Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing: Shaping Malaysia’s corporate identity

Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing: Shaping Malaysia’s corporate identity

When Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir mooted the Malaysia Incorporated policy – which was anchored upon the concept of a partnership of public and private sectors to promote economic growth – privatisation of a number of government-owned entities was the first step forward.

But before privatisation could take place, the organisations had to be corporatised. Corporatisation involved a major overhaul of the entities concerned and it began with a new identity.

“Designing corporate identity involves a study of every single aspect of a corporation. It has to do with interaction between people who work inside as well as with people that come in contact with the corporation in whatever area – clients, consumers, authorities, investors and the like,” said Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing.

He explained that corporate identity is not simply a graphic design exercise that involves mainly the logo, as people tend to think. “It requires shaping the organisation from its corporate philosophy and mission to outlining its objectives. The outcome is a road map that is created in close collaboration with the management of the organisation.”

When Lim was asked to assist in this exercise, he did not realise the mammoth task that awaited him because these were government agencies that were used to a different work culture. These were agencies that were essential parts of the government machinery. They were fully funded by the government and the concept of bottom line was totally alien to them.

It was a tough task because, as a communications specialist who had been dealing with multinational corporations, he was used to working with people who understood his role. “After dealing with the private sector for so many years, I found the public sector to be more challenging. There are many layers of administration. It is bureaucracy at work, if you like, and the government’s working style was transferred to the corporatised entities,” explained Lim.

“So for my people to get to work and map out the corporate identity, it took a little while because we weighed the choice of spending time to educate the staff of these corporations in the way of the private sector or take the faster route by responding to how they work and adapting along the way.

“As we never had the time to really educate the people concerned, we began to adapt. In time, we felt the corporations would have to adjust to the new demands and the change to private sector style of management would take place naturally,” he added.

So how did he adapt? “In dealing with government officers, we faced a perception problem. We were communications consultants. We were not experts in energy, telecommunications, timber, trade or agriculture. We had to be given the information which we then translated into consumer friendly communication. Where necessary, we looked at issues and assisted to provide solutions that could be strategically communicated.

“I used to get feedback from my executives who were continuously challenged on their knowledge of the client’s business. With our private sector clients, we were used to complementing their marketing by doing research and later presenting creative concepts.

“With our government or government-based clients we had to change tack. We had to work that much harder to get all the information and present complete final text on all our recommended advertising or corporate identity proposals even during our initial presentations.

“We had to do it this way. It was tough on my people, especially the creative team because they spent more time on getting the information and less time on the conceptual side. But the communication for the government was less complicated conceptually because the reach was mass audience and the strategies had to be in line with government policies. They were not the same as campaigns for a shampoo, for example. This approach helped our clients to understand the creative concept that we had proposed because they needed to see the co-relation between the idea and the facts as they knew it.”

Through his interaction, the corporatised entities began being assimilated into private sector pace of work and way of doing business.

By Ambi Mathe