Monday, December 1, 2014

Social Media Training in Singapore

As the Singapore economy slows, businesses will be increasingly stressed to do more with less. One of the biggest mistake a business owner can make is to cut advertising and promotional costs. Sales brings cash and without cash it is a matter of time before a business will close.

Fortunately, we are now living in the digital world. As long as a business has access to the internet (which incidentally is extremely affordable in Singapore) and has the know-how, advertising and promoting a business is practically free.

Similar to traditional media, the objectives of a company's social media strategy is to raise awareness and create demand. Depending on the market segment the business is targeting, different social media platforms are critical.

At CW Fong & Associates, we help businesses identify and train business owners on the most suitable platform to build their businesses. We also leverage on our existing 'owned' media to help jump start our clients' social media campaigns.

For more information on our social media training programmes, email anna[a]cwfongandassociates.com. Your success is our success. What separates us from other training consultants is that we walk the talk. We are social media business owners first and trainers/coach second.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Importance of Gaining the Information Initiative

Public Relations and Social Media Practitioners have instinctively known the importance of gaining the information initiative in a crisis. This is because the public seeks to understand what is happening and any information vacuum will allow for misinformation to fester and grow.

A study by Stephan Lewandowsky and Ullrich Ecker from the University of Western Australia, Collen Seifert and Norbert Schwarz from the University of Michigan and John Cook from the University of Queensland and University of Western Australia has now scientifically proven that first information "sticks" with the audience and, even if proven false subsequently, will remain "real" in the minds of the audience.

The study also showed that even when the initial information was proven overwhelming to be wrong by experts, the audience would ignore the new information and recall the earlier erroneous one. Even after extensive efforts to correct the first misinformation, a sizable segment of the target audience would continue to believe the initial piece of information.

In light of this finding, given the speed with which social media works and the propensity for it to be filled with misinformation, crisis management practitioners must push out their side of the story as soon as possible. While of course endeavoring to ensure 100% accuracy, speed is the priority in the initial stages of a crisis and less than 100% facts can, and should be, pushed out to be corrected if proven wrong at a later stage. What is critical is for the organization to seize and maintain a faourable narrative.

While many old school PR Practitioners will challenge me on this approach, all I will say is that we are operating in a new information environment where new rules dominate. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why the Singapore government is losing the social media space and information initiative as it is an organization that prides itself on absolute accuracy and hence it is always seeking to correct misinformation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Online Reputation Management: When Lies Become Truth

The following is an interesting comic strip about how social media impacts a company's reputation. Today, Netizens can hide behind the concept of free speech and can literally post anything they want without the need to check for truth or accuracy.
 
importance of online reputation management
 
Unfortunately, the comic strip only portrays half the truth. The other half is that "if lies are repeated often enough, it becomes the truth." It is precisely for this very reason that companies, organizations and even politicians must take a pro-active approach to managing their online reputations.
 
Regular Google Audits and a deliberate effort to counter DRUMS (distortions, rumours, untruths, myths and smears) is therefore no longer a good to have, but a must have. Left unchallenged, advertising dollars spent on building a brand or image will come to naught. While there are currently no laws against trolling, taking a tough stance (legal actions) against malicious Netizens is a good deterrence strategy. If Netizens are aware that they will be taken to task for their actions, it will encourage them to move on to "easier" targets.
 
As online searches increasingly form the basis for most buying decisions, a company's online reputation is as, if not more, important than its offline version. Companies need to start protecting their online reputation as jealously as they protect their offline reputation.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Social Media Marketing Tip: The Power of an Avatar

In social media marketing, one of the most effective ways to establish reach and persistent presence is through the use of Facebook. Unfortunately, building a Facebook page that has sufficient numbers of fans and levels of engagement is not an easy feat. One technique that companies use, is the creation of an Avatar.

Essentially, an Avatar is a virtual person who is the face that engages fans on behalf of the company. The secret to an Avatar's effectiveness is its appeal to the target market segment. In a recent project we undertook for a client, the client's target segment were males in the 21-30 age range. Our analysis showed that an attractive single female student would be the "perfect" Avatar.

CW Fong & Associates then assisted the client to engage a model and got her to take selfies of her daily activities for a period of 3 weeks. Armed with these pictures we created a new "personality" on Facebook using her pictures.

All it took was for us to start friending a few mutual friends and then let "nature" run its course. Within a period of 3 weeks, our Avatar had a friend (fan) base of 3,000. Our estimates is that it hit Facebook's cap of 5,000 friends within the next 1 week. With the fan base established, all the client has to do now is to post related "ads" on the Avatar's page and wait for the sales to come in. If the Avatar was effective in engaging the fans, a "word of mouth effect" sales effect would also become evident.

In short, the power of an Avatar should not be ignored and should form part of every company's social media strategy.
 
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Use social media marketing to bring your business to the next level. Contact our principal consultant via Justin[a]cwfongandassociates.com. We are the only social media consultancy in Singapore that walks the talk.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui Apologises

In a surprising turn of events, Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui have technically accepted part responsibility for the fiasco at Hong Lim Park on 27 September 2014.

This is a classic PR strategy when public opinion has turned against you and you are no longer able to hold your position. The concept behind the strategy is to "diffuse" or "share" responsibility with another party by essentially saying "they started it", "we responded" and upon reflection, "we could have done better". By acting magnanimous and accepting responsibility for ones role in the crisis, the strategy is designed to force the other party to reciprocate, or be seen in a negative light.

