Neil Fraser, Malaysia’s Country Lead for PRecious Communications shares his journey on setting up PRecious Communications’ office in Kualalumpur and seeing the agency through the pandemic in Malaysia.
My journey in opening PRecious Communications’ Malaysia office started when I felt ready to return to the country that had become home. I returned to the UK to morally support an incredibly brave immediate family member as he went through the anguish of radiotherapy until he was declared cancer-free. With my previous venture in Malaysia heading in a new direction, it was time to take stock and think about what’s next. What wasn’t in doubt was that I wanted to be back in Malaysia.
I first moved to Malaysia in 1983 and began working in the country’s capital when the chance became available — first as a manager and then senior manager with Edelman. I had racked up about 11 years of Malaysian PR experience. This was a crossroads, but I knew which way to turn.
I was itching to get back. That’s when I e-met Lars Voedisch, Managing Director of PRecious Communications. Lars shared my vision for the growth potential in a market with a burgeoning start-up and SME scene.
The location was a no-brainer nor was the role: Country Lead, Malaysia.
After the usual HR and Immigration roundabouts and an invaluable 3-month familiarisation with the Singapore HQ team, we opened the Malaysia office of PRecious Communications in January 2020. No fanfare, no celebrities, no influencers; just a set of keys and a handshake from our hipster concierge, followed by a tour of the facilities, and we were all set.
PRecious already had an active client base in Kuala Lumpur. Regional clients managed out of the Singapore HQ were regularly executing campaigns on our side of the causeway, and so, it was left to me to decide where to fly our flag. Having spent over a decade in leadership positions at three PR agencies in Malaysia, I knew Kerinchi — now rebranded to the expatriate-friendly name of ‘Bangsar South’ — was the place to be. It was quickly gaining a reputation as being the start-up hub of Malaysia, interwoven with now Malaysia-cool re-branded MNCs. With its fresh and mostly young and upwardly mobile rostrum of companies, we wanted to be amongst it to show that PR isn’t just crucial for all business types, but vital for all business types — no exceptions.
And so, with the virtual signing of a tenancy agreement on an iPad, I looked ahead to an exciting future for PRecious in Malaysia. For this was a very new Malaysian business concept, we were in the heart of it. Out was the antiquated 70s board rooms and musky corridors; in were digitally operated door opening systems, flat whites, hot desks, and the sort of corporate fraternity that I never thought I’d see in my career. We had a ready audience and open minds.
Everything seemed perfect… then disaster struck. COVID-19.
Malaysia, like most of the world, was turned upside down. Few businesses were spared during its height in late April 2020 the Malaysian economy was losing RM2.4bil a day.
As things began to settle and restrictions eased as we moved into June, we turned the lights back on full beam, keen to catch up on lost time: webinars, pro bono work, CSR, marketing drives; there was no layup to our hunger to make the new normal as close as possible to the old normal.
Now, in late July, the buzz word is ‘uncertainty’ — but there’s no doubt that the business climate is very much improved compared to where we were in April, and, according to Manulife, Malaysians businesses are expected to rebound sharply after COVID-19.
Perhaps the new normal is a real thing and to be taken seriously. If what it stands for is not taking things for granted, for businesses to have better safeguards, and be better prepared in the future, then I say the new normal is a welcome addition to the business ecosystem.
PRecious Communications has amongst the best crisis, risk and reputation consultants in the region and we stand ready to help businesses protect their reputations and increase trust and brand loyalty in that — yes – ‘uncertain’ world.