By Afzal Nurshamiera Musa
MONT KIARA, 20 November 2018: A group of 24 members of the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia Student Association (IPRMSA) – IIUM Chapter had a useful insight into the professional tasks of public relations practitioners when they visited Weber Shandwick, a known global public relations agency, last Friday (16 November).
The educational visit was intended to provide students with the best exposure to public relations as a profession. Weber Shandwick became the choice for IPRMSA as it is currently the second largest agency in terms of its global standing, next only to Edelman, another global public relations agency.
In a briefing to the participants, Sarah Zulkifli, the agency’s Senior Editor (Content), said that being the world’s second in its global standing and having stayed ahead for 18 years, the company has served some of the high ranked brands such as Nike, Netflix, Mastercard, Ericsson, GM, Abbott, Forbes, amazon.com, Facebook, Spotify, NOVARTIS, Samsung and Honeywell.
The company, which is part of the Interpublic Group (IPG), one of the world’s premier advertising and marketing services companies, offers integrated solutions to corporate affairs, executive training, public affairs and social impact such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sustainability.
Sarah highlighted, “As Public Relations (PR) practitioners, we must not take anything by heart and we need to always stay patient. Being professional is key for PR people to stay ahead. We have to manage our emotions well. Learn to stay calm and be in a rational state before taking any further action especially when we are under stress.”
During the Question & Answer session, one of the participants asked for tips to prepare themselves to become competent public relations practitioners. In response, Liyana Ahmed Rasly who is the Senior Associate (Client Experience), shared her personal experience, “You must not be shy and you have to develop thick skin, to stay composed, and to be able to have the right attitude at all time.”
According to Liyana, the other important quality required for public relations professional is time management and the ability to manage expectations.
“Working in public relations agency is the best way to learn most about public relations as you will be handling clients from a diversity of business background and cultures,” she said.
Liyana underlined that it is crucial for public relations practitioners to manage their time efficiently and to be aware of the expectations of each client.
Since each client has different expectations and needs, she said, the team has to be creative to provide fresh ideas to their clients. “We will brainstorm ideas together as that is the best way to get the best ideas for the client,” Liyana elaborated.
Liyana emphasised the importance of writing and interviewing skills in crafting the right public relations message. She also pointed out the significance in acquiring skills of engaging the media in public relations work.
In response to a question on managing crises, Junior Associate, Puteri Irdina SM Zulkifli said: “Prevention is better than cure, that’s why we need to nip issues in the bud. We shouldn’t allow any issue to get out of hands because if crisis were to develop we’ll have massive things to do afterwards, especially the cleaning part.”
She said in order to stay ahead, Weber Shandwick has made plans on what the issues are that might possibly occur and suggest the solutions. “This is to make sure that they are well prepared for the worst case scenario that the client might have to face.”
Puteri Irdina also shared on the importance of managing social media. She explained: “Social media is not just about posting pictures and maintaining feed, it is more than that, it can go beyond what you can imagine.”
Overall, the participants were satisfied with the knowledge they acquired and the exposure they had gained to public relations tasks.
“We strived to provide the best public relations exposure to our members, that explained why Weber Shandwick became our first choice for this educational visit,” Vice President of IPRMSA-IIUM Chapter, Nor Shafiqizni Yuhani said.
Accompanying the visit to Weber Shandwick were the two IPRMSA advisors, Dr. Zeti Azreen Ahmad and Mr. Aznan Mat Piah. ***
(The writer, Afzal Nurshamiera Musa, is the current President of IPRMSA-IIUM Chapter)