Saturday, December 26, 2015

Crisis Management: Facebook Comments and The Silent Majority

As social media becomes increasingly ubiquitous, crisis managers often monitor social media to gauge stakeholders' reaction to the crisis. The volume (and syntax) of Facebook likes, shares and comments are tracked and analyzed to guide the crisis management team's public response to the crisis.
 
While useful, recent research has shown that Facebook likes, shares and comments may not be representative of the public's true sentiments. This is because, recent analysis of Facebook comments made during a crisis, reveals that the majority of comments come from a few vocal opponents of the company/ organization. Thus, while the user engagement rate (used as a proxy for public angst) is high, this is artificial as the angst is contained within the few vocal opponents of the company/ organization.
 
As such, while engagement rates do provide some insights into public sentiments, they need to be analyzed against the reach of the Facebook post. The same study revealed that there were many instances in which Facebook users read a post about the crisis but chose not to act and this number is assessed to be representative of the silent majority. Thus, in a scenario where there is high reach and a high engagement rate which is confined to the vocal minority, crisis managers can safer assume that the impact on stakeholders is not high.
 
As a guide, crisis managers should use social media monitoring as one of the data points to be considered when assessing stakeholder anger. Using it together with other assessment tools like ground surveys and focus groups will give the crisis manager a more accurate sense of the situation and will minimize instances of over-reacting.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Social Media Marketing Tip: Company vs Community Page

Like it or not, having a social media presence is essential for small business success. Some studies have shown that as much as 90% of all buying purchases start online and close to 96% involve some sort of social media search.
 
It is thus not surprising that Singapore small businesses are taking to having Facebook pages. One of the main advice we give our clients is to complement their company Facebook page with a Facebook community page. The former is akin to "above the line" marketing, while the latter is an approach to soft-sell their company's product and services. This is especially important for countries like Singapore, where Singaporeans do not like to like company pages. A community page, which provides useful and trending information about the industry, is therefore more likely to garner more likes and have greater reach.

Whenever we tell clients to do this, almost all the clients will say that it is an excellent idea, but they do not have the time to produce the contents to manage their company page, let alone develop content for a community page. To be honest, where a Facebook community page is concerned, content is the least of the worries. Creating a successful Facebook community page is as simple as identifying 5 to 8 related pages and sharing their contents 2 or 3 times a day. Using Facebook's page manager, the administrator of the page can do this on the go. As a guide, the related pages should be a good mix of popular pages mixed with interesting (but credible) less popular pages. This way, your community page is not only sharing trending contents, but contents that are less well known.
 
In a sense, if you do not have time to set-up and manage company page, it is easily to set-up a community page. With a community page, most of the contents are already readily available on Facebook. All you then need to do, is to create and post the occasional ads for your own company's product and services. The other major upside to this approach is that since it is not seen as an "ad", the word of mouth effect will up the credibility of your company's product and service.

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At CW Fong & Associates we believe that everyone knows how to use social media, but not everyone knows how to use social media. If you want to create a social media presence for your company or organization, email us at anna[a]cwfongandassociates.com.
 
singapore social media experts
 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Crisis Communications: Singapore's Minister of State Teo Ser Luck Denies Comment

In an interesting turn of events, Singapore's Minister of State Teo Ser Luck denies that he had made the controversial comment about foreign worker preferring to sleep without mattresses in dormitories. The Ministry of Manpower, on whose Facebook page the comment appeared, clarified that the comment was made by a Facebook page administrator and the Ministry regrets the unintended implications, and any misunderstanding that the post had caused.
 
crisis communications tip teo ser luck
 
Instead of abating the negative publicity for Teo, the Ministry's comments only fuelled further anger from netizens. Most netizens view the statement as an attempt by Teo to push the blame, with many doubting that it was possible for a lowly civil servant to post on behalf of a Minister without the Minister's personal clearance. Netizens have also alluded to Teo's poor character where he takes credit when things are positive and blames the FB administrator when things turn out bad.
 
So where did Mr Teo and/or his PR team go wrong? And, more importantly, what can public personalities do to avoid such faux pas.
 
