Communiqué par Excellence
While being honoured with an Outstanding PRs Champion Award came as a surprise to President and CEO of CapitaLand Group, Mr Liew Mun Leong, the communiqué par excellence deserved every bit of that honour.
The Award given out by the Institute of Public Relations Singapore honours a CEO or top executive who recognises the value of PR to the success of his organisation. He or she must have consistently supported PR budgets and PR activities while at the same time, committed significant human and other organisational resources towards the strengthening of corporate reputation. The award winner must also be personally “PR-savvy”, especially in terms of media interviews and public engagements.
At the award ceremony, Mr Liew offered what he saw as the very important leadership role of the CEO in corporate communications, particularly for a public listed company.
Mr Liew noted, “I am honoured to be conferred the Outstanding PR Champion of the Year Award. There is no place for a non-communicative CEO, especially in a listed company. I am a firm believer that PR is an essential business requirement which must be fulfilled. As a multi-geography, multi-sector real estate player which spans more than 110 cities in over 20 countries, PR becomes an even more important tool for building the global corporate reputation of the organisation.”
Having spent 21 years in the public sector and another 21 years in managing and leading some 10 public listed companies in four different jurisdictions, Mr Liew is a very seasoned communicator and a willing teacher.
"You have to face and answer to shareholders who have invested their money in your company. To me, it is as onerous as an elected government minister, in answering to them publicly and quarterly, the affairs of the company," Mr Liew told the audience upon receiving the honour at the PRISM (Public Relations in the Service of Mankind) Awards, organised to encourage, recognise and reward organisations and individuals for excellence in public relations and communications.
“The CEO cannot hide his or her face behind a veil by asking the PR department to front communication to the public, whether it is about good or bad news. If it is good news, the CEO is the best person to know more about it and therefore can proudly expand on it to promote the interest of the company. If it is bad news, then the CEO has the most background to rationalise and mitigate the negative impact. I have handled both and I know it can be done,” he noted.
Generous with Tips
Always generous with his advice, Mr Liew dished out several PR tips to the audience. On top of the list, "no comment" is never a good answer. "Just be frank, honest and authentic. Admit mistakes and failures, if any," he said. Besides facing shareholders, CEOs also have to face the media. While they may be shy, Mr Liew said that they have to overcome their shyness. "It is your job (to face the media). There isn't any successful uncommunicative CEO around. They die a natural death in their corporate life," he stated plainly. Mr Liew also suggested hiring and working closely with a good communications chief.
A veteran at being interviewed by local and foreign journalists, Mr Liew has this to say to fellow CEOs, “Enjoy a good interview but do your homework thoroughly. Good interviews may help you to review what you have been doing, rightly or wrongly.”
And while he was at it about handling the media, Mr Liew let out one last tip: "Be friendly with journalists and reporters. You will never win fighting them."