Leslie Fung has spent over two decades in comms, half with agencies and half with listed and private companies. Having experienced the diversification of comms in Hong Kong and the dawn of social media, Leslie chats with Telum about changes in media relations, chef-training campaigns and comms mentorship.
How did you know investor relations / comms was what you wanted to do?
At the beginning, I didn’t know. I did translation in college, but I never wanted to be a translator - I wanted to do something more creative. I like to talk and meet with people. For a good communicator, language is a priority, so I tried to get into the business. Fortunately, I started my career working for a semi-government body as an Assistant Information Officer.
Later on, I joined a large, listed conglomerate in Hong Kong. This was over 20 years ago, and it was the first time I was exposed to investor relations. In the old days, when we talked about comms, people tend to talk about media relations and events management and not so much about investor relations, branding or crisis management.
What changes have you observed in Hong Kong / regional comms landscape?
First, the Hong Kong comms landscape has become more professional over the years. There are now specific divisions of investor relations, branding, etc. Second, the rise of tech has changed the way we conduct comms. Previously, if I wanted to talk to the media, I’d need to talk to them very late in the evening or during their spare time. But now, I can drop them a message and let them know briefly what I want to talk to them about. If they need anything, they can also contact me conveniently.
Social media has been an easy way for me to talk to my audience. In fact, these days, if you don’t have social presence or a website, you can seldom talk to target audiences, especially investors and the media as they are generally very busy people. Social media is a cost-effective way to communicate with them no matter day or night.
What’s your most memorable campaign or challenge?
At one of my previous companies where I headed global corporate affairs, we organised a CSR programme in Mainland China to sponsor the underprivileged to learn to cook and become professional chefs. The programme was designed to help the beneficiaries gain professional knowledge and earn a living while also cultivating ambassadors for our products. Through it, we developed relationships with the local, provincial and central government and helped many people, some of whom became famous chefs and restaurant owners. They also became ambassadors not only through using company products but also through talking to people about the company’s philosophy and culture.
What do you think the next generation of comms professionals can focus on building?
The younger generation is very creative, especially regarding the use of social media. But with that, there is a language difference where on social media, there is no need to use proper language. While they might be more creative with social media - the use of abbreviations and even emojis - it’s good to brush up on language skills.
Secondly, younger generations can be more open to the external world. When we talk about comms these days, it’s far more than “comms”. Knowing what is happening outside and being open-minded to special knowledges are important. For example, my previous company had operations based in foreign countries. Anything that might happen in those countries might cause issues that would create questions for shareholders or the media, so I needed to be well-prepared for that.
Thirdly, attitude is key. How you see and deal with things is crucial. When I first started in investor relations, I always asked my boss whether I could pick up things that weren’t under my scope of work. When I worked at international comms agencies, I was also usually the first in the office each morning to read up on four to five newspapers to try and spot any relevant issues to send to my clients.
What kind of footprint are you hoping to leave?
I wish to share my experience and knowledge with the younger generation. On the job, I will continue to mentor my staff to help them go further. In my spare time, I hope to teach or do pro-bono work. A decade ago, I taught at various institutions in Hong Kong to executives on the topics of investor relations and comms. At that time, I also co-authored a book with other comms heads at international agencies and MNCs, which had been used as a reference book for university students. When I’m semi-retired or retired, I hope to teach students or help NGOs.