Canto-pop singer Leon Lai Ming was forced to cancel a 30th anniversary concert at the last minute because of fire safety reasons. The cancellation has disappointed a huge number of his fans, some of whom came from distant places.
The cancellation was seen as a disaster itself. Nevertheless, it was a good example of handling a PR crisis well.
Now, if Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had adopted the same approach over the “baggage incident”, the controversy wouldn’t have snowballed to such proportion.
Lai admitted that it was the fault of his team rather than the government. The fireproof material for the marquee that would house the show in the outdoor venue did not meet British safety standards.
As a result, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department refused to issue a temporary permit for the concert two hours before the opening. And there was not enough time for the event organizer to change the material of the massive tent, which can accommodate 4,500 people.
The long-awaited concert has let so many fans down. Some people have said that it may affect the city’s reputation as a tourist destination.
The problem is how to minimize the negative impact. Lai has actually done a good job. He made the first response via Facebook and announced that the concert was cancelled in a live video.
He offered apologies to his fans, and the video was updated later to explain why the concert was cancelled.
Lai admitted that his team should bear the full responsibility, and urged his fans not to blame the government department.
His handling of the incident has met the so-called 3S principle in managing a PR crisis, which refers to shouldering (responsibility), sincerity and speed.
More importantly, Lai not only used the traditional ways of communication, like sending press releases and giving media interviews, he also used direct communication via live broadcast. That has demonstrated his sincerity and respect for his fans.
Lai had used Facebook to promote his concert in the last few months. He would upload at least one video every day. The account has attracted a large number of followers.
Usually, star artists like him rarely manage social media communication by themselves. Mostly, they would hire someone to manage their account.
However, there is a huge difference between operating an account by self and having others do it for you. Fan can easily tell.
Looking back, the airport incident related to a bag of Leung’s daughter is not such a big deal in itself. An Airport Authority report shows there are over 500 courtesy delivery cases every year.
Leung said that he knew about his daughter’s missing bag when he called her to say goodbye. After learning about the problem, the chief executive said he merely spoke to a Cathay staffer to inquire if anything can be done to help her.
The phone conversation subsequently led to an airline personnel carrying the bag and delivering it Leung’s daughter in the restricted area in the airport.
Now, if Leung had followed the 3S principle by admitting his lapse immediately like Lai did, he could have escaped the accusation that he abused his power as chief executive.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 29.
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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