MEDIA & MARKETING | Contributed Content, Singapore
Neil Brennan

Digital disruption's impact on crisis communications


It is obvious that social media has changed the entire dynamics of crisis communications – from the way professionals work, engage with our communities, and communicate ideas. It has significantly re-defined our relationships with people and forever changed the way businesses run. And this change is not evolutionary but revolutionary.

Over the years, we have seen how social media impacts the day-to-day life of Singaporeans, in both the social and corporate aspects. Consider this digital and social snapshot: When Pokémon GO first launched in Singapore, the augmented virtual reality smartphone game received over a billion downloads in its first week; and retailers from all corners of the nation have cashed in on the game’s popularity by way of offering attractive discounts to Pokémon GO players. This is all thanks to the Little Red Dot having the highest smartphone and broadband penetration rates in Southeast Asia, according to a 2016 mobility report by Ericsson.

Furthermore, a 2015 survey by market research firm Deloitte found that Singaporeans between the ages 25 and 34 are the most active users of instant messaging.

As the social media and digital landscapes continue to evolve at a rapid pace, the way in which professionals engage with stakeholders, the public, and communities and respond to crises will definitely change.

Embrace and acknowledge change
Change is all part and parcel of life. In today’s digital age, the pace of change is so rapid that as marketing professionals we have to respond to opportunities and threats faster, supporting rapid decision making and action. 

But first and foremost, we should acknowledge change and embrace it. Whilst it is easy to resist change and continue staying in our comfort zone, eventually something – that is, social media and digital technology – comes along to shake us out of it.

After all, social media gives people the freedom to express themselves however they want and in real-time. What this means for businesses is, finding and adopting new strategies to connect with their audiences and stakeholders, particularly when a crisis unfolds. A good example would be the 2011 SMRT train breakdowns which eventually led to then-Chief Executive Officer Saw Phiak Hwa stepping down from her position, the formation of a Committee of Inquiry, and a thorough investigation from the Government.

The good news is that embracing change is not difficult. Once you start looking at change as a good thing, you will be amazed at the benefits that follows after.

Importance of staying abreast
All this brings to point the importance of being prepared, whether or not there is a crisis taking place. In the case of the 2011 SMRT train breakdowns, it seemed there was no up-to-date clear crisis reponse plan in place as many affected indviduals did not know what was going on at that point in time.

Although there is no hard and fast rule how you as a marketing professional should react to a crisis in the digital age, reacting to a crisis nowadays requires re-evaluating your belief system – and this starts from within the organisation. And if you and your organisation are open to adopting new ways to solving problems in order to put out the fire, you will find that you will be prepared to respond to an online and/or offline crisis in a timely manner. 

And to make sure that you stay abreast of the latest technologies and trends, do keep an open eye on the trends happening on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Weibo – well, all popular social media outlets.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Neil Brennan

Neil Brennan

Neil Brennan is responsible for developing and executing growth strategy for Meltwater's Japan and South East Asia region. Both an Aussie and an Englishman, Neil was educated at Nottingham Trent studying business economics. He currently calls Asia home, and works from Meltwater’s Singapore office.

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