Rene Leow, General Manager and Founder, Emerald Communications

Above Photo:  Hoffman and Emerald Comms in Malacca for an off-site meeting in 2007.
Top L-R: Jana Ponnudurai, Neethiya Sadagopal, Lee Ling, Mayda Jutahkiti, Janice Wang

Bottom L-R: Rene Leow, Tay Kuan Yan (ex GM of HA), Jisun Kim, Maureen Tseng

Our link with The Hoffman Agency started in 2004. It was then that my mother suggested we visit Singapore to see her younger sister, Teresa.

Since we were new parents and stuck at home with little James, our 1 ½-year- old, we were keen to travel.

The last time we had visited the family was decades ago, and at dinner we had the chance to catch up. “So what are you doing now?” my cousin Maureen asked.

I was an ex-journalist from The New Straits Times, publicity bureau chief for Gerakan and running a one-man PR agency, I said. Just some small clients including technology ones, I added.

Hey, guess what? She was in PR too and her agency was exploring working with a Malaysian counterpart. Maybe we can collaborate. Sure, why not?

Soon, I met Yan, the then general manager of The Hoffman Agency — Singapore at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and we discussed our backgrounds, our clients and all things PR, including how things were done in Kuala Lumpur.

Before I knew it, Hoffman Singapore was sending me technology clients that wanted some outreach in Kuala Lumpur. We conducted some media interviews and some small media briefings for them.

Eventually the discussion of expansion came up. Hoffman wanted a bigger role in Malaysia, and I was keen to grow too.

Our growth began when Jana Ponnudurai joined Emerald Communications in October 2005.

With Jana’s can-do attitude and her being an adaptable, industrious worker and a typical Malaysian foodie, those years were memorable. We had a good working relationship, the dynamics were good, and the engine room was humming nicely.

Work came in thick and fast. With clients from Hoffman as well as our own, we were very busy. We worked with Hoffman on several tech clients: security, social platform and even a search engine.

Singapore Malaysia meeting

Singapore-Malaysia relations

More work came in.

By then, our team grew, and with more retainer clients, work was challenging, fun and a wonderful experience of cross-border public relations both in Malaysia and in Singapore.

Jana remembers how she was needed to help out at CommunicAsia, one of Asia’s largest ICT events. It was all-hands-on-deck.

“Work was hectic for sure, yet the team was funny, warm and friendly — much like a family,” she said.

I was and I am grateful to the Hoffman team, both past and present, and I wanted to repay Hoffman by bringing them clients.

In 2009 Secret Recipe, the huge Malaysian cafe chain approached me with great promise for an opening of a branch in Shanghai, which got us linking up and planning with Hoffman China, both the Beijing and Shanghai offices. Oftentimes, planning sessions via Skype continued into the night.

Unfortunately, deep into the planning stage, the client pulled the plug. Close to two weeks’ worth of man-hours that we had put in went down the drain, with nothing to show for it. That’s life sometimes.

But in 2013, success!

A Malaysian from Penang was ready to launch the world’s first precious metals exchange in Singapore and approached us. Naturally I recommended the agency, and I hoped this time it would work out.

Emerald Communications and The Hoffman Agency-Singapore were a perfect match for the client. He was based in Kuala Lumpur and needed Singaporean expertise to execute while at the same time having a local face to coordinate with.

When the day finally came for the launch, I was elated. I had to be in Singapore to help out and see it happening for myself. I could finally say to myself that I did at least return something to Hoffman.

I am glad for all the years of working closely with the agency. I’ve been inspired, and I hope we’ve contributed positively to the Hoffman family too.

And so, to commemorate Hoffman’s 20 years in Asia-Pac, here’s a shout out from Malaysia to all you Hoffmanites in Singapore. You guys are a credit to Singapore and to PR practitioners anywhere on this globe. And to me, you guys are the best bunch out there.

Thank you Lou for The Hoffman Agency – Singapore. Your impact is deeply felt in Malaysia.