Advisor Insights with Scott Kronick: PR Guru

Having lead the Asia-Pacific arm of public relations giant Ogilvy for the last thirty years, Certified Chair™ Scott Kronick‘s career portfolio boasts experience and achievements most could only dream of. Scott’s career in China has seen Ogilvy emerge as the biggest international public relations firm in the critical market. After stepping back from a seven-year role as CEO at Ogilvy in 2021, he now plays a senior advisory role to the firm in Asia.

Throughout his career, Scott has served both multinational companies looking to build their businesses in China and throughout Asia, as well as Chinese and Asian companies looking to expand their businesses globally. On top of advising corporate clients, Scott has provided senior counsel to various governmental bodies, including for the Beijing Olympic Games, as well as public branding advice for municipalities in China.

Given his deep China and communications experience, Scott is a leading media trainer and commentator on trends in marketing communications, brand building, storytelling and market entry into China. After thirty-five years of working in public relations in the United States and throughout China, Scott is now embarking on a journey of studying, writing and teaching what he has learned over the span of his career so far. He regularly contributes to a variety of news media and journals, as well as written his own book, “The Lighter Side of China”, which highlights his professional and personal life of twenty-five years in Greater China.

As an advisory board member for the Special Olympics, a role he is very passionate about, Scott has had the chance to meet many like-minded advisors, some of whom he’s gone on to work with. Referencing author Jim Collins, Scott is a fan of the “Surface Area Luck” theory: “Taking opportunities when they come and understanding that luck passes us by, sometimes multiple times, and it is really what we end up doing with it.” What Scott takes from this is don’t be lazy in building new relationships. “Make that extra call, go to that additional meeting, put yourself in unfamiliar situations, and don’t be afraid to make a connection with that person you feel won’t be interested.” The more people that you interact with and share what you’re doing, the greater the chance of intersecting with something interesting. Given our core values at the Advisory Board Centre, we are very much on board with this line of thinking!

In this Advisor Insights interview, Scott shares his extensive career experience in the public relations space, and how it’s intersected and emboldened his foray further into the advisory space. He values greatly the importance of obtaining an outside perspective through an advisory board for business owners who have “tunnel vision” on what they need to do. Having an “on the ground perspective” ensures the right market insight, with advisors knowing what to do and what to look out for.

Best practice is bringing a varied array of different viewpoints to an organisation or a client to help them share a perspective on something that they might not be looking out for. By having different people involved and creating an inclusive environment, advisors can feel free to share what they’re best at. And sometimes the greatest and most unique ideas come from some of the quietest people. I think it’s really important for organisations to bring in people that have a totally different perspective.

Check out Scott’s blog Monday Morning Mojo for in-depth thought leadership on current topics.

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Louise Broekman: I’m here with Certified Chair Scott Kronick over in Asia. Welcome, Scott. I’m very interested in your and your experience with advisory boards, but maybe to start with, are you OK to share a bit about your background?

Scott Kronick: Sure, I am a thirty-five-year employee of Ogilvy and work and, and particularly lead the public relations throughout Asia-Pacific for the last 30 years. I’m a public relations person by profession and worked a bit in New York before coming out to Asia, but I’ve spent about 50% of my life in the United States and 50% of my time in Asia. And we’ve built a large business throughout Asia. I think we’re one of the largest international public relations networks in Asia. In China, we have the biggest office where I resided until the end of last year when I stepped down from my leadership role and instead now play an advisory role with the company and do some things on my own. I’ve had a full career of being a public relations person throughout Asia-Pacific.

Louise Broekman: That’s great. And Scott, I remember when we first met, you were telling me about the instance when Ogilvy implemented an advisory board for its China operations. Do you want to share a bit of that story?

Scott Kronick: So I must tell you that I am the biggest fan of putting advisory board recommendations into my client operations because I’ve had such a great experience. I just finished running one for a client of mine that just was incredibly invaluable for them and helped me also as a professional. I swear by these, but I learned this – and prior to even meeting you and why I was so excited about joining your network years ago, it must have been, maybe more than a decade ago. I ran a government relations business in China, and government’s very important, and our CEO at the time said to me, “I think all of our executives at Ogilvy could learn from outside counsel from others in the market.”

