Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Guest Speaker on Crisis Communications for Masters Programme in Ho Chi Minh City on 5 June 2012

CW Fong & Associates is proud to announce that we have been selected to be a Guest Speaker on Crisis Communications for their Master in Marketing and Advertising Program.  We will be in Ho Chi Minh City on 5 June 2012.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thought-Leadership in Crisis Communications

CW Fong & Associates is proud to annouce that its white paper on the Impact of Social Media on Crisis Communications has been included in the eBook edition of Insiders Know-How: Public Relations. At CW Fong & Associates, we view this as further evidence of our thought-leadership in the area of crisis communications.

Public-relations specialists make flower arrangements of the facts, placing them so that the wilted and less attractive petals are hidden by sturdy blooms. 

And yet this science,  art, intuition,  sixth sense -  call it what you will -   can be a frustrating,  tortuous process to perfect.  In the meantime, while you’re honing your craft, you still have a business to run. By reading this book you have made the challenge of managing a public relations consultancy just a little bit easier.   

During the course of three years we have trekked the globe and canvassed some of the brightest minds in the business.  Our mission was to task these thought-leaders with tackling head on some of the dilemmas and obstacles that you might find in running a modern-day PR consultancy.   

The result is nothing short of eye opening.  Many books on PR focus on classroom theory, abstract principle and esoteric notions of business management in a perfect world.  Insiders Know-How:  Public Relations shines a spotlight on the practical, real-world issues that you face every day. By offering workable solutions to these problems, this book will make running your consultancy just that little bit easier.

For those interested to purchase a copy of the eBook, you may do as so at this link

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Social Media and the Need for 100% Truthfulness: Putin's Tiger Tale Challenged

The Associated Press reported on Friday a Russian environmentalist's, Dmitry Molodtsov, claim that photos and a video of Russian Leader Vladimir Putin shooting a wild tiger in October 2008 was staged.  Molodtsov claims that Putin shot a docile animal from the zoo and offered visual proof to back up his claims.

In the image above, Molodtsov highlights the difference between the tiger purportedly shot by Putin and the tiger which officials say was the same tiger released back into the wide.  Molodtsov, then goes on to offer proof that tiger shot by Putin was the same tiger that had disappeared from the Khabarovsk zoo.  (See image below).

As a Crisis Communicator, I am not here to speculate if Putin had indeed stage the shooting to shore up his ratings, or if the environmentalists has a hidden agenda to discredit the Russian leader.  To me, this is further evidence to support my assertions that we now live in a perfect information environment in which the power of the Internet can be used for both good and bad.

In this instance, the Internet allowed the environmentalists to not only review and scrutinize Putin's account of the incident, but also allowed him to tap on other like minded individuals to provide images of tigers in zoos around Russia.  And if the environmentalist's claims are true, to back it up with accounts that the same tiger has since gone missing.

While the fall-out from this remains to be seen, I am a firm believer that a crisis of deceit is worse than a crisis of competence.  In this perfect information environment, Crisis Communicators (and PR Professionals), must be 100% truthful.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chee Soon Juan Calls on PAP to Leave the Blogosphere Alone

I read with great interest the recent calls by Chee Soon Juan for the PAP to allow unrestricted freedom of speech in the blogosphere.

My personal view is that while the PAP should allow a certain latitude, I however fully support the PAP's decision to take legal actions against those who spread unsubstantiated rumors.

This is because, as I have said many times before in my blog, social networking websites like Friendster, Facebook and Twitter have changed the information environment. Bloggers can now reach out and influence as many individuals as professionally run news organizations. Herein lies the danger as unlike professional journalists who abide by a code of ethics, bloggers are unregulated and may be motivated by personal agendas. In addition, the homogeneity of these social communities, and sense of bond among "friends" with common interests, make these communities susceptible to being easily manipulated.

