Valerie Tan | Influence 100

Valerie Tan

VP Public Relations, Social Media & Internal Communications



Across two stints at Emirates Group, Valerie Tan has risen to a leadership role that covers public relations, social media and internal communications for global airline Emirates and air services provider dnata.

Based in Dubai, Tan leads an in-house team of 30 professionals, overseeing a support network of over 80 communications agencies in the implementation of internal and external communications activity for Emirates and dnata worldwide. Tan has over a decade of experience in communications, and has also held leadership roles at Weber Shandwick in Singapore.

Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance?
Early in my career I worked on a healthcare campaign which raised awareness (and later consults/sales) of a proven but lesser-known therapy, despite its benefits for some groups of patients. People were simply not opting for it, because of lack of knowledge or misconceptions, and not many doctors were recommending the less popular option. The turning point came when we convinced the most influential healthcare writer in the nation, who was cynical about product pitches, to really examine the treatment option and see its potential benefit to patients/caregivers/community, and write about it. Aside from business results, what was most personally satisfying was seeing people benefit from knowledge and making informed choices. There have  been many more examples since, where I've seen PR make a direct (positive) impact on the business, but this is early example will always be memorable to me.

What do you love about this industry?
Humanity. Our industry is all about people – communicators, audiences, and stakeholders – and the quirks of humanity make the art and science of communications fun, creative, rewarding, unpredictable, and sometimes just plain frustrating.

What most frustrates you about this industry?
Generally speaking, we still don't invest enough in insights at the planning stage or outcome measurement in the post-campaign phase.

What are the communications industry's biggest challenges and opportunities?
Technology will help us become more surgical and effective in landing our communications messages with target audiences. But it's also a worry that our audiences (and ourselves), could get trapped in information bubbles, since smart tech means we receive more of what we choose to see/hear/interact with, limiting exposure to new thinking or sources.

How do you relax or change pace when you’re not at work?
Binge-read, binge-watch online TV dramas, take long walks.

Can you share a book/movie/TV show/podcast that teaches a valuable lesson about PR?
“Wag the Dog” – a classic that I want to re-watch in this "new era" of fake news. It's black comedy, but there are consequences for propagating fake news.

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
An aspiring novelist, scriptwriter, or an awful hotel lobby pianist.