Celebrate your Champions

When driving digital transformation within your organization, it’s important to recognize your top internal advocates

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Driving a shift in company culture is no small task, especially in companies with long established ways of working.

This year, Mediacorp began working with Avado and Google to bring employees into Squared Online, an over 20-week online course in digital marketing. This month, the first 22 students from Mediacorp graduated so we decided to throw this first batch of digital advocates a small graduation ceremony, including a small breakfast spread with wine & cheese.

When driving digital transformation in your organization, your early converts are among your best advocates. These are the first employees who have stepped forward to embrace the challenge and blaze a trail. They will be your first internal champions, the ones who will win over others and infect them with their enthusiasm. They are the ones who now speak a common language and will incorporate what they’ve learned in day-to-day business operations.

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Mediacorp’s first batch of “Squares”: early adapters of digital transformation

Events like this, although relatively modest, help to foster a sense of community among these early adaptors. Recognizing their accomplishments and applauding their contributions, not just among their peers but with the senior leadership team, is essential.

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Mediacorp’s first batch of “Squares” not only finished the course but helped drive the March cohort (the programme’s first in APAC) well over of completion and performance averages set in the UK. By the end of the year, over 50 Mediacorp staff from manager- to senior leadership-level from across 13 business units will have gone through Squared Online training. This signifies a significant investment for the company and is yet still one of the first steps towards full digital transformation.

 

 

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When Obama and the PM appear on your UGC social media campaign

4 small victories people working in Social Media Marketing will appreciate

Working in Social Media can be thankless, especially when you work for brands that sometimes attract negativism or trolls. But every now and then, the digital marketing gods throw you a bone or two, making everything worthwhile.

160804 #ThisIsUs screen grabMediacorp is currently running a campaign to celebrate Singapore’s National Day. Instead of attempting to interpret national identity, as many brands do at this time of the year, Mediacorp decided to let ordinary Singaporeans define what makes up their Singapore, using user-generated-content (UGC) and the hashtag #ThisIsUs. The campaign is running across the network’s television, radio and online properties, with the participation of on-air personalities and artistes. UGC content is posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and then aggregated on the campaign page thisisus.sg.

It’s been quite a challenge for the team. Much time has been spent either on location shooting video content (workdays and weekends), huddled around conference calls with the agency or in the campaign “command center” surrounded by monitors displaying dashboards from campaign management and listening tools.

But there have been some rewards as well. And for anyone who puts together campaigns like this for a living, here’s a list of familiar triumphs that keep social media marketers motivated.

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Channel NewsAsia presenter Steve Chia shares family moments for #ThisIsUs
  1. When your colleagues get on board. In large organizations, people can easily operate in silos, oblivious to what other departments are doing. It also sometimes feels like your own colleagues are the most jaded and reluctant to embrace your campaign. So when you start to see contributions coming from within the company, it feels like a pat on the back.  It’s especially gratifying when that participation includes a willingness to share photos of their own families.
  2. When senior management gets behind you. Mid-campaign, the team got a shock — I mean, pleasant surprise — when Mediacorp CEO Shaun Seow dropped into the command center at lunch time to ask how things were going. Later, highlights of the campaign-in-progress as well as photos of the command center  were shared with the staff during a town hall session. A simple gesture but it can mean a lot to a team when they know their work matters and that senior leadership has taken a genuine interest in their activities.160804 #ThisIsUs screen grab2
  3. When you see real diversity in the contributions from users. Playing with UGC is a roll of the dice. Even the most innocuous campaigns unexpectedly incur the public’s ire. And on the flip-side, a campaign that is met by indifference can be equally devastating to a marketing team. But when you get a great mix of content in photos, videos or even animated gifs, when you see such a rich variety of images of kids, elderly people, families, social gatherings, beloved pets, everyday street scenes, landmarks, etc that’s when it starts to feel like magic.
  4. When really famous people show up in the content. No, not those celebrities. Mediacorp is, after all, a media & entertainment network and so some of the country’s most well known
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    Hanging with the PM
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    The POTUS photobomb

    faces are in the company’s employ. The victory is when people you wouldn’t even dream of appear in your UGC stream. In this case, a Singaporean in the US posted photos from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s state visit on Instagram using the #ThisIsUs hashtag. Imagine our surprise when not only did the PM appear in a photo but so did US President Barack Obama!

