PR has deep meaning for ex-translator

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 March, 2012, 12:00am


Claudia Choi, managing director of EBA Communications, is not a 'typical' public relations (PR) woman. She is placid, soft-spoken, and was without big intentions or ambitions to seek an 'exciting' career in PR when she joined the industry 23 years ago.

Back then, Choi - a fresh translation graduate from the University of Hong Kong - wanted to work for the government as an administrative officer or a simultaneous interpreter for the city's courts.

Instead, she was referred by a classmate's brother to interview for 'a company in Central' that was looking for a translator.

'I wasn't prepared, as I had no idea what the company really did,' Choi recalls. 'It was about 7pm or 8pm, and there were only two people left in the office - the interviewer and a graphic designer,' she says.

'I was given two articles to translate from English into Chinese. One was about the WTO [World Trade Organisation], the other was on the World Cup. Two or three days later, I became a member of staff there.'

The company was Gavin Anderson, now Kreab Gavin Anderson. At first, Choi was mainly responsible for translating documents in her capacity as an account executive.

'Soon after, I started doing jobs like liaising with media, writing press releases, and meeting clients.' Choi says.

She climbed up the ranks, becoming the director of Chinese services at Gavin Anderson by the time she left the company four years later. She then found herself in some kind of career wilderness.

'I was looking for a university job - as I liked the [campus] atmosphere - and was also considering studying for a master's or a PhD. Soon after, I got a job offer from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in PR,' says Choi.

But she gave up the chance to work for a university when another PR job came along - an offer from Euan Barty Associates, now EBA Communications.

'When Euan Barty heard from his wife - a former colleague of mine - that I had left [Gavin Anderson], he invited me to join his company. I took the offer, as I felt he had trust in me and would offer me enough freedom.'

Choi's first mission was to set up a Chinese-language operation for the tech-focused PR veteran.

According to Choi, it was quite challenging as there were hardly any 'technology' coverage in the Chinese media at the time. 'But thanks to the advancement and increasing popularity of IT products, we have more and more mediums for our 'products' to receive exposure,' she adds.

Choi says her most memorable experience was helping bring Bill Gates of Microsoft to China in 1993. 'We only had two weeks to prepare [the trip], and the greatest difficulty was that we were not that familiar with the 'China system' at the time,' she says, adding the event turned out well in the end.

In 1995, Choi established EBA's first China branch in Beijing. A few years later, branches in Shanghai and Guangzhou were opened.

Choi became managing director in 2008, the same year she earned her Executive MBA degree.

'I was offered the post [of MD] in 2005, but I wasn't ready at the time due to my insufficient managerial skills. So I told management to give me some time to study first,' Choi says, adding she did not accept the study subsidy her employer planned to offer, because 'it was not company policy, and, so, would have been unfair had I been the exception.'

Choi marked her 20th year with EBA in February. 'I am not a workaholic. I go to the office at 9am and leave by 8pm each day - and I go dancing at the weekends. I also enjoy reading,' says Choi, who is single.

She's been borrowing books from her teenage niece. Asked why she's reading juvenile pulp, she replies, showing her constant curiosity: 'I am interested to know and understand more what [teenagers] think.'