Written by Phil Rhys Thomas
After moving to Hong Kong and falling in love with China as a teenager, the founding partner of Reuter Communications charts her path from TV journalism to luxury marketing and communications, reveals the personal beliefs behind her brand – and champions the importance of enjoying your time both in and out of work.
How did you get started in communications?
I was born and raised in Brussels. When I was a teenager, my family moved to Hong Kong and the love affair with China and studying Chinese began! After high school in HK I studied Chinese and Japanese at university, which included a couple of years at Beijing’s People’s University. I was always passionate about current affairs and after graduation I moved into TV journalism, working at Reuters TV and Bloomberg TV in Tokyo.
I loved working in Japan but after three years in Tokyo, I was excited to move back to China in 2005. I transitioned into corporate communications and started working at DDB. Then, in 2010, I decided to take the leap and to start my own business – Reuter Communications was born. It was just me, my laptop and a lot of optimism! The idea was to help luxury brands with marketing and communications in China. Today I’m incredibly proud that the business employs close to 100 fantastic people across four offices, and we work with some of the world’s most celebrated luxury brands.
What’s a typical day for you?
There is no typical day! I love being in Shanghai, where our headquarters are, but I also enjoy traveling for work. I go to a lot of great places, and it’s a highlight to meet new, different and interesting people. If I’m in Shanghai I make time to exercise and spend quality time with my children. My work is quite intense, and I relish the simple things: walking the dog, having breakfast and dinner with the family.
Can you describe a few events you’ve worked on recently?
We have recently worked on a number of events for beauty brands such as Diptyque and SpaceNK. Though purchasing online is huge in China, people still appreciate an offline experience to sample and interact with the brand. We also use events as an opportunity to grow client databases. For example, having guests sign up for the event through WeChat enables the brand to collect data for CRM purposes. In China, guests love interacting with the brand in a number of ways: games are popular, AI and VR too. We try and incorporate these into the event, as well as create an opportunity for purchase.
Has social media changed what you do?
Definitely. In China the apps we use, for example WeChat, make us way more efficient at work. But this has also come at the risk of spending too much time glued to a screen.
How does the Asian luxury market compare to the European or US market?
It’s at lightning pace. In the Asian and Chinese luxury market, consumers are eager for new e-commerce platforms and apps, experiences and brands. They are younger than their counterparts in the West and incredibly knowledgeable about luxury and brands. By 2025, according to Bain, half of all luxury consumption will be made by Chinese consumers, whether shopping in China or whilst traveling. A lot of our work focuses on destination-marketing and keeping our clients top of mind with Chinese and Asian travellers.
You have four locations spanning Asia and the Middle East. What’s next?
We do have some exciting developments in the pipeline. It’s true that in business you can only succeed by growing and evolving, and this feels especially true in China. Everything moves so fast in China, whether it’s the society and culture, the consumer mindset or the business world. It’s an ultra-competitive region, so to succeed you have to move your business to the next level – whether that’s in creating new client solutions and services, making sure you are onboarding the best people in the market, or enhancing your own working environment so that the talents you have are engaged, motivated and happy. We’re exploring tech partnerships and enhancing our creative and digital capabilities, as well as doing research.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
My personal beliefs and values are at the heart of our business. Mostly, this means just be kind, try your best, and treat others with respect. Don’t forget to have fun along the way too! I expect our people to work with kindness and in a collaborative spirit, and I also expect the same from our clients. If there is a mismatch in values, it’s like a marriage – it just won’t work.
I’m very ambitious but I treasure my time outside work and with my family, and want our colleagues to have a balance too. We recently launched an academy at work that focuses on skills training, wellness and fun. I’m really committed to this platform and giving our people the opportunity to reach their potential. I feel very grateful to have started the business in China. I think it’s one of the best places to be an entrepreneur – everything is possible! The rate of learning in China is incredible, and the business environment is very strong in terms of support for professional women.Back