Stephen Tan

Stephen is a corporate communications specialist who has helped companies of all sizes to grow – from small and medium-sized local publications and production houses, to renowned Singapore brands such as SingTel, NTU, and NTUC Income.

Corporate communications professionals build brands and engage with people on a daily basis, both internally and externally. What are the most important skills for the role?
As the name suggests, you need to be an excellent communicator. And while it’s a given that good writing skills are a must, I’ve found that you also need superb verbal and interpersonal skills.

Why? Because throughout my career as a communications specialist, I’ve had to play multiple roles – as a writer, editor, manager, media relations liaison, strategist, and more. To excel in these roles, I’ve had to build genuine rapport with everyone in the business, from administrative clerks, to specialists and managers, and even CEOs.

Did you face any challenges with external audiences? 
When I joined NTUC Income as a Strategic Communications Manager in 2008, Singaporeans thought of NTUC Income as a dated entity. Changing public perception of such an established brand would be tough, but I looked forward to the challenge.

In 2009, a major rebranding campaign was launched to transform NTUC Income into a more relatable, customer-friendly brand. As the Strategic Communications Manager, I took charge of revamping our communications to the public. We reimagined the way we spoke to our audience – removing technical jargon and speaking in conversational tones that Singaporeans could relate to. I personally edited hundreds of customer-facing letters and documents, simplifying the language so our messages were more personable, while keeping the content intact.

It was a massive task, but the results were well worth the effort as public perception of our brand improved. In 2010 and 2011, NTUC Income was ranked as the top life insurance company in Singapore (in terms of market share) for two years running.

Tell us an organisational challenge you faced, and how your strategy set the business on the right track.
Back then, the company did not have a structured internal communications strategy. And when I found out that staff often heard about company developments through the media, and not us, I knew that we needed to rectify the situation.

I designed and implemented a comprehensive internal communications strategy to dramatically improve employee engagement. I wanted staff to be engaged and feel connected to the company’s mission and direction.

A key objective of this internal communications strategy, was to connect staff with the heartbeat of the organisation – and what better way to do so, than to give them access to the CEO? So, I created “60 minutes with the CEO”. Twice a year, employees could log into an internal chat messaging platform at a designated time and ask the CEO any questions they wanted. The CEO would stay online and chat with employees, answering their questions live.

This and many other initiatives, along with the successful rebranding campaign mentioned above, transformed both employee and customer engagement with the organisation. With these successes, I was promoted several times over the years, eventually becoming a Senior Strategic Communications Manager in 2017.

Since his last role, Stephen has undergone enrichment workshops and career coaching with Ingeus, a Career Matching Provider of Workforce Singapore to ensure that he’s ready for his next role.

Stephen is keen to share his ideas on how an effective communications strategy can build or revitalise your brand. Speak to Stephen to find out more.


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