If you’re working in social media, hopefully you’ve experienced all four in the course of your career. Are there any other victories that I’ve I missed?

 

Purple Reign

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Like many people, I was saddened to hear the sudden, unexpected news that music legend Prince had passed away weeks ago. And like many, I tried to assuage this grief by listening to his music, only to be reminded that very few of his work is available on streaming services like Spotify. His crusade for artists’ rights and stand against streaming services where (he felt) artists didn’t get the revenues they deserved is, well, legendary.  Even on Youtube, you were lucky to find the rare Prince live performance.

And so I turned to my modest vinyl collection only to realize that all I had of Prince was an old copy of his “Purple Rain” album that I had purchased from some second-hand record store. (It sounded terrible.)

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Well, thankfully, there’s eBay. I decided that I would do what (probably) Prince would have wanted: if you wanted to listen to his music, you had to go and buy his goddamn record. And that’s what I did.

Two weeks later and what I scored has finally arrived: the 12″ maxi single version of “Purple Rain” from 1984. And it’s purple. And it’s in pristine condition. And it’s beautiful.

Thank you for several lifetimes’ worth of fantastic music, Prince. Long live your Purple Reign.

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Promote the Most Important Brand Of All: Your Own

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For my parents’ generation, career advice was relatively straightforward: get a high-paying job with a large, stable company and you’re pretty much set up for life. Even today, this is still considered conventional wisdom, especially in Asia where large conglomerates dominate several industries. I once had one of those “stable” jobs, a marketing management position with a multinational company called Nokia, at the height of its dominance as the world’s largest mobile handset manufacturer. We all know what’s happened to Nokia since then.

The truth is, there is no such thing as a stable job anymore. Last year the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported the average employee tenure for technology companies is three years, or less than two years in advanced markets like the UK. (The same report quoted that the average employee tenure at tech giant Google was only 1.1 years.) Whatever we once believed as the covenant between employee-employer is now a thing of the past. There is every likelihood that a marketer, either by choice or by circumstance, will be moving from one employer to another every few years. Yet the average marketer still neglects to look after the most important brand of all: his own personal brand.

Author Reid Hoffman goes one step further, arguing that one should manage his career as if it were a start-up (The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career, available on Amazon). A simpler way to start is to ask yourself: What can we learn about how the world’s biggest brands are managed and how can they be applied to your career as a marketer?

Great brands are unique

What is your personal brand’s unique selling proposition? Identify what it is in your field that you specialize in. It’s not enough on your CV or LinkedIn profile to say that you manage ad agencies and are responsible for CRM. Instead specify how you specialize in transforming traditional marketing organizations into digital marketing organizations. Talk about how you have a track record for gleaning new marketing strategies from analyzing available data. Share how you have taken many US brands and made them relevant across multiple Asian cultures.

Recount your past successes and, in all likelihood, recurring themes will emerge. Stick with those themes and elaborate on them through blog posts, drawing on examples from your career or from your observations in the industry. Volunteer to speak on these topics at conferences or media interviews. A powerful brand’s uniqueness echoes across all forms of media. Your personal brand should be no different.

Great brands are authentic

The world’s most powerful brands are true to themselves, credible, consistent and never claim to be more than they are. A major Singapore company was recently caught paying bloggers to praise its services and malign the competitors’. Whenever a brand stoops to such inauthentic behavior, being found out is inevitable.

In a competitive job market, many fall to the temptation to overstate one’s qualifications or claim understanding of topics on which one actually has limited experience. This is unnecessary. Your own career offers a wealth of lessons and experiences to draw from. Authors are constantly advised, “Write what you know.” The same consideration must be taken in defining your own personal brand.

Great brands stand for something

Power brands have values and are not afraid to express them, even if it means alienating existing customers. Much has been written about Starbucks’ stance on diversity and marriage equality, which caused some conservative Americans to call for a boycott of the brand. CEO Howard Schultz admits publicly, “Not every decision is an economic decision.” The move may have been unpopular in some sectors but it also forged stronger bonds with a core set of loyal brand advocates.

