By Karuna Tsang, Associate Account Director

“Welcome to San Francisco. The local time is 10:45 p.m. …” announced the captain.

Finally, after a 12-hour flight, I arrived in the United States. It had been a while since I visited the U.S., and what excited me the most was that I would be working in our company’s headquarters in San Jose-Silicon Valley, the heart of entrepreneurship and technology.

Thanks to the agency’s Building Bridges Program, I received the opportunity to fulfil my aspiration to work in the U.S. for two and a half months. This experience would not have been possible if Lou, Steve B, Lydia and Caroline had not reactivated this wonderful program. Also, a special thank you to Heather, Kathy, Brenda and Helen for taking care of me and arranging the details of this journey.

The U.S. team’s warm welcome, trust and support helped me settle down quickly in the new environment. By collaborating closely with my new teammates, I learned a lot of day-to-day basics at the office. Following comprehensive internal briefings of the clients that I would support (including Nokia and NXP), I was soon developing media lists, pitching different media for attending a major event and making byline contributions. Backed by my teams’ guidance and confidence in me, I later tracked media coverage, developed press releases and conducted competitive analysis.

I found that one of the key takeaways of media pitching is whether you work in the U.S. or Hong Kong, you need to conduct research, create a relevant story for the press and present the idea concisely. This may seem obvious, but sometimes we are too eager to share too much information with journalists and forget about the basics. Another difference I observed was that media pitching/outreach to tech journalists in the U.S. starts in the morning, while in Hong Kong, we usually reach out to tech journalists in the afternoon.

Besides learning from client work, I also received pointers from teammates at lunches, coffee chats and sharing sessions regarding case studies of other accounts, social media knowledge, the overall U.S. media landscape, leadership skills etc. Leveraging the company’s culture of knowledge sharing, I hosted a casual presentation, “East Meets West: PR Scene in China and Hong Kong,” covering some of the common practices and tips for doing PR in these markets. I was glad that the team’s active participation made the session an interactive one. Indeed, I considered the fruitful Q&A discussion as one of the most memorable learning experiences in the U.S., as we covered topics such as comparing ways of approaching media and building media relationships in the U.S. and Hong Kong. For example, in Hong Kong, it’s relatively common to invite journalists for coffee or lunch catch-ups to build relationships and gain insights from them. This isn’t such a common practice in the U.S.

Coincidentally, about two weeks after my presentation, Jason Cao, our general manager of Hoffman China visited the U.S. and conducted another sharing session highlighting industry trends, the China team’s “Big Tech” business strategy in expanding Informative Tech, Innovative Tech, and Industrial Tech clients and their excellent work. In particular, I was intrigued by the China team’s creative cartoon infographics that tell interesting B2B tech stories. Moreover, I found the strong business momentum of the China team motivating. I would love to see similar sessions across the APAC offices in the future to give us a chance to learn from one another.

Jason Cao, general manager of Hoffman China, visited the U.S. and conducted another sharing session highlighting the China team’s business focus, the clientele and the team’s excellent work.

I was also blessed with opportunities to extend bridges outside of the office. At my homestay, I met several entrepreneurs from Japan and Korea who are from startups at various stages. Among them, I learned the most from two entrepreneurs who participated in the U.S. Market Access Center’s program. The Center offers support for startups, including opportunities to network, increase business and pitch advice from mentors. I also received insights into the Silicon Valley and Korean startup landscape from a Korean executive, who founded a tech agency that develops ecommerce solutions and content marketing services for Korean fashion and beauty boutique brands. While also a teacher of entrepreneurship in South Korea, this individual said he always stresses the three most important considerations for anyone who wants to start a business: Do you have capital? What about a strong team? Lastly, do you have a solid network? He believes all these factors are crucial for building a company. He added that there are relatively more fundraising opportunities in Asia, while in recent years, there have been more mergers and acquisitions in the Bay Area. After returning to our respective countries, we have promised to stay in touch!

Once back in Hong Kong, the story came full circle when I met a contact connected by a U.S. client. Furthermore, the Hong Kong team had worked with U.S., China or UK teams on new business opportunities. Given the relationship built in the U.S., the bonding of working together is stronger even though we are far apart! I plan to catch up with one of the Korean entrepreneurs in Hong Kong next month to learn more about his business development. Moving ahead, I look forward to applying what I learned in the U.S. into our work in Hong Kong and across APAC and sharing my Building Bridges experience. Besides facilitating exchange of PR knowledge, The Building Bridge Program is also a significant platform for cross-cultural engagement. Certainly, the Hong Kong and other APAC teams will be excited to host Hoffmanites from other countries in the future and create more synergy across the region.

There are still many precious memories that I wish I could include in this blog post. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I have selected some highlights below as a wrap-up.

Similar to Hoffman’s Hong Kong team, Hoffman U.S. demonstrates enthusiasm, commitment, great teamwork and accountability. In this photo, the Nokia team sits together and joins the live broadcast of a major client announcement. The team achieved positive results and provided timely updates of the daily coverage analysis to the client.
It was a pleasure for me to be part of the team and support this announcement.

We work hard but also enjoy fun activities at the office! 
Left: Cinco de Mayo and celebration of the engagement of our colleague (this shows how much we care for each other!) 
Right: “Whatchamacallit” game on a Friday. 
These were also fun cultural and local activities for me.

Emails suggesting sightseeing options prior to my trip, giving me a lift to and from work, a big welcome breakfast and happy hour, welcome lunches, the farewell drinks … all the warmth made me feel like part of the Hoffman U.S. family!

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