Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Offensive and Defensive PR

When you're under attack like the Spartans, you need to close ranks (source of image)

Is Public Relations (PR) always about "sugar and spice and everything nice"? Are there situations where you have to close ranks and fight to defend your turf?

While the social age has heralded a more open culture of sharing and trust, publicists still need to be circumspect in the way they communicate. Here we can take the cue from the Bible, which states in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that...

"Everything is permissible"-but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"-but not everything is constructive.

Should PR folks keep secrets close to our chest or should we reveal all and sundry? How do we know when to blab and when to button down?

The answer lies in context. Using the metaphor of war, we need to understand if the situation calls for an offensive or a defensive mode of PR.

Let me go through each in turn.

Going on the Offensive

Like a striker in a football field or a forward in a basketball court, the goal here is to score. In the offensive mode, PR folks become proactive publicists, spinning stories and pitching them to the media - mainstream, social or citizen.

Here, the communications environment is often benign. Your organisation and its brands have consistently performed well, achieved positive breakthroughs, won industry awards, or gained the love and affection of your communities. Customers are happy, shareholders are celebratory, and your CEO just wants to throw a big party.

Offensive PR is about finding ways to diversify and spread your influence. You want to trigger off as many positive and varied news stories as possible in multiple media outlets.

In this scenario, you should brainstorm over possible news angles targeted at specific media outlets. Create PR stunts and events that stir the imagination and generate headlines. Develop exclusives like sneak previews, behind-the-scenes, chairman/CEO interviews, or "how-it-was-made"s. Allow as many of credible spokespersons (specialist employees, customers, board members) to share the "good news" as possible.

You would also want to create as many photo and video opportunities as possible. Curate and choreograph your events to achieve "virality" and "share-ability". Spread the word in your own digital platforms - websites, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels - and encourage your fans and advocates to do so.

Finally, work with your marketing colleagues to organise contests, interactive games and promotions to blow it all up - the bigger and louder, the better.

Defending Your Reputation

Unfortunately, the halcyon days of parties and pizzas don't last forever. There will be times when things just screw up - a factory goes up in flames, workers go on strike, or a customer injured himself seriously at your premises. Or perhaps a potentially sensitive bit of information has been leaked to the media.

When the sh*t hits the fan, the goal of defensive PR is to converge as much as possible. In other words, battle down the hatches, close the doors and windows, and ensure that information is controlled and managed tightly.

Here, the 3 Cs of clarity, coherence and consistency is key. Also, aim for a single source of official information - preferably the most senior guy around (Chairman or CEO) - and keep him or her as the key spokesperson. In the absence of the head honcho, the VP or Director of PR could take his place.

If the news event is a disaster which is still "live" (eg an ongoing fire or a missing ship and plane), you need to provide regular and frequent updates on all your online and offline channels. When a significant milestone has occurred (eg bodies are found or a culprit is nabbed), call for a news conference fronted by your CEO or Chairman to clear the air.

Should the event be more embarrassing than life threatening (eg a senior executive has committed fraud), your role as a publicist is to limit any "collateral damage". The more specific information you can provide on the case (without giving away sensitive data), the sooner you're able to abdicate yourself in the court of public opinion.

The key thing here is for you to influence and gain control over the conversation as much as possible. Be the first to break the news. Divert all public queries, uncertainties, and rage back to your official platforms.

The more you're seen as a trusted and reliable source of information in bad times, the more confidence you're able to instil in your customers and members of the public.

What has your experience with offensive and defensive PR been like?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Singapore Blog Awards Rides Again!

Congratulations to all the winners of the Singapore Blog Awards 2014!

Adopting an equine theme (2014 being the Year of the Wooden Horse), this year's Singapore Blog Awards - the seventh in the series - crowned a total of 14 winners. Organised by the tireless team from Singapore Press Holding's led by Ms Lee Kuan Fung (Head, Chinese Newspapers Digital Strategy, SPH), the awards helped build the careers of numerous social media stars over the years. Many have gone on to become long-time friends and buddies.

Officiated by Ms Sim Ann, Minister of State for Communications and Information, and Education, the awards this year was held at The Ground Theatre at *SCAPE in Orchard. Other than the prize presentation itself, attendees were treated to a rousing dance performance as well as a "best dressed" competition.

Expanding beyond blogs to include other social platforms, award categories this year include familiar favourites like Best Family, Food, Fashion, Travel and Photography Blogs, as well as newer categories like Favourite Celebrity Instagram Account, Favourite Twitter Influencer, Favourite YouTube Influencer and Best Topical Blog.

(I wonder if we will have a Favourite Facebook or Pinterest Influencer in the future? May be worth considering, especially since these platforms are gaining huge traction online.)

Here are some highlights of the ceremony for those who have missed it.

MOS Sim Ann encouraged the crowd of social media influencers to adopt positive practices and help to build the blogging community in Singapore.

