Monday, December 26, 2016

Fact Checking Singapore: Fake News on Social Media

In the wake of Donald Trump's win at the 2016 US Presidential Elections, the effect of fake news on social media on voters has come under intense scrutiny. So much so that Facebook announced on 15 Dec 2016 that they begin flagging fake news stories with the help of users and outside fact checkers.
 
According to Facebook, readers will be able to alert Facebook to possible fake news stories. If enough users report a story as fake, the social network will then pass it onto third parties to verify the facts. Facebook has identified five fact-checking organizations that they will work with - ABC News, AP, FactCheck.org, Politifact and Snopes.
 
While Facebook' introduction of this feature is a step in the right direction, we believe that there is little to cheer for Singaporeans. As far as we can tell, the fact-checking organizations are focused only on matters related to the US.
 
We are therefore pleased that some Singaporeans have started their own Fact Checking sites in Singapore. One that was highlighted to us was Fact Check Singapore. While it is still new and difficult to assess their agenda, their first few posts appear well researched and backed with "proof".
 
Unfortunately, with all the distortions, rumors, untruths, myths and smears that alternative media sites and personalities post on a daily basis, we are not too sure how much Fact Check Singapore can verify. Judging that they are a BlogSpot account, we assess that they are some civic minded Singaporeans who hold full-time jobs.
 
Nonetheless, we wish Fact Check Singapore all the best and hope that they can help correct misinformation circulating on social media in Singapore.
 
fact checking singapore news
 
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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Social Media Hacks: Secret to Instagram Success - Content, Time and Hashtags

Instagram, like all social media platforms, is easy to use but difficult to master. Anyone who has an Instagram account will tell you that it is easy to build a reasonably sized follower base of around 500 comprising friends and friends of friends. Hitting 1,000 and beyond is not, and takes dedication and know-how.
 
secret hack to instagram success

One of the 'know-hows' that aspiring Instagrammers must know is what we call the Instagram Posting Trinity - the three components of content, hashtags and timing. Conceptually, when the three components work in concert with each other, contents shared will achieve maximum reach which in turn translates into maximum engagement and the addition of new followers. We must however caveat that good content is at the heart of the Trinity and the use of the "correct" hashtags at the "correct" time cannot salvage poor content.
 
Hashtags
 
We will talk a bit more about how to build your hashtag library in a later blog article but, for now, #IGERS looking for maximum engagement can use the following list as the core of their library:
 
#motivation #inspiration #goals #instaquote #instadaily #business #love #igers #instalike #follow #followme #me #instagood #like #tbt #cute #photooftheday #happy #tagforlikes #beautiful #girl #selfie #picoftheday #fun #smile #friends #like4like #food
 
The above list of hashtags are the most popular and adding this to your post will provide a good starting base for engagement.
 
Timing
 
As mentioned earlier, using the right hashtags is not enough. The timing of your post also matters. This is because hashtags only help in getting users who are already online to see your content. Maximizing engagement therefore happens when you post at times when most Instagram users are online. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all, but most social media experts agree that the following are the best times to post:
 
Sunday: 5:00 p.m.
Monday: 7:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.
Tuesday: 3:00 a.m. & 10:00 p.m.
Wednesday: 5:00 p.m.
Thursday: 7:00 a.m. & 11:00 p.m.
Friday: 1:00 a.m. & 8:00 p.m.
Saturday: 12:00 a.m. & 2:00 a.m.




For Singapore, we found that matching meal timings are also good times to post.


Instagrammers who are new to the platform and want to build a large follower base should consider the timing of share and the choice of hashtags to use. CW Fong & Associates Instagram Posting Trinity is a framework they can consider using. Good luck!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

In the News: Instagram's Singapore Boost

CW Fong & Associates is in the news again. Our Managing Consultant, Ms Anna Lee, was interviewed by BBC News for her views on celebrities use of the geo-tag Singapore, Singapore.
 
Singapore digital strategist
 
Summarized below a transcript of the interview:
 
BBC: You’ve previously spoken about one of the keys to Instagram success is knowing what to post and which hashtags to use – all to build success on the app. Why do you think average users (non-celebrities) are resorting to this clever location trick and how does it work?

CWFA: I am not sure if you are on Instagram yourself, but having a large number of likes on your post like a drug. It feels good to know that people like what you are sharing. Like many other digital strategists, I am also not too sure why there is a boost, or even if there is one. Some people we know, have not experienced the so called “Singapore Boost”.

BBC: How does adding a location help to land one’s Instagram posts to the Explore page?

CWFA: All social media platforms aim to provide you with relevant content. If you have your location setting on and there is something nearby, then Instagram will share it with you on their Explore page.

BBC: As a strategist, why is making it to the Explore page of the Instagram app so desirable?

CWFA: As a strategist, it is not only important to continually engage your current followers but you also need to reach out to potential followers. Being featured on Instagram’s Explore page is a great way to find new followers.

