Saturday, December 23, 2017

What Makes Contents Go Viral ... A Singapore Example

CW Fong & Associates was recently hired to help raise awareness for a client's Facebook page. Leveraging on the recent spate of scams where Facebook accounts were cloned in a bid to secure fraudulent charges,  we decided to produce a public service type announcement.

Conceptually, we combined the factors of "trending" and "practical tip" to produce the following graphic for Talking Singapore. Singaporeans were asked to share the graphic as a warning to their friends not to accept a 2nd friend request. As the screenshot shows, the content went viral with 3,197 shares (at the time of this article) with REACH in excess of 150,000. The best part is that the content continues to get shared and as the client's name is prominently featured in the graphic, awareness is high.

viral contents singapore agency

While no one can guarantee that a content will go viral, CWFA has developed a framework - marrying art and science - that increases the probability. So if you manage the social media accounts of your organization, we can help.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Social Media Marketing - Why Native Advertising

The only constant in social media marketing is that it is constantly evolving. As marketers continually try to beat Facebook's and Google's algorithms to put their product/services in front of larger audiences, Facebook and Google respond by tweaking their algorithms to ensure that users only get relevant information.

Today, Facebook marketers will tell you that Facebook's algorithm limits your organic reach to approximately 5% of your fan base. Thus, unless your fans interact with your content, or you pay Facebook to boost your content, social media engagement is virtually non-existent.

This is why savvy social media marketers have turned to native advertising.

Conceptually, native advertising is a form of indirect advertising. Instead of being product/service focused, marketers will create contents that are reader focused (i.e. relevant) and likely to generate a response from netizens. The product/service is then subtly embedded within the content.

This has several advantages: (1) being "relevant", Facebook's algorithm will show it netizens; (2) as the content resonates with netizens, they are likely to interact (like, share or comment) with it and this will help amplify it (together with the product/ service) to a wider audience than it might originally have reached.

One of the more successful native campaigns we ran was a Public Service Announcement. Following from the SMRT train collision at Joo Koon station, Singaporeans were all angry at SMRT and attacking it any chance they could. We felt that this was unfair and many of SMRT employees were working hard and they should not be the targets of misplaced anger. We, therefore, executed a native campaign to urge Singaporeans to show their support for SMRT workers.

Our "ad", launched on our affiliate site (Talking Singapore), garnered over 337 interactions, 81 comments, and 202 shares. Total reach recorded was over 80,000 within 48 hours. Much more interaction than an outright appeal might have received.  

social media marketing agency singapore smrt native advertising

If you want to leverage on native advertising to boost your company's sales, email us at anna[a]

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Trump Is Not The Fool We Think He Is … He is the Master Communicator

Like many in the corporate communications industry, I used to ridicule Trump’s “flawed” messaging and apparent lack of understanding of how communications work. I was shocked that he could blatantly push out his own versions of the facts (in obvious contradiction to irrefutable evidence); and label established journalists and media outlets like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and CNN as purveyors of fake news.

More importantly, I was dumbfounded to learn that Trump’s supporters continue to support him despite being presented with undisputed facts that he, for lack of a better word, lies to suit his own agenda. Although anecdotal, my sense is that the harder mainstream media tries to discredit Trump, the stronger Trump’s support base becomes.

Being a student of communications, I realized that I must be missing something. The fact that Trump won the Presidency and the fact that he continues to maintain his support base must mean that he is doing something right. My insight came when I chanced upon a study that mapped the flow of information on social media during the US Presidential Election in 2016 (and some postulate even today). In the map, which I have summarized and simplified below, it is interesting to note that almost none of Trump’s supporters read mainstream media.

trump communications strategy analysis

         What this means is that when Trump speaks (or Tweets), he is literally only speaking to his support base. Hillary supporters and the mainstream media are just the unintended audiences. It thus does not matter if what Trump tweets contradict facts. Relying on his network of pro-Trump influencers, Trump’s own message gets amplified to his support base without the fact-checking of mainstream media.

The diagram also shows, there are also no overlaps in communications between Hillary and Trump supporters. This is not surprising as political discussions can be emotive and is generally avoided in society. Mainstream media therefore plays the role of the Fourth Estate (or fourth power) in tandem with the legislative, executive and judiciary.  Without the Fourth Estate, democracy will fail as people will not know the truth and will be unable to effectively exercise the power of their votes by making an informed decision.  

