News & Views

The coronavirus outbreak has upended global business. Concerns are growing of COVID-19, as the disease has come to be known, becoming a pandemic, triggering a string of predictable (and some unpredictable) reactions. China, where the virus originated, has borne the brunt of the fallout with normal life disrupted and its economy under threat. The country’s factories have struggled to reopen amid unprecedented containment measures, drying up the global supply chain, and making it harder to source everything from toilet paper to iPhones to automobiles.

Naturally, the outbreak’s impact has filtered through to the marketing industry. Campaigns have been put on hold and companies are calling off flagship events around the world. But while cancelling plans to gather hundreds of people under one roof during an outbreak is a sensible move, the argument for battening down the hatches and putting off all marketing communication until the crisis dies down is substantially weaker, especially considering the possibility that the coronavirus may never truly go away.

If anything, it’s even more important to continue to publish now – because clients will be looking to hear from you, if for nothing else than for reassurance that it is (or soon will be) business as usual. It’s also an opportunity to showcase in-house expertise by outlining the various ways in which the crisis could play out, what it means for your industry and its customers, and strategies to deal with likely scenarios in the weeks and months ahead.

Targeted crisis communication is all about acknowledging problems and clearly outlining a response in a way that instils confidence in the minds of clients, investors and other stakeholders, and portrays the organisation as a proactive, forward-looking entity capable of successfully handling short-term volatility.

As we noted in an earlier post, nothing communicates confidence and credibility like publishing regularly, and personally. So, while the world waits for an outcome, here are a few content ideas for topical and timely thought leadership that should help keep your content conversations going.

*Central bank dilemma: The virus outbreak poses a fresh challenge for the world’s central banks struggling with a depleted toolbox to revive their respective economies. The US Federal Reserve is seen adopting a wait-and-watch stance and possibly rethinking its interest rate policy for 2020. Meanwhile, the ECB’s hand may be forced by the unexpected intensity of the virus’s spread and its impact on the region’s economies. Across Asia’s emerging markets, central banks may be contending with a problem they haven’t had to deal with in a while – the possibility of a prolonged slowdown.

From a thought leadership perspective, insight into the likely impacts of central bank policy moves will assume even greater importance. The good news is this can be planned to coincide with banks’ pre-set calendars while retaining the flexibility to produce commentary on surprise, out-of-turn announcements.

*Existential economic questions: Talk is growing about a potential decoupling of the world’s largest economies, US and China, as an already frayed relationship comes under further strain. Meanwhile, globalisation is itself seen to be under threat as other countries get caught up in trade disputes of their own (India-US; Japan-Korea) and the virus threatens far-reaching consequences for Asia’s emerging markets, the global supply chain and sectors like tourism.

These issues would be of particular interest to a global audience of investors looking to gain a better understanding of Asia’s vast and diverse markets, as well as those keen to assess how the outbreak may impact China’s plans to reform its financial markets, and become more open and welcoming of foreign investors.

*Technology and the coronavirus: There is hope that technological advances, such as the growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI), could help rein in COVID-19. AI has already assisted in the development of an antibiotic by analysing millions of chemical compounds in just days. This bodes well for scientists scrambling to develop a vaccine and is of particular interest to those looking to invest in start-ups experimenting with cutting-edge technology that can help expedite the drug discovery process to rapidly bring new treatments to market.

At this sensitive time, Asia-based marketers are perfectly placed to produce timely and incisive thought leadership on these topics because, as we have noted, localisation goes beyond language. And those bold enough to do so are likely to find a highly receptive global audience.

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The final quarter of the year is upon us, which means, at least in an ideal world, it is time to nail down next year’s thought leadership exercise. So, here are some themes that look set to drive conversations and influence business decisions over the coming months, making them useful additions to content calendars in 2020.

Fiscal policy

The global economy – buffeted by a range of factors such as the trade war, the political uncertainty around Brexit, and slowing emerging markets, is losing momentum. In response, central bankers around the world have responded by lowering interest rates to combat the slowdown. However, interest rates can only go so low and with rates in many key markets near, at or below zero, policymakers are now looking to fiscal policy as a means to sustain growth.