BBC: Why do you think ‘Singapore’ in this instance, has been used by Instagram users and influencers when adding locations to their posts?

CWFA: As I have mentioned earlier, I am also puzzled as to why Singapore in this instance adds a boost. What I can say is that social media works in a reinforcing cycle. The more people talk about it, the more Instagrammers and influencers will use it. And the more Instagrammers and influencers use it, the more traffic it will drive. In my opinion, this is just a fad and it will pass. The only way to continue to engage and enlarge your follower base comes back to having interesting content that adds value to your followers.
 
Click The Singapore Boost for the full article.
 

leading digital strategist singapore

 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Social Media Hacks: Secret to Instagram Success

Facebook and Instagram are two of the top 10 social media platforms in the world. Facebok has over 1 billion users while Instagram has about 500 million with statistics increasing show that Instagram is fast becoming the preferred platforms for millennials.
 
Similar to Facebook, unless you are a major celebrity, success on Instagram takes time, effort and knowledge. One of the keys to Instagram success is knowing what to post and the hashtags to use.
 
secret to instagram success
 
At the heart of your Instagram campaign will be your choice of hashtags. To build a following, you must have a core series of hashtags followed by some periphery hashtags. Using this combination will enable you to engage your core group of followers while enlarging your reach. Shown in the diagram above, is a typical Instagram content matrix for a Singapore Fashion Instagrammer.
 
The core hashtags would be in the categories of Singapore, International and the selected Niche. It is important that the Instagrammer keep this core consistent so as to build the Instagrammer's brand. With the literally millions of Instagrammers, having a strong brand is necessary to keep and grow a loyal following.
 
Besides having a core, it is also important to reach out to as many potential followers as possible. Thus, the Instagram content matrix should also include recently trending topics in Singapore. The most effective would be to tap on major sporting events (if it is related to your niche) and the major religious holidays. As people will search these trending hashtags, using them will go a long way in enlarging your reach. Expanding on this would be contents related to your niche. Similar to the use of trending topics, niche related events or developments reach out to your desired followers. Hashtagging or posting related contents will also enlarge your reach.
 
The final type of content in your Instagram content matrix would be what we term IG Favorites. Statistics show that users of Instagram respond positively to pictures of scenery, cats. motivational quotes and food. Sharing these contents will thus enhance engagement with your followers while breaking some of the monotony.
 
In short, everyone can be an Instagram success. All it takes is to know what to share and the hashtags to use. We trust that this short tutorial on having an Instagram content matrix will help and guide you in your journey to be a social media influencer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Social Media: Why Negative Online Comments Must Always be Refuted

In managing social media, many companies often adopt the approach of not responding to negative online mentions as they believe that it will fade over time. While this approach will deny the comments of additional attention, unfortunately the damage to the organization's brand and reputation will not fade.
 
During the Second World War, Psychologist Carl Howland studied the impact of propaganda films on soldiers. What the study found was that while there was no noticeable change to the soldiers' attitude immediately after viewing the film, noticeable changes were identified 9 weeks later. Carl Howland concluded that this was due to psychological effect where the source of the argument fades faster than the arguments in the memories of the soldiers. This phenomenon is termed the sleeper effect.
 
The sleeper effect is further validated in election campaigns around the world where negative campaigning continues to shape election results. Even if the source of the negative information is included in the collateral as dictated by law, it does not have an effect on voters. Similar to what happened with the soldiers in WW2, the source will be forgotten but not the content. Ironically, even if the arguments are discredited outright by the fact that it is being promoted by the opposing candidate, the fact that the source is more readily forgotten, the message will still ring true in the voters' ear.
 
Extrapolating from this, it is therefore imperative that organization's vigorously defend themselves against any and all negative online mentions. As shown, ignoring the mention, will not mitigate its negative effect on the organization's brand and reputation.
 
 
dealing with online trolls
 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Social Media Management Service ... Social Media looks easy, but is not!

While using social media to boost your company's business looks easy, it is not ...

The recent hoo-ha over The Western Co. poor attitude, service and sarcastic responses to online criticisms once again highlights the danger that lurks behind the use of social media by businesses. Given the vocal nature of dissatisfied customers and the amplification effect of social media, simple misunderstandings can snowball into a crisis which could ultimately trigger the demise of the business.

social media crisis singapore

Today in Singapore, many businesses adopt the DIY approach for their social media management with the intent of saving money. What these business owners do not realize is that they are being penny-wise but pound foolish. This is because a social media management company will not only more effectively help boost business via quality contents and the use of influencers, but they will also be in a position to step-in to assist in the management of negative online mentions. In the case of The Western Co., we believe that the hoo-has was totally unnecessary and could have been easily avoided with timely intervention and a sound crisis communications strategy.

One major mistake that The Western Co. did that exacerbated the crisis was to address customer unhappiness online. Even though this might seem like the logical approach, dealing with unhappiness is best done offline where egos are not on display for all to see. What The Western Co. should have done was to acknowledge the customer's unhappiness, offer an apology (and perhaps also reiterate their customer service policy) and then request for the customer's contact for a face-to-face meeting. In our experience, in all but a few of such cases, the issue is settled amicably and the unhappy customer is won over and turned into an online advocate.

