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View from the Top: Keso Kendall, LEWIS

View from the Top: Keso Kendall, LEWIS

June 03rd 2019

The latest in a regular series where we collect the views of Hong Kong’s agency heads.

Can you please give us a quick overview of the type of work your agency does and the clients you do it for in Hong Kong?

Whilst LEWIS’ roots as an agency are in B2B tech PR, the agency has diversified over the years. In Hong Kong we now have a broad retainer client base spanning B2B and B2C technology as well as travel, automotive, HR, FMCG, and professional services.

What does that mean for the people you need to hire and services you need to provide?

Ultimately the type of people we look for is always the same. We want to work with people who are agile, bold, collaborative, inquisitive and spirited. We look for candidates who understand the trends that are affecting our industry and are willing to learn.

In terms of services, this is shifting more and more to ‘non-traditional PR’ work – to support clients with creatives, video, lead-gen, and website development. We are no longer just competing against PR agencies but also creative and digital ones too.

What are the biggest challenges you face in Hong Kong in running a successful agency? 

Hong Kong is a crowded and mature marketplace when it comes to PR. As a result, we have to compete with a host of international and local teams – both for clients and talent. The competitive nature of the landscape certainly keeps you on your toes when it comes to pitches and brainstorming!

What advice would you give to people looking to get into or just starting out in the Hong Kong PR industry?

Network – the HK PR scene is pretty close-knit and open. Making contacts at other agencies is a great way to get the lay of the land and the pace at which things happen here.

Read and watch – Get to grips with local publications like SCMP and The Standard (for EN speakers) or HKET, Ming Pao or Apple Daily (for Chinese speakers). Tune into local TV and stations to get a flavour of the news and culture of the city.

Ask questions – Don’t be afraid to speak up in meetings or with new colleagues. Ask your friends or family about their view on brands or businesses in HK. Ask your clients about their business.

What are the most useful skills for a modern-day PR?

Knowing yourself – PRs get to wear many hats: writer, pitcher, analyst, strategist, creative. If you find yourself struggling with any of those then focus your efforts on building this area. When I first started out, I hated having to pitch media – so rather than running away from it, I would not let myself do anything else until all of my calls had been made. Once I overcame the things that I didn’t enjoy, everything else seemed much easier.

Time management – Our jobs are complex and demanding, and we can often get pulled in many different directions by our clients. The ability to prioritize, work to a deadline and manage your own time is invaluable in PR.

Creativity – I speak to many PRs who don’t see themselves as creative people, but I think our definition of ‘creativity’ can sometimes be a little off. Creativity isn’t just about design or big-bang ideas, it can be about approaching a situation differently or coming up with a way to inspire teammates.

What’s the work or industry behaviour that irritates you most?

Not pushing back enough. I view the role of the PR as a consultant, and a key part of consulting is offering an opinion and viewpoint. We often meet clients or prospects that have only ever treated their agencies as arms and legs, and working with us can sometimes be a shock! Ultimately you get the best value from your agency if you view them as a partner so I encourage the team to share their insights and perspectives with clients if they feel things are going in the wrong direction.

What do you do in your personal time to unwind?

I mainly spend my time hanging out with friends, exploring new areas of HK or travelling. I love hiking in HK and often escape into the mountains with a good podcast to recuperate.