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Mediacorp’s Parminder Singh on digitising the once traditional broadcaster

When we caught up with Parminder Singh (pictured), affectionately known in the industry as Parry, he had just crossed his 100-day mark with local media broadcast giant Mediacorp.

The once traditional company has over the years taken significant steps to digitise itself and has made several notable hires. Singh is one of those high-profile hires. The media house nabbed him from Twitter, where he held the role of managing director for Southeast Asia, to combine two separate positions in the company. At Mediacorp, he now juggles the dual role of chief commercial and digital officer.

“Holding this dual role shows that digital has to be front and centre of what we are doing,” he says.

He adds that having the same person handle digital and commercial gives the right signal internally, and externally, to the industry – that “digital is not something you do on the side”, but is now the main dish. He says that today digital can no longer be confined to just one part of the company, but it is the front and centre of every company’s operations.

As such, the role allows him to explore the real and practical synergies between digital and commercial. Thinking back to his days before joining Mediacorp, he said that over several coffee meetings, he and Mediacorp’s outgoing CEO Shaun Seow talked about the fact that digital was going to be the driving force forward.

“Shaun Seow outlined the vision, and he articulated it externally, at any event, to the press,” he says.

“I read an interview he did before I came on board, and it became clear to both of us that he needed somebody who has the skill set to understand both digital as well as revenue growth. My past experience put me in that position,” he adds, given he has worked with the likes of Google, Apple and IBM.

And while transformation is no doubt always at the top of his mind, over the past 100 days he has spent a significant amount of the time getting face-time with his clients. Be it in a B2B or a B2C environment, a primary task of a marketer is to understand the pain-point of his clients, he explains.

“In my first 90 days, I met about 70 clients,” he recounts. “While I’ve had fairly strong connections with the customers from my early days, I want to make sure that I meet them from the perspective of Mediacorp.”

Admitting it is easy to be swayed by new technology in the digital field, be it in B2B or B2C, he says corporations need to put themselves in the shoes of the clients and the consumers to really stand out

At the same time, he thinks keeping things simple today is vital. “It’s easy to get fascinated with new technological things, and it’s easy to start speaking in a language which may be alien to customers. So, think about the customers, view everything from his/her lens and keep it simple.”

A new era of collaboration

Coming from a digital-first background, Singh says he spends a fair bit of his time looking at new technological innovations from Mediacorp’s Mediapreneur programme which provides seed funding, mentoring and networking opportunities for digital media start-ups.

Another unit soon to launch in Mediacorp under his leadership is Bloomr.SG. This is a newly set up creators network in Mediacorp that aims to build the new wave of content creators. Much like the Mediapreneur scheme, the creators are offered the platforms and resources to collaborate with other like-minded creators and build their own communities.

Betting big on content comes as no surprise given that Brand Studio was launched at Mediacorp almost two years ago. The team now consisting of some 30 former editors, journalists and content producers, has worked with clients such as Mastercard, South Australia Tourism Commission and Uniqlo.

When asked if the unit was giving content, media and production agencies a run for their money, Singh says when the unit was relaunched last year, Mediacorp first approached media agencies and houses to partner with it. This was because of the long-standing partnerships Mediacorp has had with media agencies that have been built over years.

“Brand Studio is not something that we’ve worked on overnight. So the first thing we’d instinctively do is to go to our partners, people we’ve been working with very well. This is because the relationship with the agencies and clients involves trust,” he says.

Whenever we come up with something new, our first instinct, our natural instinct, is to go to people who have been working with us over the years – be it clients or agencies.

Moreover, he believes that today the ecosystem is such there is more room for collaboration.

“We believe that agencies are also looking for great content. There is enough space and more for all of us to exist together. New partnership models are now emerging,” he says. Rather than cut out the agencies, sometimes seen as the “middle man”, he says Mediacorp works with the agencies because they understand their clients’ needs and work with them on a day-to-day basis.

“Agencies have a very strong value to bring to the entire equation. They understand the client’s needs and the client’s problems very well, and we are here to strengthen their solutions for their clients,” he says.

Leadership and innovation

Singh is also a big believer in very regular snippets of bite-sized communication. Every week, he ensures his team is privy to his thoughts and ideas. “I may not be physically able to meet everyone in my team on a regular basis, but I want to make sure they understand what is important – the priorities and the vision,” he says.

Articulation of the vision, all the way down to the person who is onground making sales calls, who may not have adequate face time with you, is very important.

He says leaders need to be able to receive feedback from their employees without hierarchies in place. As such, on his calendar, he ensures there is some talk time allocated. Ultimately, he believes there are three vital aspects he brings to the company.

“Given my background, I have an understanding of technology and an understanding of what’s happening in the digital world. I also have an accessible style of working and management, and lastly, over the years, I’ve tried to have a consultative approach to clients so that the clients look at me and my team as consultative business partners,” he says.