Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Crisis Communications: Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh Responds to Channel News Asia Report

Crisis Communications: Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh Responds to Channel News Asia Report

Yesterday, Channel News Asia reported that Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh Simpang Bedok outlet had been suspended by NEA for 2 weeks for hygiene breaches. The news went viral.

However, unlike other companies in Singapore who face a social media crisis, Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh responded in textbook fashion according to our crisis communications framework – open, 100% truthful, timely, social media present and broadly communicated.

crisis communications soon huat bak kut teh

Within 2 hours (timely), Soon Huat’s founder, Jabez Tan, issued a clarification to say Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh had indeed been suspended by NEA for food preparation offences (open). He then went on to clarify that the “prepared food on the floor”, reported in the media, referred to 30kg of frozen pork ribs (sealed in plastic bags) that was left out to thaw in a crate on the floor. He also posted a picture of the pork ribs and went on accept responsibility for not complying fully with food preparation guidelines (100% Truthful). Jabez’s clarification was made on numerous platforms (including social media) and he even had notices at his other outlets. (broadly communicated and social media present).

While it is too soon to tell whether Soon Huat’s business will be affected by the bad publicity, but judging from netizens’ response to the clarification, we believe that Jabez Tan has done well in managing this crisis and Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh will emerge from this with stronger brand awareness - all publicity is good publicity if you know how to handle it.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Crisis Communications: SPH Announces the Appointment of Ng Yat Chung as its CEO

On Friday, 26 May 2017, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) announced that they will be appointing Mr Ng Yat Chung as its Chief Executive Officer with effect 1st Sep 2017. Ng, takes over from Mr Alan Chan Heng Loon who is retiring after 15 years at SPH.

While this may seem like a normal corporate announcement, it is far from it. The news of Ng’s appointment drew the ire of Singapore netizens as Ng is the former soldier turned CEO under whose watch the national carrier was sold to France’s CMA CGM - the world’s third-largest container shipper. To make matters worse, only last week, the French-based group reported that it had turned around the loss making NOL since taking it over in June 2016.

(Note: Personally, we believe the turn-around had a lot to do with CMA CGM’s size and market dominance.)

Lesson Learnt – Need to be Proactive to Frame the Narrative

Considering that SPH is in the “communications” industry, it is surprising that they opted not to proactively manage this announcement. Granted, this crisis is more political than business-related, the reality is that perceptions matter. With this hanging over the head of the CEO-designate, there will be employee morale as well as trust issues to address.

Using our Impact Assessment Matrix, we can be seen that news of Ng’s failure as the CEO of NOL would have high credibility. Even if our assessment that the impact will be high against the Government (and employees) and the SPH Board felt otherwise, some form of response to address Ng’s history and appointment is necessary.

crisis communications impact assessment matrix

As any PR professional will tell you, the best time to address potential issues is before they happen and not after. A proactive approach would have allowed SPH to frame the narrative to let the naysayers counter them, rather than let the naysayers dictate the “battle” with SPH responding. The latter places SPH in a defensive posture which is not the best place to be in a crisis management situation as you will be forced to react to what is being said.


In summary, we will never know what was the thinking behind the Board's decision not to prepare the ground for this announcement. At the very least, the announcement could have been delayed by a few weeks to let the story of CMA CGM’s success at turning NOL around subside. As communications professionals, we believe that SPH could have managed this better.  

Friday, May 26, 2017

Social Media Marketing Tip: The Importance of Powerful Headlines

Headlines are everything! In the online world, where netizens' attention is measured in split seconds, having an attractive headline makes all the difference between whether your contents gets read, or it is ignored.

It is because of this that successful social media influencers spend as much, if not more, time on developing the headline for their content. For example, the following is a headline I would use for this same article on Facebook. 

"They laughed when I said I'd improve my online engagement 1000% with this one simple tip. But when I became an influencer, they begged me for my secret!"

If you came across a headline like that on Facebook, I am certain you will very likely click on the link to read more. A title like the one I used for this blog would not get the same interest on Facebook. (In case you are wondering, the title for the blog was chosen for SEO purposes). Given the literally thousands of messages a typical online user gets, unless the headline intrigues the reader, nothing will happen. 

Successful headlines are those that pique the interest of the reader and baits them to find out more. A simple guide is what I term the mini-skirt rule - be long enough to cover the essential points, but short enough to excite.