At CW Fong & Associates, besides focusing on what contents to post for our clients, we also have an Out of Bounds (OB) list. This OB list comprises contents or images which the personality (and our Team) should never post on the personality's social media accounts. In Mr Teo's case, as there is a strong pre-existing perception that Ministers in Singapore have lost touch with the common man, having an OB list would have prevented a post commenting that foreign workers prefer to sleep on hard boards instead of soft mattresses. As the comment reinforces the negative image of the personality, the social media post is a clear invitation to be flamed.
 
Given the nature of social media, knowing what not to post is as important as knowing what to post. In our experience working with companies and personalities, the OB list is often unheard of. Not surprisingly, it is those companies without the OB list that get into trouble on social media.
 
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If your organization does not have an OB list and needs assistance in developing one, contact our social media consultants at anna[a]cwfongandassociates.com.
 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Social Media Management Tip: Leveraging Facebook Shares

Similar to location, location and location for properties, when it comes to social media, it is all about shares, shares and shares.
 
Users of social media platforms share contents with their friends which they find interesting and insightful. Unfortunately, when contents are shared, the originator of the content may or may not be included in the link. When this happens, companies lose the opportunity to raise awareness for their own brands.
 
One effective way to leverage on Facebook shares to brand your company, is to create an infographic with your company's logo embedded into it. This way, whenever the content is shared, your logo is shared with the infographic. Singapore's UOB used this technique well when it created the following infographic on gift-giving trends. As this is the Christmas season, the infographic is topical and hence likely to be shared.
 
positive example of social media marketing
 
For more social media management tips, follow us at SG Social Media Guru.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Social Media Marketing Tip: How Facebook ranks your posts

Getting maximum reach is top of the mind for all social media marketers. Social media platforms on the other hand filter posts to give their users the most relevant contents. This is where understanding the algorithms of social media platforms separates the good social media marketers from the great.

As a guide, Facebook has an internal ranking of users' posts. Of course Edge Ranking (or a variation of it) continue to influence what users see, but Facebook also considers the type of post uploaded. Generally, video posts are ranked the highest and they will appear on the News Feeds of your fans. Next on the list are posts with pictures and text, followed by pictures alone and finally text alone.

Understanding this algorithm, CW Fong & Associates advises our clients to never post text alone. Where possible, always find an accompanying picture to post with any announcements they want to make. Using this one simple tip, will increase your reach as it moves your post up 2 ranks.

Conversely, if you are a crisis communicator and, for strategic reasons, want to "inform" stakeholders without drawing unnecessary attention to your message, you will simply post a text. Doing this, will help ensure that your notice does not get too much attention.

For more social media marketing tips, follow us at www.fb.com/cwfongandassociates.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Social Media Insight: Is Donald Trump Really Winning?

In recent days, the world has been rocked by Republican front-runner for the US Presidency Donald Trump's comment on his plan to ban all Muslims from entering the US. As the world and, many US citizens, denounce Donald Trump view as un-American, observers are puzzled as to why Donald Trump continues to rise in popularity.

Being the media savvy businessman that he is, Donald Trump is clearly manipulating social media to create this effect. An analysis of his recent post will show that he has cleverly used three social media techniques to perpetuate this false impression.


Firstly, Trump uses Avatar (Dan Vieira in this case) to fight his social media campaign. Next, Trump used his Avatar to comment immediately after his post so as to shape the conversation and to create the perception that other Americans held similar views as Trump. And thirdly, Trump boosted the Avatar's comment by driving likes to keep it at the top of the comment list so that it continues to shape and influence the online conversation.

Thus, as far as we can analyze, Donald Trump's comments are very likely not representative of the American people and he is not as popular as people are led to believe. Unfortunately, most Americans do not have the social media sophistication to see through Trump's trickery and many will be lulled into joining the bandwagon and voting for Trump simply because they think others are.

