Saturday, November 4, 2017
The best crisis communications course in Singapore has now been made extremely affordable for Singaporeans. Based on 20 years of professional experience working with Small and Medium Enterprises, Multi-National Corporations and the Government of Singapore, this course teaches proven Framework that participants can use to manage any crisis.
The Framework was developed, refined and validated through real-world experience, will guide participants through a deliberate thought process to the most logical actions to take when dealing with a crisis.
CW Fong & Associates was established in 2011 after our Principal Consultant and Trainer retired from the Singapore Armed Forces. Back in 2011, social media was just gaining a foothold and it was not yet as influential as it is today. Recognizing that social media’s role in communications would only grow, we decided to specialize in social media and its impact on communications. As this was literally a new field, there was little formal work done on social media’s impact on communications. We then published my own white paper on a Framework for Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media.
Between 2012 and 2014, we had the privilege to consult with and train over 100 SMEs and MNCs. This allowed us to validate, and when necessary, refine the Framework that we teach in the course. In 2015, recognizing the regional demand for good crisis communication training, we expanded our services and have since worked with Public Listed Companies as well as the Government Ministries for countries like Myanmar, Brunei and Malaysia.
In recognition of the quality of our work, some of it has been publishing in leading magazines, books and professional newsletters. Of significance, our thought leadership in the subject of crisis communications was cemented when the Institute of Public Relations Singapore, published our white paper in their newsletter. Additionally, our Principal Consultant has been regularly interviewed by international news organizations for his views on crisis communications and social media. Three of the more renown being BBC News, Aljazeera and Channel News Asia.
The training outcome for this online course is to equip participants with the knowledge and basic skill to effectively manage a social media crisis. Specifically, participants will be taught how to identify a crisis, assess its impact and what actions to take.
To find out more, click on the following link (COURSE). We look forward to sharing our knowledge and experience with you.
Friday, November 3, 2017
The public backlash from SMRT's apology for the train disruptions caused by flooding in the North-South Line (NSL) is instructive for the student of crisis communications.
Afterall, what SMRT's management did was according to the textbook. The incident happened and they promptly came forward to acknowledge and accept responsibility. So why then are people still angry?
Unfortunately, while they did follow the textbook to promptly come forward to acknowledge the incident and accept responsibility, their apology (bow and all) lacked the key element of contrition. In the crisis communications textbook, any apology offered must be accompanied by a form of contrition. Simply saying "I am sorry" is perceived lip service and is deemed as insincere. Stakeholders want to see you "pay" for your mistake. Thus, in this instance, the lack of contrition rang hollow and Singaporeans anger towards SMRT did not abate.
Examples of successful apologies are those used by celebrities in the United States. Whenever they are caught for drink driving or substance abuse, their apology to their fans for letting them down is often accompanied by self-admission into a rehab centre. Unless the celebrity relapses and runs afoul of the law again, all is usually forgiven and their careers are back on track after the short stint in the rehab centre.
So if you are ever in the position to advice your CEO or Chairman of the Board in how to apologise, remind them that they need to offer contrition. If they are unwilling to, then it is better not to apolgise at all.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Two weeks back, a Mr Koh Jee Leong turned up at the SAFRA Mount Faber gym wearing a tank top with the words "gay but not yet equal." He was subsequently told by the gym manager that other gym users were unhappy with the political statement and had “reported” him.
Considering the conservative nature of Singaporeans and the blatant attempt by Mr Koh to push his agenda, this simple incident could have resulted in a major PR crisis for SAFRA and MINDEF. If Koh was denied usage of the gym, he would talk about it online and make a hue and cry about being denied his rights to free expression. In fact, even when Koh had gotten his way, he also pushed his agenda online.
SAFRA however did well to manage this incident and, in our opinion, came out smelling like roses. In crisis communications, we always say that good communications cannot overcome bad policies, and in this instance, SAFRA did well as their policy towards Koh was spot on.
As a MINDEF related organisation, SAFRA could not discriminate against any Singaporeans – especially one who had served NS. At the same time, SAFRA also had to operate a club for all Singaporeans. In this instance, SAFRA’s response was instructional.
Strategically, SAFRA did well to shift the issue away from free speech (or LGBT) to one about respecting each other’s views. In SAFRA's communications with Koh and the complainants, SAFRA’s position was clear: (a) SAFRA’s role (as a club) is to create a positive environment for all members; and (b) where members disagree, SAFRA’s role is to then mediate between the parties to seek common understanding.
In short, successful crisis management is not about spin or fanciful methods of saying things. Successful crisis communications begins with having a sound company policy.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Crisis Communications – Developing Effective Messages
Crisis communications has come a long way. Today, in a crisis scenario, organizations recognize the need to communicate their side of the story quickly by pushing out positive and supporting narratives. To do this effectively, good crisis communications practitioners ensure that the messages used address the concerns of the target audience.
