Norman Ng

Archive for 2012|Yearly archive page

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”.


Social Media “Indigestion” – A Tipping Point in Communications

In Public Relations, Social Media on February 13, 2012 at 10:26

Among the constant stream of social media statistics that have rolled out, one particularly stood out for me in 2011/2012 –

“73% of people think employers overshare on social media”

I think we’ve reached a tipping point in enterprise communications, where enterprises become increasingly reliant on social media, where audiences are correspondingly more battered with asymmetrical information, or NOISE, as we call it.

Corporate marketers are jostling for Google Adwords space, PR folks are outwitting one another to run more interesting Twitter Campaigns, Facebook is increasingly crowded with 800 million followers and with advertisers hounding them with more messages. Talk about INDIGESTION.

It’s insanely crazy. I wonder what happened to direct f2f engagements? I wonder if the all too important aspect of direct communications has been marginalised? I hope not, because I know for sure that the time tested principles of Relationships and Stakeholder Experience are most influenced through bread and butter, personal communications.

For enterprises, it’s always important to take stock of where you’re heading in PR & Branding in today’s dynamic communication landscape. Don’t be too razzled when everyone says “social media is great”, because that’s when you know it’s time to reconsolidate and head the other direction when everyone is missing the point altogether.

So as the saying goes, “too much of a good thing never goes well”.

Social Media Statistics 2012

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2012 at 10:04

Social Media Statistics 2012

3 Progressive Social Media Engagement Strategies (Part 2)

In Uncategorized on January 16, 2012 at 14:44

Enterprise communications in this decade is likely to witness a strong and continued shift towards consolidating and evolution in social media communications. What this means in 2012 are that it’s not about whether enterprises should / should not adopt social media; but more about the “Quality of the Conversations”, and the extent and depth of stakeholder engagement.

Continuing from the “bottoms up” framework discussed in the preceding blog post, where we advocated enterprises in cultivating “social media” ambassadors to strenghten brand equities; this posts articulates the “HOW” to engage and cuitlvate a community of brand advocates. This will be especially relevant for organisations who already have embarked on the social media bandwagon, with significant efforts and resources put into this areas, and are asking the “What’s Next” in social media?

Essentially, we are looking at 3 progressive levels of engagement strategies, with each supporting varied effects on stakeholder experiences:

Phase 1 (Establishing Presence) – This forms the most rudimentary and basic level of engagement, staking a claim and opening platforms and channels on the social media landscape; with a basic profile. Typically, enterprises post some content, supplementing it’s official info dissemination channels (Think PR 101). But remember, it’s a blue ocean out there, and you’re merely one of the fishes out there…and you’ll hardly stand out if your social media communications stops short here.

Phase 2 (Deepening Relationships) – That’s why phase 2 is essential towards buiding qualitative conversations through sustained engagement efforts, and deploying social media customer relations management (SCRM). It’s about delivering a responsive and timely communications effort, continuing layers after layers of conversations with influencers and participants. It’s at this phase where you’re effectively not merely monologous posts / content contributions – but having quality two way conversations with your key influencers and audiences. 

Phase 3 (Incubating Communities) – We believe in the mantra of “Things Takes Time”, and in this instance, relationships take time to establish and strengthen. This is the ideal steady state in social media communications that enterprises should all aim to achieve, because chances are, your collective stakeholders are more compelled to believe what independent co-stakeholders are talking about you, rather than to the last cent that you’ve spent on a top down MarComm / publicity campaign. This is a phase where you consolidate your key influencers and tell them “folks, we value you, from the bottom of our hearts, and want to internalise you to share with the rest of the community on what you think about our brand and efforts”.

By the time enterprises reach the advanced phase towards incubating communities, they would have harnessed a war chest of brand advocates who would convey your brand as if it was their own, hedging downside reputation risks in times of a PR crisis. 

Moving forward, we should look forward to reflection and consolidating our social media efforts, and build a credible and compelling voice from within, converting brand ambassadors, towards delivering quality conversations in the social media landscape.

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