Telum Talks To... Fan Yuelong, VP Marketing and Communications, COMMSAT
After joining the space company COMMSAT a few months ago, Fan Yuelong caught up with Telum on how to strategise comms efforts for innovative products.
You joined COMMSAT in January 2021, what excites you leading the marcomms team for a Mainland China headquartered satellite firm?
Leading a marcomms team here is a rewarding challenge for me, as it unveils a new frontier (to the universe!) unlike any other industries and the brand is trying to define and own a new category in Mainland China for the next five to ten years. The team has been passionate about space and proud of the satellites they launched. It is an intriguing mission for everyone to find the right path for growth, being responsible for developing talents, shareholder value return and societal expectations. Therefore, marcomms must shift from creativities just for fun to a more sophisticated, purposeful approach to branding and storytelling. I’m pleased to see the turnaround is happening that fast since I joined as a team lead seven months ago.
Your career has taken you from longstanding firms like Shell and Accenture, to a firm of six years old. Do your comms strategies reflect this as well?
Comms strategy must crystallise the brand’s purpose and mission. In this sense, there is no difference between renowned and emerging brands. At COMMSAT, the purpose is to make space tech accessible and enjoyable to all, with lower costs but a high-touch experience. This is a distinct positioning as it complements the state-owned space juggernauts who don’t address personalised needs at scale. As nobody had tried this before, our comms focus is on brand awareness, customer trust and the followers' community. Engagement with general and special publics needs greater agility in agenda setting, leveraging KOLs and their POVs to endorse our service models and capabilities.
Working with innovative products at COMMSAT, what are important factors you consider first before developing a comms strategy?
I have been across comms and marketing roles. While understanding the offerings remains fundamental to both roles, the key to success is the integration of marcomms inputs and outcomes, rather than implementing them in pieces. The focus of integration should always be the people. To turn the target audience into advocates, you must design human-centric conversations and foster living interaction across multiple touchpoints, enabled by consistent narratives and visible case studies. Our products communicate to both technical and non-technical audiences. Therefore, the focus of our efforts is to lift “the curse of knowledge” by showcasing our innovation and offerings with animated, digital-first, socially stackable packaging.
COMMSAT is looking into 6G connection, any campaign strategies on how satellite networks will play a role in this?
It has been two years since 5G was introduced for commercial use, yet it’s not pervasive in places fibre cables cannot reach. Even with Mainland China’s fast-expanding 5G network, there would be a strong demand for complementing the ground infrastructure with Satellite 5G, which then requires evolving technologies ultimately supporting the 6G scenario by 2030. Building a 5/6G network in space calls for reforms in satellite production, supply chain, telecom protocol and policies. We get our messages across by disseminating thought leadership content via social media, industry alliances, expert seminars and media platforms. Aside from R&D to drive down costs, our first satellite factory is providing massive capacity for front and centre. It also brings impact to key customers and policymakers.
Your experience includes eight years at Xinhua and you also worked as the Deputy Managing Editor of International Herald Leader. How do you view the media landscape in Mainland China today?
For media and PR professionals in Mainland China, the media landscape is full of dynamics, especially in the fields of business, finance, and technology. Chinese media have reinvented what they’ve learned from their global counterparts, never tired of trying new media techs to stay relevant, especially for younger generations. But brands should have their North Star in comms strategy and avoid mindless expansion to too many platforms. Being journalistic and pragmatic in storytelling can help avoid pitfalls and stand out positively.
Who inspires you as a leader?
Yuan Longping, a world-famous agronomist who passed away in May. He has developed strains of high-yield rice that made significant progress against famine. One-fifth of current global rice production stems from Yuan’s innovation. But he didn’t achieve it alone. He was a good mentor and a strong leader for teams. Growing younger talents gave him a far bigger role than if he just stayed with laboratory work and writing papers. He was also a strong advocate for sharing his breakthroughs internationally, instead of using them to achieve Mainland Chinese dominance in rice production. I like his four words summarising life achievements: knowledge, sweat, inspiration and opportunity.