In the event that you are a noob to this, fret not. There are many online tools that you can turn to to help you generate strong headlines. Use them for as you start out, and I am certain that you will become an expert in no time. One that I particularly like is the Free Headline Generator offered by Internet Marketing Course. It is simple to use and the sample results are quite intriguing.

top social media marketing tip

Good luck! 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Digital Strategy: Establishing a Social Media Presence

One of the most common question we get asked is how does a company develop a sustainable social media presence. Most CEOs are aware that their company needs to be online. The hesitation comes when they worry whether they will have enough content to sustain the presence. After all, it is better not to be found online, then to be found with an outdated page.

To answer this question, we always tell CEOs and CMOs that having a social media platform does not mean that you must be continually selling. A bit of self-reflection will tell you that if you continually sell to your social media base, your platform will not take off as no one likes a Facebook page to be constantly sold to.

This is where the concept of content mix come in. Whether you manage a website, a Facebook Fan Page or an Instagram account, your content should aim to educate, inform, and entertain. This is very much like what newspapers used to do before the advent of social media.

social media content mix

The first category of contents would be to educate your social media base. Contents in this category would include training information on how to use your product or service. Here listicles are extremely popular and are often widely shared. Additional educational contents would be information about specific aspects about your product or service. If we use the example of a bridal boutique, educational contents can be about how various cuts favour different body types, or how lace can be used to accentuate different parts of the gown or even the history and meaning behind the Chinese Tea Ceremony. Educating your social media base also has the added advantage of positioning your company as a thought-leader in the industry – which is always a good thing.

Next, besides the occasional product pitch (which we believe should be approximately 10% of all your content), in order to attract and retain followers, your platform must seek to inform followers about happenings in both the industry and the country in which your business is based. Again using the example of a bridal studio in Singapore, you can share the latest trends in gown material and design. And, being based in Singapore, you can also share relevant information that brides to be would be interested in like new banquet services offered by hotels or even renovation tips for HDBs.

The third category of contents would be to entertain your social media base. Everybody appreciates a good laugh, and jokes, memes and infographics will serve to lighten the “mood” of the page. Contents in this category should seek to amuse, delight, fascinate and enthral. For a bridal platform, this can include love quotes, unique or funny ways of proposing, amusing incidences at weddings or even touching stories about how love overcame challenges. The greater the emotional pull, the better the content.

In short, as a digital strategy, successful social media platforms adopt a content mix that accomplishes three things - educate, inform and entertain their users. Keeping these 3 categories in mind will not only help you build a successful platform, it will also make it easy to find and develop contents for your social media channels.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

[Branding] WINNING USP: Dominate Your Market by Finding Your Unfair Advantage

WINNING USP: Dominate Your Market by Finding Your Unfair Advantage 

We are often told that in order to succeed in business, a company must have a compelling brand. 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.

The main factor that determines a company’s success or failure can be traced to the lack of, or having 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 this focus on differentiation is the most important strategic activity companies must constantly find and refine.

Who Should Take This Course

This course ‘Winning USP – Dominate your Market’ aims to help business owners and entrepreneurs understand the concept of USP and how to develop it.  After completing this course, your company will not only survive but thrive.

The training outcome for this course is to provide you with an in-depth understanding of the 6 elements of a strong USP. Specifically, you be able to identify the weakness in your current USP and then to be able to create a strong one for your business.

This course has been divided into the following 4 sections:

Section 1, you will understand the importance of USP.
Section 2, we will debunk the myths about USP
Section 3, I teach you the 6 elements of a strong USP
Section 4, I will share with you my thoughts on how USP Drives Branding.

What You Will Learn

At the end of this course, you will be able to assess the strength of your company's USP and develop a USP that will help your dominate your market.

Sign Up at Udemy Course - Satisfaction Guaranteed or your Money Back. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

[Digital Strategy] How I Built a 18,000 Strong Facebook Fan Page for $500

Let’s face it, the conundrum facing social media marketers is that you need traffic to get likes to get traffic. Even the best content posted on a page that has no critical mass of followers will go nowhere. It is the proverbial tree falling in a forest with no one to hear and hence not making any noise.

Typically, social media marketers will rely on paying for Facebook ads to gain followers. On average, FB page ads for followers will set you back about $0.20 per like. Therefore, building a fan base of 18,000 will therefore cost approximately $3,600.

So how did I do it for less than $500?

While this might sound cliched, but it is nonetheless true. I focused on developing quality content. But, that is only half the story. Besides focusing on the quality of my contents, I also leveraged on FB’s post boost feature.

As we already know, reach is important for gaining followers. The best way to amplify your content, is to work with influencers to share it on their pages. A share from an influencer not only gives you reach, but it is also an indirect endorsement of your page. In the social media world, this is priceless. Unfortunately, unless you are best of friends with a pool of influencers, working with them is not cheap.

