Content: Singapore’s homes of best practice

Huge investment company Temasek is one of a growing number of companies embracing content well in the ‘Little Red Dot’

Have a look at Temasek’s website. We’ve seen an awful lot of branded content over the years and this is one of the best sites so far. This giant investment company, owned by the Singapore government, gets everything right: clear layout, great range and regular flow of stories, all well told, key messages communicated well to audiences. The firm is curating an interesting conversation about investment, sustainability, business and culture in the region and beyond.

Temasek was just one stop on a recent FirstWord road trip in south-east Asia. A short while ago the company got the content bug; its senior executives understood that they have a duty to communicate to the people of Singapore how they see the world and where it is heading. The digital platforms now available of course mean Temasek needn’t wait for others to interview its execs. It has built a well-resourced in-house newsroom and is just getting on with it. Chapeau.

If you’re reading this in south-east Asia, then it will be no surprise that corporations in the region are now as obsessed with content and its possibilities for marketing outreach as everyone else. Excuse me if none of this is news, but Google Analytics says most of our own site’s audience is in Europe and the US, where they may not be up to speed with some of the great work that’s going on in Singapore.

The ‘Little Red Dot’ is a big financial centre, so naturally much of the great corporate content is being done by banks. DBS has made several episodes of a glossy video series called Sparks (“Inspired by true stories”). This is clever: in an age when financial services companies believe they are labouring under a trust deficit, DBS wants to make the connection between our everyday lives and the role that banking plays in them.

Sparks would die a swift death if it smelled remotely of corporate speak and over-compliant management guff. But it is refreshingly lacking in the veneer of press-release plastic. The shows are flirty, funny, youthful and smart. Its characters argue, they confront big problems and they share a glass or two of red wine. It’s also serious: a recent episode on health and our parents kickstarts a discussion about rehab, technology and demography, accompanied by further reading.

It’s not all banks, of course. CapitaLand is another huge Singapore-based company with a refreshing view of the role of content. If you’re a real-estate agent then of course you need to have the nuts and bolts online about your big developments. CapitaLand has that, but its home page is something else. It’s quite a statement for a property developer to feature up-front “The Best Salons in Singapore to get Affordable Korean Perms”.

The message is that the company invests in and builds the places in which we shop, interact and live our lives. And it knows the cool places to hang out, even to the extent of recommending where we should visit on our holidays in 2020. CapitaLand recognises something that many companies doing corporate content do not: a content programme is about long and short, light and dark, funny and serious. Inform your audience, but entertain them, too. Newspapers and magazines know that very well. It keeps their readers coming back.

Incidentally, if you are visiting a mall in Singapore, you should be free from the menace of scooter danger. The talk of the town during our visit was the recent ban on electrified scooters from footpaths. Now I read that scooter owners may be subject to a theory test and a code of conduct will also include guidance for pedestrians on how to walk.

Singapore’s Land Transport Authority issued almost 3,500 scooter-related warnings in the first month of the ban. The authority is also down with the kids on digital comms, accompanying its online posts with hashtags such as #CatchTheNaughtyOnes and #WeMeanBusiness. Indeed. From branded content to sidewalk safety, Singapore doesn’t do things by halves.