By Wong Yi Hao
Experience+ is a series of online learning journeys and industry visits that give students the chance to virtually visit workplaces, speak directly with working professionals, and learn about organisations that they aspire to join.
On 16 February 2023, Advisory hosted Experience+: WE Communications, where participants had the opportunity to network with PR and Digital practitioners and hear directly from industry professionals about their experience working at WE Communications. We were privileged to have heard and gathered insights from:
- Daryl Ho, Managing Director, WE Communications Singapore
- Nisa Suhaimy, Senior Client Manager (Digital Experience and Technology)
- Adele Chiang, Senior Client Executive (Sectors)
- Sherilyn Yeo, Senior Client Executive (Sectors)
- Lim Wei Ling, Human Resources Business Partner
The session was moderated by Ang Ki Kym, Senior Client Executive (Sectors) at WE Communications.
Our selected participants included students from various education levels and institutions with a shared passion for public relations and marketing, and a common interest to position themselves for available opportunities at WE Communications and in the industry.
Below are some key points shared in the session:
WE Comms is a female-founded, female-led communications and integrated marketing agency headquartered in Seattle. Within Asia-Pacific, Singapore is an important market for WE Comms as a business and technology hub. As such, PR efforts in Singapore have the potential to drive impact across other markets in this region.
WE recognises that greater interconnectivity across different technological platforms requires a comprehensive, start-to-end outreach effort. Hence, different teams come together to realise WE Comms’ vision of an integrated approach to PR and marketing.
When planning an integrated communications campaign, consultants first formulate a larger narrative to underpin the entire campaign to ensure that subsequent specialised efforts produce the intended outcome. This way, consultants are also able to avoid being too promotional on media and social media platforms. Consultants also get to work with other departments rather than working in silos. With valuable opportunities for interdisciplinary learning, consultants are better able to plan and present a holistic, all-rounded campaign.
In general, there is a great deal of flexibility while working at WE. Although a few “team days” a week are encouraged for consultants to have physical huddles and meetings, working from home remains an option for employees. On top of that, WE has also rolled out additional flexible remote working options, allowing consultants to have flexibility in deciding where, some has decided to extend their holidays to work overseas. This signals the management’s commitment to providing a healthy work-life balance for its employees.
The WE client portfolio consists of organisations from various industries, including health, corporate, government, and technology sectors. For a Client Executive, a typical day consists of brainstorming creative outreach and campaign strategies with the team in a collaborative setting.
While the collaborative aspect of work is a source of fun for consultants, it is equally vital to invest time in client management. Client Executives interact with clients almost every day. For the team, client management involves presenting ideas, plans, and pitches, educating and collaborating with clients the effectiveness of PR and digital efforts and setting performance targets for campaigns. Generally, successful client management can turn short-term clients into long-term partners, and consultants do feel a strong sense of pride when working with a committed client to bring a campaign to life.
That being said, what a “typical” day looks like also depends on the team’s focus for the upcoming weeks or months. For instance, if a client is intending to hold a physical outreach event in the coming week, consultants will need to spend more time making plans to support the event and engaging the media to raise awareness about it. However, no matter what the focus of the day is, what remains constant at WE is the emphasis on building connections and relationships with people.
As junior consultants progress in their careers and take on leadership roles, they are also expected to keep in mind the needs of team members and the organisation at large. At the team level, some time should be spent every day on people management. Examples include creating learning and development opportunities for their juniors, having dedicated mentorship sessions, and conducting mental health check-ins for the team.
There is a strong culture of empathy and collaboration, both in day-to-day conversations and formal team dynamics. Leaders in the company play a key role in promoting this culture across teams and departments and making sure teams are doing well not just at work but also personally. When leaders place a high value on empathy, they can demonstrate its importance through subtle gestures, such as managers staying after hours with their teams during intense campaigns periods to support both at work and being a cheerleader.
Naturally, employee benefits, such as transport credits, a subsidized mobile plan, and half a day off on the last Friday of every month, are key wellness initiatives. Moreover, WE believes in investing in the growth and development of its people, not only professionally but in their personal lives as well. To this end, WE introduced “Dine with Anyone”, a food and beverage reimbursement benefit to encourage employees to connect with one another outside of a formal work setting.
Being in a service-based industry, WE believes that people are its most important asset. Fresh graduates can join as a Client Executive to interact directly with clients and accounts, and specialise in specific areas of communication such as digital marketing and strategy. There are also various creative teams at WE working on copywriting, art, and design or even content production.
Of course, there are also operational roles in infrastructure, human resources, finance, and project management available, and the pathways to grow in these roles are no different from that of a consultant. WE makes it a point to have open conversations with staff about where they are headed in their career. This culminates in a collaborative effort which allows individual employees to shape their own experience in the agency and managers to guide accordingly.
Indeed, management is a role imbued with significant responsibility at WE. For instance, when a Senior Client Executive is promoted to Client Manager, people development becomes a key focus area for them to cultivate career growth and learning within their team. Managers provide career planning guidance in a transparent and consistent manner across teams, and make time for regular check-ins with their staff to understand how best to grow and help them.
