1. What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?
When hiring new talent, I look for character because skills can be taught and learned, that’s the easy part.
For example, our interview process puts candidates through a case study exercise. This allows us to evaluate their writing and presentation skills. Importantly, we want to see how the candidates respond to a challenge – whether they are able to champion and defend their ideas. This gives us a sense of their character.
2. How do you think the industry you are in will evolve in the future?
The Public Relations and Communications industry has changed a lot over the past few years. Technology is making many practices obsolete while enabling new possibilities. A major game-changer was digital and social media, which has made it possible for audience and stakeholders to directly engage with brands and organisations.
These changes have also created a lot of confusion. In fact, many argue that companies need a “digital communication strategy” but the real breakthrough is when we realise that it is the world or marketplace that is becoming “digital” hence it is about developing a communication strategy for the digital world.
For example, in the communications industry, what matters more today is no different from what is required centuries ago. It is about engagement. But with new digital technologies, we can make engagement happen at our finger tips. You can see proof of this with the rise of trends like Key Opinion Leaders, Social Media Influencers, and User Generated Content, to name a few.
Trust and credibility is also a big communications issue today, with fake news and misinformation being so quickly and easily spread through social media.
In other words, the era of mass messaging is almost passed. The sense of individualism is very strong today, which creates a tremendous diversity of interests in the market. In such a noisy marketplace, the challenge is how to stand out amidst the clutter and make yourself heard and most of all, trusted.
3. We all know about the industrial revolution, are we in for a technological revolution? Your thoughts.
It’s already happening. Today, Artificial Intelligence or (AI) handles routine communications like order taking and frontline customer service. Google is testing AI technology that can converse so naturally… people can’t tell they are talking to a computer. Big data and micro targeting technologies are enabling highly targeted messaging to specific audience segments.
With these disruptive advancements, the key differentiator going forward will be what computers cannot provide – the human touch. Strategic thinking, thought leadership, ideation, authenticity, creativity, personalisation, etc, will be the key to success in the communications industry.
4. What advice can you offer those looking to start their career/own business?
Be prepared to fail. Failure is the best teacher. But be equally prepared to get up again, take those lessons and move on. That will make you a stronger and wiser person.
5. Most admired business leader? Why?
There are a few. Robert Kuok comes to mind right now. It is heartening to see him coming back to serve the country as part of the Council of Eminent Persons. This is a true Malaysian – answering the call to serve when needed.
I also admire how he has held on to his Asian values – like family, relationships, honesty, humility and most of all, integrity – as a business leader. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his memoir, which gives me an insight into his thoughts and work ethics. In fact, I had to buy it when I was in Hong Kong as it was impossible to find the book in local stores during its initial release.
6. How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?
In many ways, social and digital media has made this so much easier. With my busy work and family commitments, it is really hard to read an entire book but there is so much we can read online, from media articles to trade journals.
I also make it a point to network closely with industry professionals. Perspective Strategies is an active member of the Public Relations Consultants’ Association of Malaysia (PRCA Malaysia), as well as the only Malaysian member agency of one of the world’s largest independent PR networks, the Public Relations Global Network. This helps me get perspectives on local and international trends and issues from my peers around the world.
7. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced and what did you learn from it?
In business, there will always be ups and downs. Since founding Perspective Strategies in 2006, we have had our fair share of these business cycles. The toughest would always be when we lose people we trust. It’s easy to stop trusting people but that is never the solution. To provide leadership in business, we need to be resilient, positive-minded and forward-looking, not being bitter and distracted by unnecessary burdens.
I realised that I need to maintain genuine relationships to be effective – whether with partners, clients or staff. For that, faith and trust in others is fundamental. So, I would say the best lesson I have learned is to let go of the bitter moments, move on, and keep trusting in people. But also, to be wiser about it.
8. Best piece of advice you ever received on your career?
There is a Cantonese saying, “Bitterness first, sweetness follows”. We cannot expect to reap the fruits of success without going through hardships. This is fundamental as it is unrealistic to expect a life or career that’s only full of highs. Persevering well through those hardships is what makes a person strong and resilient.
9. How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Whatever little achievements I have today is the result of all the work the team and I had put in before. Through it all, I have learned that each and every achievement is a collective effort but as a leader, I need to be very hands-on as well.
The familiarity and understanding on how things work has indeed helped me see the big picture, and how all the parts fit in it – whether it is with my company, or a communications plan for a client. This also enables me to guide my people effectively on the best way to execute a plan.
10. What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?
First of all, I want to build a stronger relationship with my family, especially with my kids. I realise that I have often taken them for granted, especially my wife who has always been there for the family. My boys are entering their teenage years and they will be facing a lot of challenges. So, I want to be there for them.
I would also like to continue building up Perspective Strategies and establish it as a leading strategic communications firm which delivers quality counsel and become the trusted partner of leaders of businesses, brands and government entities.
In this regard, I see succession planning as key as I believe the firm’s success should be shared with the team.
Finally, as the current PRCA Malaysia President, I would like to see the PR industry gain the respect of business leaders and policymakers. We want to engage the market to help them see the value of the work that PR and Communications professionals do, and to see that translated into better compensation and fees for consultants, which in turn will help attract more young talents.
This article was originally published in the SunBiz August 20, 2018.