Telum Talks To... Marcia Qiu, Account Director, Z9 Digital Communications

Telum Talks To... Marcia Qiu, Account Director, Z9 Digital Communications

Telum caught up with Marcia Qiu to hear about her experience of returning to tech PR after taking a break, her take on disruptive brands' media strategy and her comms advice for growing startups.

You have been with Z9 Digital Communications for almost eight years now. What do you enjoy the most in your job?
The sense of freedom in making decisions, for clients, for the company and oneself. We let the Account Executive decide which clients they want to work with because we believe one must like the brand to perform the best. Also, the team have been working remotely most of the time - this set-up only works when colleagues are highly professional, experienced and take full ownership of projects.

How has your experience as a Research Analyst on global trends benefited you in working in tech PR?
Interestingly, I accepted the researcher position because I wanted to take a break from tech PR, but in the end, the knowledge and methodologies I gained from it have let me get more meaning from tech PR. My research topics included geopolitics, infrastructure developments and technology investments when I worked for Frost & Sullivan. The experience somehow set me up with a macro perspective, where I tend to find a position for each new technology in global trends. When we introduce a new tech or service, the media is interested in how it might reform the industry or shape our future life - this is where the macro perspective could kick in and tell a story.

How can disruptive brands attract media attention?
The basic PR challenge for disruptive brands is to locate the right journalists in each media outlet. This is especially hard in a market like Taiwan where the reporters are strictly responsible for their own beat. A startup story may involve inter-beat elements that could attract multiple journalists, but it may also slip through the cracks exactly because it does not fit into one sector squarely.

For example, a decade ago when Uber first appeared, which reporters should have been running for its story? Civic, tech, or business? Now in 2021, we know the answer is ‘all’, but back then before the brand gained relevance, none of the journalists on those reporting beats would have believed Uber was relevant for them.

I would suggest starting with a message that is easy for everyone to understand. A good example is the virtual kitchen ‘Just Kitchen’ that recently went public on TSX. Many people probably do not fully understand what a virtual kitchen is, but ‘going publicly listed’ is a communicable message that could get across tech, finance and civic reporting beats.

What is a PR challenge frequently faced by tech startups?
The most common concern from the press for tech startups would be ‘Is the company for real? Can it be a fraud?’. ‘How is it innovative?’ only comes after. New tech companies must build trust before building a relationship with the media. A faster way is to borrow credits from renowned people in the industry, like a well-established scholar in your R&D team or a thought leader in your founding team. These elements are steppingstones for the press to accept your story.

What advice can you give about startup comms in Taiwan?
As a startup grows, PRs must pay close attention to the change in how people see their brand. When you start as a small team, you may get questions from the media like ‘Why did you start? How is this going to change the world?’ After the company grows, they would quickly become ‘Have you paid all your tax? Did your tech abuse people’s privacy?’.

This is very much like the outer world seeing a kid grow up and asking them to take on more responsibilities; but when the team is dedicated to their technology or products, they may not be aware of the changes in journalists’ attitudes. If I had just one piece of advice for a startup’s comms manager: be sensitive to the feedback you receive from people outside of your company and adjust your language accordingly.

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