Congrats: National Geographic Mag turns 125!

Who doesn’t envy and aspire towards the talent of the photographers who capture gorgeous picturesque landscapes, close up of a new species of insect in the Amazon or space exploration and experiments on the ISS? To celebrate the memorable 125 years, NationalGeographic.com has launched a photo blog, Proof which is edited by NationalGeographic.com director of photography Keith Jenkins. According to those on high, the idea of the blog is to take a “provocative and eclectic look” at National Geographic photography and the field overall.

Watch out as the blog will include “everything from how to edit down 60,000 photographs to 12, to which single item a photographer on a four-month assignment can’t live without.”

But don’t think it’s just the pros! Starting October 1, National Geographic plans to engage you, yes you, to participate on your first Nat Geo assignment for the magazine… this will be part of the photosharing-based #communityengagement platform (wow, that’s a mouthful!), Your Shot.

National Geographic magazine was first published in October 1888 as the official journal of the National Geographic Society, a nonprofit dedicated to funding science and exploration. Since then, the magazine has grown to 60 million monthly readers and has expanded to include the National Geographic Channel, which reaches 440 million households, as well as NationalGeographic.com, which has 27 million unique visitors each month.

Congrats on turning a venerable 125!


Work…work…work….

It’s blazing hot this summer! As I go through drafts and drafts of manuscripts, I have one beacon of hope: ice tea in a box.

Here are some pictures of what’s happening these days….

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Coming to the end of a three year project. Can’t wait to see the final book published…. Tamar; the Art of Construction by me!


How to deliver on time

Handling deadlines is a bit of a balancing act. I do not fancy myself an acrobat so being organised is #1. Trust in your team’s ability and your client’s deliverability is what needs to be built; being professional, organised and above all, polite in the face of challenges is a task in itself.

Partnership of 1 to 1….

I have had many successful projects and the ones which worked the best were partnerships with one single point of contact, typically a CEO or a c-suite executive. This partnership has always been key as they strategically knew what they were looking for and more importantly, once presented with the options, the single point of contact was able to make quick decisions. This ability to consider vast issues and make decisions under tight deadlines is critical to the success of any multi-million dollar project.

Creating a plan

In the engineering world, this is called a programme. Map out all the major tasks and marry them to a timeline. The point of this exercise is to find conflict in both manpower and deadlines. Amend as you see fit and find solutions for the challenges ahead. One should be respectful that you are only a small facet of their everyday work. There are times in when you will need a senior executive’s eye will be needed to sense check issues. If you can map out what will be needed from them at what time, the expectation will be better set for both parties.

Surprise!

Flexibility can be built into your plan, but how does one handle unforeseen challenges without throwing the schedule back a few weeks? A sub contract falling through, a delay in the timeline, a critical member of the team takes leave…. Think strategically about the challenge: budget, timeliness, manpower, etc. How will this blip in the radar affect the bigger picture? Sit down and write out a plan on how to move forward. This segways into transparency. Change is the one thing which is certain, so be open about this. Clients are not interested in hearing about the challenges. They want solutions so provide them with succinct solutions to the issues at hand.

Summary

Your brand reputation is of great importance in the industry so do what you say and keep your promises. It is important to keep to your weekly deadlines and offer to report back to your clients on a bi-weekly basis. Every few months, offer to provide an update to the executive team in the form of a short report or a 10 minute PPT.

No one can be too organised, so get into the habit. Be honest to both yourself and your client in setting the expectations on the plan of attack. Face surprises head on and find solutions. Above all, finish well. May I raise a flute of champagne to everyone on the team….Salute!


When to Work for Free (and when not to)….

Free? Who works for free in this town? The tough ethnic Chinese peasant inside me says: never! But the reality is that I am a big hearted person who loves to give back – same as the hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers around who donate their valuable time each time to help others out.

So how does one balance “free” and “paid” work in our 24/7 work environment?

