The EQ of Effective Communications

06 Oct
October 6, 2014

I hate this article title. It’s so cliché. But it’s so basic I don’t know what else to call it.

I receive emails or Linkedin invites time to time from budding entrepreneurs either hoping for some advice or attempting to invite me into their business. Unfortunately, there wasn’t one person I met, who was able to communicate effectively.

I would have bluntly, expected more of college graduates for the mere fact that they have spent a good time of their lives on writing. However, it is to my amazement that many of these people enter the society without a clear reality of how to communicate.

Just this week, I received an email from a Linkedin connection, of a young entrepreneur whose business is 3 months old. This is her email (XXX has been used to replace sensitive information) :

Thanks for accepting my invitation to connect :) You have a pretty impressive profile there. Currently, I’m working together with a few friends from XXX and XXX on a XXX business and expanding so looking for a few more partners to work with and I feel that you may have the qualities that we’re looking for. (Although there’ll be no promises). Let me know if you’re open to income diversification!

Grammatically, there is nothing wrong with this mail. However, firstly it says how “you think I am qualified”, it didn’t say how “I think you are qualified”. There is no clear business USP (unique selling point) to entice me, nor is there a clear value of how you feel this partnership can be attractive to me. Having run three businesses and being at least 12 years older, does put me in a way, a senior to this girl, yet there is a lack of proper business formalities. Call me an old fogy, but some things don’t change. And there goes a first impression. The universal rule is, if you want to court someone much more senior than you are, you have to put in a lot more effort to impress. So I did reply her with my two-dime’s worth. Unfortunately, despite she appreciates the suggestion, her excuse is that her business system dictates the content. She fails to recognise that the writing itself and her approach to it, is the problem.

A few months ago, I asked my Personal Assistant to send some referrals to me of potential candidates who might be interested in a position with our company. One of his friends sent in his resume. And this was what he wrote in the email :

Hi bel, this is XXXX.

I am interested in the job of [Account Exec] based on what i heard from JunJie.

Would like to have more information regarding the job.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Let’s ignore the terrible English in his email for a start, although I have to emphasize the position he is applying for, is in a PR & Marketing firm. Firstly, unless you are familiar with the person, you don’t conveniently address someone with their abbreviated names in your first introduction, much less your potential employer. The email (and resume) says nothing about himself, nor his aspirations, strengths or interest. Everyone holds some sort of paper qualification these days. Unless you yield one from a top University that I might stop and scream about, I am really not that interested to know who printed your paper. I would be more interested in 1) Why I should hire you, 2) What would interest you. Anyway, so I replied him with the following :

Thank you for your application. Unfortunately, I do not think you are suitable for the said position.

I would appreciate it if you actually put in more effort in your job application mail. You have not demonstrated any thought in language, nor attempted to make an impression via your introduction.

I believe the least you could do is to address your potential employer appropriately.

All the best in your job search.

I know I sounded harsh, but I cannot comprehend the fact that a Marketing Communications grad actually thinks he can get a job with the above. I reckon it was better to be harsher than leave him not knowing what went wrong. He did not reply, not that I am surprised. But I would have changed my impression about the boy if he has responded positively.

So when my Assistant asked me how it went, I explained to him my disbelief. In the early days of my career, when I was trying to get someone to sit-up and read my resume, I literally had a different resume drafted for a different type of job scope. Every email was personalised and written to suit the hirer. I have almost 40 versions of my resumes stored in my folder. In an era where email correspondence is really free-of-charge, and information is readily available,  there is no penalty for spending more effort; unless of course, you don’t care or aren’t genuinely interested. Which in both cases, I’m happy not to make the wrong hire.

I get some emails asking my advice on starting an F&B business sometimes, as I did leave my email address in a start-up blog many years ago to offer my help. Usually, I will be very straightforward with them, to say the first thing they should ensure is a working capital of at least a quarter million and a good USP to start with. I can imagine, a statement like this will scare any “café-dreamers” away, but it is a hard truth I’ve learned in my earlier journey. However, of the 20-odd people who have written me, only one ever replied to say thank you. Why would anyone think someone else’s time is unimportant that his or her effort to reply is not worth a thank you when such a reply was never meant to be an obligation?

I think the two most valuable things a person can ever give to another human being is trust and time. That’s why voluntarism is such a noble act, because  these are two things that no money can ever buy (okay, maybe you can buy time, but you can’t buy back time.) I have met a few friends along the way, whom  I will refer to as my mentors. Each of them has stepped forward to spend time with me, to help me fill in a gap of my self-doubt, shift old paradigms and showed me a different perspective of my business or myself in many small ways.  I’m eternally grateful to them for I know the trust and time they endow, is selective.

reminder

I won’t claim to be an expert in effective communications, because it is also one of the things I am constantly trying to better myself at.

