Keynote Address by Second Minister for Education Dr Maliki Osman, at the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore's 50th Jubilee Zoom event

Published Date: 12 March 2021 10:00 PM

News Speeches

Mr Marcus Loh, President, Institute of Public Relations of Singapore (IPRS)

IPRS Council Members

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. I am honored to join you on this very special occasion. It is no mean feat for a volunteer-led association to be able to celebrate half a century of achievements. This is especially so for a professional body that represents an important profession – that of Public Relations (PR) and Communications.

Changing Landscape of PR and Communications

2. PR and Communications play an important role in the public sector. In the early decades, its focus was on promoting various public campaigns on key policies rolled out by the Government to unify, to uplift, and to educate the population. I can still recall some of these campaigns, one example was the Total Defence campaign, which was launched in 1984; then we had the Water is Precious campaign, since 1962; then we had the Stop at Two in 1972 which proved to be very successful today and also, we had the very successful annual Tree Planting Day, which was introduced by our founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, in 1971, and still going on till today.

3. In the corporate world, PR back then was linked to Singapore's drive to attract foreign investments and multinational corporations, or MNCs to our shores. As Singapore grew as an international financial, transportation and industrial hub, and as local brands came of age, PR emerged as a strong complement to marketing. I understand that it was also in the 1980s and 1990s that homegrown PR companies began to emerge and earn their spurs alongside more established international PR consultancies.

4. The advent of the Internet in the 1990s, followed by the rise of new technologies and social media platforms in the New Millennium, has transformed the communication landscape. Today, we also serve a diverse public that is more educated, with complex needs and greater expectations of government. In the government sector, policy makers and communications professionals work closely together to understand the needs of the citizens, shape policies and communicate programmes and policies in a way that resonates with different audience segments – thus the phrase 'different strokes for different folks'. At the Ministry of Education (MOE) for example, we adopt a coordinated communications and engagement approach when announcing new education policies, to ensure that they are well understood by both external stakeholders such as our parents and community partners, and internal stakeholders such as our educators and students. We also tap on different communication platforms that would allow us to best reach and engage the various stakeholders on our new policies.

Importance of Cross Disciplinary Skills

5. Moving forward, the future economy will require expertise that cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries. MOE therefore encourages our students to learn widely and gain knowledge or skills outside their course or their discipline. For example, communications students and practitioners can pick up skills in data analysis and be conversant with digital, social media and data analytical tools to assess which communication platforms to best reach their target audiences and increase the impact of their messages.

6. As mentioned earlier, the rise of new technologies and social media platforms has transformed the communications landscape. We now have at our disposal a wide variety of platforms to communicate and reach out to more people in a timely and innovative manner. However, fake news and divisive content have also reared their ugly heads. If left unchecked, they could erode social cohesions and pull communities apart. The government is committed to free expression and the exchange of views, and we will do all that it can to ensure that Singaporeans are not misled or confused.

7. In this respect, I believe that PR professionals are in an excellent position to help Singaporeans of all age groups, navigate the communication landscape safely and fruitfully, particularly, in the online sphere. There is also the problem of information overload. PR and communications professionals can help to distil, discern, and disseminate, credible and relevant information for the betterment of society.

8. I am glad that a hallmark of IPRS all through its 50-year history has been to champion professionalism in the field of communications such as providing professional training courses and workshops that are conducted by seasoned Accredited IPRS Members, and nurturing future generations of PR professionals through the formation of Student Chapters with polytechnics and universities that offer communication courses.

Conclusion

9. I do hope that IPRS will continue to engage employers, which could include your Members as well as partners and non-Members, to work with our Institutes of Higher Learning to provide relevant applied learning opportunities for our students, and to nurture and guide communication undergraduates, as well as new entrants and career-switches to the communication workplace by providing them career advice and mentoring opportunities that will allow them to thrive in an increasingly diverse and digitalised world.

10. May I wish a happy Golden Anniversary to IPRS! Congratulations for all your achievements and contributions to Singapore over the past five decades. Thank you.

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