Group photo at the end of the lunch session (courtesy of Mr Brown)

Group photo at the end of the lunch session (courtesy of Mr Brown)

I had the honour of lunching with Dr Tony Tan two weeks ago (22 July), together with Mr Brown, Daphne Ling of Mother Inc, Ravi Philemon of The Online Citizen, Pat Law , Mr Miyagi, Dr Cherian George, Alex Au of Yawning Bread and Kien M. Lee.

The stated purpose of the lunch was as an informal, open discussion on how digital channels are transforming discourse and opinions locally and internationally. No press was invited, only bloggers who were deemed to be “trailblazer(s) in the online world in Singapore”. Not used to having such grand terms lavished upon me, I felt so flattered that I confirmed my attendance immediately.

The venue was at NUSS Guild House, nestled in the lush greenery of Bukit Timah. Food was great, so were the insights exchanged, mostly between Dr Cherian George, Alex Au and Ravi Philemon. The conversations leaned on heavier discourse of political and governance, save for the intermittent light moments injected by Mr Brown and Mr Miyagi.

The lunch was summed up with each person at the table sharing a piece of advice for Dr Tony Tan in his presidential campaign bid.

Wah… make me stressed. This dude with his iconic glistening comb-back hairdo was the head honcho of Singapore Press Holdings Ltd (where I work as a lowly employee) just a few months back. Now I am actually in the position to give him advice!

My picture with Dr Tony Tan

My picture with Dr Tony Tan

Anyway, here’s what I shared, though not exactly in the same words and order:

From a marketing perspective, a campaign is fundamentally about the message. A clear message will herald a successful campaign. Regardless of the platform used, be it newspapers, television or social media. These are merely tools; means to an end.

A good example will be the Worker’s Party’s “Towards a First World Parliament” slogan during the last general election. The WP were not the strongest in engaging the mainstream media, nor were they cutting edge in utilising social media. In fact, many of their candidates have no Facebook or Twitter profile till the middle of the election campaign. Yet with a clear message, Singaporeans were spreading their campaign messages for them, posting and sharing updates of their candidates like Chen Show Mao being seen in WP’s blue, taking the MRT train for instance.

We should not forget that there are real people behind social media and it is the human touch that is of essence. Beyond engaging the people with your intellect and credentials, I think it’s important not to forget the human factor, giving the people a real sense of who you are as a person. After all, just speak to the people around you and you will find the bulk of the electoral are not too concerned about highfalutin social, political or economic ideals, but more at the heart string level.

This applies to all the other presidential candidate hopefuls like Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Jee Say, Tan Kin Lian and Andrew Kuan. I am keen to find out more about them on a personal level. In case I get accused of being biased towards Dr Tony Tan, I am open to dialogue sessions with the other candidate hopefuls too. I am sure the other bloggers are too. It’s just that Dr Tony Tan seems to have better PR support at the moment in engaging the local online community. 🙂

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