Smrt and the disruption backlash


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Smrt and the disruption backlash

  1. 1. SMRT and the Disruption Backlash MUHAMMAD AMIN BIN RUSLAN U1030128H COM 4033
  2. 2. Disclaimer  This case was developed based on archival research with the sole purpose for class discussion. It does not aim to serve as endorsements or to be used as a source of primary data to illustrate managerial practices of the organization(s) or individual(s) mentioned in the case.
  3. 3. Case Objectives This case aims to show the many challenges that corporate communications professionals may encounter when working for a highly visible company with negative public sentiment. It also demonstrates the challenges of competing for airspace in a highly saturated social media environment
  4. 4. SMRT at a Glance  Founded in 1987  Operates 3 lines: North-South Line, East-West Line and Circle Line  Average daily ridership of 252,00 passengers  Operates taxis and buses as well
  5. 5. Public Transport Situation in Singapore  Cars are very expensive with COE and ERP in place  Road traffic is congested especially during peak hours  Only 45% of households own cars  MRT is seen as a vital component of public transport
  6. 6. The Disruptions Start  On 15th and 17th December, power to the trains on the North-South line was cut causing lengthy disruptions  Over 200,000 people were left stranded
  7. 7. The Disruptions Start (Cont’d)  Scenes were chaotic  Thousands were stuck between stations  No one knew what was going on as SMRT did not make any announcements  Buses were deployed but came too late and were too congested
  8. 8. Backlash  A photo of SMRT instructing its taxi drivers to take advantage of the situation was taken and soon went viral  Netizens were unsurprisingly outraged  SMRT quickly apologized and claimed it was a staff member’s mistake  Netizens remained sceptical
  9. 9. Backlash (Cont’d)  A photo of a smashed train window also went viral  Done by a man whose wife was facing breathing difficulties  Rumors spread that he would be charged despite many viewing his actions as heroic  SMRT only denied it belatedly
  10. 10. Backlash (Cont’d)  Social media erupted with activity, with most people painting SMRT in a poor light  #smrtruinslives became a trending topic with some tweets even calling for the CEO to resign  Blog posts expressing outrage were churned out  Public was losing faith in SMRT
  11. 11. Underlying Issues  SMRT had just hiked its fares  People were unhappy with this given how they perceived SMRT’s standards to be slipping  Trains were getting over –crowded and delays were becoming frequent
  12. 12. Underlying Issues (Cont’d)  CEO revealed to be given a hefty salary  Seen as out of touch for swatting aside the over crowding problem  Pictures of her becoming being hoisted on a sedan chair became viral  Became a scapegoat  Calls for her to resign intensified
  13. 13. SMRT Reacts  Set up a Facebook page and Twitter account to ensure information gets disseminated quickly  Issued a news release apologizing to public and stating that the CEO is in charge of the situation  CEO stated that she would resign if the situation calls for it and true enough she did 21 days later
  14. 14. Discussion Questions  Why were netizens so antagonistic towards SMRT as     manifested in social media? What could SMRT have done to counter the groundswell of ill sentiment directed at it? What price did SMRT have to pay for being such a late entrant into the local social media scene? Should SMRT’s CEO have listened to the numerous calls asking for her to resign in the immediate aftermath of the disruptions and why? What more could SMRT do to win back the trust of the public?