Telum Talks To... Freda Liu, Lead Producer and Presenter, BFM 89.9
Can you share a bit more about yourself?
I was born in a very small town in Brunei where I lived until I was 14 when I went back to Sarawak to finish high school. Later I came out to KL to study on a twinning programme with University of Southern Queensland. I started my career in PR firstly working with a PR consultancy and then subsequently with IBM. I used to have a part-time role as a news presenter on radio & TV with RTM. I am also a mother of a teenager, have written a few books and you will see me moderating a lot of corporate and business events.
It's your 11th year with BFM 89.9 now, what is it like being with the radio station and what makes you stay?
It was scary and exciting to work with a start-up and an unknown entity 11 years ago. What intrigued me was that it was and is a talk radio with great music. Enterprise still thrills me to this day as we talk about start-ups, personal development, developments in technology to organisational structures. I love business topics of all sorts. Every day I get to talk and learn so much from all sorts of industries. I really am in a sweet spot of being in the thick of things from start-ups to MNCs and interesting authors in between. Not a day is boring.
With the constant changes in both the media and PR industry, what is an ideal way for PRs to build relationship with the media nowadays?
It certainly has changed from when I first started in terms of what technology can do. For example, instead of just sending news releases, perhaps PR companies can send sound clips of the spokesperson. It will enhance the chances of it being aired if something is audibly available in case the journalist cannot attend the event. Be a source of information to the media, not everything is about getting coverage. To me, it is just common sense; be helpful and honest. Journalist friends who have since ventured into PR would remember me from way back when I was in PR and know that I am still the same person. It is all about mutual respect.
Enterprise is a renowned programme by BFM 89.9. In what ways are you keen to explore collaborations with PRs for the programme?
Write good pitches that capture my attention in the headline itself. Also, PR on its own is very difficult to sustain. For agencies working with clients that prefer consistent messaging, they can advise clients about branded content that not only encompasses radio but also digital and event components available at the station. Branding and marketing these days are all encompassing.
You have conducted over 5,000 interviews throughout your career. Which interview gave you a life-changing moment, and why?
This is always a tough question. I really, really believe I learn from everyone I meet and speak to. So there may be big names or not, it doesn't matter. The ability to tell the story is crucial and that said, my interview with Nick Vujicic got me the most as during behind-the-scenes, he prayed for me AFTER the interview so that was memorable.
You are a strong advocate of social enterprises, sustainable development goals (SDGs), and women empowerment. How do social issues resonate with you as a media practitioner and as a person overall?
For women empowerment, I host a show called HerVantage. It is a programme that showcases women from all strata of society, and they are women of influence and leadership. Why is this important? We need to know that women are represented in sports, comedy, business to STEM. When we can see one woman doing it, we are encouraged that we can also do this. I am also passionate about SDGs because we have only 10 years to move the needle. I am coming out with my own videos based on my book ‘In Your Skin’ about defining success on your own terms. I am also featuring social enterprises (SE) which I believe are the greatest movers and shakers to help achieve the SDGs. Running SEs is very challenging, so I want to highlight the hard work and impact they are making. SEs and SDGs in my view are closely intertwined.
How can the media enhance its role further in empowering women across the country?
This is a big one for me. Journalists should stop asking the work-life balance question to women if they won't ask the same for men. I believe this is feeding into the stereotype. Words like 'juggle' and 'struggle' bother me tremendously, instead ask questions that addresses the woman's intellect. Also, do we unconsciously talk about women's physical attributes more than men? If it is the same for both genders, fine. If not, let's not fall into the stereotypical questions. Media should also be encouraging the message of raising families as the equal responsibility of both parents. Other than breastfeeding, the father can also take on more roles.
You are undeniably a learning enthusiast. Which two books would you recommend us to read?
I have many, many books to recommend. I shall recommend the latest books I am reading, one of which has been out for a while: ‘Integrity’ by Dr Henry Cloud and ‘Designing Your Life’ by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.