Emily Wong has been in the PR & Communications industry for the past six years, focusing on B2B technology in the corporate space. She’s worked on a variety of clients, ranging from the largest technology companies in the world, to start-ups on the brink of IPO to tell their story to the media and their business audience.
In the last few years, Emily has been increasingly active in contributing her skills as a communicator to activities related to diversity & inclusion, women in the workplace, sustainability, and technology for good. She is also a mentor for the Girls Network, a charity which focuses on connecting girls from the least advantaged communities to a network of professional female role models.
Describe your background/yourself in 5 words max?
British Born Chinese (BBC), adopted Londoner
How did you get into PR/comms/creative?
After graduating with a Classics degree, I was looking for work experience and a friend of mine told me to try a PR internship after he completed one at Frank PR. Having a limited idea of PR at the time, I didn’t know what to expect, other than it married businesses with the media. After the first few days, I quickly found myself in the thick of things, in a buzzing press office, product samples everywhere, the odd celeb spot and something new and exciting to get stuck into everyday.
This was followed by a string of PR internships across consumer, corporate and retail before I landed my first role in technology. I haven’t looked back since and wouldn’t have chosen any other industry.
What do you love about your job?
I love that my job exposes me to so much I don’t know, and there’s unending opportunities to learn. Especially in technology, which is constantly evolving. There’s a real drive and need to stay ahead of our clients.
I love how the work we do in communications can bring out the best in people and businesses to drive change, whilst on the flip side it’s shown me the worst in people too, who will use it as a tool for their own gain. By learning alongside my clients, friends and agencies over the years, I love that this “job” has no limits to what you want to achieve.
What are you most proud of?
Definitely the work I did before I even started in PR in unpaid internships across the industry. Campaigning with Graduate Fog and Intern Aware to voice the issues surrounding unpaid internships and how damaging they are to young people’s careers is still the work I’m most proud of. Speaking out against Arcadia group and its practice of using interns was terrifying, but having the support of individuals like Tanya de Grunwald (founder of Graduate Fog) and journalists like Shiv Malik gave me the courage to tell the story. The changes that have been made is incredible: today more and more companies are wiping out the practice of unpaid internships and that hashed a real, tangible benefit on people’s lives.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, being part of the campaign demonstrated the influence and power of media and communications. Taking a story, giving it a voice and shaping the news agenda would all soon become part of my day to day work, but truly shifting perception to improve others has left a powerful mark on me and my future goals.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Reveling in your difference. Early on in my career, I tried very hard to be a certain type of “perceived PR professional”. If you’re from a BAME background, there’s not many of you and imposter syndrome kicks in pretty fast.
Over the years, through working with incredible people and meeting different types of personalities I didn’t know existed, allowed me to feel comfortable and confident in my own skin. Bringing your own personality, style and approach to the table is vital in communications. People and clients buy into you; so relishing that you’re different allows you to bring a certain flair to your work which is inimitable.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
The friendships and bonds I’ve gained over the years. Working in a fast-paced, high pressured environment means you definitely need the support of good people around you. My favourite people have been those who have your back when work gets tough, tell me frankly when I need to step up my game, and those who can make all those stressful “PR” moments into hilarious memories.
What skill do you think every PR/comms/creative has to nail?
Adaptability – everyday we could get a different curveball from a journalist or client. Learning to see the best approach and workability in every situation is a core skill. Our ability to change, adapt a fresh idea and be flexible is crucial.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Twitter. It’s funny, unfiltered (not always a good thing), a mix of voices, backgrounds and opinions that differs from your own which is always interesting to see. I’ve found it refreshing compared to Instagram which is slightly clinical these days….
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Grace Dent. I am a desperate foodie craving knowledge of the latest dining trends. Her tone and wit transports you straight to a restaurant you’ve never seen, and taste a dish you’ve never known. Making it an artform in injecting personality into her critique, she’s a wonderful writer where I’m as eager to read her pieces as I am to taste the food she’s reviewing.
Given how popular blogging, insta-fooding and the social platforms where anyone can have their say – journalists like Grace Dent are so important. The knowledge they impart on the industry, the flair and the skill to build trust in the diner, propel an unknown chef into culinary stardom or condemn a new opening all through the written word is a true artform. That is an influence not measured by follower count.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“If it goes wrong, no-one will die”. A crucial mantra to live by in the PR world! Often, the pressure of running campaigns, events, coordinating multiple parties can lead us into overdrive and easily overthinking everything. Keeping a cool head and remembering to check ourselves that we’re not first respondents in emergency services is vital for our own mental health!
I’ve found by remaining rational, logical and calm in the approach, as well as knowing when to dial-up the pressure has resulted in delivering some of my best work and creating the strongest bonds with the team and clients.
Best campaign of 2019 so far?
Gillette’s ‘The Best Men Can Be’. Is it the best? Probably not. Did it meet the objective of raising awareness about the brand and elevating it in new discussions? 100%! The campaign launched results in a so many blogs, so many tweets, so many voices across the industry wanting to be part of the conversation.
The debate about whether or not brands can be “woke”, whether or not consumers want to hear the political views of a shaver and the wider issue gender equality were all discussion points, It wasn’t that they were being trivialised with a FMCG product, that wasn’t the point. I felt it was about brand positioning and being visible in the conversations that matter. It’s a crowded, noisy media landscape and anything which can draw our miniscule attention span and cause an impact is a good place to be.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
Stop talking about it, start actioning the challenge we face. Firstly, we can’t afford to shy away from the conversations, whether in HR, through training, publishing quotas and agreeing to an industry benchmark to make it a more inclusive industry that’s reflective of society.
We know the value of data (especially working in technology), having this (unskewed) information is crucial to know the extent of the issue and start tackling it from the grassroots up. Employers need to be trained to be comfortable and professional about broaching the subject. By being honest, we can start driving those conversations from the top down to make sure the industry is seen as visible and approachable to those from a BAME background.
Connect with Emily on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Emily is a mentee on the BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme. She will be mentored by Shamima Begum, Group Manager, Communications, Adobe.