Social Media is a dangerous tool. Used wrongly by someone with the know-how, or money to buy the know-how, it can literally be used for unethical purposes. We can only hope that the adage that you cannot lie to all the people all of the time will come true and Americans will realize that they are being manipulated by Donald Trump and not vote for him.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Social Media Marketing Tip: Inform, Educate and Entertain

Congratulations! You have successfully set-up your company's Facebook page.

Now what?

Surprisingly, this is a common question we hear from many Singapore small business owners. This is because business owners see social media platforms like Facebook as an ends and not a means to an ends. All the small business owner knows is that he needs to be online. Somehow, many assume that by just being online, something magical will happen. This cannot be farther from the truth.

The other common mistake that many small business owners make is to use their Facebook page as a direct marketing platform. Post after post they "sell" to their fans. The truth is, no one likes your page to be sold to. So if you keep selling, you will lose your fans. Fast!

So what is a small business owner to do?

The main role of social media marketing is to help businesses build and maintain mind share. This top of the mind recall is important as it puts you in a position to sell when the client is ready to buy.

With this as the approach, contents on your company's Facebook page should seek to inform, educate and entertain your prospective buyers. For example, business owners can share information about developments in the industry, educate their fans on how they can use their company's products or even post random jokes to boost the mood. Done consistently, a business' Facebook page will become a valuable source of information for your prospective buyers. Once this happens and the page becomes the "go to" page, this will then enable the small business owner to soft sell their product and services.

Social media is different from traditional media. Business owners must understand social media and how best to leverage it. While it may not be wrong to use traditional media concept and approaches in your company's social media campaign, it will however not bring you the return on investment you desire.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Crisis Management Insight: Uber Singapore LTA Scuffle

27 November 2015. On Friday evening, an Uber driver was involved in a scuffle with a Land Transport Authority (LTA) enforcement officer. The scuffle which was recorded and uploaded on Facebook by the passenger who had booked the Uber driver went viral.
 
Almost immediately, the LTA began to distance itself from its officer. A statement was issued within an hour or so saying that the LTA takes a serious view of the incident and will not condone any acts of violence by its officers or outsourced officers. LTA added that the enforcement officer has been suspended from all duties with immediate effect pending further investigations.
 
Subsequently, LTA issued a statement the next day (28 November 2015) saying that it had has concluded its investigation into the incident and that the Police is currently investigating the case. LTA added that the officer is likely to be terminated upon the completion of the Police’s investigations.
 
lta uber driver fight
 
In a crisis scenario, management needs to address the concerns of multiple stakeholders. While the customer is an important stakeholder, the employee is also equally important. How an organization treats its employee in a crisis speaks as much of their own values as how they treat the complainant. If employees believe that management will always side with the customer, poor employee morale will be the result.
 
In scenarios like this, employees want to know that they will be treated fairly. If they are wrong, they can expect to be disciplined. But if they are not, they expect the company to stand behind them. In this instance, LTA's quick effort to distance themselves from the incident is poor for the morale of all LTA enforcement officers. Instead, LTA would have done better to be seen punishing the act and not the man. In fact, a by-stander has come forward to support the enforcement officer saying that the Uber driver had provoked the officer.
 
uber lta scuffle
 
At CW Fong & Associates we do not believe that the customer is always right. Organizations that want to manage a crisis well, need to understand that their employee is an important stakeholder.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Social Media Tip for Small Business

Small businesses are always on a shoe-string budget and even something as routine as placing jobs ads for staff can put a dent in their operating budget.

One creative idea that small businesses in Singapore can consider is to use Facebook sponsored ads. Simply draft a job ad, post it and then use FB's ad function.
 
social media tip for small business
 
This approach is not only creative, but it is an effective and efficient manner to advertise. Effective because FB's ad function allows you to select who you want to see the ad, and efficient because using PPC you only pay for clicks on your ad. And, if the ad is well designed, the likes, shares and comments would amplify the ad's reach and generate awareness for the business. A great two-in-one thing that is not possible with traditional classified ads. 

Social Media is a game changer that has put the means in everybody's hands. With the proper know-how, Singapore small businesses can leverage on the power of social media. As the above example has shown, by simply using FB ads, a Singapore small business can for a budget as little as USD5, find that dream employee.
 
