SMU undergrads provide communication support to social enterprises via APACD’s Sustainable Communications Programme

Students put learning into practice while being mentored by industry specialists
By the SMU Corporate Communications team

The Asia-Pacific Association of Communication Directors (APACD) launched its Sustainable Communications Programme - an initiative that helps to provide communication support to social enterprises, charities and NGOs - in Singapore following a successful pilot in Hong Kong in the earlier part of 2020.

Singapore Management University (SMU) became the association's first partner in Singapore for the Programme, which connects students in communication disciplines (such as journalism and public relations) with experienced mentors from the communication industry, alongside agency professionals who are at early stages in their career looking to establish their communication leadership credentials. Mentors and mentees come together to form virtual teams, helping to support selected social enterprises or NGOs on their communication challenges.

From July, eight undergraduates majoring in communication management at Lee Kong Chian School of Business were organised into two teams of four and matched with two social enterprises – A Good Space and Junior Achievement. Working like an agency, the teams were empowered to develop a creative brief for the social enterprises to help the latter tackle their communication challenges. After several months of hard work, the teams made their project presentations in December to the Programme’s steering committee.

Throughout their journey, both teams were supported by Mentors including agency co-leads Allison + Partners and Edelman; as well as senior in-house members at APACD: Marla Arnall (Consulting), Harikumar Rajasekharan (Banking), Michele Minjoot (Financial Services) and Vanessa Wan (Energy).

Although their end goal were the same, the students took different paths in exploring how they can deliver social impact in our local communities, and they acquired varying practical skills in the process.

For one team, comprising Audrey Yumiko Anzai, Chuah Ting Ying, Nikole Wong E-lyn and Tommy Goh Kai Jiang, it was about learning to deep dive on client engagement to shape a creative brief for A Good Space, Singapore’s first co-operative to gather diverse changemakers, activists, dreamers, social entrepreneurs, charities, to create social impact.  After dedicating much time and effort on market research, interviews and analysis, the team put together for the client a new set of collaterals, including a new slide deck template and zoom background, as well as a comprehensive Communication Playbook complete with core messages, message taglines and an elevator pitch.

The second team, comprising Brandon Goh, Stephanie Adelman, Angelene Yong and Claudia Nio, worked with Junior Achievement, a non-profit, student-based financial literacy course provider.  They had their focus set on elevating the social enterprise’s position via three strategies, namely heightening awareness through media liaison; enhancing social media presence; and strengthening Junior Achievement’s corporate messaging. In the end, the team’s deliverables included curated story banks, media lists and a media schedule; mock social media posts; and a Brand Book.

“We were gratified by the students’ openness to the coaching and mentoring,” said Michele Minjoot, Mentor of APACD Singapore Chapter. “Despite their heavy workload and impending exams, their eagerness to learn and effort to piece together the strategy from the NGO’s and mentors’ feedback is truly commendable.”

Vanessa Wan, Mentor of the APACD Singapore Chapter, agrees. “Indeed, the future of the communications trade is bright if in-coming entrants have a similar work ethic and attitude”.

“As Singapore’s first co-operative to mobilise diverse changemakers to create social change together, we’re really pleased with how the student team understands our mission,” said Vincent Ng, Community Lead, A Good Space.  “We’re learning valuable lessons about the power of intentional messaging and stakeholder segmentation.  Looking forward to recognising the collective potential of this talented group of students and their mentors, as we move into the execution phase of this partnership.”

Although the participating students were well equipped through SMU’s communication courses, the learning and takeaways for them have been immense as the APACD Sustainable Communications Programme challenges them to think beyond story-telling via social media to developing a start-up mindset, from developing elevator pitches to polishing sales presentation decks.

For the students, the journey has been an exceptional learning experience that is fulfilling and memorable.  Final year student Chuah Ting Ying, shared, "The programme has been an enriching learning opportunity for my teammates and me. We got to see first-hand how communication plays a vital role in supporting an organisation's strategy. Nikole, Audrey, Tommy and I are extremely grateful towards our mentors (Marla, Hari, Josh and Jerome) for their guidance and insight. The good people at A Good Space have also been a joy to work with! It's been a truly rewarding experience and I'm grateful to have been a part of this."

Final year student Brandon Goh felt likewise.  “As part of the inaugural batch of this Programme , my group mates and I were given an invaluable opportunity to put into practice the theories and skills honed in our SMU communication management course in a real-world setting, and to be mentored by the sharpest minds in the industry. I would say this has been one of the most fulfilling projects in my university life and would strongly encourage everyone who wishes to be part of something bigger than themselves to give the APACD Sustainable Communications Programme a shot - you won’t regret it!”

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