So here are some gentle reminders, I feel, are extremely important in making a positive impression.

  1. Understand your objective of the communication. What do you hope to achieve.
  2. Read and check the background of the opposite party. Understand what is his or her interest.
  3. Select words and level of politeness to use, that will entice the person to read on, and accurately deliver your message at the same time.
  4. If the person is far more senior than you, or you are unable to assess due to the limited information, it is better to be more polite and formal than less.
  5. Think value-adding, asset-building, modesty and humility.
  6. In all situations, say thank you.

Stop looking busy

27 Apr
April 27, 2013

Seriously, we aren’t really all that busy. Most of us are just trying to look busy.

Messy TableImagine yourself, seated at your desk, with work done for the day – half a day too early. You look around you and realise everyone is still buried in the mountains of papers. You feel guilty to grab your bag and leave. It just wasn’t culturally nor politically right, your boss will be questioning your commitment, quality or capability. You are either doing too little or too shabbily. So you take out some random stack of paper, with a pen in your hand, frown and ponder really hard… looking busy.

OR you have a whole list of task on your hand, and you have no idea where to start completing everything. You on your laptop, with stacks of notes taken from meetings and started multi-tasking with browsers, spreadsheets, documents, research papers, social media. You spend the next 6 hours clicking away and at the end of the day, you realised you only completed one meager task.

PERHAPS you had back-to-back meetings, your day was filled from 9am to 9pm, one client after another. Your organiser and notebook are filled with minutes and scribbles. What a day! But at the end of the 12 hours, you actually did nothing constructive. And the week passed, with the same schedule repeating itself oh-so-often. You get home, too tired to talk to your spouse, too tired to play with the kids or to spend time with yourself. “I had a really busy day, so leave me alone.” You say. Or so you thought.

In the society today, we are often pressured by social norms to look busy, in order to look useful or productive. Working long hours or late hours are like Oscars waiting to be won. “The most packed lunches goes to….” The person who packed the most lunch and has his butt stuck to his chair for the maximum hours gets an award too. The person who forgoes his or her weekend for work is being respected for dedication. Singles are expected to cover more hours since they don’t have a family to go back to. When they are officially married to their job, they don’t get wedding gifts but more pats on the shoulder for superb dedication and IF you are lucky, maybe a promotion (so you can do even more).

Sure, many people are seriously busy, I don’t doubt that at all. But is the busy-ness caused by too many redundancies, disorganisation, unnecessary procedures or work, lack of delegation or simply a pressure to look busy? There is absolutely nothing wrong if you enjoy the hecticness and dynamism. It only becomes a problem when you begin to hate your life. The article is written as a note to myself. I’m guilty of the above. I tend to have the habit to look busy; but when I really nail things down, I realised I can be less busy but I can’t be less guilty. So I shifted my own paradigm towards the idea of work. No one really made a law to say you have to be working 9 to 5, Monday to Friday to be an active working adult.

Effectiveness and efficiency has no direct relation to how much time you spend on your job. Work is ONE aspect of life and not everything. Upon turning independent more than 3 years ago, I really enjoy spending more meal times with my parents and siblings. I have also managed to fit in more exercise time as the park is just below my block. Yes I am still extremely busy with life, but my work busy-ness is seasonal these days. Which means I might have weeks that are very spread out and leaves me plenty of time to do the things I enjoy; but on occassions, I literally work my ass off on a 70-hour week. However, the versatility of my schedule has allowed me a lifestyle I don’t need to escape from. I no longer look forward to planned vacations or public holidays. I fly when I have time and any good day can be a holiday. I love my clients, and in fact enjoy the meeting times with them as they keep me in a gregarious environment, where teamwork continues to exist beyond my independent status.

Here are 7 tips I found useful for me. You may have heard them many times before, but yes they work.

  1. The Magic of PAPER: Close your laptop. Structure and write your thoughts on paper, with visuals, scribbles, mind-maps, before transferring them to your digital document. There is something magical about paper that tablets cannot replace.
  2. Task List: Uh huh… yes they work. Write your task list before you go to bed. Look at your task list first thing in the morning. Your task list should also include items like “Grocery shopping”. That’s important. I use a combination of Dato Gtasks with Got-IT!, synced to my Google Tasks and placed on my Android home screen.
  3. Cut-off Time: Give yourself a cut-off time for everything. I wrote an official memo to all my staff not to work after 8pm or on weekends unless absolutely necessary. And even if they are, not to reply clients after those hours, so we can better manage the communications with our client and partners.
  4. Meetings before 2pm: Schedule all meetings before 2pm (if possible). The moment meetings go past 2pm, the day is literally gone.
  5. Use Tools: Tools can be useful. I use Boomerang for Gmail to schedule delayed emails to clients and reminders to self. Podio to manage project work groups. Scoop.it and My Social Cloud to bookmark and store posts I’d like to read later. Out of context but I use Dropbox to ensure access to my files regardless of the device I’m using (won’t have to freak out if I don’t bring the thumbdrive).
  6. Walk Away: Walk away from your work if you are suffering from mental blockage (which happens to be pretty often) or facing a neverending list of items on your to-do list. Take a stroll, do some exercises or simply have a coffee (away from the office) before coming back with more clarity. Even when you are crunched for time, remember more haste can be less speed. 
  7. Reward Yourself: Give yourself a pat on the shoulder for completing your task before stipulated deadline. There is nothing wrong with being efficient and you should not be guilty of such. Enjoy the luxury of the extra time and feel good about it. You will remember this positivity and want to repeat the same result again, propelling you to perform better in your job.