Depending on the business' exact requirement, engaging a Social Media Management company will cost in the region of $500 per month. In our experience, this will more than pay for itself in terms of increased sales plus having the added "insurance" that lapses in customer service will not turn into a crisis.

As we always say .... "everybody knows social media. But not everybody know social media."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

[Branding] Karhoo closes shop

In a sudden turn of events, British taxi-hailing start-up Karhoo, announced that it was shutting down citing financial woes. This comes just two weeks after its team met taxi operator ComfortDelGro to discuss the launch of its service here.
 
While the closure took some by surprise, we are CW Fong & Associates (CWFA) were not. This is because money and branding will not guarantee a business' success. Branding must ultimately be based on a strong USP that fulfills a market meet. In the case of Karhoo, their product/ service was not sufficiently unique and thus they could not set themselves apart from the crowd. This then resulted in them not having a compelling proposition for prospective clients to choose them over their competitors.
 
branding lessons singapore karhoo
 
This is why, as part of our proprietary framework, CWFA first develops our client's USP. We believe that it is only with a strong and clear USP in mind, that any social media marketing campaigns succeed.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Biggest Challenge to Social Media Marketing - Being Politically Correct

One of the biggest challenges to social media marketing is being politically correct. As your organization's social media presence grows, so too does the variety of people within your social media network. The non-geographical nature of social media also complicates matters as people from anywhere in the world can also be a member of your network.
 
The recent uproar over Facebook's use of Halloween themed emoji is a case in point. Halloween is a major event in the lives of Americans and it is a tradition that has been practiced for literally centuries. Being a US based company, it is therefore natural for Facebook to get into the spirit by doing something related.
 
Unfortunately, Facebook's Halloween emojis have been attacked as being inappropriate and culturally insensitive. Some of those offended by the emojis have asked Facebook to remove them. While we do agree that, to some, the emojis may be seen as insensitive, we however also think that this group is the minority. To impose their will on Facebook based on their individual perception is thus inappropriate.
 
We believe that Facebook should not remove their Halloween emojis based on these few complaints. Given Facebook's ubiquity, to give in to the pressures of a few at the expense of the majority, will prevent Facebook from ever doing anything new. This is because in anything you do, there will always be some that see the negative in it.
 
As a business owner, or manager of your organization's social media platforms, you will inevitably face challenges to what you do online. At CW Fong & Associates, we believe that this is something that is impossible to avoid especially when your fan base grows and grows internationally. What we suggest is that you exercise discretion and good taste in what you do, and base the measure of "political correctness" on where your business operates. Thus, if it is politically correct for Singapore, it does not matter if someone in Malaysia is unhappy.
 
politically correct biggest social media challenge
 
 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

[Digital Strategy Consultants] Real vs Chauffer Knowledge

We recently pitched for the digital strategy retainer for an Internet Start-Up. During the meeting with the Director of Strategy, the Director was explaining that his company was now in the land grab phase of the business and that he needed us to drive awareness and sign-ups. For those that have not heard the term, land grabbing is when a tech start-up tries to sign-up as many users as possible so as to become the dominant player in the market.

Like many start-ups, this start-up was also using cash incentives to drive this growth in users. Noticing a lack of loyalty amongst users and the low barriers to switching applications, we asked the Director what mechanism were they using to “lock-in” the sign-ups. Stunned, he babbled on about how they were using the sign-ups to build a data-base which they would then exploit for cross-selling and up-selling in future.

We share this story as it clearly highlights the issue of real versus chauffer knowledge. Many times our clients (and even us) overestimate their abilities and just because they read about a strategy, they think they know how it works. The reality is that they
don’t. Truth be told, the concept behind land grabbing is not just about the number of sign-ups, it is about building a profitable and loyal user base.

While we applaud the Director of Strategy and his partners for their entrepreneurial spirit, we think that they have chauffer knowledge when it comes to building a successful tech start-up. The start-up needs to quickly identify their ‘circle of competence’ and work within it. For those that fall beyond the circle, they should be humble enough to say they don’t know and hire professionals with the real knowledge.

The same rule applies when selecting a consulting firm to assist you in your digital strategy. Not all that talk a good game know what they are doing. Knowing OF a strategy and knowing THE strategy are fundamentally different.

Friday, October 14, 2016

[Crisis Communications] What You Should Consider When Hiring a Crisis Communications Consultant?

What Should Companies Look for When Hiring a Crisis Communication Consultant?

In an exclusive interview with Talking Singapore, CW Fong & Associates’ Principal Consultant explained that in a crisis, knowing what to do is only half the solution. The other half, and an equally important half, is the ability to effectively intervene at the start of a crisis. This is because the ubiquity and speed of social media has altered the information environment such that early sentiments will shape the trajectory of online comments.