The problem with this strategy (in this instance) is that the other party in the fiasco is the YMCA and not the government - the target of the protest. Thus, I am not too sure why (or even how) Roy and Hui Hui think the government will feel the pressure to reciprocate. And as the YMCA holds the high ground as a non-partisan charity whose event for special needs kids was disrupted, I doubt that the YMCA will feel any pressure to reciprocate.

In light of Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui confrontational approach thus far, the only thing we can be sure of (from the crisis communications perspective) is that Roy and Hui Hui must believe that their actions have back-fired and they are losing supporters. They are thus now acting in an attempt to save a shrinking support base.

It is this crisis communications consultant's opinion that Roy and Hui Hui have lost their political capital and are a spent force. Unfortunately, Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui are delusional and it remains to be seen what antics they will be up to.

The key lesson for crisis communicators here is the proper application of the diffuse/ share strategy.

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What every Singaporean must know ....

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Crisis Communications 101: When to respond to an incident

One of the biggest challenge facing crisis communications practitioners is making the decision of whether to respond to an online crisis or not. If the incident is not set to go viral, a response may be the tipping point that makes it go viral. On the other hand, if the incident is set to go viral and the company does not respond and get ahead of the story, the crisis may take on a life of its own and the company can then only do damage control.

One technique SG Social Media Guru effectively uses for our clients is the monitoring of online influencers. For any story to go viral, the story must achieve critical mass. And critical mass can only be achieved when sufficient websites pick-up the story. In Singapore (and any country for that matter), there will always be influencers. Depending on the company we consult with, the list will vary. However main influencers in Singapore include Channel News Asia, STOMP, Hardware Zone, The Real Singapore and The Online Citizen.

In our work with our clients, whenever a negative online mention is picked-up, the team at SG Social Media Guru would start monitoring the influencers' Facebook pages as well as their websites to determine the magnitude, trajectory and the contagion effect of the comment. Magnitude is used to tell us how concerned people are over the incident and the proxy we use is the number of likes, shares and comments. Trajectory on the other hand is used to measure the direction of the anger. Measured at hourly intervals, the rate of increase in the number of likes, shares and coments (and the tone of the comments) are used to determine whether the concern will spark anger. The third and final factor we monitor is the contagion effect and this relates to whether other influencers pick-up and build on the story. If the story stays localized on a particular page and does not "spread", the probability of it going viral is reduced.

Thus while it is impossible to predict with 100% accuracy which story will go viral, SG Social Media Guru believes that crisis communications practitioner can use the factors of magnitude, trajectory and contagion to make an informed decision on whether to respond to a crisis or not.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Crisis Communications Tip for Singapore Companies - Importance of the AUP

As companies increasingly start to establish their online presence and use platforms like forum pages, blogs and even Facebook pages to engage their customers, crisis communications (or issues management) training is now a must. This is because the anonymous nature of the Internet makes unfounded attacks on the company a real possibility. These attacks can come from disgruntled employees, dissatisfied customers or simply online trolls. Regardless of who initiates the attack, a poor response can do serious damage to a company's brand and reputation. Unfortunately, avoiding an online presence is not an option as an online presence is essential to a company's viability and success.

One key element in the effective management of unfounded attacks is through the use of an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). This AUP should be prominently displayed on the company's forum and Facebook pages which tells users the "rules" for using the platform. The AUP should specify in detail what is not allowed and also state that failure to abide by the rules will result in the comment being deleted and the user banned from future use of the page. Users should also be informed that using the page is implicit acceptance of the rules and the platform owner's right to moderate the page.

Without the AUP, page administrators will find it hard to moderate unfounded allegations and ban trouble-makers. The trick to using the AUP well is not to totally delete negative comments, but to 'delete and replace' with a message telling the poster that his comment has been moderated as it breached whichever rule of the AUP. The poster is then invited to repost his comment in accordance with the AUP, but will be permanently banned from the page if he/she continues to post comments in breach of the AUP. This second step is important as it demonstrates that the company is not exercising censorship, but simply playing its role of maintaining a conducive environment for friends and fans to engage with each other.

In summary, while there are dangers with regards to companies embarking on a social media presence, the needs outweigh the dangers. Having properly trained social media managers who know how to manage social media platforms will reduce the risks.
 
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For a no obligation consultation on how to establish social media platforms to engage your customers, email our principal consultant at Justin[a]cwfongandassociates.com.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Asia Student Leadership Conference: Young Minds Solve Problems of the Future

SG Social Media Guru is pleased to be the PR consultant for Singapore Youth Ambassadors' Asia Student Leadership Conference (ASLC).
 
Press Release

Young Minds Solve the Problems of the Future
Singapore, Friday, 25 July 2014 – “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” quoting Nelson Mandela. The future lies in the hands of our youths today.

The Singapore Youth Ambassadors (SYA) is organising the Asia Student Leadership Conference (ASLC) from 3rd to 7th August 2014. ASLC is an annual leadership programme for students from all over Asia. Participants will learn to understand the importance and the potential in effective leadership and be inspired to make a change back in their own country. SYA believes that education will transform lives and change the world and that the youths of today can bring about solutions to the problems of tomorrow.

