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NBC newsman Tim Russert dies at 58

Although I do not consider myself a fan of TV political talkshows, I have off-and-on caught episodes of NBC newsman Tim Russert’s “Meet the Press,” and he came across as a tenacious, hardnosed veteran journalist with a passion to get past political smokescreens.

My personal encounter with Tim Russert was at the PRSA International Conference in 2007, where Russert was one of the featured speakers. He talked about the poisonous atmosphere that pervaded beltway politics in Washington D.C., but what struck me the most was his admiration of the everyday goodness, decency, and work ethics of so many working class Americans, as embodied by his father. When sharing how his father’s life impacted him and set an example for him, Russert’s voice shook with emotion. Clearly despite all his successes, Russert stayed rooted to his family and to the ethos of everyday working Americans.

Read CNN’s report of Russert’s untimely death here. Three-term governor of New York, Mario Cuomo (whom Russert served as press secretary) wrote a piece on Russert when the journalist was named in 2008 by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.


Rebranding vocational education in Singapore: ITE’s experience

In my previous post, I shared Banyan Tree Executive Chairman Ho Kwon Ping’s take on branding.    I thought I would briefly encapsulate the Institute of Education (ITE)‘s ongoing endeavor to shed old perceptions, rebranding itself as a viable and vibrant education provider to school leavers in Singapore, as shared at the PR Academy‘s 6th Annual Conference.


Singaporeans would know that ITE inherited its antecedent Vocational and Industrial Training Board (VITB) legacy, and the attendant image that it was the place of last resort for students who could not make it in the mainstream school system.  In fact, for many years, ITE was colloquially termed “It’s The End.”  Today, partly as a result of an aggressive, sustained rebranding campaign (and in part favorable economic conditions), much of the stigma has been reduced.  How did ITE do it?  Dr. Benjamin Tan, its Deputy CEO shared that the institution embarked on a three-pronged strategy after a comprehensive benchmark perception study to gauge public attitudes as well as information gaps:

(1) Corporate rebranding: It initiated public campaigns designed to create public empathy and credibility of the ITE brand, in tandem with an internal transformation of the organization.  Three campaigns were launched between 1998-2003.

(2) Media strategy: Build good relations with the media and actively provides them with timely and newsworthy stories.  Unafraid to use vernacular media to reach parents.

(3) Direct engagement with key stakeholders, with activities tailored for specific groups of prospective students, educators, and parents as well as the general public.

According to Dr. Tan, an independent Triennial Perception Studies suggested that ITE’s brand equity had risen by 76%.  Whatever that means, anecdotally, there is a perceptible change in social attitudes toward ITE and its students as well as graduates.  This perhaps illustrates the effectiveness of a research-based, empirically-grounded, and systematically thought-out rebranding strategy.

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