Organisations need to start rewarding employees for effectiveness by encouraging efficiency with shorter working hours. Getting more done in a shorter time and applauding people who get off work earlier (and not later) has a major impact on workplace happiness. We, as working professionals also need to start apprehending the fact that working long hours is nothing to be proud of. Sacrificing health for your job (yes I saw fingers pointing at me already) gives you nothing back in return but doctors’ bills. We need to start getting busy with life, not with work.

And for fellow social media consultants; get off social media and get your social back.

Update : Saw this article on Fast Company that is almost spot on! -  THE TRUTH ABOUT HOW MUCH WORKAHOLICS ACTUALLY WORK.

We are determined by our values & beliefs.

06 Sep
September 6, 2012

I was “sold”. Totally impressed by Michelle Obama’s speech, I began to reflect on how our values and beliefs determine our decisions in everything we do in life. It was never about the knowledge or data or figures. This was a recent struggle I had. When I had to reason with myself over what was right, and what was right for my pocket. The case was clear. I had to go with what was right, because I was brought up that way.

There’s no sob story about my life. Not from my point of view. I am considered relatively successful in a multitude of industries and a variety of roles. I’ve worked with some of the brightest minds I’ve known and had the pleasure of learning from some of the most wonderful people. I’ve trained hundreds of matured students and senior management staff to help them understand how social media can be integrated in businesses, worked with some of the best multi-national brands, worked with a most wonderful singer and friend and actualised about 8 out of 10 of my childhood dreams. To a certain extent, that’s quite a report card.

I’ve been asked if I studied in Yale or Havard (thank you, that’s a compliment). I’ve been asked if I have an first-class honors or even a double degree. But no, I’ve never gotten a University education, and I was retained for a year back in Polytechnic for failing my modules (so I ended up with 4 years instead of 3). I failed 2 subjects in my Cambridge O’levels. Certainly not the most impressive academic results I have to admit. But in my past 3 jobs, I’ve never been once doubted or asked by my employers for my qualification. Apparently the person, is more important than a piece of paper. I’ve managed staff with a far more astounding record of academic excellence than my own. But we worked together as one, never questioning the value of abilities from our education. Because the real education is in the values and beliefs of one.

My Hero

My dad and I

The hero of my life, is really my father. And most of my values, beliefs and principles were built on the foundation of what this man believes. My dad was born in 1945, just after the World War II. It was a difficult time as a kid, but he was born into a middle-class family then, which was not too shabby. My dad’s family originated from South of China, and we used to own land (hey, which makes me the grand daughter of a warlord!). My grandfather, whom I’ve never met, was an English-educated accountant who migrated to Malaysia. He was considered very highly educated for his time. As he wanted to take in a second wife, he drove my grandmother back to China. My dad was supposed to be on that ship bound for China too. He was 9 then. However, he came down with high fever and couldn’t board the ship in case it was contagious. Hence, he was left in Malaysia with his elder brother, my uncle. Not long after, my grandfather was cheated of his business by a partner, in heavy debts and fled to Singapore, with his second wife. My dad and my uncle were left to fend for themselves, in the care of a neighbour. At 13, he travelled to Singapore on his own, in search of his father. When he finally found the family, his step-mother denied him and he was alone again. He went to find shelter with a relative who owns a provision shop, and worked for him in return food and shelter. My dad worked and supported himself through school. He never saw my grandfather again, until my grandfather passed on, when he collected his death certificate. My dad was only reunited with my grandmother after he married my mum, which was almost 30 years later. And he earned himself a diploma when I was born.

