“Building Public Confidence”: Patrick Nathan from SMRT spoke on SMRT’s social media strategy, ROI measurement and incident management for COMM 346

Patrick Nathan is a Vice President of Singapore Mass Rapid Transit – SMRT, heading its Corporate Information and Communications Division (which includes Corporate Marketing and Communications, Passenger Service Department, and SMRT’s interestingly-named Information Fusion Centre). On October 22 he was Guest Lecturer in the social media ROI module in COMM 346 Social Media Strategies. He was accompanied by his SMRT Corporate Communication colleague Jean Pham Ai Ling.

lecturejean idea pitch jun kai
In his lecture, Vice President Nathan introduced SMRT’s social media use for developing an effective PR Strategy and building public confidence. More specifically, he discussed and explained how the collective new media platform (it includes Corp intranet, mobile apps, the SMRT blog and other social networking sites) streamline SMRT’s strategy to build and operate customer engagement, awareness, education, and incident management.

Regarding this year’s July 7 rail service disruption, which had extensive spillover impact on Singapore generally, V-P Nathan said that “for better community outreach” SMRT discussed “on broadcast platforms” various aspects about it and, importantly, about “taking responsibility, apologizing for the inconvenience, and explaining what went wrong, steps taken to rectify the fault and service recovery measures.” In these ways, he said, SMRT “did its best to demonstrate accountability, sincerity and transparency.” He also elaborated on how SMRT measures and evaluates the effectiveness of social media, mainly via two aspects: outreach and engagement.

In the workshop session which followed, V-P Nathan set each group an assignment which, in broad terms was to “Develop content ideas for an integrated PR strategy to address a persistent PR challenge for SMRT, and suggest an appropriate brand ambassador for SMRT.”

Group 2’s resultant pitch with its eye-catching catchphrase of The Right Ride – conveying the idea of an excellent customer experience for commuters and users of SMRT services – was evaluated highly by V-P Nathan and Jean Pham Ai Ling, and won the idea-pitch competition.

The win for the group (Tang Jingfang, Tan Wan Ling Elizabeth, Lim Jin Yang Mark, Juliane Benedict, Jeannie Teo Jin Min) means that it has achieved an impressive hat trick: three idea-pitch wins in a row – MBS, Uber, and SMRT. Group 2’s Jeannie Teo Jin Min said they had

“… focused on the prominently-persistent PR challenge of facing extreme public discontent over train breakdowns, delays and other service issues. And we want to amplify the unsung heroes: the service and technical staff of SMRT who tirelessly work long hours to provide a wholesome experience for commuters. This would be shown through a video where scenes of a day in a SMRT staff-member’s work are contrasted with those of a regular commuter – a student, housewife, businessman etc.”

V-P Nathan’s reaction and comment was one of high satisfaction with all the idea pitches:

“Honestly I cannot fault any group’s idea; the difficulty always comes with implementing the strategy. But if I must select only one idea, The Right Ride pitch was particularly impressive as it successfully captures the very essence of SMRT service with a couple of words and that sounds very modest and tries to be aspirational at the same time. I really would love to use this idea for our campaign implementation for real. That is what we want to provide to all Singaporeans.”

As a winning team, the group was awarded small prizes.

Group 2 has achieved an impressive hat trick: three idea-pitch wins in a row - MBS, Uber, and SMRT.
Group 2 has achieved an impressive hat trick: three idea-pitch wins in a row – MBS, Uber, and SMRT.

COMM 346 very sincerely appreciates SMRT for its informative and educational presentation and workshop activity for the class. We in COMM 346 hope to continue this industrial-educational conversation for future modules.

Faculty additional note: Patrick Nathan also brought into our COMM 346 Guest Lecture session the clear benefit and prestige of his substantial academic credentials, and his impressive Public Service track record. He has a Bachelor of Social Science (Honours) in Political Science (National University of Singapore) and a Master of Science in Strategic Studies (Nanyang Technological University). He served on Singapore’s National Security Secretariat 2002-2004, then was seconded to the National Security Coordination Centre, Prime Minister’s Office, as its Deputy Director, until 2011 when he joined SMRT.

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