This is where FB’s boost feature comes into the picture. Depending on your budget, each boost can cost you as little as $5. Facebook also allows you to choose who you want the post to reach. There is no fixed "reach per dollar" spent as FB has their own algorithm to determine the cost per impression. Naturally, the less popular your page, the higher the cost.
best way to use FB boost

Before you jump on the bandwagon and boost every post you have, you need to remember that boosting a post will only increase its reach. Reach will only translate into followers if people find your page interesting. In short, the quality of contents.

Boosting a quality post will on average gain you 5 to 10 times the number of followers compared to a page ad. Thus, where a $5 budget spent on a page ad will get you 25 likes, a $5 post boost can reap you an average of 100. This is why experienced Facebook marketers shun page ads and focus almost exclusively on boosting posts. Additionally, if you have tried using page ads before, you will observe that a significant percentage of the followers gained appear dubious.

My 3-Step Approach

Firstly, when building a FB page, understand that people like FB pages to be kept informed, to be educated on topics that interest them and to be entertained. This is the basic premise of any successful FB page. Your page can choose to do one of the three, or all of the three together. The eventual content mix depends on how you want to position your page.

Secondly, focus on quality content. This is where many social media marketers get it wrong. Quality content on social media refers to contents that will generate interactions. While a well written article is good, being well written alone will not make it go viral. The article needs to strike an emotional cord, be trending, make the person sharing it look good and/ or offer practical value. In a nutshell, the content must comprise the elements in our STEP Framework.

Thirdly, boost posts that have traction. Even though the post may comprise one or all 4 elements of the STEP Framework, it is impossible to know what will go viral. Thus, to ensure that your budget is well spent, only boost those posts that have initial traction. It will take time, but once you have gained a sense of your audience, you will be able to pretty much tell which post will have traction and hence boost those.

There you have it

Facebook is an excellent marketing platform. Unlike websites where people pull information by searching for it on Google, Facebook pushes information to the followers of your page. So whether you are selling a product or service, or building a channel for affiliate marketing, it will not cost you an arm and a leg to build a strong Facebook page if you follow the 3-Step Approach I have shared here.

Good luck!


Do like Social Media Academy SG and PM me if you have any questions.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Crisis Communications: Megan’s Worse Nightmare Came True

Like many Singaporean Millennial, Megan was tired of the corporate life. She had graduated top of her class from NUS and was a successful in-house counsel at a MNC. The long hours, demanding bosses and rigid corporate structure stifled her and Megan felt like her life was over only as it had just begun.

One late night, while hunched over a stack of files, Megan cracked. Life had to be more than this! Humans were not put on this earth to work endless (and thankless hours) on things that will likely not matter in years to come. With the courage born out of the instinct to survive, Megan decided there and then to quit her job and to pursue her childhood dream of opening a café.

Soon, putting her corporate knowledge and experience to good use, Megan had opened her own little café in the heart of Orchard Road. Things were going great. Business was not booming, but it was still profitable and putting money into her pocket. In fact, if you asked Megan, she would say that the café was at its optimal point - Megan was not too busy and could sit back and smell the roses. The best part of all, Megan was marching to her own drum beat. She was her own boss with no one telling her what to do.

Being a millennial, Megan knew the dangers of social media. She had naturally heard of (and at points been a part of) social media “attacks” against businesses over poor service, alleged slights to consumers and even the occasional unethical behaviour. But never once did it occur to Megan that she would be the target of such an attack. After all, she was running a legitimate business and bad things always happen to someone else.

All that changed the week of April 2017. It had been a typical day of business and everything was humming along perfectly. Megan noticed, but did not really pay attention to a bunch of students that entered her café. They bought their drinks and, like typical Singapore students, brought out their text-books and started studying. Megan thought nothing about it. It was normal …. and just so Singapore.

What happened next could only have come out of a movie or a very bad dream. As the café was getting busy, Megan needed seats for customers that were streaming in. As the students had been sitting in the café for over 3 hours purchasing just 3 drinks between the 5 of them, Megan decided to approach the students to give up their seats for paying customers.

The students’ reaction was extremely negative. Instead of being considerate and freeing up the seats for paying customers, the students refused to leave claiming that it is their right to stay as long as they wanted. Even as Megan tried to explain that they are more than welcome to come back later, they were indignant and threaten Megan that they will post negative reviews on all their social media accounts telling their friends not to patronize Megan’s café. Left with no choice, Megan let them be. Unfortunately, this was not the end of the story.