Visit to our hometown in China (From left) My mum, youngest sis, younger sis, dad & 2 aunts from China

Our family is not wealthy in terms of material, but we are wealthy in terms of values and kinship. We stay in a comfortable flat unit that was fully paid the moment it was bought. Both me and my 2 other sisters received the best possible education and childhood. We travelled from a young age, and seen much of the world, much earlier than most of our peers. Our family always sits together for dinner, always. My dad did not insist on academic excellence if it was beyond our abilities or interest. However, he stressed strongly upon survival. The ability to be able to carve our own niche, path our own roads and curate a story of our own. He had never for once, forced his dreams or expectations upon us. He was in many ways… democratic. He was always realistic with what we are in for. If I wish to challenge my dad, I better make sure I have my facts right and I’m fully prepared with the pros and cons to make my point to get his approval. He believes strongly in justice, living morally upright, giving to the larger good and not to individual riches. He was always a man of high integrity and authority (sometimes autocratic!). Dad was always clear with his priorities in life. It was family, because he didn’t have one. I asked him in one occasion, “Dad, if you had a choice to choose whatever you wanted to do in life, what would you have done?” And his answer, was something that I will always remember. He said, “That question has never came to mind. Because the moment you ask yourself that question of ‘what if’, you will never be happy. Bringing the bread home for the family was what’s important to me.” And if you knew me well, you would realise by now, I’ve inherited a lot of my character from him. Surely not every trait is an advantage to me in this time and day. However, most have served me well. And those that have not, I learn from mistakes and experiences and tweak to make them my own. But nevertheless, how I think, what I do or why I do certain things fall back to the basis of the education I receive at home. And I pride myself to say I’ve lived a fulfilling, exciting and much rewarding life to date.

I learned to curate my own life

At 12, my dad included me in the decision making to the Secondary School I wanted to enter. So I picked the one I like, not the one he thinks I should go (I had to supply him supporting reasons. All the time). I decided which stream I prefer when we had to make the choice for my major in O’levels. When I was 17, I wanted to backpack to Europe on my own. Now it may seem like nothing, but 14 years ago, it was uncommon for an Asian girl, not in the kind of environment I was brought up in. I went to London for 10 days alone, not knowing a single soul, there were no mobile phones, and I planned the entire itinerary on my own, with absolutely no “reviews” or “approvals” from my parents. They do not know where I am and although I left the number of the bed and breakfast I would be residing in, I was almost unreachable. Yet they trusted my common sense. My mum was glad I came back in one piece. When I finished my diploma, I applied for a school in Beijing despite my dad’s disapproval. When the acceptance letter came, we discussed about my decision and he was supportive finally when he was assured I knew what I was doing. So I went. When I returned, I decided to work part-time in a cafe. My parents didn’t know what I was trying to do. But 3 months later, I sat my family down and told them about my plan to takeover the business. After assessing the plans and place and all, my dad took his life savings and gave it to me. It was a family decision that I’ve always been grateful about despite we lost everything. At the end of the 5 years, not only I hadn’t make enough to return my dad, I lost a 5-figure sum to the bank. My sister couldn’t go into University because we couldn’t afford it due to the losses in my business. Yet again, our family came together strongly and sailed the storms. We supported each other silently without grievances nor finger-pointing blames. And it is all because of our values and beliefs. So today, the same value lives on. I’ve repaid the bank on my own, supported my sister through University and tries to support my family the same way my parents supported us. It was this self-sacrificial spirit that bonds us together and despite many people couldn’t understand why. But I feel proud the same way I know my father does, to be responsible for this family.

Here’s Michelle Obama’s speech. It’s inspiring to watch. Watch and reflect on how your values and beliefs determined the person you are today. Be proud of who you are, and where you came from. We are all descendent of greater human stories.

Be convincing in the role you play

24 Aug
August 24, 2012

I was at a seminar today and during a sharing session, we were making introductions in groups on what we do for a living and our message to our audience. There was this lady beside me, whose message was funny, ambiguous and led us all to “think” in an erm… obscene manner, which in a humorous light, brought laughter to the table. Hence we made some comments to restructure the Grammar so it would sound more precise. She was then quick to point out that she is a “Professional English Writer”. However, in the whole one hour of the entire session, I do not recall her saying a single line of English that is proper and unbroken. Being absolutely Singaporean, there is certainly no issues with communicating in Singlish, but in a business context, I can’t help but wonder if I would ever engage her to write for me.

Now, not that I deny her capabilities or professionalism. But there is a definite cloud of uncertainty in her credibility due to her lack of skills to communicate effectively in the language she claims she excels in.

Another lady came by and she says she helps fresh graduates with identifying their strengths and weakness, tackling it and fitting them into ideal jobs. However, she was extremely soft-spoken, somewhat lacking in confidence and have problems explaining what she does without further prompting. I wonder again, if she’s the one who needs help instead.

I commonly observe gaps  with online persona and the actual person in-question. Many acquired skills to package and sell themselves on the internet front. However, they lack the skill sets, personality or comfort to express the same in person. And that gap in persona also translates to a gap in credibility for clients.

 

To get from you are to where you want to be,
you must play the role you want to be.