Names of the 10 finalists for each category were flashed on the screen like so. Here's Yvonne and her Playground, a nominee for the Best Beauty Blog.

The top three winners of the Best Beauty Blog - Cheryl Chio, Jean Gan and Jessie Ting.

A representative from the winner of the Favourite Twitter Influencer, Spin or Bin Music, with Kuan Fung of SPH. These guys really know the music scene!

Crowd favourite Ninja Girls won the Favourite YouTube Channel. These "kawaii" ladies are always dressed to kill (and to the theme too).

More heart racing action came from these talented performers doing a rousing can-can dance to the famous tunes of Orpheus in the Underworld (Orphée aux enfers) by Jacques Offenbach.

Joining in the fun later was lifestyle blogger finalist Smith Leong horsing in his unicorn costume with the Ninja Girls. The verdict of the performance? No horse run!

Next, we have the editors'/judges' choices. The first winner was Mama J (Mum in the Making) for the Best Family blog category.

Up next was the winner of the Best Fashion blog, Regina Chow of Shopping Queen's Haven. Interestingly, Ms Sim Ann was her classmate in a Chinese translation course which they took together. Small world indeed!

Following thereafter is the inspirational Tony Johor Kaki of Johor Kaki Food and Travel Stories. I love how he chooses not to blog about negative food experiences, preferring instead to focus on building the community of F&B operators. A retiree, he also shows that one can be a blogging star at any age!

Next, we have 女飞侠, winner of the Best Individual blog.

This was followed by crowd favourite Smith Leong of Smith's Blog. Magically dressed in a unicorn's costume, Smith was also well known for having an endearing pre-wedding photo shoot with his wife in an supermarket.

Winner of the Best New blog Travelled Paths (Stories for the Adventurous Soul) came next. I admire how these guys try to trace and trek all the off-beaten paths in Singapore and beyond.

Thereafter, we have the winner of the Best Photography Blog affectionately named 龟头.

Following that, we have the winner of the Best Topical blog, the Team SM from Seriously Man. These guys have some seriously interesting blog posts, like How To Score on Whatsapp and many more.

Finally, we have the winner of the Best Travel blog, Allyoffduty.

Congratulations once again to all the winners above, as well as those from the other categories. For more information on the event, do check out's official photos and coverage here.

See you guys once again next year!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Small Businesses can Beat Inflation

Are we ready to wrestle with inflation? (courtesy of Alexis Foundation)

“Inflation is when you pay fifteen dollars for the ten-dollar haircut you used to get for five dollars when you had hair.” - Sam Ewing

Inflation. The sheer mention of the word brings forth shudders.

An inevitable fact of urban life, inflationary pressures lead to higher living costs. To match the rising costs of living, wages need to increase. With land becoming increasingly scarce, rental rates continue to climb. Utility charges will also head north as fossil fuels run low.

In tandem with rising labour and fuel costs, transportation and storage charges will similarly increase. Meanwhile, erratic weather patterns and the growing scarcity of natural resources lead to upward spirals in the costs of commodities, raw materials and natural produce.

How then could businesses hedge themselves against the negative effects of inflation?

First, find ways to trim "luxurious" business expenses by adopting the principles of bootstrapping. Consider leasing instead of buying machinery and equipment. Buy second hand if necessary. Or bring from home.

Pool your resources with other small businesses to enjoy economies of scale and greater bargaining power. Leverage on each other's areas of expertise and barter products and services. Undertake joint purchasing, marketing, utility purchases, training and other activities.

Seek ways to share resources in back-of-the-house areas like office spaces, estates and security, admin, human resources, finance, IT and logistics. If feasible, tap on outsourced service providers to run your backroom, IT, administrative or secretarial functions.

Embark on strategic sourcing and procurement practices. Constantly evaluate and re-evaluate your suppliers, and find ways to increase value while reducing costs. This includes considering non-traditional sources of goods and services from emerging markets, buying in bulk, or hedging your purchases for more volatile services.

Forecast demand as accurately as possible so that you can keep inventory costs low. Depending on your nature of business, cater for seasonal peaks and troughs. Consider implementing a Just-In-Time (JIT) system to ensure that stock doesn't build up unnecessarily during low seasons.

Get your customers and suppliers into the act! Reward them if they DIY. For example, offer a good discount if they can pick up the goods themselves (instead of having it delivered).

Reduce your running expenses and overheads by re-using, reducing and recycling. Stretch the lifespan of your office equipment, furniture and stationery. However, do not sting so much that working in your office becomes unbearable or customers end up having negative experiences.

If your business is energy intensive, find ways to incorporate "green" technologies into your building design. These can be anything from air-con chiller systems that recycle heat or save water to tinted glass windows that reduce the greenhouse effect.

Finally, adjust your prices, but be mindful of how your customers will feel. If possible, introduce sweeteners to cushion the impact of higher prices. An example would be throwing in low cost but high value items into your package of products or services.

Are there other ways to beat the inflation blues? Share your thoughts in the box below.