|Nguyen Thanh Son, Chairman Media Ventures Vietnam |
It was only natural. The country just opened up, and “investment” became a winged word. So, VIR was the place where I could often use English and apply my newly learnt journalistic knowledge.
I was sad when I got rejected, but this seemed to be fate. Even though I could not directly be involved, I always have a special relationship with newspaper and its reporters throughout the past 20 years.
Exactly 20 years ago, in September 2001, I started my startup company, T&A Communications, a small PR consulting firm based in Hanoi.
T&A joined the big family of WPP Group, the world’s largest brand communications group, and turned T&A into a joint venture called T&A Ogilvy.
Practical impact on businesses is what we have pursued since the very beginning, and also what we share with VIR.
One of the mysteries of the early 2000s in the marketing sector in Vietnam was why the world’s largest marketing corporations ignored the top names in the industry. During that time in Vietnam, there were not many companies with big clients, and a sizeable number of employees to partner with.
To understand this period, it is necessary to know about the context of the marketing industry at the time. One of the biggest challenges faced by public relation firms of that era was the disparaging view on their role, especially from the press and the client side.
For journalists and press agencies, PR companies were an unwanted intermediary, because they wanted to have direct contact with the source and expected to receive raw, unprocessed information.
On the client side, especially foreign-invested companies, they were used to having their media representatives in the host country with a deep understanding of the business and its relations with representative agencies. The media representative was, simply put, a “grey hair expert” when providing media consulting services – which we couldn’t do.
Our success in persuading large marketing corporations to invest in strategic partnerships with us came from the fact that we understood the importance of and knew how to develop strategic relationships with relevant and influential agencies in Vietnam, especially press agencies.
And then we found our first strategic partner, VIR. What impressed us in the early days was the openness to cooperation. An openness that was consistent from the editorial board down to each reporter, and one that could be built on like on a solid foundation of common purpose and unity.
Also thanks to that cooperation, our big customers in the early days – such as commercial aircraft manufacturer Boeing, oil and gas company BP, Visa, and Standard Chartered Bank – always felt encouraged when sharing their experiences, thoughts, and challenges when working in an emerging environment like Vietnam.
VIR’s positive approach, openness, and deep understanding of issues have made them the friend you want to share something with. That is the best relationship between a foreign-invested business and a press agency that we can build.
One of the things that impressed us during our cooperation with VIR was its keen vision for development trends and, what we call, “future thinking”. About 15 years ago, during one of our field trips to the headquarters of LG Corporation, the VIR reporter at that time, Le Trong Minh, opened up to me about his desire to develop in-depth content of and for experts on VIR. He wanted the contribution and experiences from the world’s leading corporations on issues that, according to him, would be the future development trends of the economy, especially sustainable development. And it was just a little later that, to my surprise, I received the first issue of VIR’s many special editions on sustainable development.
Since 2009, this special edition is the one I’m looking forward to the most every year, mainly because of its in-depth content and accurate predictions about the development trends of Vietnam, Southeast Asia, and the world.
With this same vision of the future, I have witnessed the emergence of different publications in the VIR family in an effort to perfect a publishing ecosystem that remains steadfast in its goal of best supporting the development of Vietnam’s economy.
The success of VIR cannot be without the contribution of the human factor. The VIR culture is consistent with its original goals, open to cooperation, sensitive to trends, and astute in approach to all kinds of issues.
Generations of reporters and editors have created this culture under the leadership of the editorial board and obtained a very recognisable brand of VIR people – one with positive thinking, multi-dimensional perspectives, and especially high productivity in press products.
Working with VIR was a learning experience that helped us understand the role of a strategic consulting firm in building relationships in which all – readership, press agencies, brands, and media representatives – profit from the cooperation.
In the last five years, after leaving my executive role at T&A Ogilvy, I started a new journey as an investor for startups in education, healthcare, and marketing communications. I was surprised to find that I still received the same open and unconditional support from VIR reporters, editors, and its management team, just like when I was acting as a media consultant.
To them, my experiments are seen as lessons that can support a purpose that has remained unchanged since day one – to best support Vietnam’s economic development.
Thirty years are a long way. The next 10 years will be very challenging for a press office like VIR, but I believe in the strong foundation that the group has laid, and that has been built upon by generations of reporters, editors, and its leadership.
VIR is a platform that connects and benefits the development of Vietnam’s economy by offering an information and knowledge portal connecting the Vietnamese economy with the world. Such a door will come with many opportunities for creativity and development.