A mother of two, Davis has extensive experience counselling clients on corporate communications and stakeholder relations in the US and Asia. She has provided issues and crisis-management consultation across a range of scenarios including high-profile boycotts, accidents, animal rights activism, multi-geographical product recalls, and regulatory challenges, for clients as diverse as Lenovo, Huawei Technologies, Procter & Gamble, Mercedes-Benz and the Korean Ministry of Health.
An accomplished writer who initially intended to work as a journalist, Davis has contributed articles to a number of publications including the Wall Street Journal. She claims that there has never been a more exciting time to work as a PR practitioner, particularly as a woman. Davis is based in Hong Kong.
How did you get into the PR industry?
My passion has always been writing. Following in my grandmother’s footsteps, I pursued a journalism degree. It was clear early on that I gravitated more toward advocacy than reporting. After my first job in an ad agency, I migrated to PR to flex my writing, creativity and client service skills together. In ad agencies, those were different roles, but I loved them all, so PR was a natural for me.
I’ve stayed in consulting because the fast-paced variety and energy of agency life are addictive. The spectacular range of client issues that I’ve encountered - from the fascinating to the unimaginable - could fill volumes. I’ve never understood why there haven’t been more TV dramas centred in a PR firm. The material is limitless!
Who was your career inspiration?
Fleishman-Hillard Chairman John Graham heavily influenced my career. His vision for growth took a single office in Midwestern America to more than 80 worldwide. On the day before I left for Hong Kong in 1997, John met with me to offer advice and make sure I was prepared for the challenges ahead. As always, he stressed the importance of fostering a strong people-first culture. As we expanded in Asia Pacific from one office to 13 in a relatively short time, the collaborative culture and values inspired by John continue to be a positive driving force.
What is your PR philosophy?
Reputation is a company’s most valuable asset. Communicating values such as integrity, transparency, high ethical standards and corporate citizenship is as important as financial performance in defining perception and attracting customers and partners. Our increasingly interconnected world is demanding more authenticity and accountability. A reputation for doing the right things right goes a long way, especially when issues arise.
Digitally integrated communications are a must for building and maintaining control of reputation. Engaging in the dialogue, even leading it, must not be feared.
Why aren’t there more women at the top in PR?
Our society, our economy, our lifestyles are all being fundamentally reshaped by the leadership of women. In an industry heavily populated by females, it is no longer extraordinary for them to be in top positions in PR. Leading by persuasion and consensus-building are common management styles among women and at the same time, effective communications strategies. It’s natural that women excel at the top in PR. Our time has come. The future belongs to agencies that get that.
Is the industry doing enough to attract female talent?
The PR industry is rich with female talent. The challenge is retaining them because the competition for communications experts is fierce. Companies must accommodate different life stages among women to attract and retain them. That includes flexible work arrangements, mobile technology, secondments, leadership training and mentoring programs.
What advice would you give to young women looking to advance their careers in PR?
Find a respected mentor to guide and teach you, and when your turn comes, be a supportive mentor to others. Do your homework and always come to the table with a point of view. Feed your mind and stoke your creativity by living a well-rounded life outside of work. Women have an innate advantage when it comes to understanding the increasing power of the female-driven economy. Use it!
What was your biggest challenge in 2009?
I gave birth to my second son in two years during the worst economic recession in decades. I don’t know which was more painful! Managing through 2009 drew on all my experience gained from the Asian economic crisis in 1998, the dot-com downturn and SARS. There was no better preparation for leading amid such turmoil and uncertainty.
And your biggest achievement?
Looking back, I’m proud that we managed to continue to grow and make significant progress in building our public affairs and digital business, despite the pressures. The quality of our management team was never stronger or more apparent.
They made it possible for me to juggle a new baby in a quite challenging year work-wise. They are my inspiration and a big reason why I enjoy my job so much.
What are your expectations for 2010?
You can expect more news from Fleishman-Hillard this year as we further expand our footprint and make other exciting moves on our aggressive growth path in Asia.
I celebrate my 20th anniversary at Fleishman-Hillard this year. Over the last two decades, I’ve probably had about 14 different jobs. My job in 2010 will certainly be different than it was last year. There has never been a more exciting time to be working in PR in Asia Pacific than right now.