Key communications learnings from David Wang and Tien Phan of Wave2Wave.
What would you say is the biggest communications challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it? What did you learn from it?
David: Everybody faces challenges. For instance, part of my role is to transition from the more technical side of things to a more customer/people-facing side. I think the biggest challenge is to not only be able to effectively communicate among different audiences but be able to establish a connection through a 1-to-1 or 1-to-many communication process. Being able to make that connection involves not just being able to get people to listen, but also listening to what other people have to say. You must understand their needs and their questions and be able to address those, along with what you have to offer. This can be overcome by finding a balance between talking, while being sincere, but also listening and observing. Always come to a discussion with the intention of adding value and forming a bidirectional communication connection. In doing so, I learn new information and understand my audience better.
Tien: I think my biggest communication challenge is providing enough depth to a conversation. Part of that is actually knowing more about the subject or topic by doing a little bit more homework. I overcome that by making sure I am comfortable with what I am talking about or what I am responsible for discussing with others. I’ve learned that there are different ways to talk about a topic as part of a discussion and not to be too narrow when talking about something. You need to have a little more depth to add substance to the conversation.
When handling delicate topics what are the most important things to keep in mind as a communicator?
David: When topics are delicate, often you will have to be very conscious of the things you say and don’t say because sometimes you may say something that is untrue. This is the biggest fallout in a loss of communication processes and could apply to any scenario. When things are very delicate people tend to avoid certain topics and subjects. They tend to answer with things that may or may not be accurate. Always be conscious of what you’re saying and what you’re not saying, and avoid saying things that are not accurate.
Tien: I completely agree. Just take a look at the recent election. They sometimes talk about things that are not true. Delicate topics have been Hillary’s emails issues and Trump’s issues with his hotels and Trump University. Since these are delicate topics, they tend to say things that might not be true. You definitely want to refrain from doing that.
What would you consider your greatest communications success in your career?
David: I don’t think communication is something to put a milestone to. It’s a new day every day. You’re always learning, and it impacts your personal and professional life. I think the biggest learning experience for me in terms of my communication skills has been to effectively communicate with my kids. You can’t pretend with them and they actually force you to speak in more informal terms. You learn to just be yourself and be playful. You are able to connect with someone and be a part of the conversation.
Tien: Yes, absolutely. My career is ongoing. Like David said, though, you shouldn’t pick out any one success. It is about focusing on daily, weekly and throughout-your-career communications with the people around you that will help you become a great communicator one day.
What experience in your career have you learned the most from?
David: As I said earlier, listening is very important. Being able to not only speak, but observing, forming connections and facilitating a group of people through communications to achieve something is equally important. A learning experience from my career is actually from my coworker. He was one of the top sellers at Oracle before joining my last company. I was very surprised initially to hear that when I first attended a couple of meetings with him because he actually did not say much in the meetings. It took me time to learn what he actually did with customers. He was not only the communicator, but he was the facilitator, making things happen behind the scenes and moderating all of the activity around his customers’ success. It created the most enjoyable time from the customer’s stand point. You see, communications is a tool used to achieve something. It’s not just important to communicate a point but set the stage and facilitate the whole process.
What is something about the PR/communications field that you wish you could change and why?
David: I think the PR/communications field has generally been very tailored and well scripted for many company spokespeople when it comes to speaking publicly and with the media. It is so scripted it becomes really hard. We are living in a world where people’s attention spans are short. The culture and the lifestyle have changed entirely. They would rather tune into something that they search for and find themselves than sit and be bombarded with what’s on TV. What we have been talking about lately is to be authentic and sustainable with our messaging, and we have been successful as a small company in doing so. Hopefully, the impact that we are making with this approach will grow more awareness.
Tien: Agreed. Communications is a lot different than back in the day. Everything was more scripted, more rehearsed, more structured. With social media, mobile, etc. how people read the news or get information is changing. People are not watching the news every night when they come home from work anymore. They are catching their news through mobile apps that read the news to them out loud while they’re driving to and from work. Information needs to be more unique and have little interesting tidbits that people can grasp onto as opposed to having a bunch of information that is posted online.
How do you keep up with the changing PR/communications landscape?
David: I don’t think it is so much a matter of how we are keeping up, but how we can use new tools to help consumers receive information. Rather than being exposed to things by the media, consumers have a more selective approach. Consumers are getting smarter about what they tune into and we have to be aware of that. The challenge that PR people face is quickly adapting.
How do you see the PR/communications field changing in the next five years?
David: How we quickly evolve and how we get information in front of our target audiences these days is certainly a challenge for PR professionals. We will need to understand those audiences more and provide them with the right content.
Tien: I think in the next five years communications will be greatly affected by technology, especially with the ability for people to live broadcast their own news. Information will become much more competitive, convoluted and dense. Also, communications will be really cool once people start understanding what the power of virtual reality can do.
What do you to unwind?
David: Very often, people will go outside to be in nature – ski, hike, drink wine and so on. I think fundamentally, though, that this question is asking what are you unwinding from and how do you relieve that stress. The best way is to not have stress. You need to merge your professional and personal life cohesively. Find what you love to do and be yourself. This goes back to our philosophy, how we approach PR and how we tap into the outside world to share what we’re doing with others. If you can be yourself, you will relieve stress. You will enjoy what you do and the people around you. In many ways that is what I have personally as a luxury. I think we created a great environment where we don’t stress. This boosts creation and innovation.
Tien: Yes, that is what makes Wave2Wave really unique. I relieve stress by going to art and science museums.
What is your favorite city and why?
David: Each city has its own flavor, but I do have a few very unique and very enjoyable cities I have been to. I have to talk about Rome. I been there for a short period time, but it was very mind blowing. Jerusalem is absolutely amazing. As a place you can never fully comprehend the time, the space, the civilizations, all the religions, etc. If I had to pick one, Jerusalem is the one.
Tien: I would say Honolulu. It is a fun city. I enjoy the weather and the beach.
If you had a million dollars, what would you do and why?
Tien: If I had a million dollars, I would pay off my house. Practical answer.
David: Let me throw you a curve ball on this one. First off, what is a million dollars? Money is a way to buy, to pay, to exchange, to do something. What should come first – the money or doing something? Sometimes it is better to find what you want to do, and the money will come after. Most often you don’t start off with a lot of money, but you start to do what you want to do. This helps you find meaning in life, and the money follows. For example, buying our office building – I figured out how to buy it, I was able to get the bank to provide loans to get the building, and it was a good investment. Over the years, I have been able to make the place my own.