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Personality of The Week: Freda Liu

Personality of The Week: Freda Liu

We all know her voice from the radio show “Enterprise” that goes on Business.fm. Freda Liu talks about the essential toolkit for business — from learning what to do and what not to do,to the intricacies of keeping it all humming together nicely — almost daily and have her listeners enraptured every time she goes on air. This power mummy doesn’t only rock the airwaves, she has recently released a book on how to make the delicate skill of managing public relations to work in your favour for your business cheekily titled, “PR Yourself: Red Lipstick and Amazing Shoes“. We caught up with her over coffee to find out what other projects she has up her sleeve and how she does it all without so much as a smear to her signature bright led lipstick.

 

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Tell us a little about how you got into broadcasting.

It was by accident. I had just come back from Australia because my father was very ill. I returned to Kuching and a friend of mine told me that there was an audition for a TV show. I told her my father was very ill, I haven’t got time for this. Later my father passed away, so I wasn’t doing much after that. My friend called me up again and asked if I still wanted to try out for the audition. Surprised that it wasn’t over yet, I thought why not. I went for the audition.

I don’t know how many people auditioned for it – I think I was the only person – I got the job.

It was for a show RTM did many years ago with SBC (Singapore Broadcasting Corporation), which is now Media Corp. It was a live show they do every two years and that’s how they get their relationship building done. That year it happened to be held in Kuching. There was another male host who spoke Malay and they wanted an English-speaking partner for him. Also, because the show was going to be held in Kuching, they insisted that the the female host had to be Sarawakian and so without experience or anything, I went live on TV for the first time.

What was very interesting about that show was that the heads of RTM and SBC saw me there. After that they called me up, got in touch with me to go in for an audition with them and sent the tape over to KL. They told me anytime I needed a job in KL, I could always call them up and I can read the news for them, or something. I never wanted to do this as a full-time career. It wasn’t something I studied, it wasn’t my life-long dream. I always just took it as a part-time thing.

When I came over to KL later and got a job in Public Relations and I called up Mr. Salleh and told him I was in KL. And we just got started.

So, I worked as a public relations consultant for Edelman and later joined IBM and radio was always just a part-time thing  and that went on for a while.

How I got into BFM (Business FM)? An IBM  colleague who is now my producer, Noelle Lim, called me and said there was a radio station coming up that would be specializing in business. First thing I asked was where it was located. When I found out it was going to be at BU8, which is only two traffic lights from my house, I was ecstatic. That’s the only reason why I even considered the job. If it was anywhere in KL, I wouldn’t have been bothered. I was still working with IBM and I wasn’t very sure if I could take on the job full-time. Moreover, I also took into consideration if I left my job at IBM to move to BFM, I would be getting a smaller paycheck. But in the end, I did join BFM and it everything just grew from there.

It’s been 5 years now since I joined BFM.

The wonders of this job is that despite having been at it for quite a long time now, I’m still learning. Everything that I’ve learnt in the past proves applicable even today.

You’re very passionate about the entrepreneurial industry of Malaysia.

Yes, because that’s something that I also do. I have other interests and projects of my own outside of radio broadcasting and I love that entrepreneurial  spirit. I love it. It is this spirit that will help Malaysia to grow by continually being innovative and continually start small businesses. That’s what drives a country. It’s the SMEs that keep a country moving. I love hearing their stories – how they got through their struggles, what keeps them doing what they do.

The show that I host, “Enterprise” is the right show for me. I love the idea that when people listen to the interviews I do, they are empowered and encouraged to continue the business that they have. I love it that they can get advice – free advice.

You’ve interviewed many entrepreneurs over the years. What would you say is the thing most of them have in common?

Persistence. Passion can only take you so far, but after that it’s the persistence and commitment to see things through that will stand you apart. Passion will die.

Is broadcasting a very challenging field?

It’s challenging but it’s fun. I think that is the case if you can find something that aligns with your values. There is the work to do – like when you’re about to interview someone, you have to do your research, you gotta find out a little bit more about the person and get more information prior. I don’t find that challenging, I find it natural. Maybe its because I enjoy it, but that’s just something you have to do.

 

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What made you decide to write your book, “PR Yourself: Red Lipstick and Amazing Shoes”?

