Should apology have been more personal?

SINGAPORE - He has said "sorry". But he did it through his public relations (PR) firm.

Now people are questioning why he had hired a PR firm to issue a statement of apology on his behalf rather than apologise himself.

Mr Anton Casey, 39, an expatriate, had sparked much criticism for labelling public transport commuters here as "poor people". A short video showing the senior wealth manager saying, "Don't be angry at me. Be angry with your mum and dad for raising you a wuss" also riled many online.

Mr Casey, a Briton who is married to former Singapore beauty queen Bernice Wong and who holds Singapore permanent residency, later apologised for his actions, saying he regrets "having offended and disrespected the people of Singapore".

PR specialists that The New Paper spoke to mostly agreed that while it was good Mr Casey had issued an apology, it could have been done in a more personal manner.

Having a PR agency issue the statement on his behalf could be seen as impersonal and not heartfelt, said communications consultant Dora Yip.

"It also begs the question of whether the words were his, or written by someone else," she said.

Ms Yip said that being honest and accepting responsibility would go a long way, especially if caught in such a fix.

"People relate to genuine emotions and opinions; nothing puts others off like generic statements and shifting the blame," she said.

Asia PR Werkz director Cho Pei Lin also emphasised the need to be genuine when apologising in a situation like this.

But there are some people who do not feel remorse and would stand by what they say, she said, citing the case of South Korean reality show finalist Stephanie Koh.

Miss Koh, 21, had received flak online after telling local media that she was not proud to be a Singaporean. She then went on to make a YouTube video defending her views.

Ms Cho said: "If you can deal with the criticism, understand the consequences and are prepared to stand by what you did, then it's okay (to not apologise)."

In a statement issued through a PR firm on Tuesday, Mr Casey said a "security breach" on his personal Facebook page had led to his family suffering "extreme emotional and verbal abuse online".

He also said the video was taken out of context.

Mr Casey had originally posted a picture of his son on an MRT train waving with the caption: "Daddy where is your car & who are all these poor people?"

Another post followed, showing the same boy in a Porsche. Mr Casey wrote that he was "happy to be reunited with my baby" and that "normal service can resume, once I've washed the stench of public transport off me".

While it is common for companies to call in PR consultants when their senior employees are in trouble, it is less common for individuals to engage such services, said Ms Cho.

She said that her firm is usually called in when individuals are involved in litigation which might have professional ramifications.

"The challenge is to convince the court of public opinion. It's not easy to get people to see from your point of view, especially when a perception has been formed," she said.

lawsm@sph.com.sg


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