December 04, 2019
Steep hills, slanted houses and compost bins. These were not the only things new to me when I visited the beautiful city of San Francisco (SF) for Finn Partners’ first ever Global Exchange Program. My two weeks in the SF office resulted in a life-changing experience that allowed me to venture into a whole new world of public relations. So much so, that I had to share my learnings.
You may be wondering why I chose SF (yes, we were given a choice of Finn Partners’ 18 global offices). Working in the B2B tech space in the little Asian hub of Singapore, my client list at Ying inspired a new dream of mine – to experience PR in the birthplace of the tech industry, Silicon Valley! Plus, having spent a brief part of my childhood in New York, I wanted to see what the West Coast was all about.
I can safely say that the strategy, approach and culture of the Finn Partners offices in Singapore and San Francisco were very much alike. Both offices loved to eat – we both have a full pantry, at all times. There’s always a reason to have a good meal, together. The culture is also the same: work hard, play hard and no drama. For this reason, the incredibly warm and welcoming San Francisco team grew to become dear friends that I will never forget.
At the same time, those two weeks also made me realize how vastly different PR is in the East vs. the West.
Media relations is a whole new ball game
There’s no doubt about it – the US media landscape is significantly larger than Asia. It was when I spent my time in the SF office putting together media lists and pitching a byline, that I realised how much tougher it was to hunt down a journalist and keep your contacts updated. Movements in the media industry are frequent, and rapid. Journalists are also more stretched (workload wise) in the States so they really don’t have the time to speak to you, which often results in a curter response. The lesson to take away? PR in the US is not for the faint-hearted. You’ve got to be tough, determined and really a people person.
The tech market is way more saturated, so you HAVE to stand out
My favourite part about B2B tech is the cybersecurity space. This particular sector has evolved tremendously over the last few years and almost every tech company has a position on it. In the home of Silicon Valley, this is even more true.
When you have a largely saturated technology market, it gets harder to sell your client’s perspectives to the media. There are cybersecurity reports being published almost every other week in the US and there is only so much you can do to differentiate the insights in each report. On the flipside, cybersecurity reports that are specifically focused on the Asia Pacific region are much less common, making these reports much easier to hook the media with.
I learned from my SF team members that in the case of a saturated B2B market, you have to find a middle ground between the B2B target audience and the end consumers. You get the best results when you create a story that appeals to the mass audiences instead.
PR is truly digital in the US
The digital era has disrupted industries across the globe. There’s no doubt that organisations from the East to the West are incorporating digital in their PR strategy in some form. However, the main difference I found between SF and Singapore is the market’s maturity in understanding what it means to be truly digital. Print coverage in the US is almost worthless, and PR coverage is measured with the number of impressions. In Singapore and many countries in Asia, many clients still look to print as the holy grail. Print readership figures have dwindled rapidly over the last few years, causing some publications to go completely digital. But seeing their name in a print newspaper feature is still something that many Asians crave.
There are several other learnings I took back with me on my 15-hour flight back to Singapore, but what I most appreciated out of the two weeks were the warm people I worked with and everything they taught me. In fact, it made me feel humble, realising how little I still know about the industry but all the more eager to learn from everything I can.
This exchange was such a rewarding experience that I hope every aspiring PR professional gets to experience this at least once in their career.