Understandably, business leaders may be hesitant to call the election or the trade war’s outcome, or future policy directions. But, outlining how various scenarios can unfold and their potential consequences to a corporation’s various stakeholders, or recommendations on a response, can be a genuine thought leadership exercise.

Sustainable finance

There is a growing realisation of the threat of climate change to the world at large and the rise in demand for sustainable finance is proof of this shifting mindset. In the first half of 2019, global green bond issuances jumped over 26% to USD86.4 billion. In Asia, where markets large and small face the brunt of climate change, green bond issuances were up by nearly 30% to USD21.9 billion. And as the region works to close the funding gap for its massive infrastructure needs, there is a growing interest in sustainable finance. This presents an opportunity to make the subject, and related topics, the focus of upcoming content projects.


The business of life is good. Investments are flowing into everything from genetically modified crops to burgers made from plant-based meat, to medical technology that promise to add years, if not decades, to the average human lifespan. The anti-aging market is alone estimated to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars and expected to grow further as the science matures. Similarly, the field of synthetic biology is attracting increasing amounts of funding as investors recognise its potential to transform a range of industries.

Fintech for traditional finance

While the buzz around cryptocurrencies may have died down for now, fintech’s potential to disrupt financial services remains very real. This has led to a growing trend in marrying fintech with old-school finance. More traditional banks and financial institutions are leveraging technology to build highly customised products and services even as fast-growing, affordable access to the internet is bringing emerging markets online, creating a market for digital banks.

At the same time, wealth managers are looking to technological solutions such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to mine and crunch ever larger and more complicated data sets for insights that can provide them the edge to deliver higher returns in an uncertain market environment.

There are a number of industry conferences on biotech and fintech – hosted by regional business hubs like Hong Kong and Singapore on a global scale – that provide the ideal platform to showcase timely content and make the most of the buzz generated around these events.

New Narrative recognises the need for B2B marketers to pitch ideas that are not only creative but also directly focus on business outcomes. And we hope these topics prove useful for that all-important exercise: formulating the content calendar for next year.

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May was an eventful month for democracy. Three of the largest Asia Pacific economies, with a cumulative population of 1.6 billion people and a combined GDP of over USD5 trillion, went to the polls.

The elections were gargantuan exercises. India’s lasted more than a month, drawing tourists keen to witness the world’s largest democracy in action. Indonesia’s massive but quick-fire polling effort reportedly claimed the lives of several election workers and continued to exact a human toll as supporters of the losing candidate protested the outcome. Australia’s elections, which featured officials and ballot boxes dispatched to remote outposts, including Antarctica, delivered an outcome that confounded most predictions, including from a crystal-gazing croc.

All of which brings us to the main point. Our clients often seek guidance on themes worth exploring through research and thought leadership. And the prospects of Australia, India and Indonesia fresh after the elections should be fertile ground for enterprises active in these markets. That’s why we’ll highlight here some of the key issues these countries will confront in the months and years ahead as their new (or not so new) governments embark on the next phase of their respective growth stories.

Staying successful

Australia is notably amongst the most successful developed economies in the world, having sidestepped past economic crises that afflicted other countries and, even now, with the US-China trade war threatening to hamper global growth, is expected to be dealt only a glancing blow.

Instead, the country’s problems are seen to be stemming from its all-important housing sector, which has suffered months of decline. While demand for housing is expected to endure, the key challenge may lie in the creation of enough affordable options, which requires the passage of key reforms – a promise made by the vanquished Labor Party. Other issues include reining in household debt while ensuring growth does not flag in the retail sector.

The victorious Liberal-National Coalition government, with its focus on enhanced spending on sectors such as infrastructure and lending to small and mid-sized businesses, will have its work cut out in keeping Australia on its historic growth track.

In search of good times

​Ideally, economic growth should help job creation and vice versa, rounding out a virtuous cycle. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case in India, which recently lost its claim to the title of the world’s fastest-growing economy.