In this year’s programme, an expected 200 participants from Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Brunei and Singapore will develop action plans to the problems of “education”, “social activism”, “financial habits”, and “social media”. The conference will include workshops and outdoor activities which will provide students with the opportunities to hone their leadership skills. It also aims at teaching students how to be a global citizen by giving back to society. Speakers at the event include Ms Ng Ling Ling, Managing Director of Community Chest, Mr. Sazali Abdul Wahid, Yayasan MENDAKI Director of Community Development and Mr Shareef Bin Abdul Jaffar, Asst. Secretary-General of MDIS.

About SYA

The SYA, formed by a team of passionate volunteers who have been involved in community work for more than twelve years, aims to help youths make a difference. It also hopes to enrich the lives of the Youths who participate. All SYA programmes are led by youths for other youths, in terms of the planning, organising and execution. The SYA does not belong to any individual organisation, but to every youth who believes that education is for all, regardless of your station in life. The SYA emphasizes the spirit of excellence, responsibility of actions, moral righteousness, team spirit, positivity towards living and most importantly – service to mankind.

Media Contact
Ms Mia Markos
+65-92473308
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How to Run a Successful Facebook Competition

SG Social Media Guru is pleased to showcase the successful run of a Facebook Competition for our client Everything Teens Singapore.
 
Starting with a Fan base of only 28 fans, SG Social Media Guru successfully ran a competition to (a) raise awareness for a concert; and (b) to drive ticket sales. At the end of the 2 week campaign, the Facebook results are as follows:
 
215 likes on the post
2,338 people reached
20+ entries
538 likes for top entry (with the second garnering 502 likes)
 
The secret to how we successfully assisted our client was in the use of a supporting Twitter campaign while leveraging of an established pool of blogs owned and managed by SG Social Media Guru. Effective Social Media campaigns are usually catch-22s ie. how do you build fans when you have no fans.
 
The solution? Use a combination of platforms to "feed" your Facebook page. While it sounds simple, unfortunately, many community managers forget to do this.
 
If you need help with your social media campaign, email us (Justin[a]cwfongandassociates.com) for a no-obligation discussion. SG Social Media Guru owns and manages a pool of social media platform that has an average monthly reach to approximately 250,000 Singaporeans. So if you need a kick-start to your social media campaigns, we can help!
 

 

 
 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Social Media: The new political battleground for hearts and minds …

The on-going presidential election in Indonesia continues to reinforce the trend that social media is the new battleground for the hearts and minds of the electorate. Recent past elections in countries like Malaysia and Singapore have credited social media’s influence as a major factor in the outcome of the elections. Besides, US President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, few incumbent governments have been able to replicate Obama's success in this information domain.
 
It is safe to say that incumbent governments know the importance of social media and many are trying to establish their online presence. Unfortunately, there are three key challenges limiting their ability to win in the social media domain:
a.         Hierarchical vs Flat Decision Structure. An inherent characteristic of social media is that it is non-hierarchical. Everybody and anybody is able to effectively share their views and perspectives as and when it happens. This is a significant advantage to opposition candidates (and their supporters) as, unhindered by bureaucracy, they can aggressively and rapidly “push” their agendas on social media. By the time an official response is issued, opposition candidates would have gained first mover advantage and the government will now be fighting from a defensive position to correct electorate perceptions. And by constantly pushing new agendas, the opposition maintains the information initiative which ties-up government resources and keeps the government “cornered”.
b.         One vs Many. As social media is now ubiquitous, the “attacker” to “defender” ratio is overwhelmingly in favor of the opposition. Anybody with a view or grievance against the government can go to social media. Unlike main-stream media there is no editor to filter the relevant from the irrelevant or the genuine from the fake. In a country the size of Singapore, even if .1% of the 4 million electorate engages the government on social media, that will mean 4,000 people. The Singapore government, or no government for that matter, will not have the manpower or resources to wage and win this battle.
c.         Anonymity. The third and possibly the biggest challenge for incumbent government is that of online anonymity. Fake accounts can be easily created and, at the extreme, a single individual can have an infinite number of online identities. As such, without a system that ensures accountability online, it is easy for unscrupulous politicians to plan and execute campaigns of disinformation, rumors, untruths, myths and smears (DRUMS). While it is possible for the incumbent government to disprove these DRUMS or even identify the culprits, it will once again require considerable time and resources.

In short, the new political battleground for the hearts and minds of the electorate is clear to all. Unfortunately, the “terrain” on which it is fought favors the attacker (or opposition) and there is little that incumbent governments can do. The only way, in our opinion, is for incumbent governments to step-up efforts to educate the electorate on the dangers of social media so that they learn to filter the truths from the rhetoric and thus make an informed decision on who to cast their vote for.

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Note: We welcome comments about our views. However, as I believe in taking responsibility for ones views, anonymous comments and those assessed to be from fake accounts will not be approved for publication.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Social Media and Online Scams

The dangers of social media has now extended itself into the realm of industrial espionage. SG Corporate Training has published an interesting article on how corporate spies and online scammers are now using social media to launch sophisticated attacks.
 
In their article, SG Corporate Training elaborated on the increasingly use of two-phase attacks by scammers as identified by the counter-industrial espionage team at CW Fong & Associates. In the two-phase attack, scammers first seek to enter the target's "inner social media circle" by cloning an acquaintance and then sending an innocuous friend request. Once the scammer has entered the circle, they then monitor the target for vulnerabilities which they then exploit. As the "attack" comes from within, the target's defences are down and the rate of success high.
 