 

In NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming), you learn that successful people (or wannabes) think like other successful people, such as CEOs. You don’t only think like a CEO when you become one, but you need to behave and start to think in the same line of thought if you aspire to become one. In the same context, in whichever line or role you claim to be an expert; it is inadequate just to be better than those unknown.

    1. You have to play the part you claim to be and convince it with your personality.
    2. You must be clear in your point of view and be confident in expressing it.
    3. If you lack the above, identify the skills that your predecessors possess which you don’t, and find solutions to the gaps, consciously practice it until it becomes a habit.
    4. Be clear who you are talking to, and be sure your communication skills are able to effectively connect with those people. If not, repeat 3 till it’s mastered.
    5. You need not be perfect (none of us are), but identify your inadequacy and make the effort to close those gaps. Practice with the people you want to connect with, and you will build enough confidence to carry yourself further.

We are all consumers first, marketers second. THINK, would you “buy yourself”? If not, someone else probably wouldn’t too. It is cool to learn how to market and brand and package but in the end, the personal brand (YOU) needs to speak for itself. So start looking into the mirror today and try to see if you can be convinced to buy YOU.

The long awaited update…

15 Mar
March 15, 2011

Hello seems like a foreign and distant greeting, but I know I haven’t been updating my blog for awhile, hence… Hello everyone.

Quite a number of changes have evolved in my life since my last post. I left MSL Singapore in December 2010 after a good 16 months with the company. I have to say that this was far-by the most enjoyable and intriguing work  experience I’ve had in a long time. I was blessed to work alongside some of the best PR folks in Singapore and most exciting clients in the world.MSLGroup is a network with wonderful career opportunities and lies great potential in its vision, I must say my decision to leave the team was a hard one. But I guess I have my selfish reasons to justify for. Nonetheless, I would like to publicly express my gratitude to my immediate boss, Yvonne Koh, whom has remained understanding, supportive and open to all my opinions and suggestions while I was with the company. My senior manager, Amy Kong, who has been very patient with any ignorance I might have about the PR scope of work. The sparks from the clashes and chemistry with my fellow team-mate, Audrey Tang whom I’ve worked closely with on Discovery & P&G Whisper’s project. And to all the great people like Dawn Wong, Nicole Campbell, Joan LiewMarie Loh, Shelina, Ying etc… who has helped me in every other way or so. Lastly, also many heartfelt thanks to my big bosses,Glenn Osaki and Josh Shapiro, whom I’ve had a great time bouncing ideas off and working briefly with.

Aside from social media, I continue to stay active in the event scene, rendering my services to Festival Square Circle (FSC), a premium event & festival agency with more than 20 years of experience, as a contracted Senior Account Manager. FSC was my ex-employer and my on-going interest in events just made it natural for us to continue this relationship on a project-basis. I like to look at how events can be reinvented and most importantly integrated with new technologies or applied in trans-media.Life is a novel made of of many different chapters, one ending leads to another beginning. Apart from the courses at Singapore Media Academy, which I will be taking on my 4th run tomorrow (16 March 2011), my portfolio has also expanded to wider grounds. Once a social media gal, always a social media gal. I’m currently an independent social media consultant and trainer. I strongly believe in the integration and application of social media across multiple business and marketing functions. Being independent means I no longer restrict to the scope or type of work I can explore and is able to better counsel my clients towards a more integrated and long-term approach versus tactical or solely campaign-driven implementation. I’ve just returned from Shanghai, giving a talk on social media to an internal board meeting of an MNC client. Such flexibility also diminishes my need to be grounded or region-restricted.

Life is a novel made of of many different chapters, one ending leads to another beginning. Apart from the courses at Singapore Media Academy, which I will be taking on my 4th run tomorrow (16 March 2011), my portfolio has also expanded to wider grounds. Once a social media gal, always a social media gal. I’m currently an independent social media consultant and trainer. I strongly believe in the integration and application of social media across multiple business and marketing functions. Being independent means I no longer restrict to the scope or type of work I can explore and is able to better counsel my clients towards a more integrated and long-term approach versus tactical or solely campaign-driven implementation. I’ve just returned from Shanghai, giving a talk on social media to an internal board meeting of an MNC client. Such flexibility also diminishes my need to be grounded or region-restricted.

Aside from social media, I continue to stay active in the event scene, rendering my services to Festival Square Circle (FSC), a premium event & festival agency with more than 20 years of experience, as a contracted Senior Account Manager. FSC was my ex-employer and my on-going interest in events just made it natural for us to continue this relationship on a project-basis. I like to look at how events can be reinvented and most importantly integrated with new technologies or applied in trans-media.

Training : Social Media Marketing & Communications for Enterprise

16 Sep
September 16, 2010

Singapore Media AcademyI’ve been enduring late nights in the past one month, developing a very exciting social media curriculum for Singapore Media Academy. The 3-day WSQ certified course is heavily subsidised by the Singapore government and targeted at Managers who are interested to learn about the application & integration of social media for enterprises with specifics to marketing and promotion of products and services.

