By Frank Zhang
DGM Hoffman China
Sitting on the train from Shanghai to Wenzhou, I had time to contemplate a simple question: What were students from Wenzhou-Kean University, a Chinese-American jointly established higher education institution, expecting to hear from an international communications consultancy?
I arrived at the venue 30 minutes early. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one early. Several students greeted me, allowing for an informal chat. It was amazing to see these bright faces and watch the shyness quickly melt away.
As I shared the type of activities that go into a tech communications consultancy in China, I could sense their excitement. Maybe they started off a bit apprehensive. Maybe they didn’t quite know what goes on in a communications consultancy. Regardless, I enjoyed explaining the profession before I took the stage.
The Official Presentation
I hope students took away from my talk the enormous opportunities in public relations.
Yes, PR is demanding, but you’re on the front lines in shaping Chinese brands, not only in the China market, but around the world.
When you look at the most impactful companies in the world by market value, Alibaba, Tencent, etc., are making their mark. We can expect other Chinese companies to follow.
The U.S. still tends to be the center of gravity when it comes to the tech industry. But China has significantly closed the gap. Here’s what we find today.
The U.S. has great engineers. China has great engineers.
The U.S. has access to venture capital. China has access to venture capital.
The U.S. has cultivated many entrepreneurs. China has cultivated many entrepreneurs.
But here comes the proverbial million-dollar question —
Do Chinese companies know how to tell a good story?
I could see in the audience some students shaking their heads, “No.”
That’s both the problem and the opportunity. U.S. tech companies recognize that while a quality product is important, how they communicate the virtues of that product — how they tell their story — is a critical success factor.
Chinese tech companies still lag behind their U.S. counterparts when it comes to the expertise called storytelling.
I also made the point that all of the students in the audience are the future builders of Chinese brands. They are the individuals who understand Chinese brands better than any “international” consultants. They are the generation to help Chinese brands going abroad!
I used my presentation to address personal development, offering three pieces of advice.
1) “You should not be afraid of failure.”
Go for it. Try as many as things as possible when you are young. You will find that your motivation and goals and even interests might change during this journey. That’s OK. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Even if something doesn’t work out, it still helps your career development.
2) Enjoy every minute of your life.
Don’t waste it. Play hard. Work hard.
3) Prepare for failure.
You will experience failures in your life. Everyone does. That’s OK. Learn from the situations that don’t go according to plan. Learn how to collaborate with colleagues. I love this famous line:
“If you want to go fast, go alone.”
“If you want to go far, go together.”
We have an active internship program.
It’s one of the ways we give back to the profession exposing college students to the day-to-day workings of communications. Plus, it gives us the opportunity to see students in action and even provide full-time jobs to the outstanding performers.
Many PR companies treat their interns like glorified secretaries.
That’s not our approach.
We treat our interns as part our team. We have an established curriculum that essentially provides on-the-job training so the interns experience what it’s really like to work in a consultancy.
Naturally, I also shared with the Wenzhou-Kean students that we’re fun people to work with.
Last, I want to thank Professor Patrick Karle for the invitation to address the university’s students. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The photo below from left to right shows Professor Karle, faculty members Kathleen R. Kamphoefner and Raquel A. Stuart, Ph.D., and me.