Unfortunately, the majority of crisis communication firms in Singapore focus only on the know-how and do not possess any ability to intervene. In most instances, the consultant will rely exclusively on access to the main stream media to communicate with stakeholders. This, as we all know, is ineffective in the era of social media as the media cycle is slow. Additionally, there is also no guarantee that the reporter will see the issue your way and his or her reporting may add oil to the fire.

It is precisely because of the need to have the ability to intervene in a crisis that CW Fong & Associates directly owns and manages several key Singapore-based social media platforms. Having full control over what is said, and with a combined reach to over 250,000 Singaporeans, CW Fong & Associates in the only crisis communications firm in Singapore that can help our clients with online intervention during a crisis. In the same time that other firms spend liaising with the media to get a story out, our clients can have their stories out and circulating online. Thus, CW Fong & Associates not only has the know-how, but also has the how to effectively push out a narrative when it matters the most.

Organizations looking to hire a Crisis Communications Consultant should know that know-how is no longer enough. It is imperative that they hire a consultant or firm that has the ability to intervene.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

[Crisis Communications Strategies] Always tell the truth

Trump's hot mic saga took a turn for the worse when two other women came forward to claim that Trump has touched them inappropriately. In a classic strategy of doubling down when ones reputation is attacked, Trump categorically denied that he had sexually assaulted anyone. While this is the typical action of an innocent man, it is not the wise thing to do if you are not.
 
In today's era of social media, a perfect information environment exists and lies will not remain hidden for very long. And, when the truth is revealed, the crisis of telling a lie is usually much worse than the original crisis. In this case, Trump has once again doubled down by threatening to sue The New York Times that carried the story.
 
Unfortunately, Trump has miscalculated with his threat to sue The  New York Times. This is because they have deep pockets, a legal team (who probably vetted the story) and they will not be cowed by the threat. If anything, the threat will push The New York Times to investigate the case with more vigor and this will not bode well for Trump. 
 
For Singaporeans, this will bring to mind the NKF and TT Durai incident in 2004, where the then Chief Executive Officer sued The Straits Times for an article about how he was misusing public donations. Like Trump, TT Durai had successfully used the threat of legal actions to silent his critics before. This however worked only when the threat was made against an individual who did not have deep pockets. So when TT Durai went head to head with The Straits Times, the subsequent attention and media focus brought to light his misdeeds and Durai was eventually found guilty of misleading the charitable organization and sentenced to 3 months jail.
 
The key point for communications consultants is that all crisis communications strategies need to be based on the truth. Doubling down on a weak (or in this case illegal) situation will not turn out well. In instances like this, the best strategy is to come clean - admit responsibility, apologies with sincerity and offer contrition.
 
crisis communications strategies lessons from Trump
 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

[Crisis Communications Strategies] Donald Trump's Apology that Was Not

30 days before the US Presidential Election is to take place, NBC News released a hot mic video where Donald Trump admitted using his celebrity status to approach women, "grab 'em by the p---y," and recounting an unsuccessful attempt at seducing one of the show's married co-hosts. Sensing the serious impact that the video had on his chances at the ballot box, Donald Trump made a surprising and unprecedented apology while declaring that he would not quit the race.
 
As crisis communications practitioner, two elements must be present in a mea culpa for it to be effective - sincerity and contrition. If we analyze Trump's apology these two elements are missing and his apology will at best fall on deaf ears.
 
donald trump apology

 
Sincerity. The dictionary defines sincerity to mean the absence of pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy. By claiming that he has "changed" when he continues to attack former Miss Universe Alicia Machado hints at deceit. Additionally, what makes Trump's apology less sincere is Donald's parting comment that Bill Clinton has done worse things than him. This final comment alludes to hypocrisy as it shows Trump failing to acknowledge the seriousness of his own actions and negates the original intention of the apology. In short, while Donald has literally said the words of an apology, the underlying tone contradicts it.
 
Contrition. In a crisis, people know that words are cheap and, in the case of a Presidential Election where the stakes are high, PR speak will always prevail. As such, people judge the sincerity of an apology by the contrition that is offered. Contrition is important as the public expect you to "pay" for your mistake. In this case, Trump made no offer of contrition and by ending his apology with the line "see you at the debate on Sunday" demonstrates his flippant attitude that life goes on for him. This lack of contrition further reinforces the message that Donald is not sincere in his apology.
 
Lesson Learned
 
As a PR Agency in Singapore, we always advise our clients to apologies in situations where they are wrong. We however also advise our clients that any apology must be sincere. If, for whatever reason, the client cannot apologies with sincerity, our recommendation would then be not to do so. A half-hearted or insincere apology will create a crisis of its own and the aftermath may be something that the client cannot recover from. One simply has to look at the failed apology during the Anton Casey hoo-ha back in 2014.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Branding and USP Nexus

Whenever we enter into a branding meeting, we always ask our client what is their company's unique selling proposition (USP). More often than not, few have a ready answer.
 
