Norman Ng

Posts Tagged ‘Communication Strategy’

When Bad News Strikes

In Communications Strategy, Crisis Communications, Reputation Management on August 24, 2011 at 15:47

Pro-active Leadership, Situational Control & Timely Information

are critical strategies to avert a major PR crisis. Evidently so when news broke out on 17th August 2011 that an SMRT train was vandalised, the second such incident in two years.

Here’s the beef. In broad crisis comms. speak, we commonly advocate that enterprises be the first to communicate to their stakeholders when bad news strikes. And it certainly was the case for SMRT which published anews release on its website on the very day the incident was discovered. In fact, full credits for evenupdating their statements on the next day when more information was verified. Great level of transparency – a good practice for enterprises to learn from.

But this did little to stop the public and media onslaught that swarmed SMRT. In fact, almost a week later, its CEO Saw Phaik Hwa gave a press statement, with press headlines stating,”We Cannot Have Another Incident”, and “SMRT takes full responsibility”.Does the CEO’s intervention and leadership at this juncture help? To me, its never too late. Although if I were SMRT’s stakeholders, I would have appreciated the news came to me much faster. I would have convened a press conference immediately, chaired none other than the CEO herself to break the news.

I would have said IMMEDIATELY that “the buck stops with SMRT.” In social media terms, the sentiments can swing very drastically by the minute. So therefore, timely information and active leadership is essential. In this circumstance, they are inseparable.

So I suggest this takes precedence over the crafting of some formal looking news / press release. How many people actually read it? How fast does it reach your audience? Yes, you might be the first to break the news, but if no one reads it, shift your focal effort towards your most effective channels. In fact, it would be really bold and interesting if SMRT played on the train stations, posted on their social media sites too.

Suicidal? Unlikely, because facts are facts, the incident has occured, what you want to do is to take situational control to influence perceptions towards “Folks, an incident happended, we take full immediate responsibility while investigations are ongoing…as we speak, patrols have increased, all security checkpoints are doubled etc…” long before stakeholder can utter the sentence “why did it happen again?”. Granted, you can never take control of what’s said or how sentiments will fully play out. But it really is about positioning.

Hence, active leadership, situational control and timely information release are essential strategies to apply during crisis communications. Enterprises need to relook at how to redefine their processes in this new communications landscape – on how information reaches their audience, in which manner, how fast, how clearly etc.

To me, this incident, SMRT followed every step of the book quite clearly. But no one mentioned that this book is rather dated…happy commuting everyone


Can We Tweet Out Of A Crisis?

In Crisis Communications, Reputation Management, Social Media on August 24, 2011 at 14:33

Social Media Communications helps to Avert PR Crisis

Apparently, that was what the DBS and POSBank in Singapore attempted when their ATM machines crashed in July 2010. Reported, as part of its social media strategy to reach out to customers, it leveraged on Twitter to point customers to its website for updates on the issue and was retweeted more than 200 times.

Mission Accomplished? Did DBS / POSBank really “Tweeted” their way our of a crisis? As an engagement campaign to be the first to break bad news, straight from the horses mouth – They deserve full credits. More so for using social media because of its immediacy and mobility. Because when a bad news strikes, its best your stakeholders hear it directly from you, not from the media, not from the grapevine, and certainly not from your competitors.

But I don’t think a crisis was ever averted. In fact, the breakdown was widely publicised and broadcasted, and certainly not excluding forums and blog postings (which are still online). Unfortunately, all you PR / social media evangelists for enterprises who hope Twitter will save the day, in Discovery Channel’s Myth Buster’s terms – This is Busted”.

Nevertheless, hope is not lost. Twitter, like many other social media tools, ought to be framed as means to an end. It is a tool to tell your audience,”Folks, we’re in control of the situation, this is what has happended…we are doing this now…and the buck stops here”. Best still, have a head honcho announce it face-to-face, directly to the press etc. And leverage on social media tools to get it viral.

If DBS / POSBank had shown to the world that it was rolling up its sleeves, boots on the ground, the outcome would probably be much more different. It would possible be read as “DBS means business – it is in control, it is arresting the situation, we feel safe that this is an isolated incident”.

* This article is in response to an editorial titled “Tweet Your Way Out of a Crisis” – Digital Life, The Straits Times, 24th Aug 2011

4 Lessons on Communications Strategies from the Arab Spring

In Communications Strategy, Reputation Management, Social Media on July 15, 2011 at 06:22

We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world” – This sums up the relentless wave of protest that has shook the Arab region over 15 countries in an unprecedented level of visibility, awareness and co-ordinated protests. Here are 4 lessons on Communications Strategy to pay close attention to:

1. Embrace Social Media 

The Arab States are not exactly known for the best IT infrastructures, but it certainly did not stop social media traffic in these countries from generating widespread awareness and invoke participation in these protests through social media. So should enterprises clamp down on social media communications at work? Sure…go ahead. An unhappy staff = an unhappy staff, period. He / she is going to blog, tweek, facebook update their gripes through their mobiles anyway. So instead of pulling the plugs on social media communications altogether, embrace it, and be actively involved in helping to co-create an environment of responsible, respectful participation in social media.

2. Engage Internal Audiences 

Give internal communications and engagement 110% effort. Listen carefully, get every nugget of info on sentiments and sense make, addressing it in timely manner before it boils. In this case, broaden internal communications monitoring and engagement to new / social media platforms, because chances are, if they’re unhappy, they aren’t going to take their complaints to PR / management, but give a good show and tell through social media. So listen well, because an unhappy employee can, and will kill your reputation through social media. Therefore, establish a defensive baseline level internal communication strategies to respond and engage them early.

3. Incubate Brand Ambassadors

Ok, suppose your baseline engagement / internal communication strategies are developed, but lets face it, you’re always going to have external opposers of your enterprises. And some of them can build armies, swarming your reputation with bad external publicity, negative remarks online etc. Hence it’s essential that you have a strategy to start the charm offensive, albeit through 3rd party endorsement / peer recommendations. Therefore, it’s absolutely important for any MarComm / PR department worth its salt to augment this strategy, because over 90% of people trust peer recommendations. And what you want to engender are effective engagement, to turn employees / external supporters into “brand ambassadors”, to share and celebrate stories about positive experiences. So when crisis strikes, your reputation can withstand a stock plunge, because the goodwill and credibility built up by your “brand ambassadors” would have been stockpiled to absorb shocks.

4. Think Global, Act Local

Macro / micro socio-economic events and issues will impact your enterprise. Because when a tsumani of bad news strikes, it will hit you hard, as in the case of the momentum of anti-establishment protests spreading from Tunisia to 15 other countries. Hence, have in place a crisis communications strategy to execution – from employing media monitoring tools , to SOPs in dealing with social media negative sentiments, and having management interventions at the local enterprise level.

So what does this post really tell us? If your enterprise PR / Marketing Communications entities are still drumming up the beat, that its worth spending $10 million on advertising campaigns, you might consider getting that ticket to outer space which Sir Richard Branson’s company is marketing, so as to avoid the onslaught. Because the communications landscape is changing. Social Media communications has the propensity to bring enterprises, and for that matter in the Arab Spring – Governments to their knees, what more for enterprises?

Therefore, it is imperative to focus on Communications Strategies – from internal / external communications, to crisis communications as a fundamental building block to ensure an enterprise is ready, and capable to deal with increasing reputation risks with the prominence of social media in communications.

Begin preparing, because the next Arab Spring might gain digital momentum, and land straight at your enterprise’s doorsteps. Good luck!

Norman Ng

References: Link 1, Link 2

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