Brand loyalty is built when a customer decides that a brand shares similar values. Similarly, as a brand, you should never shy away from having an opinion on something you feel strongly about. Too many Marketing blogs and social media posts are full of politically correct, often-repeated, safe content. They are also dull and indistinguishable. If you want your personal brand to stand out, take a stand on issues and passionately defend them.

Great brands form alliances

Apple Pay x MasterCard, Spotify x Uber, Adidas x Yohji Yamamoto, LEGO x Star Wars…great brands aren’t afraid to collaborate with other brands. Such associations can bridge a brand towards a different audience, others can nudge the brand away from its roots towards new areas.

In building your own personal brand, make sure to form relationships with others with similar domain expertise. If there is someone whose career you admire, reach out and meet over coffee. If you are in similar fields there should be no shortage of things to talk about. There’s no limit to what opportunities may result. This is where social networks liked LinkedIn can also be a powerful tool.

Now more than ever, your career needs to stand for much more than simply which company you currently work for. Identify your career’s strengths and start putting together a strategy for how to grow your own personal brand.

A version of this article was published in Marketing magazine’s January-February 2016 issue.

Music from my Bedroom, 1990-1994

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A music playlist is a time machine.
I moved into the upstairs bedroom at our house in Berlin Avenue, Quezon City. My career in advertising and marketing was just beginning. I bought my first personal stereo system, which meant for the first time I could listen to my own cassettes and CDs in the privacy of my own bedroom. The future was bright and beckoned with possibility.
This is the music I was into at the time. What do these songs remind you of?
#NowPlaying “Berlin Avenue: Music from my Bedroom circa 1990-1994” on #Spotify

Why I stood in line for 6 hours to pay respects to Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore flies at half-mast at Parliament House

In the car just minutes before arriving at Suntec City, my wife and I looked at each other. “This is it. No turning back.” The radio was already warning people since 7am that the waiting time to pay respects to Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, would be at least seven hours. But we were determined.

We joined the line from outside Raffles City. Throughout that morning the line would crawl, speed up and slow down again as we approached the waiting pens at the Padang, where we were then herded together into smaller groups before being asked to join the line again. Spirits were high throughout, despite the heat and humidity. Police managed the flow of the crowd while young men in military uniform handed out free water, isotonic drinks and umbrellas and occasionally making the crowd laugh with jokes.

The entire process took about six hours. Afterwards a colleague of mine told me, “I’m surprised you would do that.” Perhaps she knew about my aversion to queues. Perhaps she knew I wasn’t born in Singapore and such a display of loyalty was expected only of someone who was native born, who grew up with Mr Lee as a persistent national figure.

I was born and raised in the Philippines, lived briefly in Hong Kong and moved to Singapore in 1997. In 2001 I was offered citizenship and became a Singapore citizen in 2002. So why would a Filipino stand in the sun for almost six hours to pay respects to Singapore’s founding father?

How could I not? It was Mr Lee’s vision that gave rise to an economic system where a young man from the Philippines could be welcomed into a multi-cultural society, find career opportunities and pursue the career he desired. I came to pay my respects because Lee Kuan Yew did more to elevate my quality of life and secure a brighter future for myself and my family than any other leader or public servant from the land of my birth. I came because I will always be grateful for the opportunity to live in Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore.

I accept the ALS #IceBucketChallenge

I accept the Ice Bucket Challenge and name comedian Hossan Leong, founder of Goodstuph, Pat Law, and CEO of SingTel Yuen Kuan Moon. 

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I accept the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS awareness made by Don Anderson, Singapore MD of We Are Social!

In turn, I nominate comedian and all-around performer Hossan Leong, founder of Goodstuph, Pat Law, and CEO of SingTel Yuen Kuan Moon. You guys have 24 hours to respond! 

The ALS ice bucket challenge has already raised more than USD 30 million for the ALS Association. You, too, can donate at www.alsa.org

Now if you think you’re too cool to participate in this worthy cause, check out who’s already done it here

Recent additions include Tom Cruise…

…and former US President George W Bush.