For more information on how you can leverage on social media, contact anna[a]cwfongandassociates.com to arrange a non-obligatory social media consultation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Social Media: What going viral taught me ....

Last Wednesday started our as any other work day. I was deep into my work when I decided that I needed a short break and decided to catch up on my social media. I chanced across an interesting post and since it resonated with me, I decided to share it with my friends on Facebook. Nothing unusual. This is something I had done dozens of times before.
 
FB viral posts in singapore
 
Later in the evening, I once again checked my Facebook and was pleasantly surprised that my recent Facebook post had garnered quite a bit of likes and shares from my friends. What surprised me more was that friends who had never liked, shared or commented on my posts before did. Wow! I said to myself. This was indeed an interesting post and thought nothing further about it.
 
The next morning, a check of my Facebook account showed that I had garnered a considerable amount of likes and shares. More than I had before, but no where in the thousands as I only had 589 Facebook friends. Once again I was pleased and mentally patted myself on the back.
 
Things started to change around lunch time when I received a whatsapp message with a screen shot of my Facebook post from a friend saying that Mr Brown had shared my post. I was shocked. This was just the beginning. More messages came in from friends complimenting me on a great post. Then it started. More Singapore social media influencers picked up on Mr Brown's posts and started to share. Very soon, I was on Mothership, Kaki News Network, All Singapore Stuff and Talking Singapore to name a few. My simple post had gone viral.
 
I must admit that for someone working in the domain of social media, we constantly work to get our client's contents to go viral. I have had good success over the years, but this is the first time that I can confidently and without hesitation say, that a post of mine has achieved the very definition of viral. Not many in Singapore can lay claim that.
 
Going viral has taught me three important lessons ....
 
While the content is important, the network is more so. This is because the content that I shared is literally not new. There had been several versions of it on the internet for some time, but it did not go viral. In fact, I had merely shared a post that I saw.
 
Importance of Influencers. Like it or not, some netizens are more influential than others. It could be because of their fan base, or their position in society or even the public perception that they "represent" the ground, whatever it is, an important step to get your content to go viral is catch the attention of these influencers. As influencers watch influencers, getting shared by one will create a momentum.
 
Going Viral is Not a Science. Much as social media consultants will claim that they can make your Facebook posts go viral, despite having gone viral myself, I still firmly believe that it is impossible to guarantee. This is because the factors involved are extremely dynamic. Besides the content and the network, how the Facebook post resonates with netizens is also an important factor which unfortunately is more art than science.
 
In short, social media marketers who want to go viral, should focus on building their networks and their ability to identify what resonates with netizens. With this as the backdrop, going viral will be only a "correct" post away.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Business Insight: Failure of Groupon

TechCrunch reported that the end of Groupon is in sight.

business insights on groupon singapore failure

Unfortunately, Groupon's demise was something that we had predicted as early as 3 years ago. Starting out with a bang and flushed with investor cash, Groupon was able to rapidly build an initial client base. Unfortunately, Groupon's business model was fundamentally flawed as they did not seek to make money with their business partners (the retailers), but from them.

This is seen in Groupon's demand for high commission rates of 30-35% while insisting that retailers offer customers "exceptional" deals. What happens at the end of the transaction is that Groupon and the customer wins with the big loser being the retailer. Adding fuel to the fire is that the low pricing self-selects bargain hunters who, by their nature, will never pay full price for the retailer's service. Thus what was supposed to be an introductory offer, often became a one-off sale.

Given the lose-lose situation facing retailers, it was inevitable that retailers would abandon using Groupon as a marketing platform. Couple this with the negative feedback on the effectiveness of using Groupon's services, Groupon's demise was inevitable.

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About CWFA. As part of CWFA's PR consulting work, understanding the business model of our client and the industry they operate in is imperative. Without a clear sense, CWFA would be unable to adequately advise our clients. This unique business perspective is what separates us from other PR firms.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Crisis Communications Insight: #ParisAttacks #Prayforparis

Yesterday, many Singaporeans woke up to the news that the city of Paris was under attack (from terrorists who were later to be confirmed from ISIS). Social media as well as main stream media was flooded with news and stories about the attacks and, for a moment, it appeared that the world stood still as nothing else mattered.
 