WSQ, or otherwise known as the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications system is a government initiative by WDA to help the workforce in facilitating upgrading programs that can help them advance their careers.

The coursework is co-developed together with the founder of social media start-up, Adrian Teo of PepperConn, who has contributed greatly in putting the framework together. I am highly recommending this course to marketers in organisations who are looking to explore social media and integrate it not only as part of your communications plan but as an even more integral part of your business strategy.

A quick peek at the content of the training:

As part of the WSQ certification, learners are not only expected to listen but hands-on interactive tasks will be given. There will be an assessment to test your understanding at the end of the course, which helps you put your learnings into practical application.

These are the primary topics which I will be covering as part of the course:

  • Introduction to Social Media
  • Landscape Analysis
  • Impact of Influencer Relationships
  • Planning for a Social Media Strategy
  • Measuring the Success of your Strategy
  • Social Media Policies & Rules of Engagement
  • Best & Worst Practices

The sign-ups for the first training is already closed, but the 2nd session is now open for 26th to 28th Oct. I would be happy to answer any queries you may have on the course. Or you can contact SMA (tel: +65 6435 6000) for course or payment related questions.

If your company is looking for a one-day or half-day training for your internal office or for speaking opportunities, please contact me directly at my email instead to discuss further.

Pace your social media strategy

12 Jul
July 12, 2010

That is of course, if you have one in the first place.

There is often confusion in the “strategy” and the “plan”. Let’s think of it this way, do you remember the “forest theory” as stated in the book, Seven habits of highly effective people? Don’t fail to see the forest because of the trees. More often than not, we are so engrossed in trying to “cut down the trees” that we don’t realise we have been bulldozing in the wrong forest all these while. So think of the strategy as “the forest” and plan as “the tree”. Hence, a move such as creating a facebook page is not a strategy, it is an execution that is part of the plan. So each time you are excite by an execution, take a step back and review what is your strategy. We know that in business, we are often restricted by budgets and resources. So keeping tabs and checking back regularly will ensure that these resources and money are put into best use and not in clearing a wrong forest at the end of the day.

So once you have your strategy in place, you start drawing out your plans, which may include building of properties, content etc. While you are eagerly trying to grow your fans and having fun with the social media hype, please pause and make sure you have done the following :

  • Study your consumer behaviours… not solely on your site/page but on your competitors’ as well. Who are your target audience? When are they logging on? What are they interested in? If you have a social media consultant, please seek his/her advice. If you have engaged him/her based on their experience/capabilities, trust that they may have a few good advice for you.
  • What, when, where?… On a day-to-day basis, your brand may be filled with an wide array of products, events and promotions and you want everything to be on your social platforms – all at once. Well, think again. Look back at your strategy, think about your objectives and target audience. In the end, you don’t want your page to look like another bazaar in a flea market. So don’t rush to have everything dumped into your social platforms. Decide what, when and where.

The reason I have entitled this blog post “Pace your social media strategy” is because I have observed some “spamming” from some brands. Not literally but rightfully so in the eyes of the consumer. Pacing is VERY important and the steps above will help you understand how you should pace your strategy. Let me cite you an example…

Brand A wants to build a sustainable community on Facebook, and to use it as a platform to promote the USPs of their premium product targeted at 24 – 35. However, aside from that they also have many overlapping campaigns with different objectives running at the same time. So while they are sharing resources and lifestyle topics around the primary product focus, they are also flooding the page with a brand campaign, a sponsorship campaign, as well as a hip event targeted at the youths between 14 to 21. As the bulk of the work is aplenty, there are multiple agencies handling the different pieces and posting at their own pace. Unfortunately, it caused an influx of Youtube video posts on the event over a weekend that takes the fan page by storm without warning or build-up towards it. And on the conversational side, another agency is trying to talk about World Cup. And in between those event posts, there’s news about their sponsorship efforts which targets at a very different group of users.

Now think… if you are a fan on the page. Would you continue to “like” it?

A question may be appearing in your mind at this time, “But then… shouldn’t a sustainable strategy means that I do not separate my brand into multiple pages?” Yes indeed that should be the ideal. Then, how can you make the efforts seem more receptive to your audience while you are trying to promote different things at the same time?

  1. Objective > Strategy > Plan: You may not be able to do everything on the same platform. But really, WHAT are you trying to do? Build fans? Build brand equity? Build product awareness? What is it? With that mind, you will know how to pick and choose from the bulk of your content.
  2. Pace it, time it: Different group of audience may have different usage behaviours. By posting relevant content to relevant audience at a time where you can maximise eyeballs, you are likely to see better success for your efforts. At the same time, analyse the trends of your fans consumption for content, do you start losing them when you post more often or less often? What is their tipping point?
  3. What they like and not what you like: Many of us can be disillusioned in the type of content that will appeal to our community. Listen and observe when they tend to reply more often, what kind of content gets better traction. Test waters and ask for feedback.