This is not surprising as we are often told that in order to succeed in business, a company must have a compelling brand. After all, branding is sexy and the business world is full of examples of successful brands. Just walk down the street or turn on the TV and you will be bombarded with advertisement after advertisement of companies like Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola and BMW to name a few. It is therefore easy to believe that if you spend money on building a brand, your business will succeed.
 
What many do not realize is that before a brand can succeed, the business must first fulfill a market need. Just as there are many companies that have succeeded based on building a strong brand, there are just as many companies that have failed despite of their strong brands. Prominent examples would be Nokia, Blockbuster Videos and Borders.
Branding is a vicious cycle. Even with social media, it takes money. So unless a business can generate sales which it can then reinvest into advertising, money will run out. At the height of the dot-com bubble, where money was “free”, businesses had monthly burn rates of tens of millions in their effort to rapidly build their brand and capture users. Unfortunately as many of them did not offer a product or service that met their customers’ needs, or had product and services very similar to each other, the revenues did not materialize. When the money ran out, the companies closed.
In all of the above examples, the missing factor that determined the company’s success or failure can be traced to the lack of, or a poor, Unique Selling Proposition (USP). The USP is what makes a company different (usually better) than its competitors. The USP is what makes the company stand out from the rest of the market and focus on differentiation is the most important strategic activity companies must constantly find and refine.
Thus, in order to develop a compelling brand, a company must first be clear on its USP.
 
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Saturday, October 1, 2016

[Crisis Communications Strategies] Change the Narrative

One of the biggest mistakes in crisis communications is to be on the defensive. Often times, when a crisis happens, the organization will automatically try to justify its position even if its position is weak. This then leads the narrative down a rabbit hole where it will be impossible for the organization to turn the negativity around.
 
Instead, what organizations should do, is to change the narrative.
 
A good example of this happened on Skyscanner's Facebook page last month. In what was clearly a tech glitch where a traveler's waiting time between flights was reflected as 413,786 hours, the traveler cheekily posted a screenshot of his flight itinerary on Skyscanner's Facebook page and asked for suggestions on what he can do during his 47-year wait. Instead of responding defensively, Skyscanner changed the narrative by saying: ""Unless you're a huge fan of The Terminal, I'd probably recommend spending those years outside of the airport, so here are a few suggestions." The manager promptly recommended checking out Thailand's Songkran festival for the next 46 years and even told him that "a cruise on the Chao Phraya river could keep [him] busy for a while."
 
skyscanner fb reply to james lloyd changing a losing narrative
 
Needless to say, netizens were so taken by the refreshing reply that the narrative has moved away from the tech glitch to how fantastic the reply was. In fact, the traveler that posted the snide remark has come off as petty and small. Additionally, Skyscanner has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity.
 
Some crisis communication practitioners might wonder if this will work in a serious crisis. In our opinion, it will depend very much on the situation and the alternate narrative that is chosen. Even if the change of narrative does not change completely, it will at least help to balance the negative stories coming out. PR agencies in the US are very adept at this. Whenever there is shooting or mass killings, a "hero" will emerge and his or her heroics will be pushed as the alternate narrative.
 
In summary, while crisis will have a narrative of its own, as crisis communicators we are not bound to follow it. Our job, is to find and push an alternate narrative that will show our client in good light.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

[Workshop] Tradeshows - Beyond the 3x3

iAdvisory Workshop - Reaping the Most Out of Your Tradeshow (29 Sep 2016)

Bringing together the combined expertise and extensive experience in tradeshow participation, networking and digital strategy, CW Fong & Associates has successfully completed our 5th run for IE Singapore.
 
This full-day workshop is designed to help companies understand the major challenges in setting up tradeshows, leverage on the services and deliverables from their TACs to maximize their tradeshows participation, set their tradeshows' objectives, do pre-tradeshow planning, and learn how to achieve the necessary Return on Investment (ROI) on tradeshows by converting potential leads to real sales.

The workshop covered topics including:

- Trade Show Basics
- Trade Show Planning
- PR 101
- Communications 101
- Trade Show Execution
- Effective Business Networking at the Show
- Following-up with Leads generated at Trade Shows
- Media Training Practical
 
Participants were taught how to extend the effectiveness of their tradeshows by thinking beyond the physical space or the 3 ft x 3 ft booth.

 
ie singapore tradeshow workshop
 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Best PR Agency in Singapore - Unseen

As Singaporeans have become more sophisticated, they are now more savvy to being "managed" by PR professionals. Rightly or wrongly, PR agencies have gained a reputation for white-washing news and their involvement hints at lies being spoken. Even in day to day operations, while it is efficient for a corporation to engage the services of a PR Agency, the Agency's involvement is not without down-side. 




Today, consumers value authenticity. This is especially so when it comes to the social media platforms of an organization. Consumers can accept that advertisements exaggerate the truth, but not social media messaging. Not surprisingly, slick social media blurps, images and videos have less appeal than raw, spontaneous and genuine content.

