Manny Pacquiao, the eight time boxing champion in different class, was forced to defend himself for his stance on “gay marriage” issue. He emphasises that he is not against gay people (or gay behaviors for this matter) – but he is against gay marriage, a view that reiterates his Catholics faith.
Poor Manny! He is just a nice guy who is caught in between a horrible journalism and Catholics faith. He could have ducked this whole mess, if he exploit the different understanding that people have on gay marriage and re-define the term in his favor.
How Social Media Could Create PR Nightmare
What a PR mess that Pacquiao got himself into. This is one of the dark-sides of the internet / social media, i.e. the power to create PR havoc. All it takes to “light the fuse”, is to extract the (negative) emotional element out of its context, and spread it across multiple social-media channels like Twitter and Facebook.
That’s why I’m not so surprised when I learn that the recent Ferrari crash incident – involving a successful foreigner from China and a Singaporean cabby – was turned into an anti-immigrant rhetoric. Emotion can be made viral. Hard facts can’t.
During the interview, Pacquiao did not mention about the infamous verse (Leviticus 20:13) that implies gays must be killed. What Pacquiao did, was simply saying that gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed. Isn’t Pacquiao entitled to his opinion just like the rest of us? Has being religious become out-of-fashion in modern society?
Thankfully for Pacquiao, he did a damage control. He clarified his statements publicly. I think bringing the context back to the (misquoted) statement is the smart thing to do when you find yourself in similar situation like Pacquiao’s.
Pacquiao could do better if he understand the discipline of Information Architecture (IA).
Gay Marriage Is a Wrong Term. Civil Union Is The Right One.
At the heart of the uproar, is the different perspectives about the term “gay marriage”. Some people see gay marriage as an equivalent to the traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Some people like Andy Ho from Straits Times and I, opine that gay marriage is equal to a civil union.
The different understanding about a term can cause confusion, disagreement, and frustration. If you ask me, whether I support gay marriage, I would say no (I’m not a gay-hater. I just think that there is no such thing as gay marriage). But if you ask me, whether I support a civil union between people of the same gender, then I would say yes.
Why my responses are different for issues that are seemingly similar? Well, I’m not alone in this contradictory behavior. Words are multi-faceted and thus are slippery. Thus, when people from different background collaborate, there are always frictions caused by the different understanding from the same words.
Yet, words can be used to unite people. To facilitate collaboration and co-creation, people must have the same understanding on commonly used words/terminology. This can be achieved in two ways. First through strong culture. Second through IA study, i.e. call a meeting, get people to do card-sorting exercises, and then decide on the right terms to use.
Back to Pacquiao. To minimise the PR damage and to project a positive image of himself as an intellect, he could have said, “I support civil union between gays/lesbians – but not gay marriage. Marriage is sanctioned by god to be the union between a man and a woman.”
The above extrapolated statement is powerful because he will not be seen as a gay-hater (the statement clearly said that he support a civil union) and he can defend his Catholics belief at the same time.
Indeed, clearly defining terms could save you from a PR nightmare, could salvage relationships, and could win over people. Information architect to the rescue!