SMRT Corporation is a public transport operator incorporated on March 6, 2000, as a result of an industry overhaul to form multi-modal public-transport operators in Singapore. It is the main provider of public transport in Singapore, operating bus, rail, taxi and other public transport services via several subsidiaries.
In recent years, SMRT has had trouble with its communications with its customers and the general public in the cases of its multiple failures in rail contingency plans, where commuters were angry at the disruption in rail services. SMRT sometimes over-relies on excuses to explain issues to its detractors, which can be seen through its public communications in Twitter and Facebook. In recent times, effort has been put in by SMRT to improve stakeholder communications, but there are still many areas for improvement. Public perception of the company has been rather negative, and as such, we feel that SMRT could look into alternative ways of dealing with, and responding to crises, especially through their social media outlets. Social media outlets are the touch point of interaction between the public and SMRT, and therefore, is able to convey the company’s response the quickest.
As a result, we decided on the following research question:
“Does the use of humor in stakeholder communications help to improve public opinion of SMRT?”
Reasons for our choice
1) Humor has been known to relieve tension in stressful situations (Berlyne, 1972; Morreall, 1983; Shurcliff, 1968) Generally, people desire and find it pleasing to reduce dissonance (Festinger, 1957)
2) From the perspective of the incongruity theory, people laugh at what surprises them, is unexpected, or is odd in a nonthreatening way (Berger, 1976; Deckers & Divine, 1981; McGhee, 1979)
3) Effective communicators use differentiation quite often, contrasting themselves with their opponents, their views with an opponent’s views, their own social group with others, and so on. One can criticize with humor by ridiculing the opposition through laughter rather than through indignation, anger, or violence (Volpe, 1977)
Other companies have also successfully used humor to improve their reputation after incidents, and others not so well. Thus, we will compare and contrast their responses to derive SMRT’s best form of response to future situations.
We will use surveys and interviews to generate responses to this question and further our research, in order to find out if humorous responses to negative situations or comments can add to the value of SMRT’s current social media strategy.
Group members: Daniel Chia, Claudia Koh, Zoe Toh, Hiroshi Kondo, Teryne Ichige