By Andy See Teong Leng, Founder & Managing Director of Perspective Strategies.
It is never easy to build a Public Relations consultancy that can compete with larger multinationals, particularly if you are a local outfit without the financial muscle and support of an international agency behind you.
Nevertheless, over the last 12 years, we have continuously pushed ourselves to grow and become the trusted partner of major brands, organisations and even government agencies.
Indeed, the success of the firm has always been a team effort. Each and every one at Perspective Strategies must be commended for the stellar work that we consistently deliver, which has won us numerous accolades over the years, including the recent Campaign of the Year title at the Malaysia PR Awards 2017/2018!
Importantly, we are no “jaguh kampung” as our work is also recognised on a global platform when we took a Gold and a Silver at the Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) Best Practices Awards held in Bucharest, Romania recently.
Since the founding of the firm, we have always held that brand building begins from the inside out. Our communications work emphasises the importance of internal communications. Employee engagement and talent development are the key factors to building a successful company, especially in a service industry like PR. After all, a PR agency’s work is only as good as the ideas its people produce.
To build a winning team, we need to inject “LIFE” namely Listening, Inspiration, Fun and Experience into our work and culture:
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”
This immortal line was uttered by Mark Antony to marshal opinions from various stakeholders when he wanted to eulogise Julius Caesar. Although this famous line was penned by Shakespeare over 500 years ago, it just goes to show how the best communicators recognised the importance of being heard.
Listening is fundamental in leadership, team management and brand building. The need to listen to our stakeholders has not diminished in any way. In fact, it is even more crucial today in a cluttered marketplace of ideas. Listening to clients is the key to truly understanding their concerns. Listening to stakeholders is also crucial for us to formulate a communications strategy that addresses our clients’ needs. This enables us to come up with solutions that are on point.
Equally important is listening to our own team. Knowing that they are being heard creates a good communication environment where they feel free to discuss ideas and concerns. This is a core belief that has always guided the firm.
Employees want to be part of a meaningful journey. They work best when their leaders can inspire them with their vision. Such passionate people work hard to make their dreams come true!
As such, open communication is a crucial part of any successful organisation because people need to be inspired. For example, at Perspective Strategies, we have made it a point to be transparent in sharing the firm’s performance, including financials. But more importantly, we share our aspirations and dreams for the firm. By including the team as interested stakeholders in the company’s journey, we have been able to bring out the best in them.
Of course, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (and Jill a dull girl as well). Happier employees are more productive and motivated. Thus, it is important to create a relaxed and fun working environment. For example, internally, we have a Fun Committee that looks into organising social activities for the team including our recent company-wide paintball activity and art and bonding session.
In addition, we make sure that even when we deliver serious work, it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. Gone are the days when bosses and supervisors need to show their rank. Today, by working together with the team and have a sense of humour when on assignments, we really set ourselves apart.
Imagine the classroom of the past versus the classroom of today. Teachers used to be very serious when delivering his / her class. It is no longer the case in many progressive learning institutions. After all, the work of the future is all about better communication, collaboration and creativity amongst colleagues.
Of course, there’s a fine line where having fun at work can cross over to becoming unprofessional and unproductive. Striking the right balance is where you find the golden nugget.
It is important to see employees as stakeholders, and more than just parts of the company’s machine. We have to help create meaning in their experience with us.
The fun, inclusive and open environment we foster in the firm encourages the team to propose ideas with boldness. We also let our team members take leadership and drive projects, with guidance from the management. As a result, many of our best ideas have come from the team – be it client servicing or internal team initiatives.
Perhaps the best example of how LIFE works could be seen when we lost a major client and several senior staff a few years back, dealing a severe blow to our business. Instead of downsizing, we challenged the team to rethink and transform our business. The whole team rallied together to pursue various new business initiatives and marketing projects.
One example would be our Youth Perspectives project, which was one of the largest in youth studies in Malaysia, involving more than 2,000 young Malaysians nationwide including Sabah and Sarawak. While the project started out as a marketing initiative to promote the firm, our clients caught our vision for the project, and agreed to fund the project. The project also helped raise our internal research capabilities, which led to more opportunities and new client work.
So, we have had our fair share of challenges, but in any crisis, there will always be opportunities. The experience of facing tough business environment only made us stronger. Within two years we rebounded, growing to the point that we outperformed our best in the past.
We cannot rest on our laurels, and we will continue to expand the boundaries and win at the marketplace. This desire to succeed is what pushed us to be a part of one of the world’s largest independent network of PR agencies – PRGN – so that we can continue to learn from our peers around the world!
This article was first published in SmartInvestor (December 2018)
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