I cite the Greek Riot in 2008 as an example where the death of a student, at the hands of the police, need not have degenerated into nation-wide violent protests. The incident could have remained contained pending investigations by the appropriate authorities. Unfortunately, irresponsible citizens began spreading unsubstantiated accusations of police brutality on social networking sites. This fanned anti-police sentiments which eventually spiraled out of control. Many analysts are unanimous in their belief that social networking websites were the catalysts in the Greek riots of 2008.

Hence, while I believe that netizens have the right to express their views, the expression of these views must be done responsibly. The inciting of hate or violence is definitely not one freedom I support. In my opinion, any government or organization or individual is correct to take to task individuals who act irresponsibly.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Budget 2012 Debate: Online uproar over DPM Tharman’s ‘$1k flat’ Statement

The recent uproar over DPM Tharman's statement that households earning $1,000 dollars a month can afford to purchase their own 2-room HDB flats did not come as a surprise to me. This is because while it is possible (as Minister of State Tan Chuan Jin helped explain in his Facebook page), Netizens in general feel that it is not realistic and the common theme was about the spartan lifestyle one had to live as a result of owning a home.

As a crisis communicator, I attribute the uproar to DPM Tharman's statement failing to acknowledge the concerns of Netizens. Building from the recent General Election and the issue of high Ministerial Pay, Netizens' are concerned about how detached our Ministers are from the people they are elected to serve. DPM Tharman's statement, and MOS Tan Chuan Jin's clarifications, while factually correct, fail to address Netizen's concerns as anecdotal evidence suggests that it is impossible for a family of four to live off $1,000 per month. After all, a simple meal at the hawker centre already costs $3.50 per person, transport fares are at least $1.20 per person per trip and PUB and Gas prices are rising.

In my opinion, DPM Tharman would have done a better job in responding to NMP Gerald Giam's question if he understood that Stakeholders are not concerned about affordability of the HDB, but about the government's perceived detachment from the people – an understanding that can only be derived if a proper stakeholder analysis had been done.

On a separate note, while I cannot know for sure if the question posted by Gerald Giam is part of the Workers' Party overall strategy for the next General Election, but suffice to say, DPM Tharman's response has helped to reinforce the perception that our Ministers are detached from ground reality. And if the PAP is not careful, this is a powerful campaign theme that will definitely swing voters in favour of the opposition.


(Note: I will be conducting a 1-Day Workshop on "Leading Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media" on 30 March 2012. If you are a communications professional and want to (a) learn and understand how to perform a Stakeholder Analysis; and (b) use Themes and Messages in a crisis, do sign-up for the Workshop.  You can email me at for more details)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Timeliness – 15/60 Rule

The topic of how quickly an organisation should respond to a crisis is often raised. In my workshops, I always advocate that the world does not revolve around the organisation and like it or not, the story will run with or without you.

As a guide, I advise my clients on the 15/60 rule. That means in a crisis, the organisation should acknowledge the crisis within 15 mins of it occurring, and follow up with a press/ news release 60 mins after that.

The usual response from clients is that this is impossible as it takes time to gather the facts and craft the statements. I agree. I however also remind clients that stakeholders are reasonable people and that at the 15 min mark, they do not expect complete answers. Essentially, as a crisis unfolds, stakeholders want to know basic information like (a) the facts of the case (i.e. WHAT has happened, WHEN and WHERE did it happen and WHO is involved); (b) your immediate actions; and (c) your next step or what affected stakeholders can do. In the event that you do not have all the facts, it is appropriate to say so. The key point is that you must appear sincere with the facts.

Having said that, the question still remains whether it is possible for an organisation to acknowledge an incident within 15 mins. To me, the answer is yes and the solution is through preparation and practice. Preparation is about having the necessary templates and “drawer” plans on hand so that when an incident occurs, it is simply a matter of referring to them, adjusting it and issuing it. As for practice, it means having regular drills where all members in the crisis management team is well versed in their respective roles.

In summary, crisis communications is not something you think about when it happens. To be effective, crisis communications is a deliberate process where an organisation prepares for it.

Victim of Online Vigilantism in Singapore - What should you do?

Over the weekend, a sales manager became the latest victim of online vigilantism in Singapore. He was on his way to trading in his BMW 5 S...