The Best PR Agency today, is therefore not the flashy ones that seek to co-brand themselves with the client. The best PR agencies today, are the unseen ones. The PR Agency that help the client behind the scene without ever letting the public know that a PR Agency was ever involved.

At CW Fong & Associates, we have worked, and we continue to work, on the social media platforms of some of the biggest names in Singapore. But you will never know as we will never tell.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Crisis Communications Training (Singapore)

Crisis communications training is analogous to paying for insurance coverage - it is something you have, but hope you will never use.

In today's age of social media, it is no longer a question of whether an organization will face a crisis, but a matter of when.  This is because the proliferation of social media has changed the way individuals send and receive information. Low-cost internet and smart phones have created the phenomenon of citizen journalists where individuals can now as effectively shape public opinion as any large budget news organizations. Unfortunately, many businesses do not fully understand the impact of social media and its potential impact on their business in a crisis.
 
Research by Dr Rory Knight and Dr Deborah Pretty (Templeton College, University of Oxford) showed that failure to protect your brand can result in losses of up to 15% of enterprise value, while success can add up to 5%.
 
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Who should be trained? Our recommendation is for anyone responsible for the brand and reputation of the organization. As training would also enable the crisis managers to speak a "common language", senior management should also undergo crisis communications training.
 
What should they be trained in? While crisis communication trainers will vary, we believe that the training must include: (a) understanding the impact of social media on communications and how to use social media as part of a crisis management plan; (b) a framework with which PR personnel can evaluate incidents and derive the communications plan; and (c) basic media training to enable selected personnel to front a media interview.
 
When should they be trained? While it will be ideal for your company's representative to undergo annual refresher training, this is a good to have and not a must have. At the very least, your company's representative should attend a crisis communications workshop. As a crisis can happen at anytime, the best time is now.
 
How much will it cost? Qualified and experienced trainers are naturally not cheap. They are however, not expensive too. A typical basic 1-Day in-house training would run in the region of SGD10,000. Given that research has shown that a poorly managed crisis can cause up to 15% drop in brand value, the SGD10,000 fee is a small sum to pay.
 
Are foreign trainers better? As every market is different, having a local trainer who is familiar with the stakeholders (including how Government agencies operate) will definitely be an advantage. A Singapore trainer who has dealt with local crisis, will be able to share valuable nuances in messaging that can make a big difference in effectiveness.
 
Government Grants? Today, the Singapore government currently provides for crisis communications training and workshops under the Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme (PIC). Claimed under training, companies can get up to 40% cash back.
 
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Crisis communications training is no longer a good to have. Every organization should prepare for the inevitable crisis.

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Crisis Management: Zombies

When dealing with a crisis, effective management begins with a proper assessment of the nature of the crisis. Utilizing a simple 2 x 2 matrix of impact on reputation of organization versus probability of the crisis going viral, crisis managers can make an informed decision on whether to respond and, if so, how to respond!

crisis communications response matrix

While the above matrix has proven to be an effective assessment framework, there is a new category of crisis that impacts organizations. These are the Zombies. Much like their name sake, this category of crisis does not stay dead - either they did not gain traction when it first occurred, or it keeps coming back to haunt the organization. An example would be the anniversary of the incident where grieving family members post tributes to remember their loved ones.

zombie crisis singapore

What this means for crisis communication practitioners is that post-crisis actions are just as important as during-crisis communications. Continual monitoring of related keywords (especially near anniversaries), as well as inoculation against the incident must be done to ensure that the crisis stays dead. In short, we cannot assume that once a crisis is "managed", we can forget about it. Crisis, like Zombies, can always come back to life.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Social Media Academy Singapore: How Long Should My Facebook Post Be?

While using Facebook is intuitive, like any tool, knowing some tips and tricks will help you use it more effectively. One common mistake digital marketers make is to make their Facebook post too long. This is because, Facebook will "cut off" your post off after 460 characters and if your key message comes after this, your fans will need to click "more" to read it. Unfortunately, statistics show that only 50% of users click the more button. This means that less than half will get your message.

To get a sense of the ideal Facebook post length, take a look at the diagram below. A rough guide is approximately 80 words or 460 characters (including spaces)

what is the ideal facebook post length

Thus, if you have an important message to tell, tell it in the headline, or say it upfront. While it may seem like a good idea to build suspense before delivering your message, if your intended reader does not see if, it is pointless.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Social Media Academy Singapore: How to Use Hashtags

How to use Hashtags ....

Hashtags are great ways to increase the reach of your Instagram stories or Tweets. Users of social media search hashtags for stories that interest them. So if you use the "right" hashtags, the "right" people will find you.

how to use hashtags to build followers

While the idea is simple, using hashtags effectively is not. One common mistake that users make is creating their own hashtags. #CWFongRocks While it looks cool on your account, the reality is that if no one else is searching for that particular hashtag, no one will find you. #NotCoolToCreateYourOwn The best way to find popular or trending hashtags is to use sites like RiteTag. Sites like RiteTag will scan the internet and give you a list of trending hashtags. Use these and you will be assured that you are using the right hashatgs.