This is something which Trump has masterfully done. By discrediting mainstream media as a source of information for his supporters, Trump has effectively removed the only people in US society that can counter his misinformation. Trump’s supporters therefore live in an echo chamber which rejects contradictory information. Ironically, with each attempt that the mainstream media makes to discredit Trump, this only gives Trump more ammunition to further portray mainstream media as working in a conspiracy against him and this in turn strengthens his support base.

So what are the implications for Singapore? There are a few ….

Firstly, unlike the US, Singaporeans to a certain extent still rely on mainstream media for the news. As such, to ensure that misinformation is corrected, mainstream media’s role as the fourth estate must be ensured and protected. Thus, even as readership and viewership continue to shift to social media and sustainability becomes an issue, the Government must intervene to sustain mainstream media but at the same time allow mainstream media to continue to act independently. Additionally, nefarious actions to label mainstream media as the purveyors of fake news need to be acted upon as the credibility of mainstream media cannot be allowed to be diminished.

Secondly, as we can see in the Trump example, misinformation can only spread if it is amplified via a network and is self-reinforcing. It is therefore important that social media sites (and individuals) who deliberately create fake news be taken to task. While I agree that it is often difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction, citizen journalists need to be held accountable for their actions. There is a big difference between free speech and responsible speech and it is my belief that rights come responsibility.

Thirdly, the silent majority must speak up. As I study the political discourse on social media in Singapore, one thing has become apparent to me. Rational minded Singaporeans have become unwilling to challenge fake news on social media. This, in my view, is due to the deliberate attempt by anti-government supporters to deliberately label and attack anyone who has a pro-government opinion as being government lackeys (i.e. a PAP IB). By making it “painful” to express an alternative view, anti-government supporters are effectively undermining the democratic process they claim to champion.

In summary, Trump is not the fool many communications professionals make him out to be. Trump understands the nature and power of social media and is using it to his advantage. Singapore would do well to study Trump’s communications strategy and learn the right lessons. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

SMRT - A Case Study of Failed Crisis Communications

These past few months have been challenging for SMRT to say the least. From daily train disruptions to the flooding of the MRT tunnel to the recent train collision at Joo Koon, nothing seems to be going right for the company and CEO Desmond Kuek. Public calls for Desmond to be held accountable by the Government are growing by the day and we suspect that his days are numbered.

SMRT ceo desmond kuek accident joo koon

But let us put aside our personal angst and see what we can learn from this ....

According to our crisis communications framework, stakeholders attribute culpability based on the 3 factors of locus of control, predictability, and controllability. As such, if a crisis is perceived to be something the CEO has control over, can foresee to happen and has the ability to prevent, culpability will be high.

While some might argue that the collision at Joo Koon station on 15 November 2017 was an accident and hence beyond Desmond's control, this would be the case if it was an isolated incident. But taken in the context of all that has been happening at SMRT, stakeholders view the accident as more of the same and hence something Desmond should have foreseen to happen and should have prevented.

They say hindsight is 20/20, but Desmond's decision to cite "deep-seated cultural issues" as the cause of SMRT's woes was a big mistake. In crisis communications, the objective is to reduce or de-link stakeholders attribution of culpability to the organization in the 3 factors. As the CEO, the proverbial buck stops with him and citing cultural issues only served to reinforce the point that Desmond is fully responsible for everything that is happening at SMRT.

In our opinion, SMRT would have managed this crisis better if they had focused their messages on reducing attribution in the factors of locus of control, predictability, and controllability. In the case of the flooding, this could have been done by emphasizing the multiple control measures, system redundancies and layers of checks. Hence, the failure was not something management could reasonably be expected to foresee or prevent (lack of predictability and controllability). As for the collision, we understand that Thales is the vendor in charge of upgrading the signaling system. Thus, while SMRT cannot shirk responsibility, it should share the failure with Thales. In this incident, the objective should have been to reduce public perception of SMRT's locus of control. Having said all this, Desmond Kuek's comment about deep-seated cultural issues will negate any efforts to stem the tide against him. 

To be honest, crisis communications is more art than science. This, however, does not mean that science has no place in crisis communications.


If you found our comments on this crisis useful, check out our online crisis management course on Udemy.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Best Crisis Communications Course in Singapore is Now Available on Online (Udemy)

The best crisis communications course in Singapore has now been made extremely affordable for Singaporeans. Based on 20 years of professional experience working with Small and Medium Enterprises, Multi-National Corporations and the Government of Singapore, this course teaches proven Framework that participants can use to manage any crisis. 

The Framework was developed, refined and validated through real-world experience, will guide participants through a deliberate thought process to the most logical actions to take when dealing with a crisis.

