Paid Search for Crisis Management: The Case of Anton Casey
Jan 2014 24

Who’s Anton Casey?

If you are not socially connected and do not live in the little red dot, you probably would not had heard of Anton Casey.
But if you are, you will probably be aware of his quick rise to “stardom” and the attention on him in Singapore for the past 96 hours.

It all began with two Facebook posts.

Anton Casey's Facebook Post That Spark A Public Backlash

Anton Casey’s Facebook Post That Spark A Public Backlash

The first, a picture of his five-year-old son on the Singapore’s train system, the MRT, captioned: “Daddy where is your car and who are all these poor people?”
The second is of Mr Casey’s Porsche with the caption: “Ahhhhhhhhh reunited with my baby. Normal service can resume, once I have washed the stench of public transport off me…!”
In addition, Mr Casey also uploaded a video to YouTube mocking reactions to his comments, calling Singaporeans “wuss”.

It went viral.

20th Jan 2014 – Anton Casey Trending On Google Search Engine (Singapore)

On a day where Roger “Federer” swept past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to marched into the last eight of the Australia Open and “Chelsea” 3-1 convincing victory over Manchester United, something else stood out, something not familiar to many – “Anton Casey”.

What does it mean to be trended?
A trend to Google consist of 2 key elements – search volume and time.
In the case of Anton Casey, there were over 10,000 searches for “Anton Casey” in a very short span of time.

Significant search volumes always represent good opportunities for search, regardless whether they are organic or paid.

Anton Casey was the top search on Google for 20 Jan 2014
Anton Casey was the top search on Google for 20 Jan 2014
Anton Casey was the top search on Google for 20 Jan 2014 - Monthly View

One of the few relatively unknown trending topics in Jan 2014.

Help, Help, Help! PR Help!

Faced with death threats and utterly negative sentiments, Mr Casey turned to Fulford Public Relations PR, a local PR agency, for help.
Below is a screenshot of the apology.

Anton Casey Public Apology

Anton Casey Public Apology

The public apology was deemed by many to lack sincerity.
It was perceived as merely a lip-service, rather than an apology that came right from the heart.
Instead of damage control, the opposite happened – more negative sentiments were fanned.

Only PR? Are You Kidding Me?

Instead of engaging  just a PR agency, a digital agency will offer more comprehensive solutions that might do his situation more good.

Now let’s dissect where the touch points are.

#1 – His comments were already heavily discussed (and criticized) on social networking websites like Facebook and other online community forums. They went simply viral.

#2 – Remember the YouTube clip that Anton Casey uploaded? I am sure many would had commented on it. The YouTube video is no longer available but YouTube would still be a wonderful platform for his escape plan. I will touch more on that later.

#3 – They will be others who are interested to find out more about him and where do they go? Google of course. That’s the whole reason why he became a trending topic in the last few days.


Fight Where The Fire Is

On #1:

We had seen this sort of scenario too many times before.
I said something sensitive. I received a mountain of backlash. I “appear” to be sorry. I said sorry. Let time pass us by.
PR is actually a platform made for such recovery acts.
What’s the problem here then?
The apology looked more like a lawyer-issued announcement than a man seeking forgiveness.
Have some inputs from the man himself or at the very least, act like he is sincere (I don’t encourage pretentious efforts but there are lawyers out there who defend bad eggs and lawyers out there who fought in the name of justice).

Is PR alone enough? Absolutely not.
Content should be carefully crafted with the end objective in mind and then shared on all social media and discussion forums.
There should also be an involvement of a community manager somewhere to manage negative sentiments online.

On #2:

An email, a reply in Facebook, a tweet, can all be taken in the wrong context in the absence of facial expressions and verbal tonality.
Show the world that you are really sorry, let them see your expression, let them know that you are remorseful and wants to move on.
Nothing beats a man who’s willing to accept his responsibility and apologize (on his own will).
So follow up with a video, upload it on YouTube and tell the world yourself that you are truly (or trying to be) apologetic.
If Mr Casey can respond with mockeries, I am sure he can apologise via the same media too.  


