Caroline Hsu on Hoffman’s new integrated offering

The APAC MD at The Hoffman Agency expands on the agency’s new solution, the changing needs of tech clients, and expanding newsroom capabilities.

Today, The Hoffman Agency launches its integrated marketing communications (IMC) offering across APAC to cater to increased demand from B2B tech clients for a more holistic and consumer-style approach to comms. 

Owing to the pandemic, tech companies fall in the rare category of brands where a growth is apparent in the last year. But these companies—especially those that are B2B—still face the challenge of optimising comms to appeal to a wide range of consumers and stakeholders. Heavy jargons, a lack of humanity, and dull narratives often appear in B2B content, and these are problems that often fall into the hands of  APAC MD Caroline Hsu (pictured above) and her regional team.

It doesn’t help that B2B tech companies typically have limited communications resources and personnel, and little to no expertise in creating and distributing original content. And many agencies, especially those that specialise in tech such as Hoffman, see the need to consult their B2B clients with more consumer-driven content and solutions.

“The pandemic really sped up this change in the B2B and tech industry,” Hsu told PRWeek Asia. “And this is why it’s a good time for us to formalise [IMC].”

Despite promise and growth in tech, Hsu said that clients were still working within budget constraints, especially in APAC, a region that is often given less priority compared to Western markets. And this forced the agency to be increasingly strategic while putting on their integrated hats to deliver business results.

One reason Hoffman managed to do this—pretty seamlessly, according to Hsu—is the single P&L model it adopts in the region. And with that comes efficient cross-collaboration and one client-facing team rather than siloed agency specialists.

“What makes us different is that we are holistic in how we solve our client needs. When we understand our client's business problems, we're able to pull together the right team. So the client has one team rather than three different departments,” she said.

“And because we offer end-to-end solutions in IMC, clients opt in and out of what they might need whether if it's just PR, digital or content. We have all those capabilities. But firstly, we need to understand the business problem first. And then we're able to put together a customised plan. We have been in the industry long enough to know that there's a lot of canned responses or solutions out there but that's not our approach.” 

Hsu added that this works in some part due to Hoffman’s high staff retention rate which floats around the 80 per cent mark. “Agency churn is quite common elsewhere and so clients feel like they have to retrain new agency reps every couple of months because there’s always a new person,” she said. “Not to mention in other agencies, they tend to operate in separate teams which makes it much more difficult.” 

Hsu also made a conscious decision to expand newsroom capabilities within IMC which is aimed at a more “strategic approach to media relations” and producing content that works alongside journalists’ editorial priorities.

Alessandra Tinio, David Blecken and Nicolas Chan will lead IMC in the region. Both Tinio and Blecken have journalistic backgrounds, just like Hsu herself.

“Every agency has media relations, and it's always about the client pitching their story. They never think in the journalist shoes. It's more about taking a strategic approach to understand editorial priorities. And then being able then to package content that works not only for the journalists and the media, but also for our clients,” said Hsu. Of course, journalists are also able to cut through the jargon, a skill that those on the B2B client side often lack. 

Tinio also serves as director, brand communications, Blecken as content director and Chan as head of digital, APAC. Other leaders who will pitch their skills in IMC include Stephanie Yang in Taiwan who has experience in a cybersecurity startup; Kelly Kwon in Korea, a former journalist who has also worked in data science; and Kevin On, who led global marketing and communications for DJI, a maker of drones and other tech. 

Existing IMC clients include Nutanix, Shutterstock, Tealium, Shopline and The Michelin Guide. 

According to PRWeek’s Top Consultancies 2021, The Hoffman Agency grew 1 per cent in revenue last year, earning US$10,299,000 in APAC. More than half of its global revenue (US$15,120,000) last year was attributed to APAC.

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