was “stealing his limelight”. Others said that it might be more appropriate if SIA supported Singaporean athletes during their training and development rather than just riding on the back of their success to gain some free publicity.

Since then, SIA removed some of the images. In a statement to Marketing, SIA said:

“There were comments about the photos on our Facebook page and we removed them based on the feedback. As we said in response to members of the public, no offence was intended, and we at Singapore Airlines are incredibly proud of Joseph Schooling's achievements.”

Speaking to Marketing, Ryan Lim founder of QED consulting said in the world of social media today, there is no such thing as a delete button. Deleting simply means sweeping the issue under the rug and this would not be in any brands’ favour. Deleting a post simply draws unnecessary attention to an issue.

In such situations, there are only three options. It is either to address the issue, ignore the issue or  sweep it under the rug – the last being the most damaging to the brand equity. This is especially crucial for a brand which needs to be seen as a trusted one. He said:

If you fall, do so gracefully. Either apologise or let the criticism run its due course.

"There is no need to call for (unnecessary) attention by screaming like a tackled soccer player. As a result, prolongs the painful issue beyond normal durations,” he added.

Kristian Olsen, managing director of Type A agreed with Lim saying that removing the images wasn’t the right answer given that the images have already made rounds for the past few days.

“Removing it from the online space is a no-no. Once you remove it you bring more unwanted negative attention and angst from the online community,” he said. Instead, Olsen said the brand should have released a statement explaining the oversight especially since by now, it has been publicised across various media platforms.

However coming to the defense of the brand is Preetham Venkky, business director of KRDS social.

“Social Media, since inception, has always been a two-way medium. While it's taken brands quite some time to shake-off their old habits of hiding behind PR statements, it's important (now more than ever) for them to listen and be open to receive feedback from users,” he said.

In this particular case, he added, it is refreshing to see a brand reflect the sentiments of users with appropriate action. He agreed that while deleting a post altogether is never the right thing to do but editing it to reflect the feedback of the public was – especially since edit histories are quite transparent.

He added that with 'Always On' and 'Live' being the norm on social media lately, brands and publishers get very little time to truly edit content before posting. Which means, content can never be perfect and mistakes can happen. He added.

Move fast, break things was the ethos on which Facebook itself was built. It's only befitting for brands on the medium to do the same - Move fast, break the norm and of course correct when needed.

Pat Law, founder of creative agency Goodstuph, said in general during this period when brands want to thank  and congratulate from the heart and the “ intent needs to be pure.”

“I do think it's in our tendencies as Singaporeans to sometimes want to kill two birds with one stone but in this scenario, we really shouldn't. It is bad form,” she added.