The unemployment rate among urban youth has risen to over 20% and this is a problem in a country set to become the world’s youngest by 2020. With a million youth believed to enter the workforce every month the government has struggled to emulate China’s success in creating an industrial sector capable of absorbing this massive workforce and elevating millions out of poverty. A key challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration in its second term would be creating enough jobs after the vaunted ‘Make in India’ program failed to take off.

To be sure, the country has seen some key reforms – but the pace has left local businesses, foreign investors and markets underwhelmed. Other challenges include the ailing health of the country’s state-owned banks, and slow progress in the government’s efforts to divest its stake in loss-making public sector corporations across sectors such as telecom, transport and utilities.

The coming months should set the tone for the BJP government’s second stint and determine if Modi is able to deliver the ‘achche din’, or good times, his party promised on the campaign trail, and help the country achieve his stated goal of becoming the world’s third-largest economy by 2030.

Road to everywhere

​Recently a country expert told us infrastructure is the issue that will dominate all others in Indonesia. Surely this is no exaggeration in an archipelago nation made up of about 17,000 islands, where transportation links are mostly conspicuous by their absence. The World Bank estimates that the country needs to invest USD1.5 trillion to fill these gaps, which means the sector will form a significant part of the country’s growth story in the years ahead.

Southeast Asia’s largest economy chose incumbent Joko Widodo to lead the country in an election seen as a referendum on his performance on key issues such as infrastructure development and labour market reforms, and growth in the country’s manufacturing sector.

Alongside other infrastructure projects, Jokowi’s government is also toying with a plan to shift the nation’s capital from Jakarta in a move that could cost about USD33 billion and take as much as 10 years to complete. It is hoped that the relocation will create more opportunities for infrastructure spending, and help develop other sectors such as real estate and retail as the population and markets adjust to accommodate the new capital, which is expected to house as many as 1.5 million people.

Indonesia will also have to tackle socioeconomic challenges such as improving access to public services, and reducing the widening income gap – a key requirement if the country is to reduce reliance on its exports and achieve its vision of becoming a USD2 trillion economy in the next five years.

Regardless of the market under consideration, the coming months will be anything but dull and present an ideal opportunity to address the global knowledge gap about the future direction of some of the region’s most promising economies.

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HONG KONG, June 4, 2019 — New Narrative Ltd., Asia’s leading content consultancy, today announced that Sara Hemrajani joins the company as Senior Content Executive.

Hemrajani will help the fast-growing Hong Kong-based firm with the production of engaging multimedia content and in-depth research for leading financial institutions and corporations in Asia, the Middle East and beyond.

With more than eight years’ experience at some of the world’s top news organisations, Hemrajani brings unique insights into video production, managing live television programming, writing features for global audiences and interviewing high-profile personalities.

Formerly a senior producer and reporter at Thomson Reuters, both in London and Hong Kong, she was responsible for creating bespoke video content for select clients, as well as arranging shoots and editing footage for major broadcasters, and writing and contributing to articles that were picked up by various news outlets. Her beats included business, entertainment and lifestyle, and current affairs.

Hemrajani started her career as an Assistant Producer at Bloomberg TV in London. She was also a regular freelancer at DMA Media and CNN where her projects ranged from covering the Cannes Film Festival to helping with the launch of an international English-language news channel in Istanbul.

She has a Masters in International Journalism from City University London and an undergraduate degree in Politics with Economics from the University of Bath.

About New Narrative

Founded in 2013 by former financial journalists, New Narrative works with leading professional and financial services companies to give them and their executives a distinctive voice. New Narrative helps them communicate their views to clients, employees, investors, governments and regulators through sustained, compelling content campaigns in a variety of written and visual media.

Press enquiries:

Joseph Chaney, Partner:

+852 9411 7441

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If you are an experienced writer and an ambitious self-starter looking to use your skills in the exciting space emerging between media and marketing, we would like to meet you.

New Narrative, Asia’s leading content consultancy, offers unmatched opportunities for advancement and a chance to shape the future direction of a young business at the forefront of a rapidly expanding regional media and content marketing industry.

You will be part of a diverse and global team of professionals with decades of combined experience in journalism, digital media and publishing, creating agenda-setting content campaigns for the world’s biggest companies across a range of sectors.