Sometimes we’re too inward-looking, and many organisations were like that, so he said, “Could you gather a collection of experts in different areas in China and come and just sit, and I’ll invite the leaders of the business (and will moderate a session) and have them tell us what they think we should be doing. So I had a Chinese professor from Tsinghua University, I had a former diplomat – so a mixture of Chinese and Westerners, and we had about five people. We had one of China’s leading western economists, and each of them came in and said, “This is what’s happening in China. This is where it’s leading. If I was running a branding business like yours or a public relations business, I would do this.” And each of them and our CEO at the time, Miles Young, he’s a brilliant operator, he was fascinated by all the comments. There was one professor from Tsinghua University, and he said to them, “If I was you, I would do for the Chinese government and municipalities in the branding area, what you do for companies.”

And that led to a side conversation later on, and we set up a program called the Tsinghua Obi Center for Public Branding. And basically, it was a study we called the branding states practice, which looked at how city-states and countries and everything brand themselves and are using communications to build a reputation. And we were early on in that, and that gave us a real bump. So at the time when every city was looking for, “oh my gosh, Chendu wants to go and brand themselves as a travel destination and Shanghai as a destination investment,” we were getting all these calls from different municipalities and what to do. It led to kind of us being the experts. We did a ton of workshops. We’ve done a ton of thought leadership around this, and it led us to be experts in the area of public branding. And it really gave us a boost to this day. We get cities, and we get countries, and we get other offices within the Ogilvy network calling us up, asking for our thought leadership in this area. So that came out of an advisory board meeting in an idea from one of the advisors.

Louise Broekman: That’s incredible. You just never know where those conversations will go when you get a group of people together!

Scott Kronick: The importance of getting an outside perspective for people who kind of have their tunnel vision on what their jobs are and what they need to do, is so important and so valuable. And since then for global CEOs that have come out to China, when I tell that story, I’ve had my clients or the CEOs of the businesses out here say, “can you pull together experts that can sit around and we can have a conversation about what’s going on in the market? What should we do? What should we look out for? Or what are the real things on the ground?” I mean, the importance of having an on the ground perspective versus what you read in the global media for many visiting executives to China or many people that are important in running global businesses is very important. So I’m bullish on the whole advisory board concept and have put them as a recommendation for many of our clients.

Louise Broekman: That’s terrific. And you are personally involved in advisory boards in start-ups and scale-ups with the Special Olympics. Scott, you’ve had various lenses on advisory boards – what does best practice mean for you and the advisory board sector for the future?

Scott Kronick: I think best practice is bringing a varied array of different viewpoints to an organisation or a client to help them share a perspective on something that they might not be looking out for. So I think that is getting an array of different people involved and making sure that you create an inclusive environment where they can share and feel free to share what they’re best at. And sometimes the greatest and most different ideas come from some of the quietest people. I think it’s really important for organisations to bring in people that have a totally different perspective.

Now, with that, you mentioned the Special Olympics. I mean, I love that for myself, because first of all, I love to be involved in something as meaningful as the Special Olympics, which is mostly with people with intellectual disabilities. Second of all, the quality of people that I sit on the advisory board with I’ve reached out to them later on and asked them to join my advisory board. So just there’s something that I learned from that famous author, Jim Collins, called “Surface Area Luck”. And that is the more people that you talk to, you interact with, and you talk about the things that you’re doing – the greater impact it has on your chances of intersecting with something interesting and doing something that comes from just a chance meeting with someone that you might not have originally come in contact with. So I’m a fan!

Louise Broekman: Thank you so much for sharing that. And also for the good work that you’re doing in advisory boards, and it’s wonderful that you’re part of our global community. So I look forward to future stories Scott of your current ad adventures that you have now,

Scott Kronick: My pleasure, I am delighted, and I really appreciate being part of the Advisory Board Centre and have learned so much from you as well – so I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Published: 27 January 2022