This week, Telum Talks To Cedric Wceke, Regional Public Relations Lead, Circles.Life. We chatted to Cedric about relationship-building in a post-pandemic world and how he delivers real value of PR to target audiences.
As a PR professional, how has it been like rebuilding a culture of physical connection in a post-pandemic world?
I’ve always been a firm believer that the P in Public Relations is actually an abbreviation for People and the true measurable impact of physical connection resulting from face-to-face interactions cannot be discounted. While good PR on a business as usual level concerns itself around the building of solid professional relationships with key stakeholders - be it external or internal, great PR takes the aforementioned up a notch by infusing a unique blend of one’s personality, mindfulness and empathy into the equation.
It has definitely been challenging rebuilding a culture of physical connection as we emerged triumphantly from the pandemic, especially as priorities shift and many incline towards new norms with hybrid WFO / WFH arrangements. Linking back to my point above, I feel that it’s the same energy and personality which PR practitioners bring to the table in formulating and maintaining connections through adversity which will shine through and reflect said rebuilding in the form of our work done.
What are the challenges you face when navigating a saturated media landscape, and how do you breakthrough the noise?
Attention is the true currency of the media and social space today and successful initial engagement has a directly correlative effect which translates into retention. As target audiences become increasingly inundated by noise - be it literal or figurative, I feel that the main challenges here are dual-pronged i.e. lack of understanding / education of the value PR brings and a lack of trust resulting in a divide between brand and target audiences.
There is therefore a dire need for brand representatives and advocates to put their most authentic selves forward with humility, acknowledge their shortcomings, recognise key gaps and problems faced by their target audiences, and engineer their products / services towards tackling pain points and building trust. In providing true value to users via targeted ‘inform & respond’ approaches assisted by powerful storytelling, this will be a brand’s best bet to break through the noise.
Since its inception, Circles.Life has operated without having a storefront or customer service centres. How do you improve the customer experience and drive better relationships with your customers?
Without sounding like a corporate drone or press release, I feel there is a need to reiterate the Circles.Life founding story here as the 'OG' disruptors of the telco industry. We are a tech company founded on the basis of solving problems i.e. not being able to find a telco who was able to cater to our ever-shifting mobile needs, so our three founders created their own which today offer a revolutionary digital services experience across several product lines including telco, data, ecosystem products, and now travel with the launch of Jetpac!
While we pride ourselves in leading innovation for digital services, giving power back to the customer has always been our North Star. We engage openly and directly, are authentic with our users (and ourselves), and empower customers to manage their own mobile plan to best fit their needs. It’s not just a dog and pony show: in fact, we have an Inner Circle initiative to obtain real-time non-sanitised feedback from our customers, and act critically and decisively upon it. In fact, this led to us winning the Straits Times x Statista Best Customer Service 2022-23 for Singapore - an incredible accolade!
Circles.Life is known for its viral publicity stunts - how do you align your PR strategies with your marketing team to find the perfect synergy?
I am a firm believer that while it’s important for brands to evoke, they should also evolve. Stagnation never exists in nature (just growth and decline) and the same is also applicable to brands. The evolution of Circles. Life runs true to our mission to give power back to the customer, while also staying relevant and updated with the media landscape. As a result, our go-to-media strategies have also matured over the years.
I reckon the perfect level of synergy is definitely subjective, as marketers and PR practitioners strive to meet in the middle. The true value of PR lies neither in vanity metrics nor conversions driven, and it is vital that all relevant stakeholders are educated and aligned on the aforementioned. I would advocate basing one’s PR strategies and playbook on four key pillars:
Having being in the communication space for over a decade, what advice would you give to young guns starting a career in industry?
- Protect - to safeguard, build and scale brand reputation and credibility
- Perform - to integrate seamlessly into other Marketing functions ie. socials, brand, performance marketing
- Promote - to ensure consistency across platforms / channels, key messaging, CTAs, and objectives
- Prove - to contain data driven measurable impact for learnings and insights
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I believe it’s honestly a healthy blend of both aptitude and attitude for anyone who’s considering a potential career in PR or any other role in the media industry as a whole. While straight As across one’s examinations and previous internships are undoubtedly impressive accolades, it’s really about one’s attitude towards receiving feedback from stakeholders, demonstrating a healthy mix of tenacity + guile + wit, and embodying the element of coachability which will have more legs to go on down the road.
A mentor once shared: “In PR, it’s not so much about the things one says but rather, the things they don’t” - the implication of it being how a good PR practitioner must be able to observe subtle cues, comprehend between the lines, and assess undercurrents before acting swiftly and decisively to manage and mitigate situations.