Also on offer: a highly competitive base salary, commensurate with experience, benefits such as a company medical plan and paid holidays, and a flexible and progressive work environment that puts a premium on work-life balance.


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We are delighted to announce two new additions to our fast-growing team over the past few weeks.

Kale Law has joined New Narrative as Business Development Executive. Previously Kale was at Thomson Reuters, where he led the growth of the Eikon messenger community in Hong Kong, enabling portfolio managers and traders to connect and trade with financial professionals around the globe.

Prior to that, Kale worked with the Economist Group, where he supported the business development efforts of the group’s integrated solutions team in Hong Kong; and Asian Private Banker, where he expanded the publication’s events and advertising business among private banks and asset management firms.

In his new role at New Narrative, Kale will contribute to business development initiatives across our growing client base of global banks, asset managers, and professional services, healthcare and technology firms. Kale holds a BA in History from the University of Toronto.

Separately, we’re pleased to welcome Jourdan Ma, who has joined New Narrative as a Content Executive. Jourdan will play a key role in the development of content for our diverse roster of clients across a range of formats, from infographic concepts to social media and event coverage. She will also support the in-depth research that informs many of our consulting engagements and content campaigns.

Jourdan, who holds a degree in English from the Education University of Hong Kong and a master’s degree in international journalism from Hong Kong Baptist University, joins New Narrative from Hong Kong daily The Standard, where she was a features reporter.

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Coming fresh off a handful of events that didn’t lack for the latest industry jargon, and despite our decidedly mixed feelings about the use of buzzwords, it is easy to understand marketers’ need to dabble with them. These terms resonate with a wide audience (even if not everyone entirely understands their meaning) and signify a grasp of the latest trends.

Of the terms we’ve heard the most in recent weeks – blockchain, crypto, deep learning, fintech and natural language processing – the last one stands out in this context. This is the technology that informs the algorithms of online search engines – the agenda setters of our day – parsing through millions of lines of text to decide what’s most relevant and channelling it to the right eyeballs every time someone keys in a word or phrase.

This is where search engine optimisation (SEO) comes in – the science (some might call it the art) of getting your content to the top of millions of search results, and front and centre of users searching for information on a topic.

A good SEO strategy, as this post notes, involves everything from understanding the workings of a search engine’s algorithm to figuring out the right keywords to weave into the copy, getting those title tags, meta descriptions and even photo captions just right. While all this may sound intuitive enough, it can be challenging to put into practice, especially when one is regularly churning out content across a range of formats.

So, here are a few quick tips to get it right:

*Keyword strategy: Identify a primary keyword – one that best describes the main topic – and use it in the headline, lead paragraph, the URL, and throughout the article. Next, pick a handful of secondary keywords that are related to the subject at hand for use in the article where relevant. But, avoid ‘keyword stuffing’.

*Using links: Make sure to include links to external sources (always a good practice to attribute) as well as internal links encouraging users to click through to other content on your site.

*Optimize your site: SEO is not limited to just sprinkling the right keywords in an article. It is important to have an organized, mobile-friendly website that is free of broken links, and easy to navigate with a seamless user experience and fast-loading pages.

*Social media: Share posts on relevant social channels with the right hashtags to maximise exposure and shares.

*Quality content: Lastly, it’s useful to remember that good content is more powerful than any SEO tactic. Useful and relevant content will generate organic traffic and help improve your website ranking. And, as other websites begin to link back to yours, that can do wonders to site rankings and online presence.

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How long should an article be to ensure maximum readership and engagement, and how many words does it take before eyes glaze and readers keel over? The ideal word count question is one that marketing professionals (and journalists) wrestle with all the time.

The bad news is there is no magic number, and several factors need to be considered to gauge the ideal length of an article – such as the intended audience, subject matter and the ultimate objective. But we’ve pulled together some data to help marketers address this issue and navigate the constantly shifting online content ecosystem.