It is common for brands to start flooding their fan pages with everything when the strategy is not clear. There is no direction on what the content should be building towards or where the end destination should be. There is also no way to plot a content strategy out of all the information on the table. My experience working with some clients are that many a times, they are more concerned with themselves than their target audience. They are concerned if they are posting it quick enough or accurately enough and not if their target audience are reading it or are interested to read it. And in this instance, the momentum is inconsistent which is likely to grow into a broadcasting platform for them to rave about themselves.

As the saying goes, more haste less speed. To create a sustainable community for long-term brand benefits, pause for a moment and think about where you are heading. Pace your footsteps as you would as you embark on a marathon, so that you can complete this long and tough race to reach the finishing line in victory.

How-to : Social Media for Businesses (Original text from MyPaper Interview)

21 Jun
June 21, 2010

The text below are the original replies from my interview with MyPaper. As I think some of the points that are being covered may be useful to some readers, hence I’ve uploaded the original text herein for your reference. Will be translating an English version shortly for the reading pleasure of the larger community. Cheers!

以下是接受《我报》采访时所提供的原文。因为觉得其中有一些内容对于某些读者或许会有所用处于是便全文上载于此供诸位分享。

问:许多新加坡企业都在Facebook和Twitter上,但他们不宜顶了解如何测量其有效性或者如何正确地管理这些账户。您对此有何见解?

答:我首要问这些企业的问题是,“你们为何选择上Facebook或Twitter?”许多企业在踊跃响应社群媒体风潮的号召时都未先设立商业意向或可持续性发展战略。这往往都是注定失败的前兆。若你不先设定目的地,你又怎么会知道应往哪个方向前进呢?社群媒体虽然对大多数企业来说都是一个不错的平台,但是Facebook或Twitter并非是最适合你公司或品牌的最佳平台。在莽撞地投入社群媒体之前,企业都应先采取一些基本的数码景观分析 (digital landscape analysis),制定一套包括了商业意向的营销方案,列出一些意图达成的关键绩效指标才开始进行执行。

问:为什么评估有效性和投资回报率对于在社群媒体上的企业如此重要?

答:基本上,效用与回报率对于任何商业的投资都是重要的评估指标。社群媒体自然也不例外。若企业已经决定要将人力物力投资在这个领域上,那么无论投资的大小,便自然需要相当的回报才能取得利益上的平衡。

问:一间公司应如何评估自己的社群媒体投资回报率?您是否可以针对Facebook和Twitter对此给于更深入的解释?

答:我认为回报必须分为短期和长期来设定。社群媒体真正有价值的并非在于直销,而更多的是在建立与扩展品牌资产上。但是我们必须从短期的观察去不断调整策略才能取得长期的回报。 短期的关键绩效指标可能包括:消费者心理分析 (consumer sentiments)、流量(traffic)、曝光率(impressions)、所获报道(earned coverage)、外来连接(back-links)、跟随者或粉丝数量的增长(increase in followers or fans)、潜在顾客开发流程(lead generation) 等。 长期投资回报率则可以从:品牌资产、销售、整体消费者心理的增长、竞争对手的分析等方面去断定策略的成功与否。企业可在总体的营销时间表上加入以社群媒体所执行的各项活动,讨论的话题或重要事项然后再与同期的销售成绩作个对照,从而了解如何取得真正的有效性。 Facebook在本地来说目前是最受欢迎的社群平台。建立了Fan Page之后,所有的管理员都可以检查由Facebook所提供的Insights。当中会提供你一些基本资料,比如每日的粉丝增长率,媒体资源下载率,地里统计等。它可提供你一些有用的数据,帮助你监察与调整策略的持续性。 而Twitter来说,培养高质量的跟随者相当重要。你的直接影响力,间接影响力与发言的曝光率将是主宰效用的重要指标。 但是无论如何,在社群媒体上最珍贵的并非数据。许多企业都埋头于利用数据统计来决定社群媒体的有效率。其实那不是最准确的。社群媒体更应立志的是将每个消费者都培养成自己的品牌代言人。于是有品质的会话,有影响力的拥护者,积极乐观的消费者心理才是社群媒体真正的魅力。

问:你可以提出3 – 5项企业在探索社群媒体的途中常见的失误吗?