The dangers posed by social media is not new. As early as 2009, Thomas Ryan (an online security specialist) demonstrated this via what has become known as the Robin Sage experiment. More recently, Cascade Insights ran a similar experiment to demonstrate to their clients the importance of having a robust social media policy.
 
In the end, users of social media must be aware of the dangers that lurk. While social media is a great way to stay connected with friends, this same tool creates vulnerabilities which criminals can exploit. One good example which the article by SG Corporate Training gave was the criminal exploitation of travel information. If you had posted on Facebook that you would be away on vacation in the Philippines and a friend suddenly receives a message from you that you had been robbed and needed an urgent loan to get back to Singapore, chances are your friend would not think twice about sending you the money.
 
Given the wealth of online information available and the ease with which anyone can create an online identity, users of social media must be careful about who they include in their "inner circle" and the information they share.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Anti-G Vitriol - Have Singaporeans become a nation of cyber-bullies ....

For those that follow this blog, you will know that I have consistently abstained from making political comments. However, as a Singaporean, I have become increasingly disturbed by the types of attacks against the PAP and the G in online forums and social media that I think I need to express my views.
 
Don’t get me wrong! I believe it is not only correct, but important, for Singaporeans to shape their political future. I however feel that it has reached the point where things are bordering on the ridiculous. We are now at the point where regardless of what the G does, there will always be a section of the population that will find fault. Even something as simple as the PM queuing up to buy food will bring out the trolls. It is now a case of damned if I do and damned if I don’t.
 
I accept that the angst that Singaporeans feel is real. I too have my angst and unhappiness with some of the G’s policies. My fear is that we are becoming a society that petty. Sure, you have the right to express your views, and you have earned this right as a citizen of Singapore. However, where does it end? To put it bluntly, we have become a nation of cyber-bullies.
 
This blog post will elicit three responses. One group will support my view; the second group will think about what I am saying, draw their own conclusions and perhaps becoming more constructive in their online engagement with the G and PAP; and the third group will merely attack me as one of the PAP’s or G’s lapdog. To be honest, I am not interested in the third group as I believe that they are blinded by their emotions and will never be open to any alternative views. The real target of this blog post is to appeal to those that are still thinking logically to consider their own actions – the second group.
 
Here is my appeal ….
 
Attacking and criticizing government policies is the right of every citizen. However, when those attacks start becoming personal attacks against the individual politician (regardless of whether they are public figures) I think we have failed as individuals and as a society. In fact, it is my opinion that those who need to resort to personal attacks to win an argument are those who have in fact lost the argument at the intellectual level. So my dear Singaporeans, I urge you to continue to fight and argue for what you believe in. But I hope that we can stop becoming a nation of cyber-bullies and argue against the policies and stop attacking the individual.
 
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Note: I welcome comments about my views. However, as I believe in taking responsibility for ones views, anonymous comments will not be approved for publication.

News Release: Launch of SG Insider Deals

SG Social Media Guru is pleased to announce the addition of our newest blogsite SG Insider Deals. The addition of SG Insider Deals complements CW Fong & Associates' existing network of social media platforms by reaching out to tourists visiting Singapore, as well as the demographics of “kiasu” Singaporeans looking out for the best deals.

SG Insider Deals builds on the concept that in Singapore, as in any country in the world, finding the best deals is often as simple as knowing where to look. SG Insider Deals leverages on CW Fong & Associates' extensive networks and over 20 years in business to find and share with its users the best promotions available in Singapore.

Designed for locals and tourists alike, SG Insider Deals is a comprehensive online resource for promotions that are well known to the public, as well as those that are known only to a select few. Regardless of where the deal comes from, SG Insider Deals will enable its users to save.

To date, early adopters of the SG Insider Deals platform now offer special promotional rates on deals on Actual Day Wedding Photography packages, tickets to Universal Studios Singapore, tickets to the Singapore Zoological Gardens and tickets to the Singapore Flyer.
 
SG Insider Deals: For the best bargains in Singapore!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Lesson in Crisis Communications: Roy Ngerng and the “suicide bomber” strategy

The Roy Ngerng saga continues with his recent termination by his employer Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Despite Ngerng’s own initial admission (on his Facebook page) that he was "expecting the termination" as he "had been distracted at work", Ngerng now claims that his termination is politically motivated. This change in tact is not unexpected as it is in line with Ngerng’s “escalate at all cost” strategy.
 
As a crisis communications consultant, there is much we can learn …
 
Irrational Opponent. From the very beginning of the crisis, Ngerng has been single-minded in his pursuit of political capital. For what ends, we can only speculate and only time will tell. At each turn of the political “chess match” between PM Lee and Ngerng, Ngerng has consistently out-maneuvered the PM. This is because PM Lee has assessed Ngerng to be a rational opponent and thus each of PM Lee’s move was calculated based on a rational response by Ngerng. Alas, this was not to be the case as Ngerng is not acting rationally. Much like it is impossible to stop a suicide bomber willing to sacrifice his own life for a cause, Ngerng’s consistent escalation of the situation is pushing PM Lee into unchartered territory.
 