Update: as of 22 August 2014. SingTel CEO Yuen Kuan Moon accepts the challenge. Well done, Moon!

5 tips for digital content

Presenting at Content 360 in Singapore

SingTel has spent the last three years refining and investing in its social media and digital content strategy. In the last year alone, SingTel has produced a wide variety of content, from educational infographics to award winning video campaigns like #Need4GSpeed and #HawkerHeroes.

For brands looking to venture into digital content designed for social media for the first time, the path forward might look daunting and pockmarked with risks. Here are five tips to guide you:

1. Aim for the heart, not the head

One of the first things we learned from working with the giant social media network Facebook was the useful sanity-check question: “Why will they care; why will they share?”

When a consumer decides to share a video or re-tweet an article, it is usually either because he found the content thoroughly upsetting (to which the reaction was “I have to share this!”) or he found the content so amusing (to which the reaction was “I have to share this!”).

#HawkerHeroes worked particularly well for SingTel not just because of the presence of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay but also because it delved into an issue close to Singaporeans’ hearts: local heritage and cuisine.

As tempted as it sometimes gets to fill marketing content with information, just remember that if this was only about appealing to rational minds, social media would be about the viral distribution of white papers.

2.Accept the fact that you are not Ellen DeGeneres

“Please make this viral” is a phrase social media marketers dread. Too often, making a material viral is seen as the only goal worth pursuing. But unlike Ms Degeneres, most mere mortals (or brands) will never be responsible for the next Most Retweeted Tweet in History.

Instead, understand where this piece of content fits into your overall campaign strategy. Is it meant to educate? Or call attention to an issue? More realistic metrics such as video views or clicks to a campaign site would then be more sensible goals.

3. Have a good budget for production, but set aside a budget for distribution first

Often all the resources are poured into production with an expectation that something so brilliantly creative or funny is sure to go viral. (See Tip #2.) But even the best creative work is wasted if no one finds out it exists. Especially in today’s extremely cluttered media environment where hundreds of hours of video are being uploaded to Youtube every second, the chances of your shiny new video being discovered organically gets smaller by the day.

Combining an influencer outreach programme, traditional PR and an initial burst of paid media can give your content that boost it needs to get an audience’s attention and get that Share snowball rolling.

#HawkerHeroes, SingTel’s most successful campaign from last year, may have looked like a random viral campaign. But it only came to life through a complex, multi-channel strategy whose execution was planned down to the minute-by-minute detail.

4. Get your consumers involved

The best content campaigns are the ones where the audience gets in on the action. Consumers can be valuable co-creators, as we have seen in a number of campaigns from Old Spice to Oreo.

SingTel’s own #Need4GSpeed enlisted consumers to provide their best applications of a high speed mobile connection which were then translated into comedy sketches by comedian Hossan Leong.

5. Keep it simple

One common mistake brands make is to make participating in a campaign too complex, which can be an obstacle to a social media campaign’s success.

I personally prefer apply the “60-second Rule”. Ask yourself, would responding to the content or participating in the discussion take more than 60 seconds? Years ago, brands relied heavily on mechanics like photo submissions and anticipated no more than 10% of the audience would actually participate while the rest simply watched. Today the hashtag offers a much simpler way to participate and lowers barrier to entry.

Content-led social media campaigns need not be so daunting. While there are always risks, they can be extremely rewarding for any brand with the right concept and adequate planning.

This article was originally published in Marketing Interactive and was based on my presentation made at Content 360 on 3 April 2014 in Singapore. Full presentation below:

‘Peanuts’ to return as an all-CGI animation feature

Charles M Shulz’s beloved cartoon strip will return to the big screen in 2015, apparently as an all-CGI animation feature.

Watching this teaser trailer, I actually realized I haven’t seen many of the old cell-animated cartoons. And when I imagine Charlie Brown’s voice, I hear my mom’s voice. That’s how I was introduced to Peanuts: my mom reading it to me. (I’m pretty sure she still says, “Auggghhh!” in real life.)

Nowadays it’s likely many young people, particularly millennials, are largely unaware of Peanuts. My hope is that Peanuts can live on for future generations.

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