Saturday, December 31, 2011

1-Day Crisis Training Workshop - Singapore

I am pleased to announce the introduction of our 1-Day Crisis Training Workshop (in-house) for companies in Singapore.  This is a modified version of our current 2-day programme in response to client feedback on the need to cater to senior managements' time constraints. 

Who Should Attend

This course is designed for Managers who are responsible for the reputation and brand of their company.

What I Will Learn

At the end of the 1-day workshop, participants will:
  • understand social media's impact on crisis communications
  • understand the nature of a crisis
  • identifying Stakeholder issues/ concerns
  • learn how to develop Themes and Messages
  • use frameworks to manage a crisis – Attribution Theory
  • use framework to manage negative blog postings or online Mentions – SCAER
  • understand the Singapore media environment and the Media's 'agendas'
  • learn how to deliver your message in a media interview
  • learn how to handle “sensitive” questions during a media interview

How I Will Learn

During the workshop, participants will be trained using:
  • Multi-media Presentation
  • Group discussions
  • Discussions
  • Practicals (supported by video recording and play-back for debriefing and coaching where necessary)

Trainer's Profile

CW has extensive experience in the planning and execution of corporate/ crisis communications for the Singapore Armed Forces. In the span of his military career, CW has successfully led communication teams in major incidences and events, at both the national level and international levels, to protect the reputation of the Singapore Armed Forces and the Republic of Singapore.

Besides being trained and certified by the Institute of Public Relations Singapore (IPRS) in Public Relations and Mass Communications, CW graduated top of his class in the United States Army's Psychological Operations Course. An Associate Member of the IPRS, CW contributes to the Institute's newsletter on topics related to crisis communications.

As part of the US-based International Consortium for Organisational Resilience (ICOR) efforts to establish a base in Asia, CW is ICOR's only accredited trainer for the region. To stay current and professionally updated on developments in crisis communications, CW spends 20% of his time researching and writing on crisis communications for leading HR magazines, professional newsletters and his blog titled Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media.

As the former Head of the Singapore Armed Force's Information Support Branch, CW was responsible for the training of selected military officers in crisis communications during military operations. During his tour of duty, CW has successfully trained in excess of 1,000 personnel.

- Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, University of San Francisco
- Certificate in Public Relations and Mass Communications, Institute of Public Relations, Singapore (IPRS)
- Accredited Crisis Communications Planning Trainer, The International Consortium for Organisational Resilience
- Distinguished Honor Graduate, US Psychological Operations Qualification Course
- Certified Arbinger Facilitator for Leadership and Self-Deception, Arbinger SEA
- Accredited Human Resource Professional, Singapore Human Resource Institute
- Various appointments in the Singapore Armed Force's Army Information Centre including Head of the Information Support Branch
- Head Media Team, Inaugural Youth Olympic Games 2010 Opening Ceremony
- Deputy Head Information Team for SAF Humanitarian Assistance Support Group during the Indonesian Tsunami of 2004
- Published writer with works on Crisis Communications featured in Human Resource Magazine, Professional Newsletters and blog (

For enquiries, contact us at

Monday, December 26, 2011

SMRT Sets-Up Twitter Account

It was interesting for me to learn that SMRT only just realized the importance of using Social Media to not only communicate with its stakeholders, but also as an effective platform to communicate crisis information. I expected this of government institutions where the need to control information outweighed the need to keep stakeholders informed. But, frankly, not from a “private” institution that profit-driven.

As a crisis communicator, I acknowledge that SMRT has taken a step in the right direction, but having a Twitter account is not being social media savvy. Like SMRT, many corporations establish impromptu social media presence when a crisis strikes. They then hope that this new social media will be the cure-all only to be disappointed.

What corporations fail to realize is that Social Media true value is the corporations' “relationship” with the stakeholders. Thus, similar to real life relationships, it takes time and effort to build.  And, unless a corporation has spent time to build a social media relationship with its stakeholders, any impromptu social media presence will only be seen as another form of propaganda and will be ineffective in a crisis.