Lesson for Crisis Communications. In a crisis communications situation like this, it is important to determine the opponent’s end game. Knowing this will not only give you an indication of his likely strategy and his response to your moves, but in the case of a “suicidal blogger” necessitate a change in strategy.
 
Building upon the suicide bomber analogy, Ngerng’s outcome is a foregone conclusion. The damages awarded is likely to be substantial (remember Ngerng had asked Han Hui Hui to state that his comments have received more than 1 million views). Ngerng will thus unlikely be able to pay the damages and will eventually be made a bankrupt. The question that remains is how many Ngerng “kills” in the process and whether he can pick the place and time of the “explosion” so that it can become a rallying cry and catalyst for other anti-government activists to follow.
 
In this scenario, the PAP’s playbook of seeking legal recourse for defamation has worked against them. Ngerng  has used this well-known strategy in his favor and has literally set PM Lee on a collision course. Any attempts by PM Lee to cease his court actions will portray him as afraid of Ngerng and undermine his credibility. The only thing, as a crisis communications strategy, that PM Lee can do now is to let the legal process run its course and work to minimize the body count and divert the explosion to a time and place with the minimal of impact.
 
While we at SG Social Media Guru do not condone or support Roy Ngerng in any way, and we in fact condemn the manner in which he is seeking political change, we do however acknowledge that he is indeed a good chess player.
 
In short, in a crisis communications situation, never assume that your opponent will behave rationally.
 
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Important Note: This post is not a political commentary but is used to derive learning lessons with regards to crisis communications. We welcome discussions on the merits of the crisis communications ideas discussed, but will delete political commentaries.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

SG Social Media Guru Supports the Launch of the SG Youth Ambassadors

SG Social Media Guru is pleased to support the launch of the not-for-profit organization SG Youth Ambassadors ....
 
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything,
but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” ~ Helen Keller
 
Recognizing the growing desire of Singapore youths to make the world a better place to live, the Singapore Youth Ambassadors (SYA) has been established as a platform to enable this. Formed by a team of passionate volunteers who have been involved in community work for more than twelve years, SYA aims not only to help youths make a difference, but also to enrich the lives of the youths who participate.

 
How SYA differs from other youth programs is in our emphasis on youths making a difference on other youths. As such, all SYA programs are youth-led in terms of planning, organizing and execution. The SYA does not belong to any individual or organization, but to every youth who believes that education is for all, regardless of your station in life. At SYA, we emphasize the spirit of excellence, responsibility of actions, moral uprightness in our personality, team spirit in our work, a good attitude towards living and, most importantly, service to mankind.
 
Our Program for 2014
 
To help youths make a difference, the SYA has lined-up four events for 2014 - Asia Student Leadership Conference, Asian Arts Festival 2014, Youth Environmental Summit and Hospitality Tourism Forum.
 
a. Asia Student Leadership Conference (ASLC) (3 to 7 August 2014). The ASLC is a leadership program that aims to imbue in youths an understanding of responsibility and the under-taking of it. In line with our approach of an event by youths for youths, speakers at the event will include youths with adults acting only as mentors. Incorporating youths from developed and developing countries, we want participants to recognize that they are the future and that together they can make a difference in the world. Key partners for the Conference are the Salvation Army, the Singapore Science Centre, the Boys brigade and Paya Lebar Methodist School.
 
b. Asian Arts Festival 2014 (AAF) (8 to 11 August 2014). With the theme “breaking Boundaries,” the AAF aims to promote Art for everyone. The AAF will use Art as the platform to breakdown the barrier between people and to youths (including the disabled) to share their dreams and to go beyond their own limits. Research has shown that “vocalizing” a dream increases the probability of achieving it. Key partners for this event are the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS), Paya Lebar Methodist Girl School and the London College of Music.
 
c. Youth Environmental Summit (YES). The YES is a program dedicated to educating the next generation about the importance of saving the earth and instilling the responsibility in them to protect it. Besides raising awareness of the impact of human actions on the environment, the YES will demonstrate to participants that every little “green” action helps and how youths can make a difference in protecting mother earth. The YES will focus on including participants from countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Laos and Myanmar.
 
d. Hospitality Tourism Forum (HTF). The HTF is our tourism forum. Through the HTF we endeavor to help more youths understand the service industry and how they can contribute in this area. This is a platform to showcase youths contributing to the economy of the world.
 
To be a part of the solution, you can make a difference by liking us at SG Youth Ambassadors.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Social Media Marketing Singapore: Instant Online Presence to over 300,000 Singaporeans

Traffic! Traffic! Traffic! To succeed online, you need to have traffic. The challenge for Singapore SMEs is that it takes time (and money) to build an online presence. Recognizing the need for businesses to be able to quickly establish an online presence, CW Fong & Associates has developed an online marketing system that will provide any Singapore-based business with INSTANT online presence.
 
Leveraging on a "system" of mutually reinforcing established social media platforms like blogsites (SG Wedding Guru, SG Tutors, SG Corporate Training to name a few), Twitter (@SG_Insider), Acesse Marketing, Paper.Li (Hashtag Singapore) and CWFA's very proprietary Facebook Page Champions, CWFA is able to provide your business with an instant online presence to over 300,000 Singaporeans a month. The power of our online marketing system is in its persistence in front of your target market, and the "word of mouth" effect.  
 
