Norman Ng

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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.)


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 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.

A “Bottoms Up” PR Approach in 2012 – Converting Brand Ambassadors

In Uncategorized on January 11, 2012 at 11:03

Large enterprises always had an upper hand in resources to shell out big budget PR & Advertising Campaigns to drum up their brand identity and reputation. In the all too recent decade, we’ve seen the wake of huge corporate PR disasters (& sometimes even total financial collapse) – from Bear Sterns, BOA, Olympus, United Airlines, Citigroup…the list goes on. 

My point is this – No amount of PR & Advertising spending will fully insulate you from siesmic shifts in corporate branding and reputation in the increasingly democratic information highway. Stakeholders have asymetrical sources of information; people believe more in peer recommendations rather than advertising…PR & advertising ain’t what it used to be, where they were the de-facto go-to folks.

In came the online netizen communities; born and bred in the social media renaissance, with digital voices and at times influential conversations have more impact on a corporate’s brand equity rather than it’s CEO. (Recall the Dave Caroll jingle on “United Breaks Guitar? Well it reportedly caused a $180m stock nosedive in 4 days)

Now imagine “converting” these digital voices and netizens into your brand ambassadors. Yes, that’s the core approach organisations ought to look at in 2012. It’s time they recalibrated efforts and shift resources and commitment towards looking at how to garner online communities, build brand equity, and shape the overall experience of its stakeholders – THE RIGHT WAY….FROM THE BOTTOMS UP.

Because like it or not, conversations will take place irrespective of whether you’ve adopted social media communication channels. Every day an organisation fails to listen to these conversations, and genuinely act or “buy-in” these conversations, is an opportunity forgone to claim a favourable presence in effectively shaping their brand equities.

So in 2012, it’s essential that organisations start to employ deep listening (social media monitoring / analysis), and strategise conversions and build a robust network of influential, engaging and credible brand ambassador base….from the BOTTOMS UP.

In the next article, we’ll discuss how organisations can strategise and convert brand ambassadors.

SMRT Takes the Cake in a PR Disaster

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2011 at 17:56

On the wake of 2 security breaches in its train depots, and an ever increasing list of service disruptions. SMRT takes the honours again with a remarkable must see Facebook “engagement” conversation.

This takes the cake in 2011 for me.

Social Media Disaster

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