'Coordinate communications across ministries' for better governance

Sir Martin said the Singapore Government has done a good job in communi- cating with its citizens.
Sir Martin said the Singapore Government has done a good job in communi- cating with its citizens.

Governments that coordinate their communications across ministries will be able to deliver public policy far more effectively, said British advertising boss Martin Sorrell.

Sir Martin, the chief executive of WPP, the world's largest communications services group, said targeted messaging delivered by all government agencies should be consistent and integrated. In that way, the point can be driven home more effectively, he added.

Sir Martin said this approach to communication can deepen trust and support among citizens, while also promoting interaction between the government and the population.

He said this is particularly important in the digital age where governments seek to engage citizens online as part of efforts in responsive governance. Effective communication can help to deliver efficient public services where information is accessible for decision- making and public participation.

Sir Martin said the Singapore Government "has done a good job in communicating with its citizens", as well as with people across the world.

Strengthening its communications capacity by harnessing digital technology allows the Singapore Government to widen its influence, noted Sir Martin.

The WPP is working with the Singapore Tourism Board, Ministry of Communications and Information, Infocomm Development Authority and Health Promotion Board to improve their communications.

Sir Martin, who was in Singapore to launch the WPP government and public-sector practice, a communications training service, yesterday told The Straits Times that a government should have a communications leader to convey the content and tone of public messages.

Sir Martin cited the case of former British prime minister David Cameron, who he said "understood the role of communications" and the importance of getting his messages across to the people.

He said Mr Cameron fought hard for Britain to remain in the European Union during the EU Referendum in June. "What the business community wants is clarity and certainty, and what the government wants is uncertainty so that it can negotiate," said Sir Martin, who supported the Remain camp.

He foresees prolonged Brexit negotiations by Britain that could take until 2019 to be resolved.

Sir Martin said the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping is "extremely astute" in its foreign policy, with its soft power more effective in Africa and Latin America. Meanwhile, India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is undergoing economic reforms that can generate positive messages of the country's transformation, which, in turn, offers scope for WPP to share its expertise.

WPP, a British conglomerate, is listed on the London Stock Exchange with a market capitalisation of £21.4 billion (S$38 billion). The group has annual revenue of about £12.2 billion and employs around 200,000 people in 112 nations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2016, with the headline ''Coordinate communications across ministries' for better governance'. Print Edition | Subscribe