Telum Talks To… Luc Mandret, General Manager, MSL Vietnam

Telum Talks To… Luc Mandret, General Manager, MSL Vietnam

Telum caught up with Luc Mandret from MSL Vietnam as he shares what drew him to work in Vietnam and his overview of the media landscape, trends and the opportunities for PR in the country.

You’ve spent several years working in Vietnam. What is it about the country that inspires you creatively as a PR professional?
I am a French national, there are a lot of connections between Vietnam and France which is really inspiring for me. Thousands of kilometers between the two countries, but there is the same appetite for culture, the same pride. There is a much to discover, with a strong sense of culture and history: music, food, humor etc. Vietnam is rich and intense.

As a communication professional, all this brings me a vast playground for insights, to deploy relevant and honest work. Vietnam is dynamic, trendy and fast-moving, the art scene is bubbling; it’s really exciting therefore to navigate and connect all of this with a creative approach for our clients.

Are there any PR practices in Vietnam that you think differs from PR in other parts of the world?
When I joined MSL in Vietnam, after many years working for MSL and other agencies in France, the biggest surprise was how PR is booked. Almost everyone was telling me: you cannot make PR in Vietnam if you don’t pay. It can be an incentive, advertorial, sponsorship, partnership etc.

We can drive the change, we as PR professional are here to deliver excellency for our clients, we focus a lot on the good storytelling, the good angle, the good content. With quality we can provide earned PR, and we can develop a complete integrated communication plan, to connect all the dots from social media and influencer marketing with traditional PR. This requires high investment in time, providing tailor-made strategies and executional plan yet it works, and we can deliver the best impact for brands and corporates.

There has been much said about the rapid economy growth and transition happening in the Vietnam - have you also seen a change in media consumption habits in recent years?
Vietnamese people, especially Gen Z and millennials are keen to test new platforms, new places and flavours. Trial is appreciated, and curiosity is everywhere. For us as an agency partner, we follow trends on a daily basis and new media consumptions. We need to be strict, and to recommend what is more effective from a perspective of performance, as opposed to just following trends.

On the other hand, I see a massive change, PR is now well considered by brands. They understand much more the role of PR, the importance to invest in brand reputation, in employee engagement and scenario planning for corporate communication.

It is clear that there is role for education on KPI and measurement for instance, but there are now many good Vietnamese professionals, with strong skills both on client and agency side. That makes me feel optimistic for the PR industry.

What advice do you have for global brands entering the market that are looking to more effectively resonate with Vietnamese consumers?
Take time. Observe. Analyse. Many global brands failed, thinking they can apply in Vietnam what they did to succeed in other SEA markets. That’s a big mistake. Brands should try as much as possible to produce local content, avoid localising global or regional assets. Understanding all communities and ecosystems that the brands can connect with will be key, to ensure you have strong corporate and consumer advocates. That’s the first step.

What are some of the latest trends in the PR and communications industry you’ve observed in Vietnam?
It’s not really a trend, but I want to mention two things:

The first one is about measurement - from traditional PR to influencer marketing campaigns, to on-ground activation to social media, the ROI of our industry is the most important topic in Vietnam in the near future. And yes, we can do it. It’s not perfect, maybe that’s not all the metrics we would wish, but now we are all well-equipped, especially when we are a big international network like MSL. Measuring effectiveness of all corporate and consumer campaigns will be the biggest trend.

The second is about CSR, in this instance, awareness is there, as well as societal and environmental impact, with COVID-19 accelerating this trend. Going forward we need to be mindful of “CSR-washing”, to ensure that brands who communicate CSR initiatives have validated proof and concrete actions before they communicate. Don’t fake it!

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