Telum Talks To... Kenny Yap, Managing Director, Havas Singapore

Telum Talks To... Kenny Yap, Managing Director, Havas Singapore

In January 2023, Red Havas launched the "2023 Red Sky Predictions" report which examined how the marketing and communications industry could evolve in ten different areas. In the month's since the report's release, Telum reached out to Havas Singapore's Managing Director, Kenny Yap, to learn about the trends his team is keeping an eye on across the SEA region, and how PRs can utilise merged media in their work.

You've been in the industry for more than a decade, how has it evolved in this time?
The communications industry has constantly evolved, especially with the technological advancements and changes in consumer behaviours. People are now expecting instant news updates – whether online or on social media. This has led to a significant decrease in print media titles.

The influence of social media as well as key opinion leaders has also increased with many new alternative news sites launching.

Lastly, the concept of specialist agencies was very popular, but we see businesses increasingly seeking integrated communication services, expecting the agencies to handle all paid, owned and earned efforts, or at least to understand the respective functions.

Talk to us about the concept of 'merged media'. What is it, and why should PR professionals keep it front of mind in their work?
The lines of contemporary communication haven’t just blurred, they've merged. To customers and consumers, it’s all one experience - whether it’s content, events, social or paid media.

In addition, the client’s expectations have also changed. The way they measure an agency’s effectiveness is rapidly evolving as well. Increasingly, flimsy vanity metrics such as PR value, number of likes and impressions are becoming irrelevant. In their place are more meaningful indicators such as click-through rates, lead generation and conversion figures.

What are the pros and cons of implementing a merged media strategy, particularly in the Southeast Asia region?
Being able to implement a merged media strategy is certainly a key competitive advantage. We are able to manage end-to-end communications from paid, owned and earned channels. This enables us to deep-dive and deliver meaningful communication and commercial results.

Currently, 80 per cent of our client portfolio engages us across our merged media services and have been with the agency for over five years – that's no easy feat in today’s environment.

That said, it takes a well-experienced and all-rounded team to deliver these services. Such talent is rare and the agency often has to build the team from within.

What market trends are you keeping an eye on in 2023?
There are three key areas from our 2023 Red Sky Predictions report that we see trending in our region:
  • Climate change: The conversation around climate change will continue to change in the media, politics, within corporations and amongst the general public. As more climate events occur, the costs of inaction will become even clearer. That said, corporates will be wary of being called out for "greenwashing".
  • Brand values to increase in value: As the impacts of global economic and geopolitical uncertainty really start to bite, purpose-aligned brands will be the ones that succeed at talent retention and attraction, and supporting sales enablement. But it’s going to be an increasingly competitive space as brands across all categories compete for a share of voice and mind.
  • Internal comms / change management: Internal communications will be key as workplace practices and employment topics continue to be in the spotlight. Hybrid work arrangements seem set to continue post-pandemic. But more worryingly with the turbulent economic outlook and geo-political uncertainties, we see many corporates taking a very cautious hiring approach with several key layoffs. Keeping morale up while ensuring everyone is updated will be instrumental.

What is the most important skill a PR professional should have to succeed in this industry?
In my opinion, the most important skill a PR professional should have is an ability to think critically and problem-solve. Clients are increasingly demanding a multi-disciplinary approach to solving problems, beyond simply creating an ad campaign or a media release, which is PR 1.0.

We are more than just communications consultants. We are partners to our client’s business and we should be analysing both communication and commercial contributions, with PR at the heart of the business.

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