Friday, December 31, 2010

Jan 1, 2011

Is that a Govt press release? Claus it is

Forget humdrum news, ICA issues offbeat media releases to get attention

ICA's head of public and internal communications Chia Hui Keng (third from left) with her team (from left) Kong Yong Sin, Pricilia Peh, Nazeera Ibrahim, Serene Wong and Brenda Tham. The corporate communications department is making an effort to spice up its press releases to get the attention of editors and journalists. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

YOU better watch out, you better not try, you better not hide, I'm telling you why: ICA and Customs are checking you down.

You might be forgiven if you thought that verse, sung to the tune of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, was a song for the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) Christmas party or even some blogger having a bit of fun.

But it is actually part of an official ICA media release announcing real news.

Titled A Christmas Carol Dedicated To The Smugglers, it was sent to the different media outlets on Christmas Eve to announce the capture of a man who tried to smuggle $1,600 worth of duty-unpaid liquor into Singapore.

Although it is far from the sort of thing one would expect from a government agency, ICA's corporate communications department has developed something of a reputation for offbeat press releases.

It takes the effort to spice it up, the authority says, to attract attention.

Ms Chia Hui Keng, ICA's head of public and internal communications, said: 'Our target audience are the journalists and editors. And we want to make sure they notice our release.

'So we make sure we have a captivating title and we try and use a story to lead into what we want to say.'

And it certainly seems to be working. She says that nearly all of its four to six releases a month get some sort of media coverage.

Indeed, in a sea of otherwise similar sounding formal press releases, ICA's carols and catchy headlines stand out.

Last month, when two men were caught trying to sneak out of Singapore in the luggage compartment of a bus, the press release that announced it featured a picture of them in the compartment with the caption: 'Chassis class sleeper costs $700 per person.'

The two had allegedly paid $700 each to an agent for the trip out of Singapore.

During the last Chinese New Year, when two large caches of contraband cigarettes were discovered at the checkpoints, ICA put out a press release entitled Double Prosperity.

'We've actually got good feedback from newspaper editors and other corporate communications officers. It's very encouraging,' said Ms Chia.

The light-hearted style of the releases began seven years ago, when former ICA communications executive Chia Wei Kiang decided to try something different.

The 36-year-old, who now works at the Permanent Resident Services Centre, said he often found himself bored while reading releases. 'I thought for what we wanted to say, it was going to take more effort. Thankfully, the bosses were very supportive,' he said.

The Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts does not have specific guidelines on how press releases should sound.

However, not all press releases can be fun, and not all ideas are approved.

On Wednesday, they issued a release on the implementation of a double-barrelled race option. 'We had an idea to start with a story but in the end, for a serious topic like that, we decided to play it straight,' said Ms Chia.


Mr Chang C.L.


Sent from CCL's iPhone4

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