If it’s not for charity, working for free is not something I recommend. But the question begs: When should one work for free?

Interning: In Hong Kong, the free labour is illegal after the implementation of the minimum wage law. But in saying that, working for lowly wages is nearly free and something we have all done to gain experience. This would be an instance to apply this philosophy as one has to start from somewhere.

Clients:  In a business with new clients, there is a courting phase of give a take. A couple of times, even after we have won the pitch, there is still a further stage in the process.  For instances like this, I have implemented a ‘taster’ which gives the client a rough sketch with fleshed out examples of what we will do for them, but not the whole picture. This is strictly free and I see it more as an investment into building a successful relationship.

Charity: Strategy, content, websites, brochures, speaking gigs…. These are things which I have done for free in the past few weeks for issues and charities I believe in. There is a time to be giving away one’s services for free but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater! There are ways to leverage on the ‘free services’ as you give back but striving to do good comes from the heart so dig down and stay focused!

  • Networking: Pro Bono work is a great way to meet new clients while also getting to know the local scene – and help grow it. This is a perfect opportunity to ‘talk shop’ and be part of the change you want to see.
  • Branding: How about being positioned a ‘sponsor’ and getting your logo placed on their marketing material? Just being there, and having your name and your company’s name on their roster helps promote your brand.
  • Recruiting: Being part of the community connects you together with young up and coming talent. Take this opportunity to find your next winning business development manager or account manager.

While we are all focused on the P&L for each account, we need to sometimes come out of the well to take note of the rest of the landscape around us. Being connected to our community is important, as is growing your business year on year. Find a balance between the two and remember to give back, for free!


Movember + Prostate Cancer Awareness = Good Times

“My mo is coming along. By the end of the month, I will be able to Twirl it.”

This month is the perfect opportunity for you to grow that awful, itchy, offensive facial hair you’ve always wanted! The key is, you won’t get the living daylights kicked outta ya because… it’s for Charity!

To the amusement and oft times, horror of the many gorgeous ladies out and about town, it is Movember, our favourite month. This is when (feral) men, traditionally pilots and bankers, let their facial hair ‘down’ and pay homage to such trail blazers like Tom, Chuck and Salvador (for the folks who need a mo-dictionary: Tom Sellek, Chuck Norris and Salvador Dali).

The Movember trend has grown in recent years but I have yet to spot a Clark Gable mo, but instead, Hong Kong women are inundated with porn star handle bars, anchor man wanna bes and Hulk Hogan pro-wrestlers.

A couple of years ago, the global event started making serious dosh in Hong Kong when professional PR men took the reins and began the campaign heavily to raise serious money for serious business. This year, the event is on Day 12 and to date, there are 1,601 registered Mo’s…. who have raised a staggering HK$1,131,965.

“Guys taking part (Mo Bros) are helping to change the face of men’s health by effectively becoming walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November and through their actions and words raise awareness by promoting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health,” wrote the Movember and Son’s Hong Kong page.

“Raising awareness and funds is vital because of the facts about prostate cancer in Hong Kong:

  • Over 1484 people are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Hong Kong each year
  • Prostate cancer is ranked No 1 in the rate of increase in new patients
  • The total number of prostate cancer cases have tripled in Hong Kong over the last 10 years
  • Life expectancy for women in Hong Kong is 86 and 80 for men”

Come support a Mo Bro and raise awareness about men’s health. I hope to see you at the rocking Gala Party to be held at Bisous!


The Art of Construction – Tamar

I am so excited as in a few months, I will be putting to bed the biggest (literally!) book in my career. Tamar, the Art of Construction will be about the design and construction of the +HK$5billion Hong Kong Government and Legislative Council headquarters. We expect the book will be complete and in our client’s hands by the beginning of 2013!

As the author and project director of this monumental project, I am so very proud of all the frontline staff who dedicated years of their lives to make this a reality. Here are a couple of pictures to wet you appetite!