Inevitably, even as police investigations commenced and calls were made not to speculate on the reason for or who the people responsible for the attacks were, hate messages started on social media. Slowly but surely, anger at the Muslims and calls for revenge were heard. As these messages started to spread, the seeds for potential violence against fellow Muslim Singaporeans began to be planted.
 
Thankfully, rational Singaporeans exist and counter-movements calling on Singaporeans to reject violence started. One such counter-movement was started by the Facebook page Talking Singapore with the message "Stand united against terrorism. One people. One Nation." Unfortunately we cannot directly assess the impact this had, but Talking Singapore's FB post garnered over 66 likes and 23 shares within the first 12 hours. If we assume an average friend base of 800, the combined likes and shares would have reached an estimated 71,200 people. While not significant, a reach of 70,000 plus is also not insignificant (in the context of Singapore). Combine this with the numerous other counter-movements, it is our assessment that potential violence was avoided.
 
Singapore #parisattacks #prayforparis
 
In short, as we have stated time and again, Social Media is a good servant but bad master. Organizations, and in this instances governments, need to use it to their advantage in a crisis. As organizations cannot rely on the good will of platform owners, they need to develop and own platforms that will then allow them to push out the "correct" messages at critical times.
 
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For more insights, follow us on Facebook.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Social Media Insights: Amplification

Channel News Asia today published a report on the effectiveness of Social Media on the outcome of the Singapore General Election 2015 GE2015). In their report, Dr Woo Jun Jie of the Public Policy and Global Affairs Programme at Nanyang Technological University was quoted as saying that while the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) was the most effective in the use of social media during GE2015, this did not translate into votes at the ballot boxes. According to Dr Woo's analysis, trust and confidence built through walking the ground still play a vital role in helping politicians to secure a large margin of victory.
 
At CW Fong & Associates (CWFA) we would like to offer a different perspective. At CWFA, we see social media as nothing more than an amplification tool. And as an amplifier, it will amplifies core of the brand. If a brand is good, the good gets amplified. If the brand is bad, then the bad gets amplified. In the case of the SDP, the problem was not social media, but the "branding" of the SDP.
 
This is no different from traditional marketing campaigns. If a product or brand does not fulfill a market need, or is not seen as credible, no amount of marketing will improve sales. It is thus important that organizations see social media for what it is - a tool, and not just blindly embark on a social media campaign without first ensuring that they have a good product and a viable brand.
 
Thus, at CWFA, all social media campaigns we work on for our clients begins with an analysis of their products' unique selling proposition (USP) and their branding. If we cannot get it right at this stage, we would rather reject the job then mislead our client.
 
 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Crisis Communications Insight: Elderly Lady's Hand Severed by HDB Lift

Singapore. On 9 Oct 2015, Channel News Asia reported that an elderly lady's hand had been severed after being caught between the lift doors.
 
crisis communications singapore
 
A quick glance at the incident may lead some crisis communicators to assess that this will be a crisis for the Jurong Town Council (TC) or the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Unfortunately, they will be mistaken.
 
Based on our proprietary crisis framework, stakeholders attribute blame based on the three factors of locus of control, predictability and controllability. As none of the factors currently link directly back to the TC or the HDB, there is a very low probability that stakeholders will blame these two organizations. This will of course change if subsequent independent investigations reveal that the TC or the HDB had been negligent in maintaining the sensors or if another similar incident happened.
 
In this instance, the PR professionals managing the incident should not assume that the incident will not turn into a crisis. They would therefore do well to recognize the 2 scenarios that can turn this into a crisis and manage for it. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

SEO Prices - Singapore

The importance of SEO cannot be understated. Without traffic, any business website is a wasted expense. At CW Fong & Associates (CWFA), we have come across businesses that had spent over USD10,000 to create a stunning website. But when we ask how much they spent on SEO, the answer was nothing and that they now had no money left over for it.

seo prices singapore

Unfortunately, SEO cannot be automated. This is because search engines like Google and Yahoo! constantly adjust their search algorithm to ensure that their portals organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful to the user. Implied in this, is the adjustments to keep people from gaming the system. Thus, even as the price of RAM, memory space and hardware drop, successful SEO requires human intervention and it is one of the few IT related product and services that have not reduced in price over the years.

