Cabinet Privé de Conseils
Years at the Agency:
6 years, 9 months
1. Where did you grow up?: Philippines, Hong Kong, Zimbabwe, Japan, UK, and Singapore.
2. Why did you move to Geneva?: I was headhunted in 1998, and moved from London to Geneva to become Director IR for Serono, Europe’s largest biotech.
3. Now that you are in Switzerland, what’s your “must visit” spot in Geneva?: The museum of the International Red Cross. It reminds people, in an objective way, just how horrific war is and how it touches every nationality, every generation. It brings home the reality of wars and refugee migration in a way you don’t get if you just read about it.
4. Why did you choose to enter PR?: After seven years as an international banker, I was bored. The “ah ha” moment was working with Booz Allen Hamilton consulting firm on a project for six months, where I witnessed the way in which you communicate to decision makers is more important than the actual underlying analysis of the problem & solutions. Stories and persuasion matters! So then I did an MBA and re-trained myself in Financial PR/Investor Relations in the City of London. Much happier and more fun than banking.
5. Since moving to PR, what’s been your biggest “win”?: Being part of the management team of a small private biotech, building its profile to a successful IPO, and then trade sale for $1 billion, all within 5 years.
6. Looking to the future, what’s the most exciting changes taking place in our industry?: Most leaders and organisations today now recognise that reputation is a strategic asset which has to be protected, managed and deployed like equity capital or intellectual property. So, actually, the door to the C-suite is much easier to access for us as advisors!
7. Once you’re in the C-Suite, what’s the most powerful new technology or approach you use for clients?: As PR people, we have traditionally been viewed as creative or “left-brained.” Now, we have access to incredible amounts of verifiable and traceable data. We have the opportunity to use that data to present a story in a narrative way that is persuasive. Blending the creative and the “right brain” real facts gives us actionable communications information. Our agency has the ability to go deep with research unlike ever before.
8. What’s the best career advice you can offer?: We all have 2 ears, 2 eyes, 2 hands and 1 mouth. Communicate with them in that proportion. And never forget we have 2 brains – one cerebral, and one in the gut!
9. What are your keys to leadership?: Be human. Walk and talk (less email). Encourage the next generation to try new stuff, and learn from them. Never take sole ownership of a client, a problem, a piece of work, or a success: joint ownership (even better with the client) is much more effective and gives better results.
10. What’s something about yourself that most people do not know?: I have worked and lived in more than 15 countries across Asia, Africa, Middle East, Europe and N. America.
11. What’s your favorite food?: Italian risotto (cooked at home).
12. So, do you think John Podesta is right about adding water slowly to risotto?: Absolutely. Otherwise it is just a disaster. You have to have the slow absorption.