Episode 11

Published on:

6th Jun 2024

S4 E11: PRGN Hong Kong Conference with Andy See, Joanne Chan, and Gábor Jelinek

In May 2024, members of the Public Relations Global Network gathered in Hong Kong for their Spring Conference. In this episode, outgoing PRGN President Andy See from Malaysia, Hong Kong member and conference host Joanne Chan, and PRGN's Executive Director Gábor Jelinek share some insights and takeaways from the conference.

They discuss the significance of hosting the conference in Hong Kong, the benefits of in-person interactions with members of a global network, the region's growth potential, the role of Hong Kong as a bridge connecting China to the world, and the valuable insights gained from panel discussions on topics such as social media trends in the Asia-Pacific region, crisis management, Web3.

By harnessing the collective expertise and diverse perspectives of PRGN members, the network is primed to navigate emerging trends, drive innovation, and unlock new possibilities for business growth and collaboration on a global scale.

Additional Resources

About the Guests

Andy See Teong Leng is the outgoing President of PRGN. In 2006, Andy founded Perspective Strategies, a strategic communications and issues management firm in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, after working with multinational and local consultancies including The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Edelman for more than a decade. Perspective Strategies has built a solid reputation for quality strategic counsel and is one of the leading PR and Strategic Communications consultancies in Malaysia. Andy adopts a hands-on approach to his work and the business. Besides managing the firm, he leads strategic client relationships and coach corporate spokespersons in their media and stakeholder engagements. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the School of Media and Communication, Taylor’s University and a past president of the Public Relations and Communications Association of Malaysia (PRCA Malaysia). He speaks regularly at industry events and contributes thought leadership articles on PR, Leadership, Strategy, Sustainability and Communications.

With over two decades of experience in investor relations, Joanne Chan established LBS Communications in 2012 in Hong Kong and has assisted over a hundred listed companies and startups in connecting with investors in the APAC region and other major financial markets. To support sustainable growth in the industry, she formed the Sustainability Investor Relations practice to support listed companies in enhancing their ESG performance and disclosures and to connect well-performing sustainability-focused companies with investors committed to responsible investing.

Gábor Jelinek is the Executive Director of the Public Relations Global Network. Based in Budapest, Gábor has been involved with PRGN for over five years. Gábor worked as an editor for the Budapest Business Journal before transitioning into the agency business. He brings a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the PR industry to his role as Executive Director of PRGN. In that capacity, Gábor is the center of action, supporting the work of the President and the Executive Committee to grow and develop the global communications network. Working closely with PRGN’s Business, Marketing and Membership committees, Gábor is the driver of global business development, self-marketing, and membership retention and recruitment.

More than 1,000 clients across six continents depend on the combined resources of the Public Relations Global Network to deliver targeted public relations campaigns in more than 80 markets around the world. With revenues of more than $100 million (U.S.), PRGN is among the world’s top five public relations networks. PRGN harnesses the resources of 40 independent public relations firms, 50 offices and more than 800 communications professionals to connect international companies and organizations with individual and culturally diverse markets globally.

About the Host

Abbie Fink is president of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, Arizona and a founding member of PRGN. Her marketing communications background includes skills in media relations, digital communications, social media strategies, special event management, crisis communications, community relations, issues management, and marketing promotions for both the private and public sectors, including such industries as healthcare, financial services, professional services, government affairs and tribal affairs, as well as not-for-profit organizations.

PRGN Presents is brought to you by Public Relations Global Network, the world’s local public relations agency. Our executive producer is Adrian McIntyre.

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Adrian McIntyre:

From the Public Relations Global Network, this is PRGN Presents. I'm Adrian McIntyre.

Abbie Fink:

And I'm Abbie Fink, president of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, Arizona and a founding member of PRGN. With public relations leaders embedded into the fabric of the communities we serve, clients hire our agencies for the local knowledge, expertise, and connections in markets spanning six continents across the world.

Adrian McIntyre:

Our guests on this biweekly podcast series are all members of the Public Relations Global Network. They discuss such topics as the importance of sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Governance programs, crisis communications, content marketing, reputation management, and outside of the box thinking for growing your business.

Abbie Fink:

For more information about PRGN and our members, please visit prgn.com. And now, let's meet our guest for this episode.

Andy See:

Hi, I'm Andy from Perspective Strategies Malaysia, and I have the honor of being the president of PRGN until yesterday.

Joanne Chan:

Hello, I'm Joanne. I'm the founder and managing director of LBS Communications.

