One thing we’ve learned in our years as PR practitioners is that for our media friends, covering national announcements such as Singapore Budget 2021 is a round the clock, multi-week if not multi-month process to ensure the wider public remains informed of key initiatives. This has its implications for publicists, particularly to stay top of mind either through the budget announcement by offering relevant insights, else looking to alternative tactics of more regional visibility while national media remains absorbed in covering such announcements.
Singapore Budget 2021—which focuses on enhancing Singapore’s resilience and competitiveness as a business hub in the new normal—took centre stage once again. Amidst this, how can PR professionals elevate the messaging of brands they represent, so it rings out loud and clear?
We asked some of our PRecious’ big bosses to weigh in.
Communicating about opportunities—innovation, expansion, and new ways of working together
There’s a saying in the communications world to never waste a good crisis. And Singapore’s government seems to have adopted that approach with this year’s budget themed “Emerging Stronger Together”. Besides measured mitigation efforts for dealing with the impact of Covid-19, there is a strong focus on an accelerated transformation push for industries to focus on innovation and regional expansion. This doesn’t mean that brands should turn tone deaf in acknowledging the hardship the pandemic has brought on people and business alike. But this general mindset shift should encourage businesses and brands to more optimistically and confidently look at and communicate about the opportunities out there – through innovation, through expansion and new ways of working together especially in Southeast Asia.
Contributed by Lars Voedisch, Founder and Managing Director
Putting client’s key messages into the bigger context
From public discourse to policy to follow ups, at least from the perspective of a communications professional one must appreciate the way Singapore Budget 2021 continues to be communicated. There’s a buildup where key topics, issues and focus areas are drip fed, the budget speech is communicated clearly, and there’s a sustenance plan with follow ups. A shout out to key media covering the budget in detail – from our conversations with editors, reporters their round the clock commitment towards covering the budget, and passion comes through.
From a big picture level, brands need to factor in events such as the budget into their communications calendars, if they haven’t already. It’s a great opportunity to stay at the forefront of industry leadership, by being able to contribute relevant content around key pillars within the budget. For those where Budget 2021 is detached from their realm of business and expertise, it’s also a good time to look at more regional or alternate media to stay top of mind, perhaps pushing fewer business announcements and launches and looking at other markets, or tactics such as personality profiling, etc.
As PR professionals, our role remains in providing media with access to subject matter experts, insights and information, on behalf of our clients, which is relevant to their articles. Tactically, this process begins weeks and months ahead of the actual budget announcement, we must have a finger on the pulse of what’s being communicated, and already reaching out to key journalists and editors to help shape their story. We must contextualise our client’s key messages around budget topics rather than force feed content or chase soundbites which management would like to see in the news cycle. Lastly, for 2021 in particular, we need to be very conscious of the challenges, hardships of 2020 – it’s not a chest beating exercise for companies and sectors, nor a measuring contest, but rather providing assurance and responsible, cautious optimism for the way ahead.
Contributed by Prayaank Gupta, Vice President, Growth & Innovation
With the resilience packages rolled out in 2020 and 2021, confidence within the community is rising towards a better and brighter recovery route in the Singapore economy. The Singapore budget has addressed the most fundamental parts in an economy’s recovery – job support scheme and household support package. The key word here is ‘support’, not entitlement.
In essence, brands and organisations will still need to utilise these support ammunition to pivot their businesses to the best of their knowledge and ability. As everyone now is in the headspace to think and look at things differently, people and businesses are more open to novel ways of making changes to suit the next normal. As communicators, it will then be our job to help shape the narratives of a brand’s new journey, creating a workplace that is able to drive through positivity, innovation and adaptability to increase the brand value to the end target audience.
Contributed by Robin Chang, Vice President, Brand Communication & Strategy
Seizing opportunities to drive relevant conversations
This year’s Singapore budget measures underscore the nation’s objective to further growth and transformation and to emerge stronger and resilient. As a Global-Asia node for technology and innovation, there continues to be proactive measures and schemes in the budget to support businesses and consumers.
For technology companies, the brand narrative and the ideal line of messaging is becoming clearer and clearer. Investment in digital innovation and technology can positively influence the rebound and commercial resilience. In fact, the pandemic has pushed companies over the technology tipping point and this is a great opportunity for a lot of technology companies to be involved and to lead relevant conversations. Companies need to communicate a lot more about the impact of their technology, rather than talk about products, solutions and technical specifications
Contributed by Rajiv Menon, Practice Head, Edge
Redirecting the focus towards on long-term strategic goals
This year’s budget is a strong example of Singapore’s long term planning; the schemes show a move from immediate measures to counter the impact of COVID-19, to one that is focused on transforming the entire economy to match today’s business realities, with a focus on digitalisation, innovation and skills. These are topics that many of our clients are comfortable talking about – many were forced to pivot and digitalise last year, and continue to thrive today.
For the PR industry and our clients, we can also take direction from this approach – focusing on long-term strategic goals alongside immediate wins. PR’s strengths lie in building a brand in the long term, and this is a good reminder to do so.
Contributed by Clarence Lim, Practice Head, INC
Beyond Singapore shores, we’ve also asked colleagues from Thailand and Malaysia to share some key national-level initiatives happening on their end, the implications of these initiatives to communicators, and how strategies need to be adjusted in light of these announcements.
Positioning thought leaders effectively through newsjacking opportunities
Last year, various initiatives were announced by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin during his first 100 days as the eighth prime minister of Malaysia. These initiatives focus around helping Malaysia tackle health, economic and social challenges brought about by COVID-19 and the fall in global crude oil prices.
Communications around these objectives have to be clear and concise, and should relay as much information on how these initiatives can benefit people. Communications can help strengthen and mobilise national efforts and resources to support these initiatives, in turn, translating to an accelerated yet balanced national development.
For the PR industry, announcements around national initiatives provide newsjacking opportunities, which, when played right, can position clients as thought leaders in their respective fields. In the Malaysian market in particular, positioning clients’ messaging around technology trends, business scenarios and major obstacles for future digital investments and transformation such that it is in sync with national initiatives can do wonders towards elevating thought leadership.
Contributed by Kiranjeet Sidhu, Client Services Director, Malaysia
Driving trust and awareness
In Thailand, no project has recently gained as much attention as the economic stimulus packages: the half-half copayment scheme, where Thai nationals will each be receiving 3,500 THB as a subsidy; the “We Win” financial aid programme, which entitles Thai nationals to an additional 7,000 THB; and the 4,500- BHT “We Love” cash handout. These programmes are all aimed at helping small retail stores and people affected by COVID-19, so they can move towards accelerated recovery. There are some analysts, however, who comment that the scheme is a double-edged sword as the Thai government can collect retail stores’ data, which they might possibly use for income tax collection purposes in the future.
Communicating the programme objectives can go a long way towards helping affected people, the unemployed, and retail stores in a critical period. By assuring them that the projects are not related to tax collection and by significantly pinpointing the advantages of the economic stimulus packages, communicators can help drive public trust in the government and national initiatives. This in turn, can go a long way towards accelerating economic recovery and improving the lifestyle of Thai nationals.
Contributed by Busakorn Srisongkhroh, Thailand Market Lead
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