(Courtesy of Kennedy, Voice & Berliner)
PR executive Dian Noeh Abubakar uses a mentoring approach to get the most out of her employees.
Public relations professional-turned-entrepreneur Dian Noeh Abubakar is an advocate of using mentorship to develop talents, an approach she says provides a positive impact not only in the business she runs, but also in the PR industry as a whole.
The founder and CEO of PR company Kennedy, Voice and Berliner said that enhancing the skills and capacities of talented individuals was one of the most crucial and challenging issues in the communications industry in Indonesia. As such, she paid much attention to the issue, especially since starting to run her own business around three years ago.
Thanks to more than one-and-a-half decades of experience in the PR industry and productive interaction with several people whom she considers mentors, she has found her method of tackling resource problems, at least in PR startup: mentorship.
She learned the value of mentorship from her experience of working at several PR companies.
'When it came to a task or assignment, I always asked my boss to provide a clear picture of the task that I should perform instead of just giving a direction or an instruction to do this and that,' recalled the 41-year old.
She said that mentorship allows subordinates to clearly understand the objectives of performing a task, for example.
Dian herself acknowledged that her decision to become a PR entrepreneur was in part the fruitful outcome of mentorship by several people with whom she engaged in her previous experience as a professional.
She names Chris Kanter, vice chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), and also a deputy chairman of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), has been one of her most influential mentors.
'I learned from him about commitment, trust and things related to leadership through examples in what he said and did, instead of theory,' she said.
'It helped me develop myself, not just my skills but also my personal growth.'
For Dian, the mentorship knowledge that she gained from previous experience is not something that is easily lost, but has been soldered in her heart and ingrained in her blood. This explains how mentorship has become an approach to human resources development and how it has become her company's corporate culture.
She hires talents, mostly fresh university graduates. Under the mentorship program, they are trained, given concrete examples of PR work and challenged to lead projects.
Given the tough, deadline-based job, similar to journalism, PR agents should be physically and spiritually strong and mentally mature because, like journalists, they face many challenges. One job finishes and another one is waiting, she said.
'PR deadlines are one day ahead of journalists because PR agents have to prepare answers for the questions journalists raise in press conferences,' said Dian, laughing.
A two-year stint as an intern at SBS Radio Melbourne Australia in the mid-1990s has also helped her understand the perspective of journalists.
'Both PR agents and journalists share a similarity in terms of protecting public interest,' she argued, adding, 'PR agents should not only be strategic, creative and dynamic but also love story telling.'
Now Dian is able to reap what she has sown, especially when it comes to recruits following her mentorship program.
Through trial and error, the PR mentees have learned much and evolved into capable employees 'whom I can entrust with part of my work,' she pointed out.
With part of her work delegated to her staff, she now has more time for activities outside the office. 'I now spend around 60 percent of my working time at the office, compared to 100 percent when my company was in the startup phase,' she said.
She now also spends part of her working time on mentoring people from different institutions, including the Jakarta Founder Institute, the Prasetya Mulya Business School and the ASEAN Business and Economic Students Association.
'It is simply because we need to mean something to others in life,' said Dian, explaining the reasons for her engagement in mentorship.
'Internally, mentorship is a means of contributing to the industry where we work, by developing talents. Externally, mentorship is the same thing. I also advise non-PR professionals on how PR is important for business, so as to help the PR industry and business in general grow.'
'Thanks to Google, my students can have access to relevant information on the subject which I give in a lecture. This has driven me to always keep learning. But I enjoy it.'
According to her, one positive impact that CEOs gain from mentoring is 'the CEO feels happy and fulfilled. I am happy to see my team whom I previously mentored now mentoring their subordinates.'
Anyone can be a mentor but 'a real mentor should have such qualities as passion, experience, generosity, skills and knowledge,' she said.
Bandung-born Dian, who is of Acehnese descent, began her career with Ogilvy Public Relations in 1998, when Indonesia was embarking on its era of reform. At that time, the PR industry was beginning to show promise with the start of democracy.
'PR can grow as an industry when the democratic climate is ensured,' she said.
With more companies adopting a global outlook, the demand for PR services is on the increase.
According to her, there is no difference between local and foreign clients in terms of the PR service approach, as many local companies now operate under global principles, including collaboration.
'How we relate to each other from the beginning should be clearly defined. The way we operate is that we consider the client as a partner. If there is a problem, we discuss it and reach a satisfactory outcome.'
When it comes to doing their jobs, PR agents commonly establish relationships with media workers, especially journalists, for the interests of their clients. PR agents are often considered to be somewhat pushy, especially with regard to the publication of press release-based news stories.
On how she usually manages her relationship with journalists, she simply said, 'We just have to understand each other and be sincere.'
Following her decision to become an entrepreneur, Dian is engaged in several interrelated activities as part of her strategy to grow her business.
With Apindo, one of the associations in which she is actively involved, she is responsible for marketing and PR, while with Kadin, 'I help prepare trade agreements, through which I meet international businesspeople, which can boost our international network, which at the end of the day will contribute to our company's growth, said Dian who is also active in the public relations association Perhumas.
To follow up her constantly nurtured vision of 'creating impact and growing others', she has also established communities, including Impact Forum and Voice of Startups, whose members are second generation businesspeople.
'Such communities will at the end of the day also contribute to our business growth. If we help others to grow, then we'll see our own growth accelerate,' she noted.
Undertaking business-related activities five days a week, the young entrepreneur has a tight schedule indeed.
But, she says, she also performs an unrelated activity that is equally pleasurable: doing housework.
'I sweep the floor and I am happy to do it.' (Sudibyo M. Wiradji)