Inspiration, passion, and self-recognition: What it takes to work in the PR industry

I recently spoke with The Industry Leaders about the PR industry. The interview suggests that many people don’t give it the credit it’s due and hopes to show its importance in today’s world, more specifically in Vietnam and across Southeast Asia. And here’s a recap.

How did you end up sitting where you are today?

I’m the Founder and Managing Director of EloQ Communications, a boutique PR and marketing agency in Vietnam. I also hold a PhD degree in Communication to support both my agency and my academic career. Early into my journey, I received formal education in the West and refined my skills and expertise in the U.S. and Australia. However, I always wanted to develop my career in my home country.

EloQ Communications results from my passion for this industry, Vietnam and Southeast Asia (the markets usually viewed as less-developed in marketing communications). My goal is to bring Vietnam’s name out to the world, for our global peers to recognise the Vietnamese’s professionalism in doing PR.

What kind of work does your role involve?

As head of EloQ, I am usually involved in the company’s daily operations, strategic growth and overseeing employee development programs. I also network with the company’s regional partners and the different international PR and marketing associations to generate leads, learn from our peers, and integrate high-quality standards into our service offerings. We have made significant progress along the way. EloQ is currently a member of the world-renowned Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) and a founding member of PRCA Vietnam.

Besides the management aspect, I also work closely with the team to execute daily client services, project planning and implementation in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian markets. By working closely with the team on the front line, not only am I able to share my professional knowledge and passion with the team, but also stay alert on the latest trends and insights.

In short, it’s networking, business development, and client service all rolled into one!

What gets you excited about your industry?

I take pride in being a PR professional. But, sadly, PR is often overshadowed by advertising or marketing activities. Not many people truly understand the nature of PR, and think that it is a non-essential business. Still, I believe that our work is essential for any companies who want to build and enhance their reputation and credibility among their stakeholders. I’m always delighted and inspired every time we’re able to offer value to clients. Seeing that our client’s brand is growing stronger, while gaining positive publicity, brings meaning to us.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings.”

Like the bird, as a PR consultant, I believe in the values that we offer to the community. Because PR does not bring immediate or glamourous results, it is often overshadowed by advertising. Most public relations and communications activities take place behind the scenes. Still, we believe that the role of PR is no less important than any other function toward the growth of a company.

How do you support aspiring leaders in your field?

I’m currently a member of the Vietnam Public Relations Network (VNPR), a professional network gathering PR practitioners in Vietnam. By actively participating in the network’s seminars, panel discussions and thought leadership, I share my expertise and experience with the young generations of the PR industry, and set direction and vision for the future of Vietnam’s PR industry.

I’m also participating in the PRCA Qualification Boards, building a qualification program applicable to PR industries worldwide. I aim to help standardise and bring more recognition to the PR industry. Moreover, I’m actively contributing to the PR industry as an academic lecturer and researcher. This is another way for me to explore the new aspects of PR practices and contribute to the growth of Vietnam’s PR industry.

How do you keep up to speed with what’s happening in your industry?

Networking events, webinars, and industry conferences are my way to get updated on the latest industry know-how, trends, insights, case studies, and references from global peers.

Participating in academic research also helps me examine and understand what works and what does not in specific circumstances.

Experience is valuable, but I also believe formal knowledge is the backbone to deliver successful PR campaigns. Therefore, I’m also proactively engaging in this academic research to test new PR and communications theories.

What was the most challenging project or situation you’ve overcome?

COVID-19 is probably the most significant crisis nowadays. It has brought chaos and disrupted every company’s plan. EloQ also faced some unforeseeable turns: many clients cancelled or put their projects on hold. But I always believe that challenges come with opportunities. So, during the low of COVID-19, EloQ Communications has focused more on internal training and reorganisation of our team, so we can be ready and better than ever before when the outbreaks are over.

You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?

I want to build and run a soccer academy for Vietnam. Vietnamese people love soccer! But our ranking is low, and the road to the World Cup is far, so we can only cheer for other teams during the world-famous tournament. Southeast Asia, again, also belongs to the less-developed area of soccer. So if I suddenly had $10 million, I would invest that into building a professional soccer academy to train and nurture soccer talents in Vietnam.

How do you define failure?

I believe failure happens only when you give up. Not only in PR, but in any work you do, there are challenges and hardships. Sometimes, things might not go our way or according to what we plan. But if we try to do something about it, there’s definitely something to gain. Even if you don’t meet the goal, as long as you don’t give up, you can gain experience, a new way of working, a new skill, a new possibility, and more. Just don’t give up!

If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?

Recognition. There are many levels of recognition. Last year, a survey by The Straits Times reported that PR specialists were among the top non-essential jobs in Singapore, and many of my colleagues were upset about the result. So, firstly, I want the PR industry to gain recognition according to the actual values that it offers.

I also seek recognition for Vietnam’s PR industry among its peers, regionally and internationally.

Finally, another recognition that I seek is for female professionals working in the PR industry. The working product and the contribution of females in this industry are grossly underrated; 80% of PR practitioners are female, but 80% of managing positions are male, which is really conflicting.

What book or podcast should everyone know about?

Technically not a book, but I would recommend reading our company’s blog, EloQ’s blog. It might sound biased, but our team put our heart and soul into these articles! It’s one of our initiatives to provide global know-how and trends to local PR practitioners. Since the topics are up-to-date, you can find various insights, from mainstream knowledge (PR, crisis management, digital strategy, copywriting, etc.) to PR implications during COVID-19.

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