Telum Talks To... Philip Jones, Senior Manager, Public Affairs, ASTRI

Telum Talks To... Philip Jones, Senior Manager, Public Affairs, ASTRI

After nearly two decades in journalism in Europe and Asia, Philip Jones joined the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) earlier this year. Telum caught up with Philip about his move into communications, Hong Kong's 5G scene and the need for PR practitioners to embrace technology.

Why did you think this was the right time to make a career switch?
In any modern career, you have to be prepared to reinvent yourself and keep your skill set relevant. About a year ago, I felt the time was right to change and looked for a marketing and PR role, aiming to develop myself into a media all-rounder. It was not the first time I had taken such a step. I spent years in art departments in both Prague and Beijing and I joined the South China Morning Post (SCMP) as a page designer. As the newsroom’s online presence grew, I moved to the Hong Kong desk to be more involved in digital and breaking news. In a similar way, ASTRI was an excellent opportunity, where the wide scope of our research means I get to write about so many different innovations that bring a positive change to society. It feels like getting a sneak preview into the future.

Given your journalist and editorial background, what do you bring uniquely to ASTRI?
It was a good fit. I spent more than six years at the SCMP, most of it on Hong Kong’s daily news cycle. It gave me an invaluable understanding of our city that I could not have got anywhere else, which is vital if you want to tell the story of Hong Kong’s largest R&D centre. I also have technology journalism experience, having worked for the largest IT trade publication in the UK, Computer Weekly. So, again, it comes back to that goal of being a media one-stop shop. This background allows me to confidently help formulate media strategies, judge the correct tone for the audience I am writing for and express my thoughts on visual presentation.

Hong Kong has only started commercially rolling out 5G services early this second quarter. What can the government and local organisations do to further enhance the city's technology infrastructure and match toe-to-toe with other smart cities in the world? 
Get in touch with ASTRI right away! See what a natural I am at marketing? But seriously, this is a huge part of our 5G experts’ focus. ASTRI released Hong Kong’s first self-developed 5G open platform solution last year. It is available to businesses at a fraction of the cost of developing their own and removes a traditional barrier to adoption. Our solution, developed locally but applicable globally, uses O-RAN, an open network architecture platform with standard configuration hardware which keeps costs down and makes integration easier. Plus, the end-to-end solution covers core, base stations, terminals and all other parts to provide comprehensive and tailor-made applications. Whatever the specifics of your 5G needs, ASTRI can help and keep our city at the top of its game.

How do your public affairs and media relations strategies differ between ASTRI's different R&D projects and programmes?
I mentioned the diverse range of projects at ASTRI. One day, I may be promoting how our technology can improve Hong Kong’s water efficiency, so I will be thinking about cost savings and environmental appeal. Another day, it could be the peace of mind brought by the security of our FinTech solutions or how our distance learning app for SEN students comforts parents who are worried about home-schooling.  

Given how advanced the tech industry is in Mainland China, how can local Hong Kong companies publicise or market their tech or FinTech services to consumers in the Mainland?
Hong Kong is very attractive to Mainland tech firms, with its rule of law and IP protection so this is a major strength to play to. The city can also act as a major FinTech hub for the Greater Bay Area. ASTRI’s experts have taken part in many recent webinars extolling the value of Hong Kong as a base for a regional operation, and we have our own cutting-edge technology too. For example, our cellular vehicle-to-everything technology (C-V2X) was first tested in the city of Wuxi in 2018 and it will begin its trials on 14km of roads in Sha Tin (Hong Kong) later this year or early next - the largest of such tests in the region.

How can PR firms and comms teams utilise and deploy technology more effectively to maximise their work efficiency and compete in the current market? 
You have to be ready to adapt. I started by saying how I recognised a need to step out of my comfort zone but that is happening the world over - whether we want it to or not. We were all experts at doing our jobs one way and now that has been turned on its head. At ASTRI, this has meant embracing the digital space, modifying our approach to create and participate in more webinars and online events, as well as adapting and being prepared to diversify. Don’t just focus on PR / comms specialists, look for tech experts. Effective PR and marketing management is the result of the optimisation of facts, knowledge, consumer insights and audience sentiments among many things. Harness the power of artificial intelligence. 

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