Singaporean boutique PR firm The PR People has expanded into Malaysia, with a five-man team led by Julia Low. Low (pictured right) was previously head of marketing for AirAsia’s onboard WiFi connection Rokki, and was also a writer at Her World magazine with now defunct Blu Inc Media.
The expansion occurred before COVID-19 evolved into a pandemic and was also a result of having worked with brands for events in Malaysia for some time. Director Diana Ong (pictured left) told A+M that it has always enjoyed the friendliness of Malaysia’s people and its rich culture, and has developed good friendships with the media and key opinion leaders in Malaysia. The country’s close proximity to Singapore also made it a natural step for the agency to open up there.
“We have been very blessed to work with some amazing brands such as Gucci Beauty, Drunk Elephant, and Burberry, and some of them asked us to continue our great relationship by helping them move into Malaysia,” Ong explained.
She added that the team has been working in a small capacity in Malaysia for two years but decided 2020 was the year to make a full-time commitment to entering the market with its brands.
The PR People was recently appointed by Sephora to manage PR duties and Ong said the team is excited to work with more Malaysian-based beauty and lifestyle brands. According to her, the agency’s unique selling proposition is its high degree of experience and knowledge of the beauty and lifestyle landscape, as well as strong media and influencer relationships.
“I don't think anyone has as specific a focus as us when it comes to beauty and lifestyle. Our only goal is to be the best agency we can be. If we can help bridge the gap for global brands entering Malaysia or help a homegrown brand grow and become more successful, we feel like we have the tools and expertise to do both well,” she explained.
To open its Malaysia office, the agency’s Singapore director for events, Rand Rogers (pictured below left), temporarily relocated to Malaysia to help build the team. However, Ong said what was intended as a one-month training trip has turned into an extended exercise lasting over three months due to Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (MCO) and Singapore’s Circuit Breaker.
Nonetheless, Ong said this has allowed for a longer, more well developed training and relationship building opportunity that has actually benefited its business in Malaysia. “We were also fortunate that we were able to continue our operations effectively from home during the MCO, and have seen the positive results of being active in spite of the closure of so much brick and mortar retail and challenges from limited services,” Ong said.
According to Ong, The PR People has great respect for many active agencies in Malaysia. However, its aim as a very specialised agency focusing on beauty and lifestyle, is to become known as the agency that beauty brands choose due to its extensive expertise in this category and its list of clients.
She added that the agency’s focus will always be beauty and lifestyle, as it is its core competency. “We are of course open to any industry if we feel we can help them and be effective in reaching their goals, but will mainly focus on our core specialty,” Ong said.
That said, Ong expects to face challenges during the expansion. According to her, there will always be a learning curve when it comes truly understanding the culture and workflow, as well as expectations of clients and employees in a new market.
“The biggest challenge, by far, however, is doing good work and doing it in a way that people quickly learn about The PR People so that they know we are a legitimate and professional agency that is here for the long term,” she explained.
When asked about the differences and similarities between the PR industries in Malaysia and Singapore, Ong said Malaysia has a greater number of active content creators, celebrities, and entrepreneurs that all reach diverse and unique potential customer bases. Also, Malaysia’s population size is another main difference.
“The media scene in Malaysia, while complicated by the unfortunate demise of Blu Inc Media, is very similar to Singapore in the level of vibrancy, interest and opportunity for stories related to our brands. Additionally, Malaysian key opinion leaders are also very skilled and proficient in the use of new and emerging platforms for storytelling, such as TikTok and Instagram Life,” Ong explained.
While the agency is open to expanding into other countries, Ong said it does not have plans to expand outside of Singapore and Malaysia.