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Responding to online rumours: Air Asia example

In the talks I have attended about engaging blogs, many of the examples highlighted were of US examples, eg Dell Hell, JetBlue. It is quite difficult to relate these examples from an Asian perspective.

Asian examples of engaging bloggers can be hard to find, but one example popped out at popular Malaysia blogger, Rockybru.

Few days back, Rockybru blogged about a rumour spreading in the grapevine that AirAsia was pulling out its sponsorship of the Formula One races. Honda recently announced they were pulling out of the Formula One races and Toyota looking to reduce the cost of sponsoring its F1 team.

Most Asian companies would dismissed this as a rumour and choose not to respond with its corporate communication policies of not responding to one.

However, Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia, chose to respond to the post and even to anonymous posted comments made from the post. He did so by responding to the post and the various anonymous commentators.

Wrote Tony Fernandes in his comment to (from Rockybru’s blog),

Hi, All readers of Rocky's Bru especially the anonymous ones. Yes, we are considering pulling out of F1. In three years we have built a brand that is bigger than most brands in Asia (please refer to Top Brands). So we are looking at pulling out. We have achieved what we want.

It's a shame that the majority of you would like us to fail despite us carrying 60 million people who never flew before and us giving employment to 6,000 people.

It is tiring trying to defend ourselves, we have done so much for the country and only recently after 7 years are we beginning to finally get a level playing field . If we were so strong, why did it take us 7 years to get KL Singapore, why have I still not got Penang-Singapore and other routes?

…I am not hiding and am willing to answer any questions. Negativity will be the end of Malaysia. I have said it in my blog and I say it again. We all have to change, we have to work together, change what is wrong and make Malaysia a better place. When you see a company that has obviously made Malaysia a better place and some of the comments I read it saddens me. I have a wonderful 6000 staff strength who have done Malaysia proud and we have struggled all the way.

The comments attracted 71 responses as of this posting, with most of them being positive.

Monsterball wrote “What a great speech from a Malaysian to anonymous.
From one...who employs 6000 down to humble.!!
The part I like he said he is a Malaysian.”

Khun Pana aka johanssm wrote “Never expected , but Tony did reply personally . Now this is personal touch that most companies CEO fails big time.”

Responding to blogs and comments can be hard, but if you are looking to do so, respond to the questions at hand, and remember not to be carried away by the emotions.


Joanna said…
Thanks for sharing Aaron.

Being objective and focused on addressing the issue at hand was what got Tony going. This is something which we can learn on managing opinions that we cannot control. And the rest is up to the readers to interpret. But bearing it all, I can see that Tony was all ready to take on any kind of responses following his post. :)
Aaron Koh said…
Thanks for the comments, Joanna.

I wanted to share this as I always get US examples of how to respond to blogs.

Seldom do you get these presenters talking about examples closer to home.
Shalabh said…
Super stuff Aaron.
There are very few Asian examples documented, and I'd have to agree that this is a great initiative by Air Asia.
Apart from that fact that this is a comment by Mr Fernandes himself, the tone of the message is very cool.
That tells that you do not necessarily have to be meek or defensive in responding to these negative offensives.
I was trying to document some Asian examples myself here:
cheers again
Aaron Koh said…

Nice theme you have on your blog.

I will be glad to share with you more examples of Asian companies and CEOs engaging the blog-o-sphere.

Shalabh Pandey said…
HI Aaron,
It'd be great if you could share- it is fantastic- and this can have a good impact by being collaborative.


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