- It is a pleasure to see everyone present here today. The fact that all of you here have taken the effort to clear your busy schedule in order to attend this program shows that we are all cognizant of the importance to keep ourselves relevant to the latest trends and thoughts in our respective areas. We all intend to stay updated on the current issues and challenges given the increasingly complex environment that we work in today.
Evolving Role of a Ministry of Information Communications and the Arts (MICA) Information Officer (IO)
Few points to highlight with direct impact on the role of an IO.
- · Expansion in the role of a MICA IO today: While the underlying competencies remain largely the same, the approach that IOs take towards the communication of government news and polices has certainly changed. Not so long ago, IOs core competencies allowed them to make sense of the policies that their agencies stood for in order to communicate the policies effectively to the public through traditional media. Nowadays, not only must IOs create impactful statements on the policies they represent, they must also seek to “understand public sentiments” through both the traditional and social media. IOs need to remain constantly vigilant to communicate directly with the “public” who is in turn empowered to communicate real time concerns and feedback through the various social media channels.
- Harnessing the powers of Social Media from a Whole-of-Government (WOG) approach: The paradigm for information management has shifted drastically with the dominance of social media today, thereby empowering public to influence policies and set trends by forming interest groups and even throw up their own ideas and views through the various social media platforms. The public sector responded swiftly to the various social media changes. In fact, the Singapore Government had taken a WOG approach towards agencies’ social media engagement.
For instance, since last year, many of our IOs are posted to various public agencies to help establish various news media initiatives through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos, and even developing mobile apps. Many agencies have also revamped their websites and micro sites to include more social media friendly functions. All these illustrate the effort of IOs to act as trailblazers in their respective areas of work.
- Public Engagement: With a population that is growing more cynical and critical, agencies are seeing the importance for greater transparency in information- sharing with the public. This is to not only garner buy-in but also allow the wider community to be enlisted in co-creating a common solution to issues. To achieve this, government agencies have to engage the public constantly through technology and social networking media.
This is when for many of you as IOs and for some of you double hatting as Press Secys to our POHs, your role has just been complicated. You now not only need to counsel your respective principals or policy colleagues but also to take on the role as a social media collaborator between the organisation and the public. You also need to understand and be able to advise WOG the best way to engage the public to enlist their inputs effectively in the policy making process thereby making them a collective part of the solution and garner their understanding on some of the rationales behind our policies.
- Leadership and mentoring: Many of you in your capacity as senior IOs find yourselves naturally taking on the role of mentoring and training junior IOs and other communication officers in your respective teams. The role of a leader is never easy as it brings along with it many challenges. How a leader handles these challenges will define his/or her effectiveness as a leader. To help further develop your leadership ability, for more effective coaching and mentoring to your team, this year’s INFO-ACE has included a 4-hr workshop on “Leading and Influencing” for participants. I hope that this workshop will give many of you a greater level of self-awareness as leaders to enable you impart your teams and organizations appropriately.
- Today’s landscape has certainly made it an exciting, but challenging period for an IO/IO-PRO. The role of public communications will only increase further in policymaking and implementation. That means, while as IOs/IO-PROs you will have to work extra harder as well as be rewarded professionally. To this end, MICA in collaboration with CSC will seek to deepen the professional development of IOs at key junctures in their careers.
- Most, if not all of you have undergone INFO-Scene – the basic milestone course that picked up the key competencies necessary for your effective performance as an IO. This year’s INFO-Ace, which was previously repositioned as the mid-level milestone course, for all IOs would not only focus on the development of key leadership skills but also generate a wider appreciation of the socio-political policy implications, among other things. Therefore, there are more sharing sessions from internal and external agencies and senior IOs. As senior IOs/IO-PROs, you need to have the confidence to advice your senior management on the way forward and the best public communications approaches to be taken. You also have the task of training and developing your officers so that your team can function cohesively and effectively. I hope that through the training and sharing session, you will be further empowered in your respective leadership roles to your team.
- MICA and CSC have already started to work on the development of the INFO-Lead which is intended to develop and prepare senior IOs poised for leadership roles in communications. I look forward to sharing more details again when it shall be finalised.
- The local component of the fourth INFO-Ace is a rich, intensive one-week program adopting a rich mix of learning methodology from sharing by Info Directors and senior IO-PROs to case study discussions.
- I hope you will attempt to get the most out of your time here. It shall not just be a great learning opportunity to hear from all these speakers, but it shall also be a chance to have fruitful discussions amongst yourselves and perhaps, arrive at some solutions.
- I encourage all of you to make full use of the learning opportunity to hone their knowledge and keep an open mind in discussions. Believe me, there is no better learning environment than the shared experiences that all of you bring to the discussions. You are among your own – so be free and frank and learn from each other’s experiences.
- Finally, I have to give a Special thank you to CSC and Sulo for their contributions in developing the 4th INFO-Ace
Overview of INFO-ACE
- The INFO-Advanced Communications Excellence was approved in August 2006 by the MICA Career Development Committee as the second milestone training program designed to enhance the professional skills set of officers in the Information Service and ultimately raise the status of the Service. The objective then was to prepare mid-level IOs to take on postings as IO-PROs. Since then, two runs of the course have successfully been completed and many of the IOs trained in these courses are now serving as IO-PROs in various capacities.
- Management has since decided to reposition INFO-ACE as a mid-level course for all IOs to prepare them to take on managerial roles, prompting change in course content and objectives in line with this aim. Hence the objectives of the INFO-ACE will be as follows:
- Develop leadership skills, staff management, advisory, consultancy, and public communications functions.
- Sharpen participants’ political sensitivity and maturity to respond to challenges that arise from the evolving public communications landscape.
- Reinforce in participants the values and ethos of the Information Service, thereby invoking a continued sense of pride as they advance their career.
- Foster an enabling platform for the transfer of institutional knowledge and experience through dialogues with Public Service Leadership and senior IOs.
- The program, while retaining some elements of the previous courses, now incorporates new modules considered critical for IOs in mid-career roles.The key changes include the following:
- Leadership and team development/mentoring skills
- Sessions on economic, social implications in communications strategy development
- Stakeholder engagement and management
- “Circles of Influence” - sessions with PSLs and private sector leaders
- Project Work – more at strategic thinking level as opposed to tactical and operational
4. For PS’ info – A major focus of this year’s study visit will be on the subject of public engagement/public participation. As such, we have identified Australia (city to be confirmed) as the visiting country for the five-day overseas study trip. Australia would be a useful example to study with the Australian government’s intensive effort towards engagements with various stakeholders as well as citizens. Hopefully, participants will be able to hear the experiences of Australian government as well as private sector agencies in areas such as media relations and management, stakeholders’ engagement and management, public consultations and involvement. The mode of learning will incorporate classroom lectures, discussions, and dialogue sessions with government officials as well as site visits to town hall meetings or engagement sessions with residents.
The five-day study trip is tentatively scheduled for March 2013. CSC is working out the details in conjunction with Senior Consultant Sulosana and PMD (MICA).