Telum Talks To… Brian Griffin, CEO and Pattanee Jeeriphab, COO, Vero

Telum Talks To… Brian Griffin, CEO and Pattanee Jeeriphab, COO, Vero

We spoke to Vero, an award-winning PR and digital agency focused on serving clients in the ASEAN region on managing presence in Southeast Asia.

What are the keys to managing PR and digital agencies across Southeast Asia?
Brian Griffin
(BG): The key is our singular focus on Southeast Asia, and being truly present with smart, hardworking, empathetic teams in the largest, fastest-growing countries. By doing this, we are able to provide clients with a truly regionalised offer driven by a team of people who understand the marketing and communications environment in each country, and who know how to roll out winning campaigns across the ASEAN region. Everyone at Vero has the opportunity to work regionally. 

Pattanee Jeeriphab (PJ): Being smaller than many of the global agencies, we try to provide our people with work experience that is fast and flexible - with little bureaucracy and hierarchy. I’ve enjoyed spending time getting to know each team member and listen to them whether it’s about their personal or professional matters. By doing so, we exchange information and perspective.

Before the pandemic, we regularly ask and offer opportunities for members to work with colleagues in other offices. We also regularly organised cross-market sharing sessions to share best practice. Regional campaigns we've been managing are also a great way to connect our people while they share the same goal and mission.

During COVID-19, our priority is to ensure every one of us is safe and healthy (physically and mentally). We allow people to work from home, and our culture manager and team leads check-in and talk with our teams. Virtual team activities have also been organised to maintain team spirit and morale.

Vero is more than 10 years old. What are some of the highlights from over the years?
BG: The biggest highlight is when campaigns generate great results for our clients. This will always be our priority. Amid strong competition in the industry, our very first client in Thailand continues working with us as a regional client today.

PJ: Every time we enter a new market is exciting because we get to meet new people, new clients and it adds variety to our work.

On building a new venture in Southeast Asia, what's the most basic rule of thumb?
We make a point to let people know that all of our offices stand on equal footing. We don’t believe that having an HQ with all top-down decision-making power provides the speed that we need. So have a dispersed regional management responsibility among markets based on who can do the job as opposed to geography.  

BG: It’s also good for everyone’s career prospects if they can gain exposure to working across borders. In ASEAN this is important and is a great way to expand everyone’s horizons.

Are there any distinctive traits in handling comms during COVID especially in each region including Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia?
BG: Yes, definitely. There are distinctions between each country and every business has a distinctive set of considerations to make about the future. We recently published a playbook to help brands think through all of the questions presented from COVID-19 and what we found as we developed this playbook is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.  

PJ: We work with many tech clients and while they are sensitive to the real harm and damage the pandemic is causing, at the same time, many of these tech companies are doing well from a financial perspective. So COVID has not been evenly damaging for companies across all sectors, and so handling comms during this time needs a customised approach.  We sense that PR and digital are more relevant than ever - there is so much disinformation today, that organising information delivery via reputable third parties and directly from brands is very valuable for business, and for society.

What are the most important communications checklists for recovery plan?
BG: Includes lists of questions on topics such as customer communities, employees, partners, digitalisation, sourcing new customers and crisis preparation. The most important questions will depend on the nature of the business and the nature of the risks in each market and it is key that brands, especially those most impacted by COVID, are asking the right questions.  

Examples of such questions would be for brands to consider if they are using technology to source understanding of how COVID has impacted customer mindsets?  We also suggest questions to help brands consider how employees can become innovators for the business and to ensure that brands are tapping into all employees for insights. 

Another question brands should consider is about partners. Are there new allies who can help address challenges? Are there influencers with overlapping interests who could be part of a solution? In some cases, we have seen competitors come together during COVID to address regulatory issues - and this just wouldn’t have happened prior to COVID or perhaps it would have eventually happened but would have taken years to actually occur.  

We also see COVID as a time for brands to step up - and see where they can provide social support. For example, we know that COVID has caused a surge in cybercrime. More people working at home, away from the office, has opened opportunities for criminals. As such, our client BSA, has stepped up and is providing businesses with cybersecurity insights and expertise through a variety of public education campaigns to keep businesses and society safe. All of these insights are included in our playbook.

The biggest change in PR and Communications landscape after COVID-19? 
 One of the things we’ve learned is that PR, social and digital marketing is more relevant than ever and is playing an important role in sustaining dialogue between brands and customers during this time. Maybe the big change will be more momentum for the PR industry as a whole. 

BG: Generally, I agree that COVID may accelerate changes already underway in the marketing services industry - with less momentum for traditional, analogue advertising services and more momentum for PR, content, social and digital brand experiences. More specifically, I suspect we will continue to use digital tools to make our work more efficient. Virtual press briefings, for example, seem every bit as effective as traditional press events - and yet save us time and money.  I’m sure traditional press engagements will eventually return, but I also think virtual press conferences will continue to play a role post-COVID because they are so efficient.

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