Norman Ng

Posts Tagged ‘Reputation Management’

Firing Blanks Through Corporate Social Responsibility

In Communications Strategy, Public Relations on August 25, 2011 at 10:17

Enterprises are spending good resources on ineffective CSR efforts, an ineffective approach that does little in driving up their triple bottom lines.

In today’s communication climate where information is porous, I got the vibes that many enterprises and governments are perceiving CSR as a means to achieve favourable reputations and stakeholder support. From tree planting efforts, painting walls of an old schoolhouse, to even walking on tightropes to solicit public contributions for “social causes”.

In fact, I personally recalled back in 2008, a senior management official asked other team members of their Ministry should commence a CSR movement, since many enterprises have adopted it..and it could go good to PR efforts. I think its all corporate bull. Spending time, effort and financial resources (to the tune of millions) is not going to get out of the hot soup when a crisis strikes, and certainly no hoards of PR brownie points will help. Take for instance, the SMRT security breach. It spent over $3 million in cash contributions and sponsorships such as in media space and corporate gift, and that was in 2006 by the way. Any public goodwill? Quite unheard of…you get my point.

So is it totally irrelevant? Not so. I think CSR has a place, but solely as  a “hygiene” factor (in Herzberg’s 2 factor theory). It should be seen as a useful approach towards self-regulation in an enterprise’s business model, preventing dissatisfaction or adverse repercussions on society, stakeholders, environment etc. And not as a high publicity, razzle-dazzle activity to get attention and cookie points.

So the next time when PR / Marcomm comes a knockin on the CEO’s door and says,”Lets do some good with CSR!” you ought to pray good money and time are not wasted.


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

3 Social Media Syndrome That Will Kill Your Reputation (& Job)

In Public Relations, Reputation Management, Social Media on August 24, 2011 at 12:35

Last month I had the opportunity to speak at The McGraw-Hill Companies on Social Media Branding. And one part of my topic focused on the pitfalls of social media communications. From this, I highlighted 3 “syndromes” that have cost enterprises serious erosions of financial capital, and also the jobs of some employees. Here are some of the syndromes:

1. Split Personality Syndrome: Where an enterprise’s public relation communications starkly differs from its actions. Take the infamous case of United Airlines, where a disgrunted passenger took his unhappiness over poor baggage handling and indifference from the airlines on compensating him on his guitar that was damaged by the airlines. This passenger, who was also a performing artist, made a youtube video that was a No. 1 hit with viewership exceeding 10 million and 50,000 likes. Cost of guitar = $3,500. Cost of Uniter Airlines stock devaluation over 4 days, reportedly due to the incident = $180 Million.

So enterprises should exercise extreme caution when your MarComm / PR folks start ringing the tune of “lets do facebook, youtube, twitter! most Fortune 500 companies are already on it!” Because the enterprise had better get its crisis communications strategy integrated and be ready to respond should a social media crisis occur.

2. Trigger Happy Syndrome: Here’s when muscle memory takes over common sense. A college student tweeted the following,”Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work”. Needless to say, she got fired even before starting work.

Think about the repercussions, whether you’re an enterprise / employee, especially so when you’re leveraging in Social Media. Because in this example, it clearly demonstrates how the globally interconnected community could pin you down before you can finish reading this sentence. Social media grants us instantaneous communications – but this too, could lead to our downfall. So think carefully, before you type in that 140 character on twitter.

3. Stereoscopic Syndrome: Where too much “insights” into your personal life is put online. Take for instance Kevin Colvin, an intern from Anglo Irish Bank. A reported family emergency required him to take leave of absence, only to find him on facebook during that “family emergency”, with a Halloween costume, beer in hand of course.

So employees, beware of the common ills of social media, after all “its not whether you find social media….but social media will find you…”

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