FROM ITS INCEPTION in the early part of the 20th century, the public relations industry has become an integral part of modern life and has developed into a multibillion-dollar business. PR mainly involves winning attention for individuals or products while shaping public opinion. Many PR professionals will say that theirs is an invisible art, and believe that a strong story placed in a newspaper and picked up by other media organisations will have more impact than an expensive advertising campaign. Successful PR is about persuading newspapers, radio and television to accept clients' stories or product information in the form of impartial journalism rather than unconcealed advertising. PR tools include publicity, advertising, public affairs forums and lobbying senior officials to get a message across to the general population. With a background in marketing, Jen Leung, a consultant advising on marketing practices with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, Hong Kong, said her conversion from marketing luxury fashion items to PR was a natural transition. After joining a small Hong Kong recreation company in 1997, Ms Leung's next job was in marketing with a high-end fashion retailer until a friend suggested that her people and intuition skills were better suited to the PR sector. 'As someone who has a low tolerance of boredom, public relations is the ideal job for me. No two days are alike and there are always plenty of fresh challenges to keep the adrenalin pumping,' said Ms Leung, who graduated from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, with a degree in marketing. Ms Leung works as part of a team that consistently has to deliver outstanding recognition, news guidance and measurable results for a wide variety of clients' products and services. The four years she spent in New Zealand between 1993 and 1997 also provided valuable life experiences such as seeing how products and services were marketed differently compared with Asia. The laid-back lifestyle also provided an insight into the contrasting ways that marketing and public relations can be shaped and delivered to meet their target audience. Now in her fifth year with Ogilvy, Ms Leung's rise up the career ladder has been swift and rewarding. Joining the company as an account co-ordinator, she was quickly promoted to associate account co-ordinator and then to senior account co-ordinator before a further promotion to her current position. Work involves co-ordinating clients' projects with their mainland operations and working closely with Ogilvy colleagues in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Ms Leung said that within weeks of joining Ogilvy in 2000 she was working on one of the company's biggest PR and logistical projects staged in Hong Kong, the Fortune Global Forum attended by world leaders, including former United States president Bill Clinton. 'The experience was both challenging and exhilarating. We were working flat out handling and co-ordinating media requests that needed to be arranged against a backdrop of intensive security,' Ms Leung said. The day before the opening speeches, the entire Ogilvy team, including the managing director, worked around the clock. Many of Ms Leung's clients operate in the luxury branded goods and travel sector, including blue-chip companies, airlines, car manufacturers and high-end fashion designers. 'The expectations of clients, particularly blue-chip clients or those who market well-known branded goods, can be extremely high, and the pressure is always on to deliver better and more imaginative ideas,' Ms Leung said. As a consultant advising on marketing practices, she must keep in daily contact with clients. Previous experience and an understanding of the fashion industry and how it operates is an advantage when suggesting new concepts. Ideas might come from TV programmes, magazines or something that crops up in conversations with friends. The job also involves helping clients launch new products, creating awareness campaigns, and organising media interviews for management and personalities who endorse products and services. She also needs to keep up to date with industry developments that might have an impact on her clients and to look for opportunities to utilise concepts used in one industry to promote another. 'Continually investigating opportunities to leverage ideas is one of the most fascinating aspects of my job,' she said. 'I am lucky that I am able to work with a diverse range of people who have different roles in my client companies and help them to deliver their messages.' Much of her time is spent working with clients to determine their point of view or theme. In the PR industry this is usually known as the 'key message'. No matter what the questions are from journalists, this should be at the root of her clients' answers. She also understands that a good, useable quote may look simple, but it is not easy on short notice. Very few people can come up with a colourful quote on the fly. It takes preparation, which calls for a clear understanding of clients' objectives and strategies. Educating and providing the right information while recognising that journalists have their own agendas requires PR personnel to look at the other side of the media curtain. Ms Leung said success lay in the creativity and value of the information her clients presented. 'You can never promise front-page coverage but when a client's message appears in all forms of the media it indicates that you are on the right track,' Ms Leung said. She said those considering joining the profession must have creativity, initiative, good judgment and the ability to express thoughts clearly and simply. Decision making, problem-solving and research skills were also important. People who choose public relations as a career need an outgoing personality, self-confidence, an understanding of human psychology and an enthusiasm for motivating people. They should be competitive but able to function as part of a team and be open to new ideas. 'There are so many aspects involved in this dynamic industry but my greatest thrill is just walking into the office and witnessing the incredible array of talent, commitment and good humour of my colleagues.' Salaries PR director $45,000 to $65,000 Five to 10 years' experience PR manager $35,000 to $45,000 Five to 10 years' experience Corporate communications manager $22,000 to $35,000 Five to eight years' experience Assistant PR manager $20,000 to $30,000 One to five years' experience Account manager $20,000 to $30,000 Three to five years' experience Senior PR executive $15,000 to $20,000 One to five years' experience Account executive $10,000 to $15,000 Two years' experience PR executive $8,000 to $15,000 One to five years' experience Qualities Required Constant updating of clients' industry trends and requirements. The ability to work long hours and under pressure. An interest in clients' products and services, and the willingness to see them succeed. Decision making and problem-solving skills. A sense of humour. An understanding of human psychology. Enthusiasm for motivating people.