CW Fong & Associates was established in 2011 after our Principal Consultant and Trainer retired from the Singapore Armed Forces. Back in 2011, social media was just gaining a foothold and it was not yet as influential as it is today. Recognizing that social media’s role in communications would only grow, we decided to specialize in social media and its impact on communications. As this was literally a new field, there was little formal work done on social media’s impact on communications. We then published my own white paper on a Framework for Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media.

Between 2012 and 2014, we had the privilege to consult with and train over 100 SMEs and MNCs. This allowed us to validate, and when necessary, refine the Framework that we teach in the course. In 2015, recognizing the regional demand for good crisis communication training, we expanded our services and have since worked with Public Listed Companies as well as the Government Ministries for countries like Myanmar, Brunei and Malaysia.

In recognition of the quality of our work, some of it has been publishing in leading magazines, books and professional newsletters. Of significance, our thought leadership in the subject of crisis communications was cemented when the Institute of Public Relations Singapore, published our white paper in their newsletter. Additionally, our Principal Consultant has been regularly interviewed by international news organizations for his views on crisis communications and social media. Three of the more renown being BBC News, Aljazeera and Channel News Asia.

The training outcome for this online course is to equip participants with the knowledge and basic skill to effectively manage a social media crisis. Specifically, participants will be taught how to identify a crisis, assess its impact and what actions to take.

Best Crisis Communications Course in Singapore is Now Available on Online

To find out more, click on the following link (COURSE). We look forward to sharing our knowledge and experience with you.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

SMRT Flooding Incident - Why SMRT's Apology Failed

The public backlash from SMRT's apology for the train disruptions caused by flooding in the North-South Line (NSL) is instructive for the student of crisis communications.

crisis communications smrt flooded NSL apology

Afterall, what SMRT's management did was according to the textbook. The incident happened and they promptly came forward to acknowledge and accept responsibility. So why then are people still angry?

Unfortunately, while they did follow the textbook to promptly come forward to acknowledge the incident and accept responsibility, their apology (bow and all) lacked the key element of contrition. In the crisis communications textbook, any apology offered must be accompanied by a form of contrition. Simply saying "I am sorry" is perceived lip service and is deemed as insincere. Stakeholders want to see you "pay" for your mistake. Thus, in this instance, the lack of contrition rang hollow and Singaporeans anger towards SMRT did not abate.

Examples of successful apologies are those used by celebrities in the United States. Whenever they are caught for drink driving or substance abuse, their apology to their fans for letting them down is often accompanied by self-admission into a rehab centre. Unless the celebrity relapses and runs afoul of the law again, all is usually forgiven and their careers are back on track after the short stint in the rehab centre.

So if you are ever in the position to advice your CEO or Chairman of the Board in how to apologise, remind them that they need to offer contrition. If they are unwilling to, then it is better not to apolgise at all.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

SAFRA Mount Faber vs Koh Jee Leong

Two weeks back, a Mr Koh Jee Leong turned up at the SAFRA Mount Faber gym wearing a tank top with the words "gay but not yet equal." He was subsequently told by the gym manager that other gym users were unhappy with the political statement and had “reported” him.

safra mount faber gay koh jee leong

Considering the conservative nature of Singaporeans and the blatant attempt by Mr Koh to push his agenda, this simple incident could have resulted in a major PR crisis for SAFRA and MINDEF. If Koh was denied usage of the gym, he would talk about it online and make a hue and cry about being denied his rights to free expression. In fact, even when Koh had gotten his way, he also pushed his agenda online.

SAFRA however did well to manage this incident and, in our opinion, came out smelling like roses. In crisis communications, we always say that good communications cannot overcome bad policies, and in this instance, SAFRA did well as their policy towards Koh was spot on.

As a MINDEF related organisation, SAFRA could not discriminate against any Singaporeans – especially one who had served NS. At the same time, SAFRA also had to operate a club for all Singaporeans. In this instance, SAFRA’s response was instructional.

Strategically, SAFRA did well to shift the issue away from free speech (or LGBT) to one about respecting each other’s views. In SAFRA's communications with Koh and the complainants, SAFRA’s position was clear: (a) SAFRA’s role (as a club) is to create a positive environment for all members; and (b) where members disagree, SAFRA’s role is to then mediate between the parties to seek common understanding.

In short, successful crisis management is not about spin or fanciful methods of saying things. Successful crisis communications begins with having a sound company policy. 

What Makes Contents Go Viral ... A Singapore Example

CW Fong & Associates was recently hired to help raise awareness for a client's Facebook page. Leveraging on the recent spate of s...