Social Media Marketing Strategy for Singapore SMEs
 
 
To find out how we can help you succeed online, email our Principal Consultant via Justin[a]cwfongandassociates.com.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Crisis Communications: The CPF Saga - What are the real issues and concerns?

In a recent crisis communications training workshop, I was asked my views about the ongoing saga concerning the CPF, the allegations of misappropriation by the PM and the raising of the minimum sum.
 
My response was that the government’s responses were addressing the symptoms (i.e. issues) and not the disease (i.e. concerns). This is because I do not believe that any objective Singaporean will believe that the PM has misappropriated CPF funds, nor will they believe that our government is bankrupt and are thus unable to honor the obligations of the CPF. All these are just “lightening rods” which rabble-rousers like Roy Ngerng are using to stoke public sentiments and to build political capital.

 
In my opinion, responding to these issues will be an endless (and fruitless) endeavor as they do not address the real concerns of the stakeholders. As such, they will inevitably resurface in another form. Additionally, responding to these issues will only pull the government down into a “tactical” battle that will not only suck up its resources but embroil them in a battle without any possible hope of victory.
 
As a crisis communications consultant, I have consistently advise my clients to look past the issues in a crisis and to only address the concerns of the stakeholders. In this instance, it is highly unlikely that any objective Singaporean will quibble over why the CPF is only paying 2.5 % interest while the GIC earns 6%; or that they want to withdraw all their CPF upon retirement and then starve in their twilight years. While I can appreciate that the Singapore government is on the proverbial ropes to show that they are listening to Singaporeans, a more effective response would be to understand the concerns of the public and address that. In this case, the concern is not so much the shape or form of the CPF (or even the minimum sum), but rather how am I supposed to live when I retire.
 
In my opinion, to end this “crisis” decisively, the Singapore government needs to address the concern about life after retirement.
 
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Please note that this post is not a political commentary but is used to derive learning lessons with regards to crisis communications. I welcome discussions on the merits of the crisis communications concepts discussed, but will delete political commentaries.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Roy Ngerng, PM Lee and the Coup in Thailand

As I observe (and study) the unfolding saga of the coup in Thailand, I believe that the military Junta will find itself in an uphill struggle to gain complete control of the country. Unlike previous coups where information was centrally controlled and occupation of media centres allowed the military the ability to control information flow, the prevalence of social media has made it impossible (without draconian measures) to control what people are saying and to shape perceptions. In fact as social media begins to spread news of a citizenry opposed to the coup (whether true or not), such "news" is enough to trigger a movement against the military. Once again, the power of social media to defy censorship and be used to rally people is being demonstrated.

Without going into a discussion on the merits of the coup in Thailand, it is suffice to say that information spread on the Internet has the ability to influence large numbers of people. The danger comes when people are manipulated by those with ill-intent. False information, rumors, smear campaigns and outright deceit on social media platforms can rally people and literally topple legitimately elected governments.

As such, SG Social Media Guru is a firm believer in the responsible use of social media and it is our opinion that PM Lee Hsien Loong's decision to sue local blogger Roy Ngerng is an important line in the sand. If Roy's accusations are left unchecked and unchallenged, these unsubstantiated accusations can gain traction via social media and influence the perception of the less discerning citizenry. The concept of freedom of expression must be twined with the principle of accountability. One without the other will lead to anarchy.

Similar to a case of a person who deliberately shouts fire in a crowded room to cause a stampede is held accountable for his actions, users of social media should also be held accountable for what they say and do on social media. Without this line in the sand, a multi-racial society like Singapore is one step away from anarchy.
 
Social media is a powerful tool that users must use responsibly. If not, then it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that those who abuse it are punished. As the saying goes, "with great powers come great responsibility." 
 
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Public Relations: A sunset industry ...

In one of my earlier post, I talked about the death of the Public Relations agency and the rise of the social media consultancy. After my recent conversation with the head of a government corporate communications division, I am even more convinced.

During our conversation, the issue of crisis communications came up and I shared with him a crisis communications framework which CW Fong & Associates had developed based on academic research and refined via real world application. Before I could even finish explaining the framework, I was brushed aside with the comment that he had no time for theory.

I responded by asking how then did his division manage crisis and his was "based on experience". I then explained that while experience was good, there were two major issues with such an approach. Firstly, experience only helps if you had previously managed a similar incident and learnt from it. What about new incidences? How useful would experience be in unfamiliar incidences? Secondly, without a framework, how would you know what went well and what went wrong? By managing incidences by the seat of your pants, the organization does not learn and hence does not improve on its ability to deal with crisis. Needless to say, our conversation was cut short and I was shown the door rather quickly.

I have said this before and I will say this again. Corporate Communications or PR is dying simply because the pinnacle appointments are being held by dinosaurs. And just like their name sakes, these PR directors will soon become extinct as they simply refuse to accept the fact that communications has changed and that they are ill-equipped to manage it in the new information environment. Rejecting new ideas does not make it less true. Just like continuously repeating that the sky is green, will not make the sky less blue or the fact that the sky is not green.

In my opinion, the sorry state of our government's popularity among the electorate is not from a lack of trying to serve the people. The sorry state is caused by the fact that government leaders have not replaced the dinosaurs with people who know how to communicate in the new information environment.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mark Franklin's Apology - Why it failed ....

