Norman Ng

The Ultimate PR Tool – “LISTENING”

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2012 at 16:09

ImageYou’ve heard it before – agencies after agencies pitching in, swearing they’ve got the right answer for you, that altruistic PR strategy that sets them apart (and purportedly to give you that winning PR stroke). More so today, the pitch goes in the line of how great social media tools from Facebook to Twitter are. True, but are they missing the point?

Before even diving into the deep end of the pool by adopting new PR strategies or digital platforms, one fundamental area which IMG always professes is Listening. Not only will it save you from drowning (a horrible PR death), it allows you to sense make both the PR & Comms. landscape better, it also empowers you to empathize with your stakeholders and audiences clearer.

It’s like medical practitioners and medicine. Prescriptions should not precede an objective understanding of health / medical symptoms, period.

And we’ve developed a fundamental five point framework to help you kickstart that essential PR & comms. “listening” / sense making process. We call it S.P.I.N.E., an acronym for:






Each and every one of your diverse stakeholders and audience have distinct SPINES, each requiring specific PR and Comms actions and strategies to tackle it effectively. 

For instance, I recently shared the importance of SPINE as an enterprise tool with the Singapore Sports Council (SSC), a government statutory board in Singapore. The SSC was gearing towards deepening its stakeholder engagement through its numerous operation centers across Singapore. Not surprisingly, we established with them that each operation centre had vastly different profiles of stakeholders (e.g. demographics , socio-economic status). From young to old, from students to white collar professionals. For example, the white collared professionals were more keen on racquet sports, and families were more keen on water-based sports activities.

Had the SSC jumped in and promoted their full spectrum of programs and facilities en-mass, I think their ROI would have been very muted, at best. 

So before your enterprise thinks about leveraging on the coolest social media platform to “engage” and brand yourselves. Think again – and we had better start that deep listening process on stakeholders first. And SPINE is a first step that will make your PR journey better, tomorrow.

(S.P.I.N.E. is a proprietary PR & Communications strategising tool developed by ICON MEDIA GROUP, and is shared at in our enterprise learning & development programmes.)

Governments & Social Media Communications – Have We Progressed?

In Leadership, Social Media on March 5, 2012 at 12:26

ImageI was invited for a chat with representatives from the Singapore Public Service to discuss about “training” opportunities for an internal collaborative platform (much like Intranet 2.0 for the government).

One thing struck me was how dead serious and sincere their efforts was to juice the full potential of digital communications. Don’t believe me? Check out, and you’ll find more than a staggering 300 main / micro social media sites by the Singapore government.

And that’s just the beginning. 2009/2010 witnessed the Singapore government’s efforts to revamp it’s intranet – “where isolation is out, and collaboration is in”, says the Public Service Division. So my conversations explored how they were attempting to structure this. And they mentioned that in the spirit of social media, they wanted to create an intranet platform that works like “social media for the government”. They call it the “CUBE“.

So now they’re venturing into internal communications? I SAY AWESOME.

My optimism needed to be checked much sooner than later, because as we went through the conversation, because they were looking at rolling out training programmes to train portal managers to “engage” and “facilitate conversations” so that collaboration could fall into place. My heart sank deep.

Here, we’ve at the start of a really great portal, which has the propensity to genuinely strengthen communications and collaborations, but can we really expect magic to be created through this “socially engineered” effort? It’s akin to a production line. The Comms and Finanance ministry gives the first foundational roadblocks by giving resources and infra to build this up, and then passes the buck to the next assembly line to “train” people to engage, that’s it?

We’re talking about a huge investment going straight down to the titanic’s resting place.

You can’t socially engineer engagement, it needs to be cultivated from the bottom up, generated by a community of advocates and believers. A measure of success of any web 2.0 effort requires a huge mindset changes and shift in tact by the government to do away with a top-down approach. Individuals, with their “digital signatures” have the propensity to “influence” and shape action to greater degrees. And in the Singapore government’s effort – intra collaboration.

And there’s one critical ingredient that’s left out in this Intranet 2.0 effort – Branding & Culture. What’s the value proposition to pockets of individuals and groups in the government to participate in CUBE? What difference can they make in participating, engaging and collaborating in CUBE? Who will listen? What will change?

People need to see value, intrinsic or not, to motivate active participation. People need to see a brand and identity on a platform that promotes collaboration. For Twitter platforms, it’s clearly seeing the conversations and thoughts in between a person’s life, or an organisation’s conduct of business. But what about the intranet? GovLoop, a US government social network, has thousands of “government innovators” sharing ideas for “improving the government”. Australia’s Victorian Public Service Hub, an open technology platform, gives employees virtual space to discuss ideas.

So in the case of Singapore’s public service, they are making a genuine effort in pushing social media communications further. They’ve seen successes such as crime fighting and enforcement education through its Police Force Facebook attracting almost than 300,000 likes, and makes great progress in sharing policies and government activities in more than 300 platforms of varying success.

But hey, like what Clint Eastwood said in Chrysler’s Superbowl 2012 Ad, “It’s halftime America”…the same goes here, Singapore’s “GovComms” effort are gaining traction. It would take a huge change in mindset and approach to progress further if it seeks to capitalise on the success of earlier social media communication efforts if it seeks extend it to internal government communications.

Lets see what progress we’ll make in the next half.

What’s Your Bottom Line on Engagement?

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2012 at 10:54

ImageI was recently involved in a major PR campaign tender, and one specific requirement from the client which struck me most was “to acquire XXX number of LIKES online”.

I knew exactly why this requirement was up there, after all, wouldn’t the number of fans / likes be an indication of the level of the campaigns’ buzz and interest? Or better still – Engagement? And by far, is quite the norm from enterprise clients these days.This trend is worrying. It’s merely scratching the surface on engagement, and a dangerous quantitative proxy to measure the success of digital PR campaigns.

Victorinox, makers of the legendary Swiss Army Knives know too well that fan acquisition can work against you, when fans themselves participate in digital gamification. Their twitter campaign to acquire 3,000 followers slowed to a crawl in the last hurdles, because Victorinox wanted to reward the top 3 folks who helped acquire the 3,000. No impetus for others to join when the followers reached 2,990. 

So what then is the desired engagement bottom line? To me, it’s all about the QUALITY of engagements, conversations, and relationships. What you want is to segment and delayer engagement beyond the surface, and go deeper.

Case in point, RunKeeper is a positive example. Where digital conversations on twitter are positively toned, personal and encouraging. A quick scroll on their twitter dashboard gives you the vibes that their audience are remarkably happy and truly engaged to the RunKeeper brand and experience. 

Here’s the icing on the cake. The conversations and engagement don’t stop there. It’s become a global phenomenon that local grassroot RunKeeper community meetups are occurring. Till date, there are 1137 global communities. So like minded, passionate people are physically meeting up to participate in a shared activity, and in a positive circle, influence and spread their passion to other potential participants.

10,000 fans acquired on an enterprise social media account will not be able to replicate this genuine, qualitative engagements.

So the next time an enterprise boasts of its fan base, you have every right to say,”It’s not the quantity, but the quality of your engagement that matters”.


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