Telum Talks To… Kabol Soun, CEO, MSA Marketing Solutions

Telum Talks To… Kabol Soun, CEO, MSA Marketing Solutions

This week, Telum caught up with Kabol Soun, CEO of MSA Marketing Solutions, to learn more about the PR and media landscape in Cambodia, the challenges he faces and industry trends he is looking out for.

MSA Marketing Solutions is celebrating its 19th anniversary this year - congratulations! Do you have any exciting plans for the near future that you can share? 
Thank you! In terms of PR, we rarely disclose the clients we work with because we have to protect their individual interests and confidentiality in terms of competitors. However, we do have long-standing relationships with leading insurance companies and telecommunication giants. 

But I can reveal that we are beyond excited to have recently been chosen by TikTok, to promote further awareness of the app in Cambodia. This will include rolling out campaigns to highlight the diverse potential of the platform and encourage more Cambodians to get on TikTok. 
Having been with MSA Marketing Solutions for more than 15 years, what are some of the biggest changes in the PR and communications industry in Cambodia that you’ve observed during these years? 
Cambodia is a developing country that has seen a rapid influx of global brands in recent years. This has been to meet the demand from young consumers, fuelled by our country’s high economic growth rate. These international companies already understand the importance of spending budget on building brand awareness and in using Public Relations activities to build consumer confidence. We are now seeing that domestic companies are beginning to catch on to this and are using PR and communications as a key driver in their own business KPIs. 
What are some challenges unique to the PR industry in Cambodia and what do you think is most important when navigating the media landscape in Cambodia? 
One of our greatest challenges is the ‘pay-to-publish’ model that exists in the media landscape here. Websites and newspapers charge for all content, including news stories and press releases. So, we must find creative and clever ways to circumvent this hurdle if we are working with a client with a limited budget. 

Our media department concentrates on the building of strong relationships with key media outlets because of this. We’re slowly trying to change the model, but it won’t happen overnight. 
With COVID-19 affecting most economies globally, how do you think Cambodia is faring compared to the rest of Southeast Asia? 
Sadly, no nation can escape both the toll on human life and the economy. Cambodia has been lucky so far in terms of having a low number of fatalities, but the start of the pandemic in January and February of this year has triggered a sharp fall in corporate confidence and this had a knock-on effect within the marketing industry as a whole. But in recent weeks, we’ve noticed a tentative u-turn, evidenced by the number of new clients we have been approached by. We have nearly 500 employees within our agency and we are determined to keep them all in work. That might mean they have to be flexible in the skills they have and be able to work across different departments, but we are providing the training they will need to do this. 
What are some of the upcoming PR and communications trends you’re currently keeping an eye on? 
Our collaboration with TikTok feeds into my insight about the PR and communication trends that will shape our industry. Non-traditional content channels are proving to be essential and valuable outlets for engagement with younger audiences and niche markets. They give an opportunity for brands to take a risk and provide timely content - in a proactive and reactive capacity. This also taps into a growing trend for organic, ‘un-airbrushed’ brand campaigns. Consumers are increasingly turning away from the perfectly curated accounts of Instagram influencers for example and engaging more with the ‘realness’ and by extension, believability, of social media platforms like TikTok. 

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