Everything you say or do is PR

 This post is sponsored by Mad Hat Asia

“What is PR, actually. What do you do, exactly?”

If those weren’t challenging enough questions to answer in the past, it’s much more complicated to explain now, as the PR industry changes, along with media and information consumption patterns. PR practitioners scramble daily to keep up with an ever-shifting media landscape. Or do they?

The ever-changing landscape

Daily newspapers, glossy magazines, radio and television are rapidly being supplemented with (and edged out for) digital and on-demand rich media. Flipping through breakfast newspapers, swapped for whizzing through social media. Shrinking attention spans, spearhead shifts in consumption from long-form articles (who is still reading this anyway?) to scrolls of headlines, listicles and two-minute vlogs.

Churning out and disseminating press releases to throngs of media titles may have been effective core activities of public relations a couple of decades back. However, considering the seismic shifts in where and how we consume information now, many PR agencies still fundamentally operate in the same fashion as before.

Gone are the days of bellowing brand slogans and product promotions to whoever might listen. The shift in media consumption patterns has made a necessity of sending the right messages via compelling content, befitting to various segments of target audiences – understanding who they are, where they go, what they care about and what they do.

So how then does a PR practitioner keep up in the ever-changing landscape? One unassuming Kuala Lumpur-based agency, Mad Hat Asia, proposes ditching a top-down approach to a culture that promotes agility to weather all changes. The independent communications firm suggests the key to staying ahead in such a widely defined, quickly evolving industry, is to cultivate a culture that promotes agility at every level of the organisation instead.

Seeking an entrepreneurial spirit

Perception, agility, innovation and a keen understanding of one’s target audience are key qualities of PR consultants who continue to thrive in the ever-evolving media landscape. These are also characteristics of successful start-ups, and it is for this reason that among the key qualities Mad Hat Asia seeks when considering new Hatters is an entrepreneurial spirit. The right attitude and a hunger for unlearning and relearning goes a long way.

Aside from a self-starting attitude ready to implement improvements, the entrepreneurial approach lends to the development of content and strategies backed by insights designed to resonate and encourage engagement.

Instead of interpreting briefs as PR consultants, Hatters are encouraged to wear brand owners’ hats in order to think of the big picture. Doing so means seeking an in-depth understanding of issues to develop communications solutions that serve a wider business objective which in turn instils ownership.

A collaborative approach

Structured internally to promote high-level co-operation among peers – openly bounce ideas and gather inspiration from each other – Hatters naturally approach work collaboratively. As such, together success is shared and failures are owned.

The five-year-old agency is set up as clusters of teams who take ownership over their respective portfolios of client partners. These clusters occasionally overlap or merge on certain initiatives, allowing extensive sharing and development of applicable best practices.

The cluster structure of Mad Hat Asia also means that senior management takes on advisory and support roles rather than traditional directive and authoritative ones; while it is the client-facing talent who have made Mat Hat Asia an award-winning agency with long-standing partners.

Transparency for mutual trust

Transparency is a common feature in Mad Hat Asia’s processes and policies, and transparency fosters trust. All Hatters are given the opportunity to contribute to business growth, service development and market expansion.

“We don’t believe in secrecy as it implies distrust. By being transparent with the team on how we are doing, where we are going, the whys and whens, the sense of ownership each and every Hatter has over the role that they play is reinforced,” said Rengeeta Rendava, managing director at Mad Hat.

Creating an open and honest communication culture in and out of Mad Hat Asia has also attracted clients who seek partners who work with them, not for them. With a keen sense of ownership and deep-rooted trust, Hatters approach everything through the client partner’s lens, but with a “Mad Hat” on.

“The work we do is as good as what clients buy into. It is only when client partners believe in our ideas and are bold in taking risks with us, that great work is allowed to be realised,” said Angeline Chandran, general manager at Mad Hat Asia.

“Beyond attracting the right talent, we see the need to attract the right client partners as equally as important. Client partners who trust that we have their brands’ interest at heart, are those who encourage collaborative work and are open to pushing the envelope with new approaches and ideas.”

Staying ahead from within

Agility and staying ahead of the curve is paramount in any industry. Considering the fast-paced evolution of communications, how do practitioners remain relevant? At least one agency in the depths of Petaling Jaya is doing it from within.

Using culture as a business strategy, Mad Hat Asia thrives on fresh perspectives and risk that inspires the Mad Hat team to grow.