Besides losing the ability to transport the public.
In the information age, communications is key. Especially so for a public-facing company such as SMRT.
However, in the last few months, it has become increasingly clear the public transport operator has ceded communications ground to everyone else.
This means SMRT has lost its ability to control its messages at a time when it can ill-afford to lose the ability to communicate with the public as it seeks to restore confidence.
The following examples will demonstrate how that happened.
SMRT’s over-reliance on one key message: Don’t begrudge ground staff
To take the heat off itself in the wake of delays and problems — on top of impending closures and some more major inconveniences in the future — SMRT has been seeking public empathy.
This is carried out consistently by emphasising the tireless workers on the ground who are doing their best to get the train system up and running.
As a sign of gratitude, this following post about a commuter’s words of encouragement for SMRT to press on was put up on Nov. 24 by SMRT:
The message is clear: Commuter stands in solidarity with the staff.
But the main issue with such a post is that, firstly, it comes from SMRT itself, and secondly, right-minded commuters who form the majority of commuters, do not begrudge the work done by the blue-collared workers on the ground.
And then there is the issue of authenticity.
Such messages must stem organically from the ground by commuters on their own Facebook pages to emphasise real everyday people are empathetic.
For SMRT to amplify such a message on their own platform is just not convincing.
Rather unfortunately, due to a recent admission that about one in 10 staff are not pulling their weight in SMRT, according to CEO Desmond Kuek at a press conference after it was found that staff had possibly falsified maintenance records, the perceived indefatigable nature of SMRT workers is also somewhat blunted — ironically, by SMRT itself.
Messaging not on fleek.
Debunk troll criticisms
Another misstep by the SMRT communications team is the expenditure of one full social media post to debunk a troll accusation levelled at its CEO that he had fired half the maintenance crew.
Two things stand out.
One, the unprofessional and defensive tone of the writing dismissing the accusations, and two, the timeliness of such a post given the stinginess of timely updates on social media whenever an SMRT train breaks down or runs into some delay.
SMRT has been under fire from the public for not providing timely updates whenever trains do not work as they should.
A defensive Facebook post is also indicative of where SMRT’s priorities lie when it comes to addressing the public.
SMRT needs to be proactive instead of reactive.