If the aim is to provoke a discussion, snappy posts of 300 words or less are ideal, according to this guide. But, if readers are to be encouraged to share a post widely, it needs to be longer – between 1,000 to 1,500 words. Word counts between 300 to 750 are deemed to be a workable compromise for garnering a respectable number of online shares with some engagement. To maximise shares across platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google, some estimates show that articles ranging from 3,000 words to as much as 10,000 fare best.

This post compiles figures from several sources to propose subject-specific word counts that do justice to the topic at hand while helping with social media shares and high page rankings. Articles on finance are estimated to require between 2,100 to 2,500 words while technology-focused write-ups are best limited to around 1,000 words. The ideal length for posts on real estate is deemed to be between 1,800 and 1,900 words while marketing or advertising-related articles work well when they are close to 3,000.

Some research focuses on the time readers are most likely to spend on a given article, which according to one estimate works out to seven minutes. Which brings us to the question of why longer pieces seem to be in vogue at a time when fewer people are reading articles in their entirety. This could be due to the frequently changing search engine algorithms at Google, which tends to have an outsized influence on what users see when they search for online content.

Past research has shown that lengthier articles ranked higher on Google’s search results, with the average length of content that showed up on the first page of Google’s search results pegged at 1,890 words. These metrics make a significant difference in a world where search engine algorithms determine the content presented to readers and how they consume it. How many of us click through to the second page of results after typing in a search word or phrase?

Getting the word count right is crucial. That part is not up for debate but it’s also true that quality usually trumps quantity. If an article is unreadable its length becomes moot. It’s best to get the content right before worrying about hitting that magic number.

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While statistics can make content more credible or help make a point in fewer words, it is tricky getting numbers to tell a story, and developing actionable insights from data is among the top challenges for marketers. By considering these key factors you’ll be off to a good start.

The Message

To keep the story on point, try to summarise it in a single headline or tweet, as this post in the Harvard Business Review suggests. Select one or two key data points or insights – the more unique the better – that support this core message and lead with them. Also resist the urge to cram as much supporting data into a piece as you can; few things provoke as many yawns as a sea of numbers and just a couple of strong statistics can add more weight than dozens of middling ones. Any data you leave behind can always be used in the future.

The Sourcing

Especially when working with external data, take extra care to ensure its provenance. Always look for original sources and vet their reliability. Databases of governments and world bodies, research agencies, industry associations and renowned think tanks are good places to start. Also make sure to be transparent about where your data came from and how any conclusions are reached. Attribution is key, especially when working with third-party data, as it burnishes a campaign’s and the organisation’s credibility — whereas failing to attribute data properly does quite the opposite. Read more about that here.

The Analysis

To cut through the jumble of data, make comparisons and look for trends, patterns and relationships to coax out relevant findings. However don’t overstretch in the desire to make connections, and make sure you’re comparing rough equivalents. Contrasting the economic data of cities with vastly different population sizes, for example, is unlikely to yield anything worthwhile. Most importantly, look for (and test) findings that are genuinely counterintuitive or run against the grain, which are virtually guaranteed to attract attention and provoke debate.

The Narrative

To paraphrase behavioural economists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman: No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story. Data-driven stories are as much about the narrative as they are about the numbers. So, it’s necessary to step into the audience’s shoes and ensure a piece flows logically from one data point to the next. Keep it simple, avoid jargon, and include anecdotes and real-life examples that will help the audience readily relate to the information. Here’s an example from the South China Morning Post that weaves a compelling narrative about the Belt and Road Initiative through interactive charts, maps and graphs.

The Presentation

Given that the numbers are the story, make the presentation as visual as possible to break down complex findings and drive home the message. Research has shown that the human mind can’t process numbers beyond a certain level (read more about that here) so it helps to provide visual aids. Charts, infographics and interactive tables, used with a strategic combination of colors, can convey the data in a striking yet easy to digest manner. This selection from the New York Times provides a good overview of the various ways data can be presented.

The Engagement

Considering that the entire exercise is aimed at engaging the audience, make sure to create an opening for interactions. Invite, encourage and drive discussions around the story; guide the audience to information that complements the material at hand; and, seek feedback. Gathering statistics on what your audience likes and dislikes can provide you with fresh data to inform the next stage of your publishing plans.

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