Gábor Jelinek:

Hello, this is Gábor Jelinek. I'm the executive director of PRGN. I've been in this position the past few years, working with different presidents over time, making sure that the network runs okay, and we move from one phase to another phase, move from one meeting to another meeting, and the network keeps growing.

Adrian McIntyre:

Now, this episode is unique because the three of you are actually in the same location, and that doesn't happen often. You're all in Hong Kong for the Public Relations Global Network semi-annual meeting. So why don't we start by just talking about that for a minute? Why is this meeting happening in Hong Kong now? And what's the significance of that? Joanne, you were the host for these meetings. Why don't you tell us about that?

Joanne Chan:

I think to organize this conference in Hong Kong is a very good opportunity for us to show our partners and friends from all over the world. Since COVID, Hong Kong has been starting to open the tourism market again. Starting from last year, we see the number of tourists coming to Hong Kong has been increasing. And so a lot of new infrastructure, new, for example, museum are opened to make Hong Kong establish a new image. So I think it would be a perfect time for Hong Kong to be the host location for the PRGN conference in this lovely May 20 24.

Andy See:

So Adrian, to chip in, essentially PRGN being a global organization and we are represented all over the world, but the group is structured in a way that we have our agencies in the Americas, our agencies in EMEA or Europe and Africa, as well as the Asia-Pacific. The Asia-Pacific has always been one of the areas where we have the least members, but we are growing very strongly. And we are very proud that we are now able to organize many more meetings in the Asia-Pacific region. And of course, Hong Kong, right at the heart of Asia-Pacific, is really the place or city to showcase how dynamic our global organization and the world economy, economy where there's a lot of growth opportunities and activities right here in Hong Kong.

Adrian McIntyre:

Gábor, you've spoken in the past on this podcast about the benefits of a public relations firm belonging to a global network like PRGN. Can you talk a little bit more specifically, coming out of this meeting, what are the benefits of getting these folks together in person? What happens at these meetings? What are some of the things that you can't achieve, even though we do a lot with Zoom and Teams and everything else these days? What's special about being together?

Gábor Jelinek:

Obviously, there's technology now, like Zoom and the others. And now, as we were speaking on this podcast virtually, it's not the same as having people from all over the world in one room. And one of the great things about this meeting in Hong Kong was we had the privilege of introducing three new members, one from China, one from South Korea, and one from Sweden.

And that's how the relationships begin as the new members come in. And they've been members for a few months now. It varies when they enter as we have a process for admitting new members. But this is the first time these people were physically in the same room. And after all the Zoom calls and the Teams calls and emails, tons of emails and other forms of digital forms of communication, finally we had the chance to meet our members, had the chance to meet these new members and our new members had the chance to meet the older members. And that's how conversations begin and that's how the trust building begins so that at the end of the day when it comes to doing business together they understand each other much better. In a global group like this you sometimes have communications issues, sometimes you have language issues even though everybody speaks English at a good level.

And once you start to talk to these people, sometimes people speak English with people who are similar to them so the English they speak is under is more understandable and I think and I think it's good that that that you know your first meeting person build a relationship and more informal and informal parts as our meetings are a combination of like conference type sessions and panel discussions and keynote note speakers and then and then we have we have sessions where our members just basically talk to each other about how they do the business as a business or sometimes they talk about communications subjects and trends and things like that and of course we have social parts of these meetings too where you can find more about our the other members friendships are being made and that's kind of the basis for the business that comes after based and built on that trust.

Adrian McIntyre:

Let's talk a little bit about the subject matter expertise that everyone brings because all the members of PRGN are expert communications agencies in a variety of disciplines and in quite a wide range of regions. They have specific regional knowledge about markets, about the way business is done in different parts of the world. So when you come together and you do have more of a conference-type session, you do have learnings being shared in a more traditional format. What are some of the things that you're taking away? I'd love to hear from each of you. What is something that you learned from this meeting that maybe you didn't know before? Andy?

Andy See:

There are two parts of the meeting that really has a lot of learnings from. One part, obviously, it's more of the external panel discussions that we have had, talking about how different we are in our respective markets. So, for example, the Asia-Pacific media market is very different from the rest of the world, in which, for example, some of the key market centers in the Asia-Pacific, like Japan, China, Korea, has a very different digital as well as traditional media landscape that probably the world do not have, including tools that is used or the platforms that are being used in these markets. So it was a good opportunity to learn from one another, to see those differences and how we are able to also learn from these differences that probably could be new trends in our own respective markets later. So for example, TikTok, which sort of transformed the social media landscape of the world, came from China. And there's a lot of learnings that we've seen that could be done. And of course, for example, how the super-app [WeChat] changed how people interact in China. So these are things that we learn from that perspective.

