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Undergrad’s “insane and insanely fun” radio “gig”

Marketing student Avril Choo and Mediacorp’s digital marketing head, Miguel Bernas, chat about what they both learnt during NTU’s month-long leadership programme for students

Student with Miguel Bernas, Mediacorp’s digital marketing head

Miguel Bernas Miguel Bernas
Avril Choo Avril Choo

Miguel Bernas:Good to see you again, Avril. We don’t usually get many opportunities to hear directly from people your age, which is why Mediacorp got involved in NTU’s leadership programme. You provide a fresh perspective and an out-of-the-box way of seeing things. The challenge we gave was about radio because radio in 2017 is in a very different place from 10 years ago. It’s a challenge we are thinking about deeply, and we seized the chance to hear from a group of motivated NTU students like you.

Avril Choo:Yes, I was excited to be part of this.

M: I realised that when we first started, none of you were talking about an actual radio set. Everyone was talking about radio apps, not even the in-car radio. It dawned on me that radio is something completely different to young people these days. Do you all still care about radio? I know people say the difference between radio and Spotify is the banter between DJs. I don’t know if that’s true from what you’ve found?

A: To be honest, I don’t watch television or listen to the radio. When we knew our challenge was about radio, specifically, getting more young people to listen to the radio, we had to start listening to the radio ourselves to find out its draw. And I agree, the appeal is the banter between the DJs, which is why we tried to play that up in our project. The first thing we all did was to download the MeRadio app.

Student chatting with Miguel Bernas, Mediacorp’s digital marketing head

M: Wait, so not one of you listened to radio before this?

A: Well, one of my group members said she listens to the radio in the car. Actually, many cars now have Bluetooth, which makes it easy to listen to your own music.

M: I read that new Teslas don’t even come with radios.

A: Not many of us use radio apps because we think it uses a lot of mobile data. We’ve since found that it doesn’t. What I like about the NTU PEAK programme is that it provides us with mentors who can help correct some of our misconceptions. You don’t get this kind of insights from googling.

M: Really? What misconception did I correct?

A: The initial perception some of us had of Mediacorp is that it is old-fashioned and unwilling to try new things. But we were surprised when you told us you wish to see more diversity in radio television programming, even Hokkien programmes.

M: I’m all for less predictable programming. I personally love podcasts and I listen to radio stations from around the world. I think I told the group to think about the audience you’re reaching out to, and the problem you are trying to solve for them.

A: We learnt from that. We hit on the idea of putting radio on public transport, because we know many young people take the train every day. When we brought the idea to you, you asked if that would be the most efficient way to reach our target audience since young people form only a segment of commuters. Your comments got us thinking harder. I may not get such insights regularly from taking part in case challenges.

M: Do you get course credits for this programme?

A: No, we don’t get any credits. It is like an extra-curricular activity for us.

M: Also, I realised you didn’t know your group members at first.

A: Yeah, we all come from different NTU schools. I’m the only one from the Nanyang Business School.

M: Your different backgrounds, with some of you from engineering and others from English and business, was interesting for me. Not only were many of you learning the subject matter from scratch, you had to learn how to work with one another.

A: I’ve worked with peers studying communication and humanities, but not with those from engineering and computer sciences. The arrangement works well because we all see things in different ways, so we complement one another. The viewpoints shared have been eye-opening.

M: You also met some of my colleagues. How was that experience for you?

A: We wanted to hear the views of someone working in broadcast. We spoke to Gerald Koh and Jean Danker. We met the head of MeRadio too. It was great because we could bounce our ideas off them to see if they would work.

Student with Miguel Bernas, Mediacorp’s digital marketing head

M: Today’s presentation organised by Mediacorp as part of NTU PEAK lets you share your suggestions with all these people you spoke to. We may not be able to adopt your plan wholesale, but what’s more important to us is getting to hear first-hand what the target audience wants. The risk for those who have been in the industry for a long time is that it is possible to become too distant from the target audience, who tend to change over time. We hope to tap your brains again for fresh insights.

A: Please do – we’d love to give our opinions.

M: Video game companies do this a lot. They get regular gamers to test their games – the kind of job I want! The reality is that the scene is changing so fast and this applies to almost every field. Whatever you study in university may be completely irrelevant by the time you graduate, so you’ll just have to keep learning. You learn on the job from mentors who will learn from you at the same time.

A: My marketing professors always emphasise that once we graduate, much of our textbook knowledge won’t be relevant anymore. It’s more important to hone our analytical skills, such as being able to identify and react to trends.

M: It’s good that they tell you that. I wasn’t told the same in university.

A: Yes, our professors are always telling us to get exposure, which is one of the reasons I joined this programme. I’m glad I did. It was insane but insanely fun, and I’d definitely do it again.