At CWFA, we work closely with our partners from around the world to deliver not only the most effective SEO services, but we also work with our partners to ensure that our clients receive the best value for money.

Our Website Optimization package costs only $2,400 and we guarantee page one ranking (on Google and other major search engines) for at least 5 out of 10 selected keywords within 3 months. If we fail to deliver, you will get a full refund of any fees paid. Our guarantee is unique as other SEO service providers may take more time to achieve page 1 ranking and they do not guarantee first page ranking.

If you are keen to understand how SEO can benefit your business, email anna[a]cwfongandassociates.com

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Crisis Communications Training Singapore - Our Edge

The proliferation of social media has created an unprecedented demand for PR professionals who are able to handle crisis communications. The non-hierarchical manner in which information is shared, the speed with which negative news travels and the rise of the citizen journalists has created challenges for even the most experienced PR teams.

To prepare their organizations for the new information environment, government agencies, Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) and even Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have begun attending training workshops and seminars on 'crisis communications in the era of social media'. To meet this new training demand, numerous crisis communications consultants have set-up shop. Unfortunately, the industry is unregulated and, as can be expected, the quality varies greatly between trainers and consultants.

A significant problem with most of the training workshops and seminars being offered is that the trainer or consultant will always teach from the perspective of what their experience tells them to do. This is a problem as the participants do not have the trainers' or consultants' experience and hence the crisis management solutions that the participants eventually learn cannot be easily replicated.

This is where CW Fong & Associates' (CWFA) crisis communications training seminars differ from the others offered in Singapore and, by our estimates, around the world. CWFA recognized that for crisis communications training to be effective, the training needed to move away from being an "art" and made into a "science". Hence, our team embarked on researching and developing our own in-house crisis communications frameworks based on the science of psychology, sociology and communications.

crisis communications training singapore seminar

Comprising our core modules of: (a) insights into the new information environment; (b) stakeholder analysis; (c) crisis framework; and (d) our SCAER model, our crisis communications workshop/ seminar teaches participants proprietary frameworks and models which will enable even the most junior PR practitioner to handle 80% of crisis situations an organization will encounter. Additionally, by knowing the "science", the PR professional would be able to provide the necessary strategic counsel to even the most demanding c-suite executive.

To enquire about CWFA's crisis communications in-house training or 1-day seminars for PR professionals, contact us at anna[a]cwfongandassociates.com.

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Our Consultants have to date trained over 1,000 PR professionals both in Singapore and the region. Besides MNCs like Symrise, DSM and Lanxess, our consultants have also been engaged to train government officials from the Ministry of Information, Myanmar.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Crisis Communications: Singapore Cooperation Programme - Myanmar (21 Sep to 24 Sep 2015)

CW Fong & Associates is pleased to have been a part of MFA's Singapore Cooperation Programme on Crisis Communications for Myanmar Ministry of Information officials from 21 to 24 September 2015.

Attended by 36 officials from across Myanmar, the 3-day training workshop provided participants with the fundamentals of understanding the new information environment and frameworks which they can use to better manage information in a crisis.

crisis communications training singapore cooperation programme
Class Photo

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Social Media Marketing Insights for Singapore SMEs: Changing Demographics

Statistics compiled by wearesocial for September 2015 show that there is still a significant amount of people who continue to use Facebook in Singapore. In line with anecdotal evidence, the main users of Facebook are not your typical teenagers, but more your young working adults (25 to 34) and working adults (35 to 44). This finding is significant for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) as Facebook fan pages continue to be viable low cost alternative form of advertising.