答:

  1. 企业一般都不将社群媒体列入全年的营销战略中,而仅把它视为一项短期手段。这是不正确的,社群媒体应是个长期战略。
  2. 企业往往都将社群媒体的执行工作交由初级职员或实习生管理。这是大大不可。社群媒体关系到了品牌与产品定位和主要信息,公关危机处理等。而这些一般都不是初级职员所能够完全懂得或承担得起的。因此最好是训练经理级或者聘请一位专门人士代为执行。
  3. 在踏上社群媒体平台前没有设立商业意向或关键绩效指标。这点以上谈过了。
  4. 公司内部并无官方社群媒体政策(social media policy)。
  5. 在应对网上社群的问答与危机上并未先前设定跨部门流程。这极为关键,因社群媒体通常牵涉到不同部门的责任范围,因此需要各部门主管取得共识并积极合作。

Nosing at the Sony Ericsson Media Event

19 Jun
June 19, 2010

My dear friends at Waggener Edstrom kindly invited me to the Sony Ericsson Media Event. Not knowing what to expect (although I did smell a new phone), I went to the event held at Marina Bay Sands on the afternoon of 16 June. Sony Ericsson has chosen not to take part in CommunicAsia this year, but to piggyback on the biggest IT exhibition-conference in the region to create a number of fringe events around it. One is this media event, and the other, a showcase by Sony Ericsson’s APAC digital ambassador,  popular Korean girl-band, The Wonder Girls.

I also took this opportunity to speak with Steve Walker, Head of Global Product Marketing for Sony Ericsson to get some of his ideas on their social media strategy for the region. Although I hadn’t managed to dig any deep insights from him in the short 10 minute conversation (together with 2 other media), the interview might provide you with some idea on Sony Ericsson’s direction in the digital arena. Some of Sony Ericsson’s global digital success includes a viral video to market the X1, the W595 Darkside campaign, the Extra Man campaign for 2010 Fifa World Cup, and the C95 Online Photographic Competition, just to name a few.

Sony Ericsson has taken some very interesting plunge into social media as a global effort. With Sony Ericsson’s re-brand to align with Sony’s global tagline ofmake.believe, there is a lot of potential to expand on this and create new interesting campaigns & outreach. I for one, love the limitless possibilities of this tagline concept (See Jayden’s blog as an example on their blogger approach. Less the fact that they actually advocate PAYING for coverage of course). I’m definitely looking forward to more localised campaigns that will excite the local online community.

Before we touched further on the SE event, I would first like to make a comment on the venue. Marina Bay Sands so does not live up to its name. Not only the venue is hardly ready to be opened, the premium proposition of Sands Vegas is totally not felt in this location. We may be looking at something less than a white elephant, but rather, one which we are likely to refer as the empty vessel. The management will have a lot of work to do to up its standards.


(APAC Overview by Hirokazu Ishizuka, Corporate Vice President and Head of APAC region)


(left to right : Mike Foong, Chester Chen & Joe Teh)

It was all in all a simple affair, there was a surprisingly good turn-out from the invited bloggers. My best guess is many of them have lined up activities for CommunicAsia on the same day so they do not have to apply for too many days of leave away from work. It was good to meet familiar faces like @MikeFoong, @JamCanSing@DK, @amsie and also finally met @JoeTeh, @triplez82 for the first time.


(left to right : Amelia Wong, ME & DK)

The event was to launch a entire series of new phones from the Xperia series, new walkman phones and an eco-friendly no-frills handset. You can read more about the phone’s specifications from Justin Lee’s coverage here.


(
Above, brand new X8)

(Thanks to Justin on the clarification on the correct model names) The Xperia X8 was the highlight of the evening, the more affordable and smaller twin of the X10, the X8 comes in a number of colourful gradient casings to choose from. But the one that really impressed me was the Xperia10 Mini, which is a very smart design, targeted to fill the missing link between a small and handy but smart phone. This design should suit ladies very well, the light-weight and sleek looking design is also perfect as an accessory to be hung from the neck. Mobile social networking is fast moving towards the mass market and is no longer a gadget for the geek. However, not everyone is ready to carry around a bulky phone and the Xperia10 Mini may just be the solution for this group of people.

Best entertainment phone or not, I do not know. But it is certainly the stylish phone that Sony Ericsson has always positioned their products to be, making it the most accessible phone for the new kid on the block. I was initially unconvinced by the way the interface works and how it connects with the contacts on the phone. However, after an introduction and demo by Justin, I changed my mind and may just consider the X10 Mini if I ever need a smaller smart phone. The only challenge is that I’ve never used Sony Ericsson before and am skeptical about the brand & product.

Interview @ CommunicAsia 2010 – Social media & its place

16 Jun
June 16, 2010

I was touring CommunicAsia together with @skribe and managed to meet up with a few new found friends from Twitter, some who are exhibiting at this grand annual information technology event. We were caught by @stsanto from Getit Comms, who invited us for an interview with @B2Bento, to share some of our take on social media and marketing on virtual worlds. Here are the full recording of our interviews.