However, in cases where there is a need to persuade the target audience towards a particular view (or to take a specific action), targeting concerns alone is insufficient. In this situation, messages developed must also factor the beliefs and attitudes of the target audience towards the organization.
Allow me to illustrate using the on-going dispute between Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (LHL) over Lee Kuan Yew’s wishes for 38 Oxley Road. For LHY to communicate his messages, all he has to do is to target the concerns Singaporeans have about abuse of power. Singaporeans will pay attention to the message as it is something that they are concerned about, as Singapore is built upon the rule of law and that no one is above it. This was demonstrated by the significant interest both in the main stream media and the online space.
However, if LHY wants to persuade Singaporeans that LHL had abused his position and power as Prime Minister (PM) of Singapore, it is not so easy. LHL has led Singapore well as its PM and Singaporeans do not believe that LHL would abuse his position as PM. Thus, while they will “listen” to the snippets of information that LHY releases (in the form of redacted emails) alluding to LHL’s abuses of power, most Singaporeans are not persuaded. In fact, a survey conducted by the independent market research consultancy Blackbox Research showed that an overwhelming 40% did not believe LHY and wanted more proof.
In short, effective communication can be done by simply targeting target audience concerns. Persuading a target audience is not as simple as it requires the communications professional to target beliefs and attitudes. Thus, as part of crisis management planning, organizations need to shape target audience perception of the organization before a crisis happens. When a crisis happens, it is too late.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
38 Oxley Road – The Battle for the Narrative
The 38 Oxley Road saga continues to hog the headlines in Singapore. This is not in the least due to the fact that Lee Hsien Yang has deliberately chosen to release information in drips and drabs to keep the pressure on his brother – Lee Hsien Loong.
(Once again I must caveat that this is not a political blog and we do not side with either party. The purpose of this blog is to understand the battle of the narratives which is an important aspect of crisis communications.)
Since this saga began slightly more than a week ago, Hsien Yang’s end game and his narrative have become increasingly clear. Hsien Yang wants the political destruction of his brother Lee Hsien Loong and he has adopted three main narratives that target Hsien Loong’s power base – "LHL lies", "LHL abuses his power" and "LHL practices nepotism". To Hsien Yang, it does not matter who he hurts in the process. All that matters is that Hsien Loong must be destroyed.
To that end, each and every post (message) that Hsien Yang, Lee Wei Ling, and family have released tries to build upon these narratives. The key messages that Hsien Yang and his team have been pushing are:
- LHL has said different things to different people about his thoughts for 38 Oxley Road
- a secret ministerial committee was formed to stop the demolition of 38 Oxley Road
- the members of the committee were not revealed to him or Lee Wei Ling
- Ho Ching falsely represented PMO in lending items NHB when she had no official appointment in the government
- Lucien Wong was appointed Attorney General as a reward
Hsien Yang is a brilliant strategist. Even his father Lee Kuan Yew described Hsien Yang as being extremely shrewd. By constantly repeating the above messages (supported by “evidence” in the form of redacted and piecemeal email correspondence), Hsien Yang is brilliantly playing on the emotions of Singaporeans. Hsien Yang is targeting perceptions that some Singaporeans (rightly or wrongly) hold about Lee Kuan Yew’s era of government. Unfortunately, such perceptions still abound and carry over to the government of the day even when it no longer exists.
Hsien Yang’s strategy is thus highly effective as it targets existing vulnerabilities in the target audience and uses the psychological operations (PSYOP) technique of themes and messages. In themes and messages, messages are consistently fed to the target audience alluding to the theme. Done correctly, the target audience will cognitively piece the messages together and eventually self-derive the theme. As the theme is self-derived, acceptance is strong and near impossible to dislodge. The power of this technique is that the messages do not need to be based on truths.
In contrast, Lee Hsien Loong has adopted a strategy of restraint and message of facts. This is perhaps due to his desire not to drag the family name through the mud, but it is more likely due to the fact that his actions, as an individual, cannot be separated from scrutiny as the actions of the Prime Minister. Hsien Loong’s is thus in a no-win position. His decision to address Hsien Yang’s accusation openly and transparently in Parliament is his only available course of action. Until then, Hsien Loong has no choice but to ride out the asymmetrical attacks by Hsien Yang and hope that level heads will prevail in Parliament.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Social Media Marketing Companies
If you are a US-based company and you are looking for a cost-effective way to manage and grow your social media accounts, think Singapore. While countries like India seem the logical choice - given the high asymmetries between the US dollar and the Indian Rupee - we are not talking cheap-sourcing, but right-sourcing.
When you add everything up, Singapore is your best option for the following reasons:
Network Connectivity. Singapore’s has been ranked top in the world for having the highest average peak Internet connection and third in the world for average Internet connection speed. This is important because when you right-size, you want to ensure that your business partner will not suffer from slow, or intermittent, internet connection. It will be worse if there is downtime in connectivity. Singapore’s world-class Infocomm infrastructure ensures that you are always connected.
