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News Reports

How to smear elegantly

So StarHub and M1 are pissed that SingTel appears to have employed a social media agency to complain about their services. SingTel denies this, according to TODAY. It was not its brief, it said. So it seems to be saying that it did not hire Gushcloud to do a smear campaign, but just to get more people to sign up for its Youth Plan – or something. But the agency decided (on its own?) to leverage on its network of social influencers to bad mouth the two other telcos. An “internal brief’’ was leaked by blogger Xiaxue whose relationship with Gushcloud is, to put it mildly, complicated.

Among briefing points: the influencers are to share with its readers how they are fed up with the other telcos and have plans to sign on another plan. And to hint heavily that they are moving to SingTel’s Youth Plan.


Anyway, since social influencers need a brief on smearing, here are my tips…

1. Always say that you are doing it for the company’s good, and that you hope it will take criticism constructively. Then launch into its failings in point form.

2. Don’t make specific accusations that you can’t back up, just ask enough uncomfortable questions such as “Is your company going to survive this debacle?’’.

3. Say that it is not just you who have experienced bad service etc but your friends as well. And they must be correct because they are all your FB friends.

4. Apologise in advance if you have hurt the company’s feelings when you talk about its failings, then go on to talk about how it should emulate its rivals.

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5. Say that you are doing an analysis of the merits and demerits of companies in the industry – but then again, you’re just a layman so it might not be scientific. And to please forgive

6. Adopt a sad tone. Say that you have been a fan/customer/client since you were six years old. But since you are now all grown-up, you’ve wisened up to its tricks and regret that you have to part company.

7. Use big words that sound slightly legal. That will make the company sit up and worry that you are going to sue. That might even earn you a rebate, discount or free gift.

8. If you want to be nice, use terms such as how it can “further’’ improve, “better’’ enhance whatever it does so that it won’t feel that it is THAT bad, just not very good.

9. Use backhanded compliments, such as how you love the taste of the food, but you had diarrhea after eating or how you think it provides incomparably great service, but should fix its faulty products.

10. Damn it with faint praise: Your products are “not too bad’’, your service is “okay’’ and your company might just be able to retain its customers for the foreseeable future, and even gain one or two new ones.

11. Sign off nicely. Thank you so much for listening to me vent. Here’s wishing your company all the best in its future endeavours. Then use a nice pseudonym such as iloveXX (XX is company name). Remember to add a smiley emoticon.


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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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