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Truescope Talks with Koh Juat Muay

Truescope Talks with communications for good advocate Koh Juat Muay, President, IPRS

In this edition of Truescope Talks we speak to public relations leader, President of the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore (IPRS), Koh Juat Muay.

Juat has more than 25 years of management experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors, including roles as Chief Executive of non-profit organisation, Global Alliance Limited, set up to develop cultural diplomacy between countries, Managing Director and Regional Chief Executive of award winning public relations agency, Bang Public Relations, and Director of Marcoms for arts management company, Arts House Limited (formerly known as The Old Parliament House Limited).

Juat is passionate about organisational well-being and has an appreciation for individuals, society and diversity amidst an evolving social-economic and communications culture. In this piece, Juat shares her insights about the value of positive communication in the PR industry and beyond, the focus areas for IPRS now and into the future, and the complex nature of data within the PR profession.

Welcome, Juat! Thank you for being part of Truescope Talks. You have impressive management experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Can you share a bit more about your background and what led you to the role of President of the IPRS? 

Thank you for having me. My first job was in personnel development in 1986. It was not lost on me that the people who were recognised for their work were those who spoke and presented well. You can say that my interest in good communication started back then.

I stumbled into public relations quite by accident. I was offered the role of PR and fundraising for a non-profit organisation without any prior experience. I have since held communications roles in 11 different organisations, in-house and agencies, including my current role in the IPRS.

I believe communication is in everything we do; there is nothing that does not have a communication impact and outcome. I love the work and IPRS is my way of giving back to the community that has been good to me.

Since your appointment as President, you’ve implemented many changes including successfully digitising the IPRS. Can you tell us about the organisation’s recent evolution and what the future roadmap looks like?

The IPRS is in its 52nd year and has done well in nurturing generations of communicators as they deal with change, and exponential change in the last decade. One of the first orders of business for the present IPRS Council and myself was to get the IPRS online. This was important on many levels - efficiency, reach and sustainability. 

The sweet spot of digital transformation is the convergence of understanding your motivations, defining your budget and managing human response. I would say the IPRS is centred in this spot where we are constantly reviewing our purpose, possibilities and keeping the needs of our members and friends in focus.

The future of the IPRS is about keeping the communications community vibrant and connected in Singapore and around the world.

In the new world of Digital PR, what are the biggest challenges for comms professionals and what skills are necessary for their success?

I would say the daily challenge is to be wise consumers of media ourselves and in turn learn and help our clients to do the same. The invaluable skill is the ability to write and create narratives for each media type effectively.

To do this, communicators need to be avid consumers of stories that matter, to be across trends and breaking issues, and to have a strong understanding of authors and how the different mediums work, including what they write about and when they are best engaged. These are all crucial elements of successfully navigating the new world of digital PR.

What does “PR leadership” mean in the world we live in now?

In a world of many voices, to have a distinct voice. One such voice is David Attenborough who has led the world to fall in love with animals and the environments they live in. The digital world has made it possible for individuals to take the lead in sharing and leading some of the most important initiatives at home and on the global stage.

The IPRS’ ethos is embodied in the acronym PRISMS - Public Relations In Service of Mankind. Our two key events are our biennial IPRS PRISM Award, and the IPRS PRISM Summit which will be coming up on 10 November 2022.

We believe that PR is for good. I would like the IPRS to take this leadership voice.

It has been said that trust is one of the most valuable assets communicators have, but also the easiest to lose. Do you agree that trust, ethics and transparency are more important now, than ever, in PR?

Absolutely. You can run but you cannot hide. Everything you do will catch up with you sooner or later in this digital world and yes, even in the metaverse. Each of us must find our own authenticity and remain consistent in its articulation. The PR practitioner’s role is to help clients to do the same.

At this year’s AMEC Global Measurement and Evaluation Summit, the theme was Communicators at the data table, focusing on data and its implementation and examining how the global pandemic has highlighted the demand for data in order to help build trust, impact and illustrate the value of communication. How do you think PR and comms professionals are responding to the new need to be data savvy?

PR and comms professionals have always been conscious of information and data. The relationship with data providers and media monitoring agencies is a long standing one. Great care is given to assessing reports and claims, clients notwithstanding, before any campaign or crisis communications are implemented.

The profession is now taking on the complexities of ESG and climate communications. The work is in three parts. The first is understanding the science, measurements, standards, underpinning these domains. The second, to present this content in simple digestible form. The third is to manage public queries.

The last part is where trust, impact and value of communication become apparent. Are we able to defend and hold up to scrutiny, what we say and do?

What are some of your passions outside of the PR industry?

I take long solitary walks with that one destination in mind - my fave local coffee shop.

My other passion is for positive communication. My least favourite word in the English vocabulary is “but”. It is a useful clickbait in headlines and speeches. Why the constant need to negate? Let our words lead to harmony and not division. Communicators play a significant role in bringing people together.

Thank you very much for joining us, Juat.

My pleasure, thank you.

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