Using Paid Search To Crisis Manage

On Point #3 –

Yes you read that right.
Paid search can be a crisis management tool as well.

Remember the point I made earlier on high search volume?
Time to do some research, find out the relevant trending keywords and get a paid search campaign going and limit the damage.

Step 1. Buy into trending keywords like “anton casey” and “anton casey singapore”.
Step 2. Insert an apologetic ad creative that goes……

Maybe This Is How Anton Casey Should Use SEM To Manage The Crisis

Maybe This Is How Anton Casey Should Use SEM To Manage The Crisis

Step 3. Remember a paid search campaign is only as effective as the landing page. So write relevant content – read apologetic, sorry-toned etc.

SingTel demonstrated this aspect of search engine marketing very well in 2012 when Mio TV’s live EPL telecast was disrupted.The disruption angered Mio TV’s EPL subscribers who took their sentiments to social media and online community forum (much similar to the case of Anton Casey).
SingTel was quick to react, besides the usual PR on TV and print, they took an integrated approach to social and search as well.
In the search ad creative, SingTel apologized for the disruption and led affected subscribers to a landing page with relevant content – apologies and compensations etc.
The search crisis management campaign eventually won “Best Use of Search” at Singapore Media Awards 2012.

In the words of Miguel Bernas who heads digital marketing at SingTel: “The campaign itself (for MioTV) was special because it was born out of a PR crisis, demonstrating how Search can be harnessed to turn a situation around, make a statement about our brand and show SingTel’s dedication to do right by our customers.”

In Conclusion

In times of Crisis, PR is not your only friend and with the wrong approach, might not even necessary be your best friend.
Consider other media too, for in this age and time, no one media can cover all aspects of crisis management.
To have comprehensive coverage, it makes sense to employ a multitude of media – search, social, video, content, PR and others, instead.

Bonus Material

Local cafe/bar The Tuck Shop made good humor marketing out of the Anton Casey saga.

Good Use Of Humor Marketing Of The Anton Casey Saga

Good Use Of Humor Marketing Of The Anton Casey Saga

Update on 27 Jan 2014: “Anton Casey” Trended Again

Anton Casey first trended on 20th Jan 2014, then again on Google on 22 Jan 2014 after a minister comment on the Anton Casey saga went viral.

This time it garnered twice the search volume (20,000+ to 10,000+ searches) compared to when the term first trended.

Anton Casey was the top search on Google for 22 Jan 2014

Anton Casey was the top search on Google for 22 Jan 2014

Anton Casey had since left Singapore.

On 25th Jan, Anton Casey trended once again, this time with a measly 2000+ search volume.

Post Anton Casey, Should Marketing Still Be On?

It’s a sure yes from a reputation management perspective.

In practice, it will be a different ad creative with relevant supporting content on the landing page.
In the ongoing Anton Casey Saga, it’s really about admitting the insensitivity, apologizing.
In the post Anton Casey Saga, it’s really about being accountable, updating on what you had done and what you plan to do to make up so that it leaves a good taste afterwards.

What can be a better way to demonstrate your remorseful than to have an ad telling Singaporeans that you are sorry and had left the island? With details on how you intend to make up for your insensitive comments rather than just saying sorry?

Keyword wise, noticed how “Oon Shu An” trended on Google Trend on 26 Jan 2014 with over 2000 searches? Some might ask what’s the relevancy to the Anton Casey Saga.
“Oon Shu An” only trended because of her response to the saga – see “Oon Shu An” open letter to Anton Casey.
It can be safe to assume that the term only trended because of the saga.
Buying into the keyword will give Anton Casey a better chance to redeem himself since most searchers for “Oon Shu Ann” during this period will be those for are interested in the open letter.

Final Conclusion

Always remember, different creative and different content for different purposes.
Audience are not stupid nor naive, they can judge for themselves whether you are sincere or not, whether you put in any effort or not.

Don’t leave a sour taste even if you are since gone.
You might be gone but people will not forget and it will be good to make sure, they remember it with good taste.

So remember, post-saga, you should continue your marketing efforts too.
It will not only end the episode nicely but add a few brownie points that will make a hell of a difference in time to come.

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