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A popular figure on the global PR circuit, Ken Hong has overseen a transformation in LG Electronics’ public profile since taking on global communications leadership a decade ago. That has included the launch of the LG-One WPP unit, which handles the Korean giant’s global PR duties, and has helped to drive particularly strong results for the company at key trade shows such as CES and Mobile World Congress. Recent years have seen Hong support the launch of LG’s first ever premium brand in North America and Europe, and the critical reorganization of LG’s offices in Europe.
Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance?
In February of this year, LG took a bold stand and announced our withdrawal from a global trade show before most of the world was aware of the danger of Covid-19. Many in the industry applauded our pre-emptive move and I believe customers also appreciated our decision to put the safety of employees ahead of profit. LG reported record-high first-quarter operating income margin in the company's history and while this alone may not be evidence of a direct impact, I believe that our early decision to communicate publicly and follow through immediately with consistent action minimized the fallout that affected many other companies toward the end of the quarter.
What are the comms industry's biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead?
Communicators this year need to think about how we can better meet the needs of journalists, many who are still skittish about attending launch events and attending press conferences. Is the online media kit enough? Are executives comfortable conducting virtual interviews? Is the content that we provide at the same level of quality as what journalists would be generating themselves at physical events?
What have you most admired about this industry in 2020?
From my limited view outside of a major media market, I have been impressed by how journalists have been able to continue doing their jobs and creating great stories from a distance. Agencies, too, have my admiration for moving quickly to keep their primary asset – people – safe during the pandemic.
What has most disappointed you about this industry in 2020?
This isn't an indication of communications per se but I think we communicators too often drink the Kool-Aid that we're fed without asking "Why?" I see many companies jumping on the latest trend without really thinking if that's leadership or bandwagoning. I hope to see more of us being thought-leaders, not just mouthpieces.
How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness in lockdown?
I'm cycling a lot now. I am a big fan of Seoul's public transportation but riding the subway and buses on weekends was less attractive to me so I bought a second-hand bike online and that's what I do on the weekends as exercise as well as to get from point A to point B.
Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
I used to go to the cinema at least once a month before the pandemic hit so I'm eager to get back into that habit again. Theaters in Korea never actually shut down but there are no good movies being released these days. Don't judge me but I very much enjoyed Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga on Netflix! As for podcasts, I'm listening a lot more these days. Favorites are Radiolab, Freakonomics Radio, Hidden Brain, Revisionist History and of course, NYT's The Daily.
If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
Sum up 2020 in one word.
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