I hear so many inspiring entrepreneurial stories everyday I feel it’s just right if I took all the lessons I’ve learned from these interviews I’ve done and put it into a book so other people can benefiy from it. It hits home better when you put a name to the stories of entrepreneurial and PR success. We have Christy Ng in the book and we told her story of how she had almost zero PR budget and how she solve the problem and now, her business is booming. Her Facebook page just works, I don’t know how, but it does. We also have Book Excess who is the underdog of the book retailing industry but with the Big Bad Wolf sale, they really got everyone’s attention. Big Bad Wolf happened on very low budget too.

So their stories resonate with all my own experiences when it comes to utilizing PR tools – to work with an agency or not, depending on the budget you have. Even if you know what to do, I believe when your business gets bigger, you will eventually need help.

The main message behind this book is that even if you know the laws, you will still need a lawyer.

You’re always brimming with ideas which you put into your shows. What drives you?

I  still enjoy doing this because when people come up to me and say “I learned something or. I really enjoyed the show….”  that gives me my joy , that my shows benefit the community. Sometimes God aligns you to certain things to fulfil your purpose and maybe that is my value.

That said, I also know that I am a person who cannot be doing the same thing all the time. Doors just open and you look at your career and suddenly you’ve progressed so far. I just keep thinking about how my ideas can benefit the station, how can it benefit the end users and develop new things and new interests along the way.

You’re also a mum. How do you achieve your ideal of a work-life balance?

Lucky for me, my job is very good to me. Most days I finish early at about 3p, so I get to go home in time to see my son come back from school. We’d spend time together, get his homework done, have a meal together, and then I put him to bed.

I don’t think there’s such a thing as work-life balance. It’s priorities. You will make time for what is important. If you’re after your career, focusing mainly on climbing up the corporate ladder, there will be unbalance. It’s a very conscious effort as well.

When I was working with IBM, I was working from home. I could watch my son grow. At that time I chose to take a backseat with my career. Watching my son grow was was more important then.

I knew for me, if I wanted to move up the corporate ladder, something will have to give. It’s as balanced as you want it to be. It’s a decision you have to make. Sometimes you’ll have to take a pay cut to do something else.

I think when you like what you do, it helps as well. Also everything I do, every decision I make, I do with a conscious effort. I’ve never worked in the KL city center before. It’s one of the things that even before I have a family, I don’t want to work in the city. I’ll be caught in traffic and it will be a waste of time. There have been job offers there, but I always turned them down because hours of my life will be killed just being in traffic. So it was a very conscious effort not to work in the city.

The same applies to everything else. Know what you want and choose.

What virtue would you say is most important to a woman? What areas of a woman’s life should she pay most attention to?

It’s going to be very different for different people. But I think being patient with yourself is important. Always take the time to reflect on yourself. I’m speaking on my own behalf because I’m a very go-go-go person. This is something I learned along the way. Sometimes you got to stop and reflect. I know I get very edgy when I’m not doing something and sometimes it’s to mask something else. So I always make a conscious effort to stop and think, why?

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Always be in the learning mode. Always know that you don’t know. You’re going to go through ups and downs, you’re going to feel pain and you will have to take risks somewhere along the way – embrace it. Always ask yourself “What have I learned from this experience?”

Do you ever feel jaded? You’ve done like over 5000 interviews.

No. We try to think of different angles to do different interviews so things are always fresh. Everybody has something to share and I always learn from each and every interview. I always learn something from everyone I meet.

 

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Do you have any word of advice for the future career women out there?

March to the beat of your own drum, and don’t compare. If you find something that interests you, pursue it. If it means taking lessons to learn something while you’re still having a full time job, make time for it anyway. It will all come together at some stage. There’s a whole big world out there. Always take the time to open your eyes to other things. Everybody has their own journey, so don’t measure other people’s lives against your own. They may have other definitions of success.

What are some personal quotes or words you hold on to when times are tough? Any words of wisdom that you would like to share with our readers?

You’re all unique in your own way. You’re all special in your own way. You define what your definition of success is. Once you’ve found that, everything is going to be easy. The journey is going to be exciting and fun. Don’t listen to what other people expect you to be. Once you’ve identified your core values, your gifts, you’ll be successful in anything you put your heart into.

What keeps me going is knowing that I stand to learn new things everyday. Experiment, try different things out. You’ll find that it really is the journey, not the destination that matters. Enjoy that process.

 

 

2 Comments

  1. James Oh
    / Reply

    Great inspiring story.

    Well done. Cheers and will come back to read more of such an interesting, insightful and inspiring stroies

    • Emmagem Admin
      / Reply

      Thanks James, for the words of encouragement, read more of our other personalities as well..and thank you for spreading the good word..

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