Once again it appears that the behavior of an expatriate in Singapore has offended Singaporean. This time, is it Mr. Mark Franklin, the Managing Director of Piaggio in Singapore in what appears to be a road rage incident. While I cannot, or will not, take sides in this matter simply because I was not there and (despite the in-vehicle video) it appears to be a "he said she said" kind of thing, what I will say is that similar to the Anton Casey incident, Mark's apology (while swiftly and personally delivered) did not have the desired effect of quelling public outrage.

As a crisis communications consultant, let us analyze where Mark (and Anton) went wrong ...
 
Mark Franklin's Apology

"First and foremost, I want to apologise to the anonymous driver with whom I had the disagreement shown in the video, and to all who felt offended after watching the silent clip.”

“I humbly admit that I reacted in an inappropriate manner and I deeply regret my response.  I lost my patience and for that I am truly sorry.”

“I would like to stress that in the years that I  lived in Singapore, I have built close friendships with many Singaporeans and have greatly enjoyed living and working here. I have absolutely no prejudices against the people of Singapore, or of any other population.”

“Precisely because of the affection and friendships that link me to Singapore, once again I hope that my apology will be accepted by the anonymous driver and by all.”

Mark”

Reputation Management
 
The first principle of reputation management is to understand and address stakeholder concerns. In this instance, a stakeholder analysis will reveal that public anger centers on the assumption that Mark leads a "privilege" lifestyle in Singapore and that he considers himself "superior" to the locals. As such, any apology or statement from Mark that does not deal with this concern is destined to fail. With this understanding of the context for the public anger, it is clear that Mark's apology failed to address this concern.

The second mistake that Mark and Anton made is that they did not offer any form of contrition. To stakeholders used to PR spin, an apology is just words if it is not followed by some "self-punishment". The willingness to "punish" oneself is taken by stakeholders to represent sincerity. Once again, in both Mark's and Anton's apology, no mention of any acts of "contrition" were offered, resulting in accusations of lack of insincerity.
 
As a communications consultancy, specializing in reputation management, it is CW Fong & Associates' belief that both Mark Franklin and Anton Casey could have better handled the negative fall-out from their actions if they had addressed stakeholder concerns in their apology and back that apology with a show of contrition.
 
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CW Fong & Associates is a Singapore-based communications consultancy specializing in reputation management. We have consulted with Singapore and international companies and celebrities on incidences pertaining to attacks on their reputation. For a confidential consultation, contact us via Justin[a]cwfongandassociates.com



Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Failure of the Public Relations Agency and the Rise of the Social Media Consultancy

In recent years, Public Relations (PR) agencies are struggling to find their role in the new information environment. The is because the proliferation of social media, which has made communications less hierarchical, has effectively eliminated the PR agency's intermediary role.

As social media (which is essentially free) begins to dominate the information environment and companies start to own their own communications platforms (like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), the traditional revenue sources of media placement fees of PR agencies are drying up. Additionally, the ease of using social media and creating powerful online content has also created a situation where companies increasingly go in-house and rely on their own marketing and communications teams to do the "PR" work.

At SG Social Media Guru, we literally saw the writing on the wall and as such have deliberately positioned ourselves as a social media consultancy as opposed to being a public relations agency. We believe that the new information environment requires a fundamental mind-set shift to see social media as a tool for not only engagement, but also a tool for positioning and branding.

One of the main changes we believe that will separate the truly successful company from the rest is the use of employees as brand ambassadors. In this new paradigm, branding a company no longer relies on a centralized campaign led by a PR agency, but on every employee who is now taught how to brand and position the company and are actively encouraged to communicate this to their social media network. The power of this approach is that the company:

A. Taps on the personal network of their employees. This is particularly important for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that do not have a large advertising and promotion budget. Assuming each employee has a social media network of 300 friends, a company of 10 will automatically have an "organic reach" of 3,000. And, if the employees are taught how to effectively use social media, the multiplier effect of shares, likes and comments on Facebook could literally increase this reach by a factor of 10.

B. Capitalizes on the word of mouth effect. As friends believe friends, the likelihood of an advertising message being believed when it comes via social media is infinitely higher then if it came via a newspaper advertisement. The impact of "spontaneous" employee sharing on social media is equivalent to that of word of mouth advertising, which studies have repeatedly shown to be the most effective form of advertising.

In short, in our opinion, social media will in the near future replace traditional main stream media as the primary advertising platform. PR agencies that continue to cling to the old business model of relying on media placement and ad development fees will eventually fail, while PR agencies that make the switch to becoming a social media consultancy will thrive. At SG Social Media Guru, our core "PR" business is in (a) the training of employee as brand ambassadors; (b) the offering of online reputation management services; and (c) in owning a full suite of social media platforms upon which clients can use to complement their own social media channels - this is similar to the current practice of paying newspapers for advertisements.

Friday, April 25, 2014

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Crisis Communications: Can the Singapore Government do no Right?

If you follow social media, you will be forgiven if you believe that the Singapore government can do no right. Any policy announced, no matter how well intentioned, will find its critics and be slammed by "netizens". While most are rants, some couch themselves as academics offering empirical proof that our government's policies are deliberately flawed to benefit the self-serving interests of our Ministers. What these "netizens" will have you believe is that they represent the majority. Just look at the recent backlash against the National Environment Agency's (NEA) licensing requirement for tissue sellers.