social media marketing singapore

Understanding the life-cycle needs of Singaporeans, Facebook fan pages is therefore a must for companies that sell to working adults, young couples and couples with children. Bridal boutiques, renovation companies, tuition centres, travel agencies and retailers of luxury goods are a few of those that can directly benefit from a social media presence. In fact, analysis of the statistics show that Facebook users then to be predominantly males and hence Facebook ads should be pitched primarily from the male perspective.
In short, the demographics of the Singapore Facebook user has changed. Companies who want to leverage on Social Media to market their product and services in Singapore would do well to understand the changes. Contrary to what some "experts" are claiming, Facebook is not dead. It is the demographics that has changed.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Crisis Communications Tip: Fill the Information Vaccum

Crisis Communications Tip: Fill the Information Vaccum
 
In a crisis communications situation, when the organization is attempting to make sense of the incident, there is a strong tendency for crisis managers to withhold information. The reasoning is that they need time to figure things out. Unfortunately, in the era of social media, this is a mistake!
 
In the past when information flow was hierarchical, crisis managers could afford to wait as stakeholders only had a few sources of information and it took time for news of the incident to spread. In today's information environment, information literally flows continuously and via networks of friends, co-workers, activists and family. Thus, even as the organization is trying to make sense of the incident, people are concurrently finding out about the incident and talking about it.
 
And, in situations where there is no official information, stakeholders will latch onto whatever they can pick-up and speculate. Without any official information, stakeholders may also be easily manipulated by people with negative agendas or simply misunderstand the situation and draw the wrong conclusions. Once these take on a life of their own, it then becomes that much more difficult for the organization to debunk the false perceptions and protect its reputation.
 
As the 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 proven, first information "sticks" with the audience and, even if proven false subsequently, will remain "real" in the minds of the audience.
 
In short, in a crisis, organizations must remember to fill the information vaccum with regular press updates or via social media. Failure to do so, will only make reputation management more difficult.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Crisis Communications: Epicfail of Shuqun Secondary School Bully Incident

The recent handling of the Shuqun Secondary school bullying incident has revealed how inapt organizations can be at handling crisis.

shuqun secondary school bully crisis

Statements issued by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the school raised more questions and angst amongst parents than they sought to alleviate. The most disconcerting for parents was the revealation that an "adjunct teacher who was in class during the incident last Friday has been spoken to".

While there are many lessons to be learnt from this, let me just focus on one ... understanding the difference between issue and concerns.

A common mistake when issuing statements in crisis situations is for the organization to address the issue and not the concern of the stakeholders. In this instance, stating that an adjunct teacher was present addresses the issue of class supervision. It however fails to address parents' concern about the safety of their children in school. In fact, stating that a teacher was present, makes the crisis worse as it alludes to a bigger failure of the system.

Generally, issue refers to the Stakeholder's “agenda” towards a particular incident/ crisis, while concerns refers to the Stakeholder's assessment of the impact of the incident on them.

For example, in the scenario of an explosion at a factory, the issue to regulators would be your company's adherence to fire safety protocols, while the concern would be public perception of the regulator's enforcement regime or lack thereof. For the same scenario, the issue to employees would be the damage to their work place, but the concern would be their continued employment. From the scenario, it is clear that addressing the issue, would not address the concern of the stakeholders.

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For information on how CWFA can prepare your organization to successfully manage a crisis situation, contact anna[a]cwfongandassociates.com.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Singapore General Election 2015: Did Social Media Make a Difference?

In the follow-up to the recently concluded Singapore General Election 2015 (GE2015) where the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) scored a landslide victory over the opposition, many political observers have weighed-in on the role of social media.
 
Opposition supporters like Derek da Cunha and Terry Xu of The Online Citizen (TOC) have been quoted as saying that social media had zero impact in moving the votes against the PAP. This is very a very different view from 2011, where they lauded social media as being the "great equaliser".
 
What Derek and Terry have failed to acknowledge is that social media did play an important part in the results, but not in the way they had hoped. Since GE2011, numerous anti-government sites had sprung up. The Real Singapore, The Online Citizen, Temasek Review Emeritus and States Times Review to name a few. Where these sites went wrong is that they were extremely biased against the government to the extent that they often distorted news, start rumours, spread untruths, perpetuate myths and engage in smear campaigns. So much so that the discerning middle ground saw through their actions and dismissed much of what they were saying.
 