The other common mistake that users make is to constant use the same hashtags. What happens when you do this, is that you will continue to reach out to the same group of people. After awhile, if they don't already follow you, they never will. The best hashtag strategy to adopt, especially if you are trying to grow your follower base, is to keep a core set of hashtags and vary the rest. This way, you continue to reach out to the market segment you want, but also associates segments that can also bring business to you.

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Social Media Academy Singapore


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Social Media Crisis Communications

The proliferation of social media has created new headaches for organizations. In the past, when companies only had to deal with the main stream media, crisis communications was easier to handle in terms of speed and number of stakeholders.

Today, with citizen journalists on every street corner, the number of incidents that can turn into a crisis are significantly more and the magnitude of impact on a company's brand and reputation greater due to the amplification effects of social networks.

To help companies deal with crisis communications in the era of social media, CW Fong & Associates issued our White Paper on the subject on 17 August 2010. Today, more than 6 years later, the principles that we outlined in our report are still valid. Principally, for an organization to effectively deal with a social media crisis, communications needs to be (a) open; (b) timely; (c) 100% truthful; (d) broadly communicated; and (d) internet (or social media) present.

For our full report 2010 report, visit the resource section of this blog via the following link: Crisis Communications in the Era of Social Media. If you are a crisis communications practitioner, leave us a comment. we hope to hear your views.

 
social media crisis communications consultants singapore

Monday, September 12, 2016

Social Media Academy Singapore

CW Fong & Associates launches our Social Media Academy Singapore on Facebook. The Academy is launched as an online platform for small business owners to learn tips and tricks on how they can effectively use social media to brand and market their business.
 
social media academy singapore
 
 
 
Research has shown that over 90% of all buying decisions involve social media. Business owners who can position themselves to be found and trusted online will have an edge over their competitors. And unlike physical store fronts where big money wins, in the social media domain, knowledge and skill wins. In fact, when it comes to social media, small is good as it means that the business is sufficiently agile to meet the ever-changing needs of today's customers.
 
The Social Media Academy Singapore will be the go-to platform for the social media training needs of the Singapore small business owner.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Digital Marketing Tip - Target the Needs of your Clients

As social media consultants, whenever we work on the digital marketing strategy of clients, we are often asked by our clients how do you make people buy. You may be surprised, but our response is that you can't.
 
This is because you cannot make people do something they do not want. Nobody can! What we can do as part of a digital marketing strategy is to help find the people that need your product/ service; and then tell them how your product/ service would best solve their problems. Sometimes, our strategy would involve creating the need in potential clients.
 
At CW Fong & Associates, the most effective digital marketing campaign therefore starts with identifying the need of potential clients. Once you have successfully done that, the next step is creating powerful or impactful advertisements that: (a) reminds the buyer of the need; (b) tells the buyer how using your product/service would solve their needs.
 
One of the best example we have seen in the recent times is this ad done by Grab. The ad targets the need of Singapore parents to give their child the best education possible. Any parent who sees this ad is: (a) reminded of the need; and (b) given the solution to their "problem". This ad is extremely effective as it focuses on the needs of parents. Whenever an ad fails in effectiveness, it is very likely because the ad failed to address the needs of potential clients. Therefore, as mentioned earlier, the key to effective digital strategy is understanding your target market.
 
Focus on the needs of your potential clients and you cannot go wrong.
 
digital marketing agency singapore
 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Media Interview Tip: The Reporter is Not your Friend

During the media training portion of our crisis communications workshops, we always drill into participants that the reporter is not your friend. This is because the reporter's job is to report the news and they are professionally bound to report the whole truth as they know it. The reporter also knows that a company will only show what it wants to show, hence the cat and mouse game. Interviewees and media liaison officers should therefore be very careful during casual chats with reporters as this is when they will probe for information.
 
During a recent consult with a client, the client had successfully completed an on-camera interview with the local media. As the topic was trending, the interview gained extensive coverage both in the main stream and online media. Out of the blue, we received a call from the Editor of an online media platform. The Editor wanted to seek "clarification" on a word our client had used during the interview. The Editor claimed that it was not clear what our client had meant.
 
We were stumped as the word used was carefully selected so as not to insinuate the competitor as this would be in poor taste and likely to result in unnecessary retaliatory comments. After thinking the issue through and doing some quick message testing on whether the word used was clear, we realized that the Editor was attempting to create a controversy so as to increase viewership on his media platform. We discussed this with the client and told the Editor that the client declined his request for clarification.
 
While not all reporters (in this case an Editor) are as devious as the one we encountered, this only goes to reinforce the adage that the reporter is not your friend.