As a crisis communications consultant specializing in social media, I firmly believe that social media amplifies sentiments but does not create it. Thus, the unhappiness expressed by these netizens exists and is real. However, having said that, I must caution that while social media does offer a hint at stakeholder sentiments, how representative it is of the entire population cannot be easily inferred. This is because there will always be that percentage of Internet Trolls who are out to stir emotions.

The challenge for the Government is how to filter out the "noise" so as to know what are the true ground sentiments. One simple, but effective, technique that I teach companies (who have embarked on a social media presence) is to monitor and measure social media engagements so as to establish thresholds. Once a "base" level of trolling activities has been identified, social media managers can then confidently ignore the noise and have a trigger point at which they will know that a response is necessary.

As long as social media exists, trolling will be a part of it. Companies and politicians with social media presence must accept that they will be targets and not be distracted by the actions of trolls. In my opinion, while it may appear that the Singapore government can do no right, I believe this is just a perception which can only be verified once the thresholds have been identified.
 
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Petition to Close STOMP - More Form than Substance

CW Fong & Associates' Principal Consultant, Justin Fong, was on Al Jazeera's Stream earlier this morning speaking on the topic of closing STOMP.

This issue arose because a netizen named Robin Li felt that STOMP was an undesirable social media platform as it was promoting public shaming and started a petition to have it closed.

Being a social media consultancy that specializes in reputation management issues, we are often times defending our clients' online (and "real" world) reputation against false and malicious attacks. As much as we loathe the irresponsible use of social media platforms like STOMP, we firmly oppose the petition on the following grounds:

Do not throw the baby out with the bath water. Sure there are many instances of public shaming on STOMP. But this exists on practically every type of social media platforms. Closing STOMP will not solve the problem as another platform will take its place. Calling for the closure of STOMP because it promotes public shaming is like calling for a ban on car sales as it causes accidents. The platform is not the issue. How people use it is.

Social Media amplifies, it does not create. One of the biggest obstacles companies face when deciding on whether to have a social media presence is the question of "what if I don't like what I hear". As I always tell my clients, whether you have a social media presence or not, people are taking about you on social media. Denying the problem does not make it go away. Not hearing the negative feedback does not change the facts. While STOMP's stories are mostly negative, it does provide a good barometer of public sentiments. Just like if there is a trend of customer complaints about poor product quality, then there must be an issue over quality control. In the same light, if there are numerous complaints about anti-social behavior, then there is more that can be done to educate people. In short, Social Media does not create the issues, it just amplifies them.

Can't put the genie back in the bottle. Much as the supporters of the petition would like, I am afraid that you can't put the genie back in the bottle. The amorphous and ubiquitous nature of the world wide web means that people will increasingly develop and post their own contents on the web. If supporters of the petition think by closing STOMP people will suddenly become more civil or society will change, they are delusional. Even if just 0.1% of netizens are trolls, that means in a population of 5 million, there are 5,000 people out there causing trouble. To me, the answer lies not in stopping the trolls as this is impossible. The answer lies in educating the other 99.9% on how to differentiate truth from fiction. Like it or not, social media is here to stay.

In short, while the petition by Robin Li is initiated and supported with good intentions, we believe that it is a knee-jerk reaction that is more form than substance. Perhaps the one good thing that has come out of this petition, is that there is an ongoing discussion on the need for responsible use of social media.
 
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Sunday, April 6, 2014

SG Social Media Guru: Social Media Consultants in Singapore - CW Fong & Associates

Profile of Singapore leading social media consultancy

Who we are? Leading Singapore-based management consultancy specializing in social media, social media marketing, crisis communications and reputation management.

What we do? Help SMEs communicate via leveraging on social media and traditional media tools like content marketing, social media platforms, SEO, Website Design, Logo Design, News Release, …

Where we do our work? Real World and Cyberspace. Mainstream Media, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp!, blogs, …

When we do our work? At any phase of the client’s business - we do retainers, one-off campaigns, training workshops and turnkey projects of any scale.

Why choose us? Because we know what we are doing! Using only an idea, a computer with internet connection, and our frameworks, we have established and successfully monetized 3 blogs (SG Wedding Guru, SG Tutors and SG Corporate Training). SG Social Media Guru (our professional blog) is also on Google Page 1 for the keyword phrases “social media marketing consultant singapore”, “top social media consultants in singapore”, “social media trainer singapore”, “crisis communications training singapore”, and “reputation management Singapore".

Our Portfolio (Past and Existing Clients and Workshop Participants): Yeo Hiap Seng (M) Sdn Bhd, Symrise Singapore, DSM, National Health Group, Philips Securities, Queenstown Primary School, Autodesk Asia Pte Ltd, Ministry of Defence, Singapore Police Force, National Kidney Foundation, National Youth Council, CWT Limited, GuMaJia, Kharactorz, Ascendant Assets, Arbinger SEA, IASO Skin Care, BAHASAGURU, Club Glassy, Pub Casablanca, VChat123, Laguna Lang Co., HIE55, Actions for Earth, IE Singapore, Fitness Training and Sports Academy (FiTSA), International Association of Facilitators (IAF), Asian Arts Festival 2014, …

Our Contact: For a no-obligation discussion on how we can help you increase sales and profitability or manage your online reputation, email our Principal Consultant via Justin[a]cwfongandassociates.com