Regional comms work and team growth top of the agenda, says new Porter Novelli Singapore MD

Dan Benelisha says Porter was the right fit in moving from Groupon and that the agency has big ambitions to expand its Asia platform

Dan Benelisha
Dan Benelisha

Working on APAC-wide regional comms work is at the heart of Porter Novelli Singapore’s strategy for 2016, the firm’s new senior vice president and managing director Dan Benelisha told PRWeek Asia.

Following his move from Groupon in October last year, where he was head of comms for APAC, Benelisha said Porter has a strong line in regional PR work in the tech and consumer markets, where the firm has traditionally been strong.

"We have a very strong team doing regional strategy; understanding a regional client’s needs, then going into local markets and translating that into what they require. We don’t need to build that; that’s here right now," he said.

"If you have that capability, you can talk to clients from tech, consumer, anything. Just being able to understand how that regional network functions opens up a lot of doors."

Benelisha, together with Porter’s APAC president Angie Schneider, is keen to add clients to the agency’s Asia portfolio and build a larger team with the right talent.

"We have a strong foundation but it’s not just growing the business, it’s growing our entire set of capabilities. Angie is setting out her vision for the region and it’s about plugging into that and working in lockstep," he said.

But Benelisha is keen to make sure the right people come on board, and not fall into the trap of "just making a hire because we need to fill a position".

"At Porter, it starts with talent," he said. "It’s key to find people who can talk to local clients, but you have to be able to go into regional clients running large businesses and talk to them too.

"It’s a competitive market, people have opportunities. So you have to keep the people you have happy and growing, and keep a compelling client base. But you also need to go to new people with a strong proposition or you’re not going to stand out."

Benelisha said while he was not necessarily looking to change roles from Groupon, he found "the right fit" at Porter.

"Porter is focused on people and growth opportunities in Asia. Its tech heritage works with my background too. It ticked the boxes, so I decided to make the move," he said. 

Looking ahead, Benelisha said the challenges and possibilities of PR work in Asia, as opposed to more mature markets, is what is keeping him motivated.

"Every conversation you have with a client is fresh. That’s the challenge and that’s what’s kept me here," he explained.  

"In the US, it’s a huge industry, but here, being able to go into clients and not know what you’re going to hear from one day to the next is very exciting."

Moreover, as well as regional accounts, Benelisha said Porter is focused on helping international brands looking to build in APAC.

"I’ve had conversations such as: ‘I’ve been given some money, hired a couple of people and been told to find an agency in Asia. What do I do now?’

"These are big clients, some of them, and it’s daunting for them. But it’s exciting for me helping them figure it out."

It again comes down to having strong regional and local understanding of the difference and nuances of Asian markets, Benelisha said.

"You have to vary it by market. Even if you have the best strategy in the world, there is still work to do to translate that for local impact. That’s where the rubber meets the road." 

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