Telum Talks To... Koh Juat Muay, President, IPRS

Telum Talks To... Koh Juat Muay, President, IPRS

Following the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore's (IPRS) celebration of its golden jubilee and the recent appointment of a new council, Telum spoke to the institute's newly appointed President, Koh Juat Muay to learn more about her goals during her term and how the IPRS has been adapting to the changes COVID-19 has brought to the industry.

Congratulations on your recent appointment as President. As the IPRS recently celebrated its golden jubilee, what goals do you hope to achieve with the IPRS during your term?
The IPRS’ golden jubilee is a testament to the contributions of generations of public relations professionals since 1970. I am bowled over by the willingness of this new team of council members to volunteer their time to serve. They bring their expertise and unique experiences to the table. The team spirit is strong, and it is our focus to grow Singapore’s homegrown institute to lead the industry and champion best practices locally and around the world.

My personal journey has been to help clients answer the simple and yet big question - what is public relations and how do we achieve good public relations? This has not changed over the years. The same work exists then and now with the challenges (and opportunities) with smartphones and social media.

Everything has a communications outcome and ensuing impact. No individual or organisation is spared these consequences. The goal is for the IPRS to be the beacon for communications expertise and education.

PR Courses and Workshops have been one of the focus points of the IPRS to uphold standards in PR professionalism. What are your thoughts on the fact that, events like these have to be held digitally for now due to the pandemic? What do you think about the inability to conduct physical events and workshops?
The industry has adapted swiftly to the pressure to take training, and for some, entire businesses online. It is not about tolerating the inconvenience of the new normal but a matter of survival.

As humans we seek physical interactions – the feel of a good handshake, proper eye contact and hearing someone’s voice. Therefore, there is the notion that e-learning or online events are virtual and not actual. This is not the case as people are physically present in real time whether it is a Zoom call or the traditional tele/video conferencing.

It is necessary and certainly possible to create good online experiences by making adjustments to the way we speak and present material albeit on screen instead of in-person. The onus is also on participants to be attentive and engage as we would in face-to-face settings.

The IPRS has embraced digital solutions. We are also preparing for physical events in the near future. I believe the current hybrid of online and on-site events is here to stay. It is the best of both worlds where the audience is in one location and can dial-in from anywhere around the world.

The digitalisation of communications has also led to a number of issues like fake news and information overload – what can PR professionals do to overcome these issues?
The bane of digitalisation is speed and spread. News of all kinds are generated at record rate and achieve unprecedented reach. We can only slow and tame this runaway train of information with Knowledge. The more we know, the better we are at distinguishing fact from fiction and sieving out critical concerns while discarding distractions. This knowledge must be wide-ranging and goes beyond cursory understanding of trends.

Taking the train analogy further, the train has left the station and its destination is unknown.  The PR profession is not for the fainthearted. The practitioner will need to evolve and equip and hopefully get ahead of the curve.

What advice can you give to fresh graduates and students who are trying to enter the PR industry in today’s climate?
There is no better time to join the industry. Technology has made communications exciting; it is now possible for anyone and everyone to create news. The outcomes of communications need managing, and in most if not all cases, needs to be preempted. There has always been a demand for good communications practitioners. Getting an education in public relations provides you with the essential tools, the rest is the hard work of learning on the job in often very trying environments. My best advice is perhaps for these young hopefuls to shore up their knowledge especially in the areas of human/social psychology and public opinions.

The IPRS believes in supporting the next generation of communications professionals through our student chapters and mentorship programmes. These young practitioners will one day lead the industry and contribute to its future growth.

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