Telum Talks To… Alric Manickam, Country Manager, Sales & Marketing, Malaysia and Brunei at Agence France-Presse
What does your role as Country Manager, Sales & Marketing, Malaysia and Brunei at Agence France-Presse (AFP) entail?
At AFP, I handle all the commercial aspects of content and also act as the custodian for content licenses and publication rights that we provide to clients for Malaysia and Brunei. I also handle all the day-to-day commercial operations, which includes sales and marketing initiatives, product development and management of our AFP’s content product offerings, establishing the country’s and regional strategies in the mission to provide accurate, impartial and trustworthy information at all times on current events around the world. As I’m based in Malaysia, I take the opportunity to meet and discuss plans and strategies with various clienteles from diverse industries with regards to news as a content. News today is not only accessible and strictly consumed by media clients anymore, but are also utilised by other industries as well for various purposes like business / market intelligence, etc.
How does the overall structure at AFP Malaysia look like, and how does each department work together for storytelling?
As part of a vast global network of thousands of correspondents on ground in more than 150 countries, the network in Malaysia features correspondents that work with the Malaysian bureau, in coordination between text, photo, and Video Journalists which we mobilise and coordinate with the Bureau Chief, News Editors and Editors in Chief in our regional headquarters in Hong Kong for many big stories from Malaysia that appeal to the local and global audience. Such examples are the MH 370, the assassination of Kim Jong–Un’s half-brother, the Rohingya issue (just to name a few), as well as for other important stories like elections, political developments, economy, financial and we also are huge on original produced content for feature stories.
From your perspective, how does AFP play the role in the Malaysia’s media landscape and the level of interest of local readers from getting news from international media organisations?
AFP plays a key role in providing balanced, unbiased coverage of Malaysia for the rest of the world whilst our own Malaysian clients use our domestic production in their publications and highly appreciate our “take a step back” point of view as an outside player. As the world’s first news agency with more than 180 years of experience, we bring a stamp of credibility to news coverage in an age of misinformation and disinformation. Clients have long counted on AFP’s accuracy and credibility, never more so than now in a world where there is so much information AND misinformation coming at people from so many different directions. And this is even more true in Asia and in Malaysia, where we can say we have one of the strongest correspondent networks on ground of any international news agency / organisation – that presence on ground and our reputation for unbiased coverage means that local news organisations find us as a very useful prism through which to view events in their own country.
You were doing PR before joining AFP, how has your previous experience in the comms industry helped you in your current role?
Yes, I was doing PR previously but at the same time I also gathered experiences in various capacities in the media industry over the years which has definitely helped me understand requests from all sides of the spectrum. Hence when usually a client / prospect has queries regarding content plans and how those plans may fit into their overall business plans, I am able to provide a more holistic view from various perspectives so that they can make informed decisions.
Is AFP open to collaborations and engagement from PRs, brands or corporates? Can you introduce some of available services they could explore from AFP?
Oh yes, we receive a lot of news pitches daily just like any other news agency from various companies and industries, which if there is a global appeal, is definitely covered. In this day and age, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic with fake news taking precedence locally and globally through social media etc, there is a huge emphasis on our AFP’s fact-check initiatives, where we debunk misinformation and also provide trainings not only for internal newsrooms, but also for corporates, brands and institutions. This is also filtered through our AFPTV’s video coverage and corporate work that we do for our clients under our subsidiary called FACTSTORY. FACTSTORY is our content-as-a-service that we provide for corporates and we have done various projects in various capabilities and industries. Some examples of major brand / industries we have worked with in the world include PETRONAS, Coca Cola, P&G, aircraft and automobile in-seat entertainment like BMW and Audi cars, to name a few
How do you prefer someone in PR to pitch you?
Email pitches are always fine but it’s also highly important for companies to get to know the editorial team personally as well and tailor the pitch to the individual agency to have a better shot at coverage. I have noticed that with merely general pitching, half the time the pitches get lost in the sea of email pitches that we receive on a day to day basis, which is a waste. It takes more effort and time certainly, but in the long run, building a healthy relationship with the editorial team will go a long way in future pitches as well.
Any upcoming strategies of AFP on the news agenda? Any trends or topics that you are looking into in the coming year?
Digital Verification, certainly. AFP not only reports authentic stories as we always have done but we also now use the same journalistic skills to debunk false and misleading claims that are going viral or having an impact on people. As COVID itself has showed us, misinformation has been rampant as well as a host of conspiracy theories that goes with it, and on various topics. Our team of more than 100 dedicated expert fact-checkers works alongside our regular reporting teams across 18 languages in 81 countries across the planet, including Malaysia. We also supply a global fact-check wire of the most important debunked or confirmed claims that we market to clients so their audiences can keep tabs on trends in this growing area of verification. In addition, AFP also offers training to media and other corporates and institutions who need versing in fact-check methods and expertise.