Ten Key Points in Response to Negative Expression of Public Opinion

December 11, 2019
About the author: Mr. Peng Bo, Senior Fellow of Taihe Institute, Vice Director of Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) (2012-2015).
                                                                                                                         Credit: GongShe99
1. Water can carry a boat and can also capsize it. Public opinion can hail you as a “national hero”, and then trample you under foot, and this will probably be the same group of people.
It’s important to see both praise and criticism as expressions of underlying affection. Even when people on the Internet trample you, most of them have high hopes for you. They hope that a great company or a celebrity should do better, and set a higher standard. 
These high hopes should be treasured.
The thing to fear most on the Internet is not abuse and anger, but that all those voices are indifferent and inactive.
2. This event demonstrates that, against the background of new social contradictions, people have an even more intense desire for fairness and justice. People now take injustice in enterprise and society more seriously. Issues concerning these often touch the most sensitive nerves in society.
3. Whoever we may be, we should always respect the Internet, netizens and public opinion. Any company, whatever its size, cannot afford to be arrogant and capricious.
4. Never resort to politicizing all controversial issues, although we cannot exclude the possibility of subversion by “class enemies at home and abroad”.  
5. Like water management, the governance of online public opinion needs a combination of dredging and damming, with particular emphasis on the dredging. Sometimes the mishandling of public opinion can cause a reaction that could lead to even more damages than the original issue itself.
6. Sympathy for the "weak" goes against the spirit of the law, and the "strong" are equally entitled to their legal rights and interests. However, although the facts are not necessarily on the side of the “weak”, compassion for the "weak" generally coincides with public opinion.
7. Institutions, including governments and enterprises, usually consider matters from a legal point of view. First, whether it’s legal, then whether it’s reasonable, and finally whether it is emotionally acceptable to the public. By contrast, the public usually considers issues from a commonsense point of view, and then decides whether the matter is emotionally acceptable.
8. Major public opinion issues should be handled by the PR department of the company, while the relevant business unit or legal department should not take charge of the handling of public opinion, and only engage in its management when necessary.
9. Don’t adopt an extreme position in case you are overtaken by events.
10. Only openness and transparency can deliver fairness and justice. The public doesn’t know the truth only because institutions that are aware of the truth do not explain it. If an institution, even with the pressure of condemnation, still holds back the truth, then it’s likely that there is a “skeleton in the closet”. We should be patient, and let the bullets fly a little longer. It’s important to reject all malicious speculation and hyperbole before the truth comes out.

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