The key lesson here for crisis communicators is this. Social Media's impact on the information environment is undeniable. Corporations must therefore start building their social media relationship with their stakeholders before a crisis.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

SMRT Breakdown: Clamour grows for SMRT CEO to step down

There have been increasing calls for SMRT's CEO Ms Saw Phaik Hwa to resign following another MRT service disruption on Saturday 17 Dec 2011. This followed Ms Saw's response to a reporter's question during the press conference to address the 15 Dec 2011 breakdown which have been dubbed the “worst in 24 years.” When asked if she would reign to take responsibility, Ms Saw responded by saying that "it is something I would seriously consider if there is a necessity to do so, but I think I will reserve comments at this moment."

In the era of social media, I believe that such calls for accountability are not only inevitable, but will be a major issue in crisis management situations.  This is because social media has the ability to rally people.  In a crisis, stakeholders instinctively seek to attribute responsibility (see my earlier blog posting) and once an individual (or organization) is seen as responsible (rightly or wrongly), stakeholders expect contrition.

In this context, SMRT's CEO only accepted responsibility and followed this with a pledge to do better. Hence, in my opinion, SMRT failed in their understanding of stakeholders need for an act of contrition. If SMRT had understood this, they would have stated the act of contrition up-front in their initial statement. Such an up-front statement would have given SMRT the information initiative and given it more credibility.

The question then becomes what sort of contrition. From a crisis communications perspective, experience has shown that for an act of contrition to be sufficient to appease stakeholder anger, the act of contrition must be perceived as “equal” to misery caused. Thus, in Ms Saw's case possible acts of contrition could range from (a) forfeiting her annual bonus; (b) self-imposed “suspension without pay” until the cause of failure has been determined and fixed; or even (c) submitting a letter of resignation to SMRT's Board of Directors for their consideration. While any of these acts will not appease all stakeholders, it will appease many and, in my opinion, “humanize” Ms Saw and gather her some allies.

Thus, in short, the key lesson for crisis communicators here is that accepting responsibility is only one part of the equation. An act of contrition is the other element that needs to be addressed for the crisis communication strategy to be effective.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

SMRT Breakdown: Service Disruption North-South Line

At a presentation today, I was asked to comment on how I thought Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) could have better managed the current crisis they are facing over the recent series of service disruptions. The main trigger being the breakdown of the north-south line which affected thousands of commuters.

I essentially shared that in a crisis, stakeholders need to attribute responsibility. And, to assist them in this, stakeholders instinctively consider the three factors of locus of control, predictability and controllability. For a more in-depth explanation, please refer to my earlier blog posting “Framework for Crisis Management”.

In essence, locus of control refers to the perception of whether the crisis was caused by the organization or the situation; stability whether the factors contributing to the crisis was predictable; and controllability whether the organization could have acted to prevent it. Thus, if the crisis was caused by the organization, was something which the organization could reasonably have predicted to occur, and was within the ability of the organization to prevent, then attribution of responsibility would be high.

In the context of the current SMRT crisis, stakeholders currently attribute responsibility to SMRT as they feel that (a) the crisis was caused by the organization's failure to design or maintain the rail system properly; (b) the organization could have predicted the breakdowns as they have been happening recently; and (c) the organization could have controlled for the impact of the breakdown through better preparations.

So what could have SMRT done to better manage this crisis?

First of all, I believe that all crisis communication plans must be based on the truth. In today's perfect information environment, anything less would cause a secondary crisis that will most certainly bury the organization.

Using the Framework, a better response from SMRT's would be to proactively redirect responsibility for the crisis by introducing information that would help stakeholders draw a different attribution of responsibility. In this context, assuming that SMRT did its level best and the series of service disruptions were beyond its control, as a crisis communicator, I would have attempted to minimize responsibility by introducing information that would lead stakeholders to believe that the locus of control was external. For example, during the CEO's press conference, apart from citing possible alignment problems as the cause, SMRT would have done better to augment this information with additional facts alluding to external causes. In this context, information like facts on about strength of SMRT's design, the comprehensive maintenance schedules and perhaps third-party endorsements of the system.

In summary, I felt that SMRT's crisis communications plan failed as it lacked a coherent strategy. While I dare not postulate that crisis communications is a science, I do believe that understanding the “science” behind how stakeholders attribute responsibility, would have helped SMRT weather this crisis better.

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