Telum Talks To... Susanne Tong, Associate Director, Head of Marketing and Communications, Cushman & Wakefield

Telum Talks To... Susanne Tong, Associate Director, Head of Marketing and Communications, Cushman & Wakefield

Telum caught up with Susanne Tong, who looks after marketing and communications for commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield in Hong Kong, as she shares the evolving marketing and communications landscape in the real estate businesses.
You moved to the commercial real estate space earlier this year after more than a decade in the corporate and commercial banking sector. What are some skills, know-how or expertise you gained from all your years in banking that you use in your current role?
I started at my career at professional services firms PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deacons. Since then I have always focused on doing B2B marketing in the world of corporate, institutional and private banking at the likes of HSBC, Standard Chartered and BSI Swiss Private Bank. I consider myself one of the first-generation B2B marketing professionals in Hong Kong. Most of our clients at Cushman & Wakefield are corporates like developers and investment funds, as well as office and retail tenants. I hope to utilise my B2B marketing experience to promote the brand, thought leadership and client relationships of Cushman & Wakefield.

What are the main differences between a B2B and a B2C marketing role?
B2C marketing is very much linked with numbers and figures. You need to be good at figures, like calculating the cost-benefit analysis of marketing campaigns, and be sensitive to ROI. It is also more driven by incentives and less by client relationships. On the other hand, B2B marketing is more about branding, client engagement as well as content and insights. With the rise of social media, practitioners should always have a good idea and focus on delivering key messaging and insights with regards to different topical issues. You will not see the effects of B2B immediately - it is about building the brand presence and client relationships over the long-term through an integrated mix of marketing campaigns.

Communications in commercial real estate and investment property are strictly regulated. How has comms in these sectors changed or allowed greater flexibility over the years?
While communications in both real estate and banking are strict and regulated, the latter more highly-so. Especially since the Global Financial Crisis, banks have put in lots of extra resources, training and headcount on legal and compliance. Staying compliant is a top strategic priority for international banks. On the marketing side, our role is to make sure all external client communications materials are compliant with governmental regulations and our internal global guidelines. We are essentially the gatekeeper on this.

What are some key elements to getting your message to stand out in the current environment?
Understand your clients - know what they want, what their requirements are, the industry they're in and speak their language. Knowing the changing landscape and listening to your clients is one thing - you should go beyond that and strive to find solutions for them. Creativity and innovation has become ever more paramount in this ever-changing landscape, and as communicators, we need to utilise our creativity and flexibility to provide tailored solutions to our clients and stakeholders.

You've been involved in a great number of PR campaigns throughout your career. Do you have a favourite that has stuck with you?
I had taken part in the strategic marketing campaign for Belt and Road initiative with international banks before. The first and foremost thing is to connect our market strengths with extensive footprints to that of the Belt and Road initiative. Our unparalleled strategic match with the initiative offered us the strong ground of being a Belt and Road bank. We had also adopted an all-round approach to the marketing communications strategies, ranging from above-the-line advertising, below-the-line advertising, social media and content marketing, thought leadership events and media coverage.

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