At WE, junior consultants can be assured of having a mentor who takes an interest in guiding them towards the career milestones they want to achieve. Even for mid-careerists, managers will devote time to outline their goals and set milestones, so they can work towards progressing in their careers at WE. Ultimately, this culture of mentorship means that employees know what tangible things to work on in order to take themselves to the next level. There is a supportive ecosystem to fall back on, and can meaningfully exercise autonomy over their own career trajectory rather than having imposed goals.
WE champions lifelong learning as part of its company culture. For instance, under the L&D (Learning and Development) programme an employee looking to gain deeper understanding of a technical or soft skills can look forward to training programmes from brown bag sessions, to fireside chats to external trainers or internal lunch and learn sessions. This allows employees to be bold and courageous in seeking out the experiences they are interested in, it is equally vital for communication practitioners to have deep knowledge and experience in their field.
There is no one right way to break into the industry. Applicants should first figure out what areas of communications are they keen on and then have an idea of what kind of office environment best fit them. they want to work in. More research about the company ideals and agency’s capabilities can be done to understand the nature of its accounts.
A degree in mass communications or marketing is not an essential requirement for PR practitioners. On the contrary, many other fields of study offer transferable skills such as analytical thinking, writing ability, and critical problem-solving that graduates can bring to the table.
Applicants should take on as many internships in the industry as possible so as to understand day-to-day tasks and the challenges of working at an agency. Internships are also an opportunity to find out which industries or accounts an applicant is more interested in.
In fact, an internship in content production, in-house marketing, or even journalism may be more beneficial than pursuing PR-related disciplines at the university level. These experiences can help applicants better visualise their careers after graduation. As a lot can be learnt on the job in this industry, it is more important for applicants to distinguish themselves from other candidates by honing their articulation skills and demonstrating a passion for the work. One way for applicants to do this is to reflect on memorable PR campaigns that have made an impression on them and formulate a unique perspective on why they were successful.
Most importantly, an applicant needs to have a positive attitude towards learning.
Consultants in an agency are exposed to clients from a range of industries, rather than focusing on a single brand and its sub-entities. Working for an agency may thus be more suitable for those who wish to exposed to difference client accounts and industries at the same time.
In an agency environment, consultants interact with diverse clients, from Adobe, Johnson & Johnson, and NCS to the Singapore Tourism Board, every day. The team also works on B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) projects, strategy planning and creative work. The job is inherently dynamic, and there is never a boring day at work.
On the other hand, in-house communications and digital teams may focus more on localised adaptations of products and services, with more predictable project cycles.
Ultimately, whether it is better to work for an agency or as an in-house marketing professional depends on individual preference. To make the best decision, aspiring PR and digital professionals can first enter an agency and expose themselves to a broad spectrum of clients and industries, to explore their options before settling on a certain pathway.
First, applicants must have a genuine passion for the craft of PR and marketing. Those who go the distance in this industry enjoy making an impact with their work and collaborating with different people as part of their job.
Some valuable character traits to have are adaptability and resilience. The media industry is inherently unpredictable, and many factors are out of the PR practitioner’s control. When things go wrong and the pitch is no longer aligned with the current news cycle, they must be able to quickly re-conceptualise the pitch.
Open-mindedness and curiosity are also essential. As with any other industry, PR and digital practitioners constantly challenge their own biases and assumptions. This can be as simple as striking up a conversation with subject matter experts and forming your own perspective on an issue thereafter.
Finally, it is important to take ownership of individual growth and progression and have a good career plan to do so. This does not have to be an individual effort: young PR and digital practitioners should find a mentor, who is invested in their personal growth and will put in the time and effort to help them hone their competencies.
Being in the digital media space means that the media newsroom is always changing. For instance, product-driven stories used to be popular with the public, but now stories about leadership and what a company can do for its staff are becoming more sought-after. Thus, clients’ priorities are constantly shifting, and the agency needs to rethink how it presents products and services in a way that impacts people.
More broadly, technological developments also present new opportunities. The use of data analytics to identify patterns and insights allows consultants to better justify their proposals to clients and ensure that they have covered all the bases in developing a campaign strategy. Data insights inform strategic decisions, such as the selection of a particular online platform for digital marketing and can be used to evaluate the success of a campaign.
In addition, the ready accessibility of AI tools and automated systems like ChatGPT and the broad range of content creation tools available often causes consultants to be spoilt for choice. However, it is important to select the correct technological tools to use in the process. While there are some who view such advancements as a threat to the industry, the dominant school of thought is that technology can enable more efficient outcomes.
For instance, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into existing work systems can replace the more manual parts of a consultant’s job, freeing up time for higher-value-add tasks. Rather than spending an hour on brainstorming, a consultant can now outsource the work of generating preliminary ideas to ChatGPT, and have several options ready for review within minutes. At the end of the day, though, genuine interpersonal connections with clients are still needed for agency consultants to effectively sell its services.
Yes, WE Comms offers internships all year round for students looking to pursue a career in PR and marketing. Specific skills required differ by role, though it will be good to have some basic familiarity with communications. Ultimately, WE Comms is looking for interns with an eagerness for learning and passion for this line of work, whether in communications, creative or content production.
At WE Comms, interns will have the chance to collaborate on a wide range of accounts. This will allow future PR and marketing practitioners to better envision their future career growth and learning opportunities.