Language. Singapore’s official language is English and the country has been ranked Number 1 by Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment). Pisa, run by the OECD, ranks students from 70 countries in their proficiency in maths, reading and science. As the primary language used in US social media is English, you can rest assured that contents generated from your Singapore-based agency will be of the highest standards.
Strong Legal Framework. Singapore is also well-known for its efficiency and incorruptible legal system. Singapore is ranked ninth globally in a rule of law index released by US-based advocacy group World Justice Project (WJP). The WJP study ranked Singapore top in two of eight categories. Of significance is regulatory enforcement, which is attributed to the city's low crime rate and respect for due process. Having a strong legal framework ensures that your proprietary information stays proprietary.
Global Citizens. Singaporeans are also the most traveled. According to a survey by VISA, Singaporean households are projected to be the world’s 7th Top Overseas Travel spenders within the decade. Singaporeans currently spend close to USD22 billion on overseas travels with the United States continuing to be a popular study as well as tourist destination This exposure to international markets is critical for social media companies as it will enable them to develop contents that are modern and trending.
Time Difference. When it comes to social media services, time to market is important. The time difference between the US and Singapore is almost 12 hours which is ideal. Clients can decide what they want, task us at the end of their work day and have the contents ready the next morning when they come in to work. This minimizes lag time and speed is essential in any social media marketing campaign.
Lower Cost. We don’t like to use the word cost but, unfortunately in business, it is always about the bottom-line. Salaries in Singapore are considerably lower and the average Singapore-based graphic designer earns an annual salary of USD21,000 in contrast with a US-based designer that earns USD45,000. Manpower overheads are therefore lower in Singapore which means we can offer competitive rates to our US-based clients. As we mentioned earlier, we think cost is a dirty word as cheap does not mean good. Hence, while a Singapore-based social media marketing company cannot be cheaper than an India-based firm, the quality of our work is comparable to that of a US-based company.
Don’t Out-Source. Right Source.
In short, if you are a US corporation looking to right-source their social media marketing, using a Singapore-based social media agency is your best option. CW Fong & Associates' team of professional social media managers are ready to provide you with world class quality at an affordable price.
Persuade. Change. Influence.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Making Sense of the Messages – Lee Hsien Loong vs Lee Hsien Yang
In our opinion, politics provide the ideal context to study the art and science of communications. This is because politics, at its essence, is a contest for the hearts and minds of voters. Nowhere else will you find a more intensely fought battle with thrust, counter-thrusts and counter counter-thrusts with a definitive winner once the ballot boxes are counted.
The ongoing saga between Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (LHL) and his brother Lee Hsien Loong (LHY) over 38 Oxley Road is no exception. Without going deeply into what is being said (and who is right), let us talk about the communications approached being used by Hsien Yang.
Lee Hsien Yang the Guerrilla
Being a former General in the Singapore Armed Forces, LHY is well-schooled in the art of war. Recognizing his numerical disadvantage, LHY has adopted a guerrilla approach as his strategy. Through the use of strategic pinpricks (single message Facebook posts), LHY is attacking LHL’s source of legitimacy to be the Prime Minister of Singapore - character, conduct, motives, and leadership. With the end state being LHL’s removal from office, LHY’s key messages are that LHL has misused his position and influence over the Singapore government and its agencies to drive his personal agenda. To muster allies, LHY has wisely chosen to imply that the system has few checks and balances - to prevent the abuse of government – and this has open the door for the opposition to join in the attacks. LHY is also wisely controlling the narrative by continually releasing “damaging” accusations every few hours to keep LHL’s (more cumbersome) communications machinery off-guard and playing catch-up. This is a well-known military concept of information warfare where you defeat the opponent’s decision cycle (OODA loop).
The prognosis for Lee Hsien Loong could be better ….
Our assessment is that LHL has identified LHY’s strategy and end game, but has either not identify LHY’s centre of gravity, or chosen not to attack it. LHL and his team have thus far been defending, with the occasional counter-attacks to push LHY back into the “jungles”, but LHL has not acted to decisively defeat LHY. This is precisely the approach that LHY is counting on, as time is on his side and every day the battle protracts, is one more day to build his base of supporters.
As military history has shown, the "base of the people" is the key lifeline of LHY’s guerrilla movement. An apathetic or hostile population will make life difficult for LHY and force him to capitulate. In our opinion, LHL has to aggressively mobilize the population to speak out against LHY by: (1) clearly demonstrating the damage that LHY’s actions have on Singapore and the livelihood of Singaporeans; and (2) actively and directly refuting LHY’s allegations.
In the realm of politics, LHY has drawn first blood and has explicitly stated that his end game is the political destruction of LHL. LHL, in our opinion, needs to stop thinking as an elder brother and act as the leader of a nation to come out the winner from this saga. Family or not, LHL must fight and fight to win. Any less, and LHL may win the battle but lose the war.
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