Telum Talks To... Constance Chao, Founder, Media Plus Communication & Consulting
Telum caught up with Constance Chao to hear about her experience founding an agency in Taiwan 25 years ago, what keeps her going in PR and her upcoming comms plans in the new year.
You founded Media Plus a quarter-century ago, what is the rationale behind founding the business?
I never thought of setting up an agency in the first place. It was more that I wanted to provide my insights and assistance to help local Taiwanese companies. I was a Business Journalist for five years before moving into comms. From the numerous interviews I conducted with Taiwanese SMEs, I realised that they often have a good product and vision but lack the know-how to deliver to their target audience. So I started out as a free consultant after I quit being a Journalist and one thing led to another. The short answer to this otherwise, is that my curiosity and nosiness led me to founding Media Plus. Perhaps due to my experience as a Journalist, I simply want to interfere and give a helping hand whenever I saw unfair situations. My background thus laid the foundation for me to become a PR to “meddle” in others’ business.
Have your strategies in serving clients evolved over this long period?
Media Plus’ core competence is that it started small and remained small throughout the years. Being small means being flexible, so we can change our shape accordingly to fit into our clients’ needs. On the other hand, my background as a Journalist covering local and international issues shaped my mindset to remain local at heart but also to have an international vision so we’re able to understand client’s needs but also provide international insights. I also train and expect my colleagues to have this dual mentality.
Media Plus was first launched in Taipei. The Shanghai office was set up five years ago. Can you share how the two offices work to accommodate the varied client needs?
The reason we set up the Shanghai office five years ago was initially to fulfill one of our clients’ needs. The client was planning to expand into Mainland China and asked us for advice. It was then I decided to set up the Shanghai office to help them with comms and to maintain the relationship with them.
Initially in both offices we only worked with local talents as they have the natural advantage of speaking the local language and knowing the local media landscape. Gradually, especially during COVID, everything happens online and we see closer interaction and cooperation among the whole Greater China region. Colleagues in both offices would collaborate to do research and analysis that concerns the region whereas local talents would focus more on the execution. When dealing with clients with international insight, we also obtain help from international independent consultants.
What is it about PR and comms that fascinates you and keeps you going?
To be able to grasp the key message your client wishes to deliver and decode it into something easily understood by the media and audience still fascinates me. For example, I personally found it quite challenging to work with a cloud computing client without any IT background as the concepts were vague and fresh to me. However, I felt so rewarding once I found the way to decode and transform my client’s thoughts into something concrete for the public. You also never get bored being in PR as you need to remodel your strategy every time you have a new client. Lastly, I’m just happy about the fact that you can technically “fire” a client as an agency with more than one client.
What comms trends or plans are you looking forward to for 2022?
I believe COVID has reshaped most if not all industry ecosystems and people’s mindsets. For agencies that survived the pandemic, they need to find a way to cope with the new situation. PR firms can no longer be limited to localisation or specialisation. Focusing on a specific field may put an agency at great risk. I find myself lucky to have established Media Plus as a local practice with an international vision and clientele so that colleagues in both offices can help each other at tough times. Diversification is important to minimise risks. We focused on the Greater China market but in the new year, we will also look at Asia to widen our market scope. We have formed an alliance with five other independent agencies in Asia and the Middle East to make that happen, so we’re expecting exciting things.