The opposition's social media self-implosion was not completely of their own doing. Pro-government supporters also had a part to play in it. Pro-government supporters recognised that the middle ground (the key to winning GE2015) was logical. Thus, instead of fighting the opposition distortion for distortion, rumour for rumour, pro-government supporters fought a more strategic online campaign where they worked to portray anti-government sites as the purveyors of lies and asked voters to do their own research. This essentially undermined the opposition's social media campaigns and negated the effect on the middle ground.
 
Thus, contrary to what opposition social media"experts" are concluding, we believe that GE2015 was in fact more a social media election that GE2011. Having a negative outcome does not dismiss its effect. In actuality, pro-government supporters had learnt from GE2011 and had fought a good campaign to defeat the opposition on social media.
 
 
 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Social Media Lesson: The Dirty Tricks Political Parties Play

Article first publish on SG General Elections 2016

As the battle for hearts and minds heat up in the run-up to General Elections 2016, Singapore opposition supporters are waging "guerrilla warfare" against the incumbent People's Action Party (PAP).

Online Dirty Tricks by Singapore Political Parties

Leveraging on the electorate's short memory, the use of headline messaging and hot button issues, opposition supporters are seeking to undermine the Government by portraying them as out of touch, high-handed and incompetent. To do this, opposition supporters use one or a combination of the following three tactics:
 
#1 Rehash Old News. Whenever there is no "bad news" about the Government, opposition supportes will dig-up old news and rehash them as "breaking news". As most readers on social media only read the headlines, the fact that the incident happened several years ago oftern goes unnoticed. If a particularly emotive topic is chosen, this old news will be shared and will go viral. In this instance, while the Government has done no wrong, the perception that they have is perpetuated.
 
#2: Tell Half-Truths. A second tactic of opposition supporters is to tell half-truths. In this instance, opposition supporters will tell selective parts of an incident so as to let the reader believe that the Government is incompetent. One common half-truth that the opposition is still perpetuating is that the Temasek Holding lost $40 billion in 2009. What they fail to tell you is that that was during the global financial crisis where every company lost money. More importantly, they leave out the fact that Temasek Holdings has since recovered from the loss and gone on to make substantial profits.
 
#3 Spread Lie. The third tactic of the opposition supporters is to tell lies to make the Government look bad. One recent incident was related to the Government's SG50 initiative to give Singapore Seniors a $50 top-up of the EZ-Link card. While it was widely publicized that the top-up would begin on 12 June 2015 and that Seniors had up to one and a half years to redeem the top-up, opposition supporters deliberately started a SMS campaign on 9 June 2015 telling Seniors that they had only one day to top-up their cards. Senior were told to rush down today or else they would not get the top-up.
 
Sadly, to the less informed, these top three dirty tricks used by opposition supporters work. In today's environment where Singaporeans are overloaded with information, people only glance at the headlines and jump to conclusions. We hope that by educating Singaporeans on the tricks used by opposition supporters, Singaporeans will not fall prey to these misinformation and will vote wisely at GE2016

Crisis Communications Tip - Headline Messaging

As the information environment gets increasingly saturated, in order to cope, people are beginning to scan the news to stay up to date with what is happening in the world.



In fact, studies have shown that 70% of social media users only read the headlines of news article. If you don't believe us, take a closer look at the picture that accompanies this blog posting. How many of you noticed that the text after the headlines is gibberish? Not many we'll bet. :)

The point we are trying to make here is that headlines matter. That is why we have constantly emphasized the importance of getting it right the first time. In fact, we have even said that retractions don't work as the person that saw the erroneous headlines is unlikely to see the retraction.

So when managing a crisis (especially on social media), focus on headline messaging. To gain (or regain) the information initiative, proactively and continual post headlines that support your theme. Even if you have minimal or no content, pushing out a Facebook post with the correct headline will help.