Shanmugam defends video with Michelle Chong's Ah Lian in response to ST commentary

The video was apparently viewed by more than one million people.

Sulaiman Daud| May 20, 05:03 PM

A video on social media featuring the unlikeliest of duos, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam and Michelle Chong's Ah Lian persona, was making the rounds online.

On May 20, Shanmugam penned a post on Facebook to explain why he did it.

It was to essentially point out how such videos can sometimes be more effective than other media strategies to reach a wide audience.

And it was Shanmugam's personal response to a Straits Times commentary, "The Art of the Soft Sell,"

New approach

On May 19, ST published a commentary addressing the Ah Lian video, along with Shanmugam's other social media appearances.

The video saw the unlikely duo discussing the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation act.

ST noted that the video was "light-hearted and unorthodox", and that it portrayed an "unfamiliar side" of Shanmugam.

Mixed reaction

While the commentary noted that some viewers found this to be more approachable and accessible, others found it "cringey".

Ministry of Law Press Secretary Teo Wan Gek said that the video was aimed at audiences that traditional media found it hard to reach.

She also stated that most of the ministry's video outreach efforts were done for no payment or "very nominal" payment.

Video reached more people than those who read MSM

However, Shanmugam went into more details in his Facebook post.

Similar to Teo's comment, Shanmugam said the video was intended to reach those with "limited time and interest", who might have wanted to know some main points.

The Ah Lian video was part of a multi-pronged engagement effort, which included more traditional types of communication like opinion editorials and dialogue sessions.

Shanmugam stressed the importance of virality, and noted that the video was viewed by over one million people.

He also pointed out that ST did not carry the ministry's earlier statement that the money spent on non-mainstream videos was a "fraction" of what it spends on advertisements in the mainstream media.

Shanmugam also had a few words for ST, in particular.

"The feedback, numbering in the thousands, has been overwhelmingly positive – including young journalists from other media beside ST.

I am reasonably confident that the video reached more people than those who read news articles in MSM."

He said he hoped those who watched the video might then go on to follow the issue in-depth, and added:

"For some reason, all these facts seem to have been overlooked by ST. Instead it found and highlighted the views of a few persons who didn’t like the video, or thought that it was not an appropriate way to engage.

We too heard from people with such views, but they were a small number."

You can see the full post below:

Top image from the Michelle Chong Channel YouTube page.