Telum Talks To... Sarah Cestau, Associate Client Director, APAC, Within International
On the back of Within International's launch of its Hong Kong branch last year, Sarah Cestau chats to Telum about what prompted her to help set up the new office, the ideal Within International client, and whether her previous experience as a journalist gives her an advantage in PR.
Can you tell us more about the expansion to Asia, your role and what prompted you to join the new agency?
The launch of Within International in Hong Kong is a great project and an exciting challenge, which I simply couldn’t say no to! Getting to know more about the agency, I was impressed by the high level of creative talent and the heavy focus on client-servicing, which are two key pillars of our value proposition.
We want to work with our clients wherever they are in the world. So, while developing the business here, my role involves making sure we provide exceptional service to those APAC businesses we currently work with. On a day-to-day basis, it means serving as a strategic liaison to our clients, developing and managing the successful implementation of projects, solving any issues that may arise and nurturing key relationships.
Our new regional branch means we have expanded our scope to deliver across three locations in New York, London and Hong Kong. Providing a global service that delivers real quality means our existing and prospective clients can expect a service authentically focused on client relationships, of course, paired with high-quality delivery of work.
What were some initial challenges that you faced when setting up shop?
It has undoubtedly been a challenging year to open an office in Hong Kong, but we have seen many opportunities for a business like ours, coupled with a lot of demands as well. The challenge in developing a business, and that’s certainly not restricted to Hong Kong, is to build good connections and to establish a strong relationship with key industry players. As a discussion starter, we often feel that sharing past projects and industry-related news is a good way to incite. It usually triggers ideas for campaigns where we can support our prospective clients, and, even better, extensive discussions on their internal or external issues we can help solve.
It can be laborious to educate on the key role marketing and communications play in a company and the returns they can bring to a business. But so far, we have been working for renowned clients on multi-market campaigns that the true value an integrated agency like ours brings, and ultimately spark new projects for us in the region.
How do you and your team respond to challenges and obstacles, e.g. the ongoing coronavirus situation?
There will always be obstacles and not-so-favourable working environments whether it is in Hong Kong, Europe or the US, but we have a robust business model in place that can overcome these circumstantial conjectural challenges. While our perspective is first focused on Hong Kong, we are also developing great relationships in other promising markets such as Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and India, which bodes well for the future.
Do you think editors and journalists moving into PR have an edge over other comms professionals without journalism experience?
While my experience as a journalist allows me to understand many opportunities and challenges, it doesn’t mean that someone with no journalism experience is in any way disadvantaged. Granted, it can give you an edge in terms of network and close media contacts. But ultimately, what an editor / journalist needs from a PR professional is someone who can help access, verify and contextualise information… and you don’t necessarily need a degree in journalism to understand that!
With brands nowadays trying different approaches to “attract eyeballs”, what are some key ingredients to crafting an authentic campaign or message?
An authentic campaign is defined by your brand, your audience and your intention. Memes could be an interesting way to capture a younger audience, while LinkedIn is the reference tool to spread the word about your new recruitment campaign. A real challenge I have found is helping brands reflect who they are and what it is they want to say on so many platforms. It takes creative and real persistence to cut through the noise, but brands see the dividend of this in the future once a cross-platform strategy is established.
In a sense, it is great to see brands trying to be more creative, to show more critical thinking and bravery and adapting their communication to new technology and audiences. The hardest part is to keep your creativity relevant while staying innovative, noticeable and to the point.
Finally, what is the ideal Within International APAC client?
Most agencies would probably answer that the best ones are the ones that give you carte blanche and let you implement your most creative ideas. From our standpoint, however, we believe that our ideal partner gives us as much as we give them. These are the ones we grow up (and old!) with, the ones with which we can exchange ideas, concepts and collaborate to build durable strategies and successful brands. This has shaped our vision as an agency and is reflected in our decades-long relationship with our clients.