The students posted negative reviews about Megan’s café on their social media accounts. They even went on Yelp, FourSquares and on numerous blogs to defame (for lack of a better word) Megan’s café. Megan did not know what to do and soon, as word got around, Megan’s business began to suffer.

Thinking that it would be best to remain quiet and hope for the storm to pass, Megan decided not to respond. After all, responding would only bring more attention to the negative online mention.
Sadly, perception is reality and as the negative reviews took on a life of their own, Megan’s silence did not help and within months, business was so badly affected that Megan had to close her café.


Like Megan, many business owners do not realize the dangers of social media. Or, perhaps they do, but the 'it will not happen to me' mentality is strong. As the above true story shows, knowing how to handle a social media crisis is no longer a good to have. In today’s era of smart phones, knowing how to handle a social media crisis is a must have.

This online crisis communication course on Udemy is designed for people who are responsible for the social media accounts of their organization i.e. business owners, PR professionals and brand managers. At the end of the course, participants will be able to identify a potential crisis, assess it impact on the organization and take the necessary actions to deal with the crisis. Don’t be like Megan. Be prepared. 

Click here to take the course now - a small investment to protect your business.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Crisis Communications: Using Social Media to Measure Effectiveness

In crisis communications, one important matrix that we always watch is the online reaction to the incident. Social media's immediacy provides crisis managers with real-time feedback on public sentiments towards the organization and the organization's efforts to deal with the crisis. Unfortunately, while social media is uncensored and hence provides the raw public emotions, social media's anonymity also allows trolls and stakeholders with agendas to manipulate the situation. Thus, while we use social media as a measurement of effectiveness, getting an accurate assessment of public sentiments will require users to categorize and weight comments according to the site or Facebook pages they are found on.

In Singapore, fans of sites like TR Emeritus (TRE), The Independent Singapore (TISG) and All Singapore Stuff (ASS) are known to be anti-establishment and hence their comments are generally biased towards negativity. Similarly, fans of sites like Fabrications About the PAP, Lovely Singapore and Singapore Matters are known to be pro-establishment and their comments are also biased. It is also well known that these sites are populated with numerous fake accounts and this not only skews sentiments, but also the perceived intensity of the sentiments.

It is therefore important that any social media monitoring matrix take these factors into consideration and adjust for it. At CW Fong & Associates, we use the following matrix to provide an accurate assessment of sentiments during a crisis. Our matrix comprising sites that are anti-establishment, neutral and pro-establishment with an adjustment factor of -50% for biased sites. In addition to those that we have mentioned above, the neutral sites we monitor are shown below:

TR Emeritus
The Independent Singapore
All Singapore Stuff

Fabrications about the PAP
Lovely Singapore
Singapore Matters

Not everything on social media is real. Organizations who monitor social media for sentiments cannot treat all online reactions the same. To do so, will result in a flawed assessment, which will then lead to a flawed crisis management response. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Crisis Communications: Veron Tay, Cedric Chow and Novel Learning Centre

Veron Tay, Cedric Chow and Novel Learning Centre

In today’s era of smartphone and social media, we all live in “glass houses”. Every single act we do can be, and usually is, filmed by someone. In this perfect information environment that we live in, no incident will go unreported. And, if you do something as socially unacceptable as verbally and physically abusing one of society’s vulnerable, be prepared for the wrath of society.

The Toa Payoh hawker centre incident involving Veron Tay and Cedric Chow is an important reminder for Singaporeans. Not only that we should always be on our best behaviour in public, but that we also need to know what to do if we let our guard down and do something unthinkable.

In the case of Veron and Cedric, both we believe are business owners (Novel Learning Centre), the impact will be more significant. Considering that they are in the education business, public anger over their behavior and how it might influence the children under their charge will undoubtedly hit their business.

What Veron and Cedric should have done was to get ahead of the media cycle. Once the incident went viral, instead of hiding and hoping that they would not be recognized, they should have stepped forward to acknowledge the incident and apologize for the errors of their ways. It would most definitely not be a pleasant feeling, but it would have gone a long way reduce public anger as it would have shown remorse.

Additionally, to demonstrate their sincerity, Veron and Cedric could have reached out to the old man, apologised unreservedly and offered contrition by offering to send him for a short vacation in Hong Kong. While these actions would not appease every netizen, it would most certainty appease the majority.

In short, if you are caught doing something socially unacceptable: (a) get ahead of the media cycle; (b) apologize if it is your fault; and (c) offer contrition to demonstrate sincerity of your apology.

crisis communications plan veron tay


To learn how to manage a crisis, take our online crisis communications workshop on Udemy, or follow us on Facebook at Social Media Academy Singapore for the latest tips on crisis communications.

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