What the Flack? Saynaree Oudomvilay on the Importance of Scanning the News

By Saynaree Oudomvilay, PR & Comms Lead

Mar, 2024
Saynaree Oudomvilay speaks to LBB on why collaboration and setting up a partnership is key to good PR.

With over 10 years of experience within the PR and communications sector, Saynaree Oudomvilay has worked in Australia and the UK. She started her PR career working for 6dc, before moving to the UK to work freelance for a number of companies. Saynaree moved back to Australia in 2016, where she worked as an account manager for Weber Shandwick, before moving to M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment in 2018. She started her journey at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment as an account manager and has worked her way up to PR and communications lead. 

LBB> Tell us about your current role and what you do?

Saynaree> I’m PR and Communications Lead at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, overseeing and consulting on anything PR and influencer-related within the agency and broader M&C Saatchi group.

LBB> And how did you get to where you are today?

Saynaree> My career began at a Sydney-based boutique lifestyle PR agency. We were small but mighty, so being able to operate as a proactive self-starter from early on was crucial. After honing my client management and publicity skills locally, I took the Aussie-in-their-20s pilgrimage to London as a freelancing film publicist, which taught me the importance of personal reputation, relationships and the art of working on a global scale. One expired visa later, I landed at Weber Shandwick Australia to reacquaint myself with the local industry before joining M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment where I’ve been the last 5+ years.

LBB> What does your average day look like?

Saynaree> I always start with a scan of the news: a combination of various new sites and newspapers, Google Alerts for industry/client specific updates, TikTok and Instagram. This is followed with a check-in with my team to run through priorities of the day and discuss any relevant news – either as flags, or opportunities. The rest of the day is a mix of working with our strategy and creative teams on PR and influencer briefs, developing campaign plans, reviewing work with the team, client workshops or supporting new business opportunities.

LBB> For your organisation, what is the key function of PR and comms? Is it about company culture? Attracting clients? Empowering talent? Something else?

Saynaree> Working in an agency that isn’t traditionally rooted in PR, a large part of our focus is to challenge and evolve creative thinking to better consider and accommodate PR outcomes. At a time where channels are intersecting and the centre of gravity isn’t always a big TVC or OOH ad, we continually champion and encourage earned as part of the connected mix by fostering an inclusive and informed creative environment within the broader group.

LBB> PR has always been about finding the story / finding the angle. What is your process for staying ahead of the content curve and serving up something fresh and engaging?

Saynaree> Our PR approach is a combination of traditional processes layered with social media trends and insights from existing communities and passions. Globally and locally we use Passion Pulse, our own proprietary insights tool, as inspiration for storymining. The data allows us to draw on real life interests, live conversations and thriving communities to helps us validate the newness and newsworthiness of an angle. Not only does it help assure that we’re speaking to an existing and engaged community, it also helps take a fresh perspective by exploring ways in through the things we know they love.

LBB> Historically Advertising folk have a very different relationship with the media, especially the press, than PR folk. Advertising is about buying ad space and being able to dictate how and where something is presented – that’s a degree of control you can barely dream of in PR. Does that tension still exist, and if so how do you navigate that tension?

Saynaree> It definitely does, however with mutual respect and collaboration it becomes easier to navigate. As part of a connected group, we’re fortunate to feed into thinking at most steps of the process and also very early on. This means everyone is generally on the same page from the outset and therefore there’s minimal tension or misunderstanding on what is and isn’t possible.

LBB> And what other common misconception do you advertising/production people have about comms and PR?

Saynaree> That PR is just an efficiency play or budget solve. While we can be quick and more cost- effective, this general outlook is problematic for a couple of reasons. Firstly, PR requires time, deep subject matter expertise and a lot of scenario mapping and contingency planning thanks to external factors outside of our control. Secondly, it isn’t just an interchangeable solution to a problem. PR addresses specific things that other elements of the marketing mix don’t and vice versa, so shouldn’t be defaulted to as a cheaper alternative to a challenge.

LBB> To what extent do you feel ‘the work speaks for itself?’ To what stage of growth can a business rely on this mantra to gain more clients?

Saynaree> The expansion of the media landscape, citizen journalists, influencers and social media means that PR is also being represented from all angles. While yes the work is crucial to showing your craft, being quick, flexible and opportunistic goes a long way in attracting new clients and prospects.

LBB> When it comes to getting coverage/PR for a creative campaign in the consumer press, how should creative teams go about working with their agency’s comms and PR experts?

Saynaree> Collaboration is key. PR people aren’t just suits, or middlemen – we’re also creatives and strategists, so the partnership needs to start from the get-go. Creating inclusive environments and processes where PR can feed into strategy, briefs and consult on the creative work is key to getting the most out of the specialists.

LBB> When a business is faced with very bad news, what’s the key to getting through it?

Saynaree> Aside from having a robust crisis and issues preparedness strategy, transparent communication is critical. And not just to senior stakeholders and top tier journalists, but also to your network of influencers, your social media followers and your customer database. The newscycle has flipped and these stakeholders have just as much influence as the traditional channels, so keeping messaging consistent and honest across the board with humility will go a long way and ensure all bases are covered.

LBB> Generally speaking, how do you approach the hack/flack relationship?

Saynaree> Creating multi-touchpoint opportunities to consistently engage with media. Quite often a pitch or press release won’t do the sole job, and when it’s go-time it’s often too late. Ensuring there are real-life connects – either formally through a brand activation/event, or more informally through a social/networking event or casual briefings – means you’re able to build the conversation and relationship over time.

LBB> How does doing comms/PR/marketing for the advertising/production world differ from any other industry you’ve worked in?

Saynaree> In my experience, compared to more traditional PR agencies we’re not just delivering the work within our swim lane. We’re also educating creatives, consulting with brand strategists, navigating paid media deadlines to work alongside earned and managing multiple stakeholders who are working to different priorities and objectives. We’re also often working with bigger integrated budgets and longer lead times – which comes with higher stakes that make it equally exciting and challenging.

LBB> What are the most useful tools in the arsenal of a PR / comms professional working in advertising / creative industries right now?

Saynaree> Industry or trade publications relevant to your client, being able to get into the weeds of their issues and opportunities is invaluable. On a less traditional note, I often turn to TikTok’s creative centre to check in on real-time social movements and trending topics for proactive or reactive storytelling opportunities that are data-backed.

LBB> In your opinion, how has the role of a PR / Comms professional evolved during your career span ? Have things changed greatly or do core tasks / principles remain the same?

Saynaree> The principles remain, however the breadth of what we cover has grown and will continue to do so. We’re no longer just pitching to traditional journalists, we also reach tastemakers, advocates, key opinion leaders and influencers who all have their own ecosystem and channels that need to be earned in their own way.

LBB> What frustrates you about the way the media and PR have changed over the years?

Saynaree> The power imbalance between journalists and PRs, which is a result of condensed editorial teams and resource being stretched. When I first started out, journalists had more capacity to interact, pitch and land stories. Nowadays, journalists are often spread so thin writing across several beats that they don’t have the time, or scope, to build and nurture a mutually beneficial relationship with PRs. Instead this process can become quite transactional which is disheartening to see, as both good journalists and good PRs know that they can’t exist without each other, and the best stories are always the product of a strong two-way relationship.

LBB> And what excites you?

Saynaree> Cliche, but the coverage high is still very real. It’s not something that will ever go away regardless of your role in landing a story!

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