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(Note: We apologize that we cannot be more specific with the example as this would betray client confidentiality)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Crisis Management Perspective - Zika in Singapore

Zika in Singapore – Choosing the harder right than the easier wrong
 
It is interesting to observe how alternates can rapidly detract even the most straight-forward of Government communications.
 
Singapore had its first confirmed case of Zika on 28 August 2016, and the Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH) issued a press statement on the same day and called for a press conference the next day. Unfortunately, when it comes to managing issues concerning viruses (especially when the symptoms are mild and can be easily misdiagnosed) retrospective diagnosis is not uncommon. Thus when further testing on previously undiagnosed cases were done, the number of confirmed Zika cases rose literally overnight. When these additional numbers were subsequently made public, alternates were quick to accuse the MOH for deliberately hiding information from the public.
 
What is disconcerting is that these unfounded allegations against the Government hinders the proper and effective flow of important health information to the public. Instead of focusing the public on what they should and can do to protect themselves from the Zika virus, the public is distracted to focus on a non-existent witch-hunt. Valuable government resources are then diverted from dealing with the crisis to dispelling unfounded rumors.
 
As communications consultants, we constantly advocate for information to be released as soon as possible to stay ahead of the social media cycle. However, we also advise clients to balance the need for speed with the need for accuracy. This is because false positives can cause unnecessary panic (especially in instances concerning public health) and this will affect the credibility of the organization and any subsequent message that is released.
 
Not being privy to what the MOH knew, or the thinking behind their decision, we can only speculate. What we do know is that when dealing with a crisis, there are usually trade-offs when deciding what to communicate with the public. In the case of Singapore’s first confirmed case of locally transmitted Zika, we assess that the MOH needed to decide whether to unnecessarily alarm Singaporeans (and visitors to Singapore which will impact the economy), or to allow the Government to be accused of a cover-up. Rightly or wrongly, we noted that the MOH chose to be responsible and opted not to cause alarm.
 
In all fairness, the MOH did try to address the issue of a Government cover-up in their initial media release on 28 August. In the fourth paragraph of their media release, the MOH hinted that the numbers could rise as they screened the patient’s close contacts and others living and working in the area who have symptoms of fever and rash. Unfortunately, this was in the fourth paragraph of its media statement and was extremely subtle.
 
All in all, we think the Singapore Ministry of Health did well to balance the needs of the public with that of the Government. While we will never know the intent of the alternates to disparage the Government in a time when the country should rally together, the key lessons for the communications practitioners are: (a) the need to choose accuracy over speed; and (b) there will always be trade-offs to be made in communicating with the public and one should always choose the “harder right than the easier wrong”.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Crisis Management Perspective ... Ryan Lochte

If you doubt the importance of good communications during a crisis, the Ryan Lochte Rio Olympic incident is more proof that it can hurt your bottom-line. In the wake of the scandal, Ryan Lochte has reportedly lost all his major sponsors including Speedo USA and Ralph Lauren Corp.
 
This is because sponsorship and endorsement deals usually include a "morals clause" that will allow a sponsor to terminate the deal if the athlete's behavior conflicts with the values of the sponsors.
 
Although some may argue that Lochte would have lost his sponsorship deals even if he had not subsequently lied about the incident, we believe there is a significant difference. The former could have been managed as a "moment of weakness" under the influence of alcohol, while the latter cannot be easily dismissed. This is because lying goes to the character of a person and while people can easily forgive a person for making a mistake, they will not easily forgive one who has an integrity issue.
 
Thus, if Lochte had come clean and admitted his mistake in the first instance, we believe that he would have been able to keep most of his major sponsors. Additionally, the task to rebuilding of his personal brand would be quicker and easier.
 
At CW Fong & Associates, we advocate that in instances where the organization is directly responsible, it is always best to accept responsibility, apologize and offer contrition. Attempting a cover-up will usually fail and will turn what is a forgivable mistake, into a crisis of integrity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Digital Marketing ... Viral Marketing Gone Wrong

STOMP yesterday revealed that the online threat, by a jilted lover, to release a sex video exposing her boyfriend's identity after he disappeared after having sex with her was a marketing ploy by a Hong Kong moon cake brand.
 
Like many, we were intrigued by the story (sorry we are humans too) and talked about it both online and offline. Score one for the digital marketer that thought this up. Good try at using sex and curiosity to drive likes and shares on social media.
 
viral digit marketing campaign singapore
 
Unfortunately, the final reveal of the company's name lacked impact as nobody likes to be used. Netizen's disappointment in this instance is justified as they were tricked into using their social media network for a commercial purpose. In fact, just look at the negative publicity that the Rebecca Lim false retirement generated and the reputational backlash she suffered.
 
In our opinion, the company could have done better using subtle product placement in their quest for greater brand awareness. Viral marketing campaigns are effective, but digital strategists need to avoid making their customers feel that they were used and their feeling cheated. This may alienate the people you are trying to engage.
 
CWFA
 
P.S. We doubt that STOMP is an innocent "victim" of this viral campaign. We believe they were paid to run it.

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