But another perspective, which is always very special and unique to PRGN members, are how we manage our respective agencies, how we manage our client relationships. That kind of conversations never stop in each and every one of our PRGN meetings. And there's always something new that you discover. Even though we have met many times—I've been a PRGN member for more than seven years now—I still learn from each and every of these meetings when I have one-on-one or even small group discussions, when we talk about how we manage our teams, how we manage our client relationships, how we manage our firms. And that's also a core component of learnings that I always get from the meetings that I attend.

Adrian McIntyre:

Joanne, what about you? What are some of the things you're taking away, some of the things you've learned from this session?

Joanne Chan:

Yes, actually, I agree with Andy. When we design the content for the conference, we want to put a focus on APAC because it is a very good opportunity because we don't see PRGN will be hosting in the coming two to three years, we'll be hosting another conference in Asia. So we want to put APAC as the focus for part of our panel discussion. And I received a lot of comments from our members that so far, a lot of discussion are eye opening for them, not only about discussing the social media landscape, for each of the Asian members countries. We also share a lot about the [Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao] Greater Bay Area in China. The role of Hong Kong is a connection between China to the world.

Through this, we try to let our members know not only the role of Hong Kong in connecting all the countries to China, but also how different are the PR landscape in these two different places. So we also invited our new member from China. They provide a very insightful information section about the social media landscape, which also opened to a lot of new sources of knowledge and information that we want to know currently happening in China. And also, we bring up two topics about crisis management.

And the crisis management panel, we have the panelists from Asia as well as the United States. So I think it is a very fruitful sharing of how members from different countries are handling their crisis, which are specific to the region. And lastly, we also have a Web3 panel discussion. And it is also a very mind-opening section that how for us from different PR aspects can migrate to be Web3 native promotion expert. I think I can tell like these two days of panel discussion are very fruitful for all of the members.

Adrian McIntyre:

Gábor, at this meeting, you have members that you interact with probably more frequently as executive director than some of the other agencies might interact with. And of course, in attendance, in addition to the members from the Asia-Pacific region, you had folks from the United States, Canada, Belgium, Lithuania, Sweden, Israel. Those are just the ones I recognize from the photos on LinkedIn. I'm sure there's more. What's it like for you and what did you learn by being together? What were some of the takeaways you got from the sessions themselves?

Gábor Jelinek:

You know, sometimes the challenge when we start organizing the meetings is that some of the members say, you know, my business is not so much connected or I'm personally not so much interested in another region. You know, I've heard this from basically in either directions. And of course, when you're in a market like we are in Hong Kong today and this week. Of course, the conversation, as Joanne explained, is about the region. It's because always the host and also the organization wants to show what the opportunities are, what the issues and trends are in these markets and in these regions.

I think what's interesting is that maybe on a primary level you or I mean a member would think that oh what do I learn if I understand how social media works in Japan well how does that become relevant to my business you know in the US or in Europe or middle the least but I think if you approach that question with kind of like in a different way and. And look at it that it's not the primary information but like new patterns or new ways of thinking then you can you can walk away with a with a lot of new ideas.

We have this we have this conversation about the social media and media in in general and about the technologies and as Joanne said thanks to our new member from China we heard a lot about WeChat so towards the end of the conversation I asked the group a question like okay so TikTok was a talk of the world in you know in the past year and a half or two years as it took over the number one position for being the top social media in many markets what's going to be the next big trend and you know it was interesting to think about it for a moment how WeChat is basically everything in China it's an all-in app not just not just social media and how maybe not a new app is going to come to the western world from this part of the world here but you know a new thinking that an app could be an all-in app including finance including shopping including transportation as you know maybe by now, people are tired of having an app for everything. I mean, having apps, specific apps for everything and having a zillion apps on their phones.

So this kind of thinking opens up the mind that the things people are used to in their own markets, be it the country or region, that there may be new things coming from another region. And just seeing how those things go can give you ideas. And I think the advantage, the big advantage for the members here is that through these conversations, maybe they can think ahead a little bit or could be ahead of the curve and identify these new trends.

Adrian McIntyre:

I really like what you said about patterns and pattern recognition. I think it's so important to be exposed to many different ways that things are done so that it can spark creative thinking, but also allow you to recognize certain trends earlier than if you didn't have that pattern recognition. As we wrap up this conversation, I know you still have a full day ahead of you there in Hong Kong. I'd be interested to hear, especially from Andy and Joanne, how you view as owners of agencies located in Malaysia, located there in the region in Hong Kong, how you view the opportunity for business and for growth in the region. When you sit from your point of view, and you look at the future, what do you see are the possibilities?

