Anton Casey: Incorrigible prat or victim of poor PR advice?

Anton Casey is now a household name to Singaporeans and gone viral around the world. For those of you still in the Dark Ages, Casey is the prat of an Englishman who insulted Singaporeans by calling MRT commuters on the island poor and other insults through his Facebook postings.

When he and his family (he used a photo of his son on the MRT and later in his repaired Porsche to heap insults on the local population), understandably, received death threats, Casey closed his Facebook account and went into hiding after the details of where he stays and where he works as well as past interviews his former Miss Singapore wife made against local men were excavated and posted on the net.

A day later he hired a PR firm, Fulford PR, to convey his apologies to the Singapore people. His apology came up short and came across as insincere  and an attempt at renegaging responsibility and contrition via a poor PR effort (read Unspun here).

As a result, the backlash against him continues to rage and boil with even Singaporean foreign minister K. Shanmugam joining in the chorus of criticisms against Casey’s perceived insincerity and contrition.

What did Casey do wrong in his PR offensive? Simple (and he should ask for his money back from the PR firm he hired for not giving him good advice).

All he had to do was to adhere to the 3Rs of crisis communication that any PR consultant worth his salt should know about – Regret, Reason and Remedy.

Regret – Express remorse, but you need to do it personally and in a heartfelt manner. People are exceptionally good at detecting insincerity. Casey should have written to The Straits Times himself to apologise. The language he used should also be direct and without any fluff. The sentence, presumably penned by his PR advisors, was that “I would like to express my sincere apology to the people of Singapore.” That sounds like a robot or corporate automaton issuing an apology. No rap human who’s really sorry talks that way. They usually say something like: “I am very sorry…I regret my actions..”

But even if he did that it would by itself not be enough to exonerate him. This is because crisis situations like this require him to address the emotions. He should have appeared on TV or released a video of his apology, looking sincerely contrite and saying so in a direct and ernest manner.”

Reason – In his video and letter he would also need to address the why or what led him to this action. In tho he could say that he did not know what came over him, or better still had a misadjusted sense of humour that he now realised could be offensive and wrong.

Remedy – he needed also to tell his audience that he was now seeking psychological counseling or other professional help to make sure that he does not do such a silly thing again.

If he had been advised by his PR handlers to say all this – and also been advised by them that it would only work if he was sincere about the 3Rs or it would not work – then there was a good chance that the would not be reaping the whirlwind even now.

Casey is stupid and insensitive but if he had had good advice he could have mitigated much of the reaction against him. Or maybe he got good advice but ignored them? If that’s the case then he deserves everything he gets. And then some.

(For the sake of clarity, let me reiterate the point I am making here. Casey, if he was genuinely contrite, could have saved himself from the widespread and continued animosity he is receiving if he had good good PR advice and followed them. If he is not genuinely contrite then no amount of PR, no matter how good his advisors are, can help him. At which case the PR firm should immediately resign the account if they value their own reputation.  They should know something about crisis management since they were bold enough to prescribe what the SMRT should do when it faced a crisis here).

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