Alina Tee has worked with Singapore Red Cross (SRC), an organisation that brings people and institutions together in aid of the vulnerable, for two years.
Tell us more about your role.
As Assistant Head of Corporate Communications, I manage the full suite of public and media relations at SRC. I provide marketing communications counsel to the SRC family (including youth members, fundraisers and volunteers) as well as its operations teams, while giving content curatorial and editorial support for in-house publications and digital platforms.
This translates into many things, and on any one day, I could be drawing up a media publicity plan for an upcoming launch, or drafting press releases and speeches for events.
Why do you think public relations (PR) is important?
I’ve always believed that the pen is mightier than the sword. And at SRC, my work encompasses multiple causes. From the National Blood Programme to community and resilience programmes – I help raise awareness of SRC and its services by drawing the stories of our donors, volunteers and clients to the forefront. This enables us to connect with people outside the organisation and inform them not only of our work, but also ways they can contribute.
Conversely, this also applies to international disaster response and rebuilding. SRC is deeply involved with relief assistance missions and when the communications team is able to bring awareness of these disasters to our local audiences, people can step forth and help.
How do you go about bringing news of disasters overseas to Singapore?
Whenever SRC despatches response teams to emergencies overseas, I keep in close contact with them. Then, whenever I receive information such as detailed accounts and footage of on-ground progress, I collate, contextualise, and draft it into a coherent document.
This typically results in a succinct, one-page press release, or social media content, that goes a long way in informing the public about what has happened in places they have no access to. This in turn generates awareness, and allows the public to come forward and help through different channels.
That’s very powerful. What about the day-to-day impact PR might have?
Since I don’t work directly with beneficiaries or volunteers, the immediate impact of my work can be difficult to measure, but every little bit helps. For example, when SRC launched the Community Health on Wheels programme last year, I secured a series of news coverage on the initiative. The published reports help shine a light on healthcare professionals who volunteer with us, and through their efforts, help the vulnerable access healthcare.
We believe these reports encourage managers to be more empathetic and supportive of their staff who take the time to volunteer. This then develops a culture that advocates volunteer work, benefitting society at large. So while not direct, the ripple effect of PR is just as compelling.
That is impressive. You must have encountered challenges along the way.
Certainly. One of the ongoing challenges I constantly face is pitching stories to news outlets. In a small, saturated media landscape like Singapore’s, it can be difficult to get local media to pay attention to your stories – no matter how interesting they may be.
Therefore, I take it upon myself to find strategic and creative ways to pitch. From combing through past stories to pinning down timely and relevant angles – it’s always a moving puzzle that I delight in solving. I’ve worked in SRC for two years now and still get a big thrill whenever I see our stories produced in local publications.
Additionally, having previous PR experience has certainly helped me learn and adapt quickly.
Tell us more about your experiences before SRC.
I began my career at the Kidney Dialysis Foundation as a Resource Development & Communications Manager. My scope involved fundraising, corporate communications, corporate partnerships and sponsorships, and event management. Two years later, I moved to a PR agency, where I worked as a PR Account Manager for four years.
My time at the agency was instrumental to my growth as a PR practitioner. The boutique agency setting meant that I had to be very hands-on. I was also exposed to opportunities working with media representatives on an international scale.
Both roles gave me on-the-job experience that allowed me to pick up and hone my skills in PR.
Why did you switch from a PR agency to Singapore Red Cross?
While my role in the agency was challenging and fulfilling, I’d always felt a certain disconnect to the industries I was exposed to. I wanted to work in an environment that allowed me to utilise my skill set in a meaningful way by contributing to society. So when a role opened up at SRC, it seemed like a great opportunity to follow through.
That’s very admirable. Is there anything you’re proud to have achieved at SRC?
Definitely. This year, SRC bagged the PRISM Award for our work on the World Blood Donor Day 2018 campaign. The PRISM Award is given to organisations and individuals for their excellent work in PR and communications in Singapore.
We won because we’d conducted a full, integrated publicity campaign to mark the occasion. Based solely on in-house efforts, the campaign ran on radio, digital platforms, television, and print. It was hectic, but also very electrifying. From champion donors to SRC staff, I worked with a multitude of people to carry out the campaign.
Receiving the PRISM award was not only an exciting moment, but also a fulfilling one as we were able to witness our efforts recognised on a national platform.
That is remarkable. What would your advice be to those interested in taking up a PR or communications role in social service?
I believe you’ve got to have both heart, and the technical skills to thrive. PR and communications practitioners require a broad set of skills from writing, editing, stakeholder management, knowledge of social media, and much more. But as with many skills, they can be refined on the job.
As for heart – this has to be innate. As I might have mentioned, successful PR work can be hard to quantify. But if you believe in the work you’re doing, it is immensely rewarding to simply be involved in the process of making a positive difference for others.
A role in corporate communications is one of many in social service. To find out more, click here.