This is an interesting case for crisis management aficionados.
We live in interesting times indeed when hypersensitivity meets the mob mentality on social media.
UBS Chief Economist Paul Donovan was commenting in his podcast on China’s economy and how there’s been some inflation caused by sick pigs in China. The country has recently had to cull 1.1 million pigs because of an outbreak of swine fever.
He tried to add a bit of color to his commentary instead of dishing out the usual cut-and-dried tone of economists: “Does this matter?” he asked. “It matters if you are a Chinese pig. It matters if you like eating pork in China.”
Nothing much wrong with that but in China this line has provoked a groundswell of hurt feelings that bubbled and boiled on its social media channels with the state-sponsored Global Times joining in the chorus of condemnation.
UBS, which has a long association with China and huge amounts of investment at stake, immediately caved-in and apologized unreservedly.
UBS’s ‘Chinese Pig’ Apology Shows Who’s in ChargeBy
The swift climbdown is a sign of how much the bank has at stake in China.Updated on
It may have seemed a perfectly innocuous choice of words to the economist as he composed his daily commentary on the state of global financial affairs. Within hours, one sentence landed UBS Group AG, the world’s biggest wealth manager, in the center of a media storm and prompted a groveling retraction.
At issue was Paul Donovan’s Morning Audio Comment. He entitled Wednesday’s note “VERY NORMAL INFLATION,” a play on Donald Trump’s use of capital letters in a tweet on the beauty of VERY LOW INFLATION. In it, the economist opined on the rise in Chinese consumer prices, a gain he attributed to sick pigs.
The country has had to cull 1.1 million of the animals amid an outbreak of swine fever, a figure that could, on the basis of previous outbreaks, increase to as many as 200 million for the whole year.
“Does this matter?” he asked. “It matters if you are a Chinese pig. It matters if you like eating pork in China.” (see more here)
The self flagellation, however, doesn’t seem to have worked. After the economist went on Bloomberg TV to say he was wrong and he totally apologized for the culturally insensitive remark, The Chinese Securities Association of Hong Kong — which represents firms including the Hong Kong branches of mainland companies — has urged the bank to “terminate the employment of the staff involved, and report the result to the Chinese public.” A major securities group also announced that it had suspended its activities with UBS.
Here’s an interesting thought experiment for Crisis Management professionals: what else could UBS have done to mitigate the incident? The remark by itself wasn’t exactly culturally insensitive to begin with. And when the issue erupted UBS did not go into denial but apologized straight away. So what went wrong?
Curious as to what have gone wrong, I went to watch Donovan’s apology on Bloomberg’s Surveillance program and think I spotted the cause of the continuing rage and anger over UBS.Here’s the video:
Do you see what I see?
Learnings from Nike’s Dream Crazy Advertisement
Last week Nike unveiled Dream Crazy, its boldest and most controversial advertisement that reaped a whirlwind of mixed reactions.
Its detractors, including the President of the United States, were scandalized and enraged by the sport brand’s foray into politics. Some even threatened to burn Nike shoes. Its supporters, however, contributed to a 31% increase in its online sales.
The episode raises the question of whether a brand should wade into a toxic political atmosphere and it has profound implications for marketers to millennials, particularly in Indonesia where we are in the midst of a divisive presidential election campaign.
Its great when one of us go on beyond the workplace to do new, wonderful and imaginative things.
So we are thrilled to learn of Forever Mavbro Zulfikar’s latest adventure – to write a book called So I Stopped Being Gay: A Story of Giving Up by a Queer Muslim Indonesian.
He is kickstarting his effort with Publishizher, which Zul explains as: “a NYC-based crowd-powered publishing company” that is helping him to write the book. They need your help to fund the production though.
Flushed with our Gold Standard Award for Issues Management and Crisis Communications in Hong Kong in December last year, we thought we should submit our work for another award. This new one is run by a marketing portal that includes public relations as one of its disciplines, confident that our work will win an award.
True enough, we got shortlisted!
And that’s when the disillusionment began. Read More
These are interesting times for the marketing communications industry and for public relations.
Like all companies in this area, JWT have been experimenting with how to cope with disruption and media convergence. Their answer is an interesting one in Indonesia: appoint a Public Relations professional to head their team in the country. Read More
Deliberate misunderstandings and righteous piety seems to be the order of the day in Indonesia’s poisoned and acrimonious political setting.
The latest flap involves a call to boycott travel site Traveloka and uninstall their mobile app following a walkout by detractors when newly installed Governor Anies Baswedan delivered the keynote speech at Canisius College’s 90th anniversary on November 11. Read More
These are sensitive times. Since newly installed Jakarta Governor made his Protect Pribumis speech at his inauguration the P word has gained new political impetus.
One thing about the internet is that what is old can be made new again, with a new twist. Responding to the widespread criticism against their leader, Anies Baswedan’s supporters trotted out CNN Indonesia’s report on 22 June saying that he was not the only Pribumi champion and the cue was actually set by Jokowi.
Newspapers are folding by the day. Readers are abandoning print and going online. Today we read, online of course, of Singapore Press Holdings’ valuation falling below the New York Times in 12 years. At the same time we read of the Wall Street Journal stopping their print editions in Singapore and Hong Kong. Sadly they are part of a trend that has also hit Indonesia media hard.
Many news outlets have tried to follow their readers by going online. The strategy, however, hasn’t paid off for most of them as online advertising is going more to Facebook and Google than to these outlets.
What should companies that have been relying on engagement with newspapers and news outlets do, now that these traditional outlets are closing down? Read More
As a young man cutting my teeth in journalism during the Thatcher years, I was in awe of the people behind the company, Bell Pottinger, that helped ensure her electoral victories. I remember they were touted as one of the first public relations firms to use behavioral psychology to good effect.
Now, after being in Public Relations for about 18 years and seeing the Bell Pottinger name reappear into prominence,and with it the man who founded the firm, I must say that it is a letdown. The man at the helm of that once powerful public relations firm turns out to be a doddering shadow of his former image in the interview below:
He was combative and defensive, he was in denial and he could not even switch off his mobile for an interview- twice.
What lessons can we PR people learn from this? Read More
At least 33 magazines and tabloids closed since December
If there’s any doubt that disruption is at hand in the communications industry just look at the sheer number of closures of Indonesian media. At least 33 newspapers and magazines have closed down since December last year.
This raises interesting questions on how corporations can still reach their customers and other audiences that matter. After all, the news outlets they’ve relied on as a medium of communicating with their consumers is failing than a line of dominoes. Read More