Having started his career at a local agency that focused on corporate, financial and technology clients, Patrick Yu (pictured), general manager, senior vice president and senior partner general manager, FleishmanHillard Hong Kong, had garnered experience in becoming a strategic PR advisor.
Now as an agency leader, the 18-year FleishmanHillard veteran believes that career success is about controlling things that we can control, with a focus on progress rather than perfection. Yu always encourages employees from all levels to participate in discussions and be part of the decision-making process.
Find out more about Yu's journey in public relations thus far and who inspires him.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Describe your management style
I have an open-minded management style that encourages employees from all levels of the organisation to participate in discussions and be part of the decision-making process. The aim is to cultivate collaboration and inspire bold ideas for our clients and ourselves.
This openness helps us find new ways to contribute more widely – through initiatives such as our upcoming ESG seminar in Hong Kong or the Future of Asset Management whitepaper we have published annually for the past five years.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What was your first PR gig?
I started my PR career in a local agency that focused on corporate, financial and technology clients. I was trusted to launch a number of really big IT companies and to spend some time in Shanghai for mainland media project work.
This not only created a solid foundation for me to aspire to become a strategic PR advisor, but also helped inspire my approach to managing my younger colleagues as the GM for FleishmanHillard Hong Kong and head of the firm’s financial and professional services group in Asia Pacific.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Why a career in PR?
Completing a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at The University of Hong Kong sparked my passion for marketing and public relations.
I really like how PR can use limited resources to create maximum value.
Case in point: my first PR award at FleishmanHillard was for a creative PR campaign for a group-buying start-up that generated amazing results in a short timeframe with a limited budget, outperforming several heavyweight IT and technology companies.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Who was the mentor who most influenced you and why?
The person who inspires me most is not a PR professional but a football player that I have admired for a long time – Steven Gerrard. As a die-hard Liverpool FC fan, I have always been impressed by his perseverance and never-give-up attitude.
Applying this to my work for clients, I am resolute in my pursuit of solutions and my belief that the sky is the limit.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Your biggest blunder in your career? How did you resolve it?
In my experience, any career hiccup can be a steppingstone to future success.
It is part of the skill of strategic communications to anticipate, mitigate and resolve issues thorough scenario mapping to minimise the potential for damage to the firm and its clients.
I think this is very important for the next generation of PR professionals to understand. I have been an adjunct lecturer at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at The University of Hong Kong for the past seven years.
One thing that I want my students to remember is that career success is about controlling things that we can control, with a focus on progress rather than perfection.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Harshest thing said to you in your career?
Having been in the industry for more than 20 years, I don’t view criticism as harsh treatment but rather a chance for improvement. I always welcome feedback and learn from it.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Harshest thing you have said to someone?
It is extremely important for me to create an environment that encourages mutual respect between client and agency, as well as among colleagues.
It is no coincidence that we have many boomerangs at FleishmanHillard Hong Kong; we all enjoy and appreciate the culture here.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What is the hardest part about your job?
Time management. Being able to balance your time among multiple clients, colleagues and different stakeholders means being able to give everyone your best.
I am so glad to have the support of my deputy GM Kitty Lee and our team of senior leaders in Hong Kong, as well as support from FleishmanHillard global CEO John Saunders and COO JJ Carter.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Biggest misconception about PR?
There is a misconception that PR is mostly concerned with media relations and events.
I guess this comes from how we are portrayed in TV dramas and movies. PR is really about how strategic communications can help resolve a problem for a company or an individual to create a sustainable impact.
This belief is why I worked with two PR professionals Karen Khaw and Harry Thompson in 2020 to co-found the Sustainable Communications Programme. With the backing of the Asia-Pacific Association of Communications Directors (APACD), the programme connects tertiary students with NGOs to provide communications support under the guidance of experienced PR professionals. We are soon to roll out the sixth cohort, and we expect to see amazing results for our NGOs again this round.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: How do you measure your own personal success?
I am always seeking to push harder and go beyond. Success for me is finding ways to make a difference.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: One thing you would say to a newbie in the PR industry?
See yourself as a problem-solver. This will push you to always know more and try more.
You must guard against complacency; rapid change is a constant in the PR world.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: One thing you hate most about the PR industry?
Hate is not a word I would use, but one change that I see as being very positive is the elevation of PR to the C-suite over the past decade.
When strategic communications professionals have a seat at the table, businesses make better decisions and boost their brand reputation and revenue.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Have you ever wanted to try starting up your own PR firm? Why/Why not?
No. After two decades in the PR industry, I still get the most satisfaction from providing strategic counsel to our clients to deliver results. I also appreciate being part of a global network.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: How has PR evolved over the last five years?
PR has become integral to generating impact and results for client companies, be that through protecting corporate reputation or driving customer loyalty.
Gone are the days when clients mostly cared about PR clippings. Clients today are looking for an agency that can provide advice and solutions to address a problem.
With this in mind, we are helping our staff at FleishmanHillard to elevate their capabilities through talent transformation, additional training in areas such as ESG and new digital solutions.
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