An interview with CIO Today: Promising female CEO to watch in 2022

This is an interview with Dr. Clāra Ly-Le, EloQ’s managing director, conducted by CIO Today in its featured issue on  “10 Most Promising Female CEOs to Watch in 2022.”

Brief us about your outset story of your career.

As a public relations (PR) practitioner, my vision is to bring the name of Vietnam, my home country, out to the world. The PR industry in Vietnam and Southeast Asia has always been viewed as ‘less-developed’ compared to other countries. Little recognition was given to our planning and creativity, and global companies only find us to execute their planned activities. But as you also know, a global perspective is different from local practices, and many miscommunication and cultural issues have happened because a brand’s global strategy doesn’t always apply in a specific context. However, brands are still hesitant to entrust planning to local PR practitioners, even though many creative ideas already came from within this region. Therefore, since the start of my career, I’ve always wanted to change that prejudice. My goal is to prove that we have creative professionals to impress international business. So after a few years of working in the agency world, I established my own boutique PR agency in Vietnam, EloQ Communications, to meet the high demands of foreign clients and showcase the skills of Vietnamese practitioners.

What are the aims and ideals that guide you as an individual and a professional?

The first one is ASEAN pride, and to be more specific, Vietnam pride; and the second one is the professionalism and responsibility that come with being a PR professional. These factors drive me to learn and update myself constantly with new knowledge, to become a better version of myself every day. So that everyone would recognize what an ASEAN PR practitioner can do, and the true value that the PR industry delivers to the community.

Enlighten us about your greatest strength. How are you different from others in your field?

My biggest advantage is having a diverse viewpoint. It comes from the fact that I’m not only a field practitioner, but I’m also an active academic lecturer and researcher. These two aspects complement each other and allow me to look at PR issues from different perspectives to generate creative solutions. I’ve published quite a few research about public relations, communications, and crisis communications on social media. Some of the findings can be found on my personal blog if you’re interested in learning more.

I also participate in global PR networks to expose my organization to world-class practices. By connecting with international peers, I’m able to learn from their cases and enrich my pool of understanding with new ideas and perspectives. You can say that being open to diversity and willing to learn have shaped my greatest advantage.

Please tell us about your organisation. What are your primary roles and responsibilities? Can you please walk us through the major accomplishments throughout your journey?

EloQ Communications is a boutique agency specializing in PR and communications. Our agency focuses on the kind of outside-the-box thinking to cut through the noise and gain attention in today’s crowded marketing landscape. We utilize our local insights and combine them with global standards to become an all-around solutions provider that recognizes the interconnected nature of modern PR and marketing communication. In short, you can say that EloQ is a local agency with a global vision!

As head of EloQ, I am usually involved in the company’s daily operations, strategic growth and overseeing employee development programs. I also network with the company’s regional partners and the different international PR and marketing associations to generate leads, learn from our peers, and integrate high-quality standards into our service offerings. Besides the management aspect, I also work closely with the team to execute daily client services, project planning and implementation in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian markets. By working closely with the team on the front line, not only am I able to share my professional knowledge and passion with the team, but also stay alert to the latest trends and insights.

Regarding accomplishment, it comes on many levels. From a career viewpoint, I find a sense of accomplishment in successfully delivering our clients’ projects, as well as receiving national and international awards for our work products. And in life, I feel accomplished that I’m able to give back to the community by passing on my knowledge to nurture younger PR generations, and supporting children to come to school through local charities.

Being a woman, what were the toughest obstacles you faced in your career?

Women leaders have unique problems that their men counterparts don’t usually deal with. Women tend to have an empathy and sympathy approach toward leadership. It means that women leaders seek understanding and mutual agreement with their subordinates, which is different from how men leaders exercise their powers. And along the way, this method diminishes the power gap, making colleagues think that we’re peers or mentors, rather than managers or leaders. If that happens, decision-making and delegation would be more difficult. Anyway, overall, I value the conversations that are happening in my organization – where every idea and opinion is equal. And we are always open for applications from talented, hard-working, creative individuals who are eager to be a part of our success and that of our clients.

How did you respond to the challenges induced by the COVID-19 pandemic? What measures did you incorporate to surpass the challenges?

Even during COVID-19, we strived our best to support our clients and community. Among them was AstraZeneca. It was an exciting experience to help the brand establish its credibility with the Vietnamese public (government, media, and citizens), educate the importance of vaccination to the local community, and consequently, increase the vaccination rate in Vietnam. I think this campaign is not only work but something we can look back to and feel proud of our contribution to the local welfare.

Who in your life inspires you the most?

A senior of mine who is a journalist. He has helped me to fuel my passion and given me support throughout my career. He is a role model that I can always look up to during my career. From him, I learn the importance of being tactful, expanding my network and learning from others. This person is my mentor in both business issues and personal life. He, himself, has met many challenges in his career, but he never backs down. And his spirit in dealing with problems inspires me the most.

What advice would you give to the next generation of aspiring and budding Business people?

“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because its trust is not on the branch but its own wings.” Just like the bird believing itself, we should also believe in our own abilities. And to have the foundation to do so, we should continue to learn and update skills, widen our relationship network, and give back to the community when we can.

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