Career Path

Marketer hits high notes

by Charles Mak

Ann Wong, marketing and communications manager
British Council Hong Kong
Photo: Edde Ngan

Marketing is a process linking a calculated message to a target audience. Great marketing results from using specific channels to maximise the impact of that message within a particular time frame and budget so as to achieve optimal results.

Ann Wong, marketing and communications manager, British Council Hong Kong explains the complexity involved in successful marketing. "There's so much more to it than merely having the right tools and winning strategies. Marketing encompasses an exhaustive list of favourable factors, with as many possibilities for failure. Whatever the means employed in the process, effective communication to all involved parties including internal staff remains vital for the success of any marketing enterprise."

Instrumental to the British Council's marketing success in Hong Kong, Ms Wong's typical day begins with email correspondence with members of the British Council's vast network, which comprises 233 regional offices spanning more than 109 countries. "In order to keep abreast of the council's current affairs and maintain close relationships with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and different time zones, English proficiency plus effective communication skills are indispensable," notes Ms Wong.

As editor of the Council's monthly newsletter What's in it for you...?, Ms Wong has additional responsibilities. "My main tasks are subediting and repackaging articles where my public relations and English communication skills come into play," she says.

Aside from that, there are still more deadlines to meet. Working closely with the British Council's e-marketing and customer service teams, Ms Wong leads her dedicated team of marketing and communications officers in orchestrating an array of marketing initiatives for both ongoing and ad hoc projects. "Promoting English programmes, examinations and UK education requires long-term marketing support," she explains.

Other products often involve formulating cross-selling vehicles for publications, concerts or cultural events like the Hong Kong Arts Festival and the Hong Kong International Film Festival. Currently in the pipeline are also a range of activities to commemorate the British Council's 60th anniversary.

The key to implementation success, she notes, is effective time management plus a concrete action plan. "If you have a clearly defined objective and a well thought out skeleton, then everything else such as target audience, necessary channels and selling points will just fall into place," she adds.

Different genre

A pianist by training and a music major from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Ms Wong initially launched her career in the cultural arena, including a position at the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, not as a musician but as a marketing executive. "My major duty was to sell classical concert tickets. At one time I had tickets for nine concerts at my disposal in a period of just one month," recalls Ms Wong who also took to the stage as emcee for some of the organisation's educational concerts for children.

"I'd never received marketing training but something about marketing clicked," she says. A growing interest in the discipline subsequently led her to take a public relations programme. By the end of her three-year tenure with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, she became a well-heeled marketing manager and before long the opportunity to take her career to the next level arose.

"When the British Council Hong Kong advertised for a media relations manager, I leapt at the chance," Ms Wong says. Although the two jobs are different in nature, her passion for music is influential. "Music is communications. When I play the piano, I am communicating with an audience without uttering a single word," she explains.

"Be confident about the product or service you market and be sure to like it"

Clear articulation

Over the last 60 years, the British Council has established a strong social standing, which according to Ms Wong is both an advantage and a challenge. "Our brand is an excellent platform in all aspects," she notes. "However, we mustn't rest on our laurels but continue to build on our foundation and branch out. Language is an art form per se. It conveys meaning and allows stories to be shared. Complement this with visual and audio elements and we leave a lasting impression. By co-organising or sponsoring cultural events, we help to create a fuller picture for the art community," she says.

On a different note, leveraging her commercial flair and professional affiliation, Ms Wong has forged partnership with the council's arts and creative team, a town planning architect and a designer from the UK to work on an artistic rejuvenation project for Southorn Playground in Wanchai. In particular, a marketing survey and two consultation sessions were conducted to raise awareness, gauge participation and identify the general public's views on the project.

For the hundreds of young aspirants seeking to enter the marketing field each year Ms Wong's advice is straightforward: demonstrate creativity and a target-oriented mindset to gain entry. "To stay in the game, be confident about the product or service you market and be sure to like it. Nothing is on easy terms in the industry. It may be hard going at times but those who stick at it will reap the rewards in the end," she concludes.


Taken from Career Times 14 March 2008, p. B22
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