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Seah Kian Peng's adept Covid communications check out

News   •   Oct 03, 2020 13:53 +08

Screenshot from CNBC interview

Consumers fighting over toilet paper has become a defining image of the Covid lockdowns around the world - and NTUC Fairprice supermarkets were not spared. 

Now that the issue has passed, Fairprice Group CEO Seah Kian Peng could reflect on all the craziness earlier this year.

In a two-part interview on CNBC, he displayed tact and smart manoeuvring in getting his point across without getting stuck on difficult questions.

Read on for my assessment below.

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We launched the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards in 2018 to recognise local business leaders for their media interview skills, and to showcase authentic and credible home-grown communicators.

Supported by the Asia Pacific Association of Communications Directors, we highlight shining examples for other local business leaders to follow, and to build a culture of excellence in communication, to maximise the potential of Asian companies in the Asian Century.

Nominations close October 31, 2020 at www.mediasavvy.asia.

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Here are the three things I felt he did well:

  • Flagging

Seah flagged two criteria for Fairprice choosing the locations to sell groceries out of vans. Can you spot them at the 00:56 mark?

  • Story

Talking about the situation of Singaporeans rushing to stockpile necessities in February, Seah described the build-up of crowds at the stores, saying “all hell broke loose”.

This may not be the first choice of words for many communications directors, but it was candid and honest, it was (let's be honest) accurate, and it sure made for good television.

He talked about how he had to craft his own press release as he had no time to talk to his corporate communications people, and posted it on his own Facebook page. He then went down to the Fairprice stores and he convened a meeting at midnight with his leadership team.

These details vividly communicated the pressure of the situation.

Fairprice's communications people might have their own view of what happened, but how many CEOs could claim to be so media savvy as to think of communicating to the public as top priority, much less writing their own press release.

Our nomination of Seah for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Award 2020 is in part due to this.

  • Didn’t get stuck in a difficult question

Seah didn’t get stuck when my former colleague and friend Christine Tan asked him how many months of stockpile of items Fairprice carries. A reply to the question would probably reveal sensitive information, so he talked about how Fairprice has a system for determining stockpiles of “x months”, and pointed to Fairprice's practise of stockpiling different categories, and that Fairprice is responding to the COVID-19 situation by increasing the number of countries it imports food from. So, he responded to the question ...without actually revealing the number.

If you know Seah Kian Peng, share this article with him and congratulate him on being nominated for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2020.

If you have what it takes, nominate yourself or your senior business leader for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2020!

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