Andy See:

Adrian, to answer your question, I think there's still a lot of, I mean, of course, the world is coming out of COVID. There's still a lot of adjustment. There are a lot of discussions about China is not coming back as strong as it should after COVID. But these are things that we were also saying and discussing as a group that will still be, China is still enjoying growth. It may not be the growth engine of the world like in the past, but there's still a lot of opportunities to grow in China. We spoke about the opportunities that the whole region itself, there's still a growing population. The Asia-Pacific region still has a young population.

There's a lot of opportunities that's ongoing. Perhaps what's changing is that instead of just being the manufacturing hub of the world, it is now looking at how it could look into more advanced manufacturing, looking into more innovation. So there's a lot of innovation and brand building exercise now being done by a lot of Asian brands, hoping that that would also allow them to compete at a new level with the other global brands. So this is what we've seen as a region. But overall, what we can see is that there's a lot of still economic opportunity for us to grow. So therefore, we wanted to also So explore the idea how PRGN can function as hubs for us to, number one, attract investors and our clients from the rest of the world to be interested in the Asia-Pacific region. And on the other hand, Asia-Pacific brands looking at how they can grow their brand presence to the rest of the world, in Europe, in the US. And these are things and conversations that we've had. And we believe that all of us here can play a role.

Adrian McIntyre:

Joanne, as the host of this meeting, we'll give you the last word. If you could pick just one thing that you are most excited about on the horizon, out in the future, it may be not here yet, but it's coming. What are you most excited about, about the future?

Joanne Chan:

After the conference, my confidence to the future of Hong Kong or our role, Europe being the bridge between China and the world, made me even more confident that it depends on how much you prepare yourself to receive the growth in the future. I agree that China has been reviving from COVID in a slower pace than other regions in Asia.

But also numbers mention that the growth in China will come back in the coming few years, and we can see investments start to come back to China. And as I remember that our member from Belgium, Natacha [Clarac], shared about some ideas how we can facilitate the cooperation between Europe and Hong Kong. So I think the conference this time is very successful in opening the growth potential of China and Hong Kong and how Hong Kong will see as a very good, with a very important role for connecting our partners and overseas to develop collaborations in China or opening. So I'm actually very happy to see the conference give us a lot of new ideas on collaborations.

Not to mention about APAC, because I can feel our, I think in the network, our presence in APAC has been growing. And with the collaborations between our members from Japan, Korea, Singapore, India, Australia, New Zealand, I feel that our horizon has been increased to another level. So that's why being a member of PRGN, I feel like we are in even more competitive position.

Adrian McIntyre:

Thanks for listening to this episode of PRGN Presents, brought to you by the Public Relations Global Network.

Abbie Fink:

We publish new episodes every other week, so follow PRGN Presents in your favorite podcast app. Episodes are also available on our website—along with more information about PRGN and our members—at prgn.com.

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About the Podcast

PRGN Presents: News & Views from the Public Relations Global Network
Leading a business effectively in today's fast-paced and interconnected world requires expert guidance and a strong communications strategy. The Public Relations Global Network is here to help.
PRGN Presents is the essential podcast for international business leaders, non-profit executives, and those who hire public relations, marketing, and communications firms. It provides an exclusive look into the ever-evolving world of PR and communications, featuring experts from the Public Relations Global Network, “the world’s local public relations agency.”

Is your message winning hearts and minds? No matter where you do business, there is a PRGN member agency in your region with the deep industry expertise, international experience, and local market knowledge you need to connect with your target audience and achieve your goals.

Whether you're an executive looking to improve your organization's communication strategy or an in-house marketing professional looking to bring in an outside firm to support a specific campaign, this podcast will provide valuable insights on how to communicate effectively and build lasting relationships with customers, staff, and communities around the world.

In each episode, you’ll hear PR professionals and industry experts share valuable insights and perspectives on the latest trends in public relations, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), media relations, crisis management, investor relations, stakeholder engagement, executive thought leadership, and strategic communications.

About your host

Profile picture for Abbie S. Fink

Abbie S. Fink

Abbie S. Fink is president of HMA Public Relations in Phoenix, Arizona and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. Her marketing communications background includes skills in media relations, digital communications, social media strategies, special event management, community relations, issues management, and marketing promotions for both the private and public sectors, including such industries as healthcare, financial services, professional services, government affairs and tribal affairs, as well as not-for-profit organizations. Abbie is often invited to present to a wide variety of business and civic organizations on such topics as media relations, social media and digital communications strategies, crisis communications, and special events management.