My unusual blend of education and experience equips me with a profound understanding of human motivation which provides unique insights into how to draw public attention, influence public perception, and guide behavior, as well as how to both develop and critically evaluate PR and marketing strategy and tactics. This is only half the equation, however. Senior managers must also be adept at creating a sense of community within their business unit, operating in a lean budgetary environment, and honing an interpersonal style that flows around obstacles rather than rolling over them.
Unlike most senior marketing and PR professionals, my university experience was not focused on business. I hold an interdisciplinary baccalaureate degree in Comparative Cultural Studies from Western Washington University, with the majority of my coursework in sociology, cultural anthropology, and history. In short, I studied contemporary human cultures, learning to capture and communicate “webs of meaning,” surveying the interworking of cultures from an inside perspective. This provided me with with a deep understanding of the nature of social networks and communities, both online and off.
After graduating I was accepted to the Pennsylvania State University for a Master’s in Counseling. Classified as a “Research 1” institution (highest research activity), the primary mission of the faculty at Penn State is research, thus while training to become a future psychotherapist, I took extra courses and gained a foundation in statistics, research methodology, and critical thinking that serves me well when: parsing Google Analytics; evaluating the plausibility of proposed PR programs and marketing campaigns, assessing the impact of efforts underway; and uncovering indicators that positively correlate with ROI. At the same time I was learning how to see the root causes of human behavior, and understand what truly drives people. From this I learned three truths that form the bedrock of my work in PR and marketing:
- All human behavior is goal directed and purposeful: one has a reason for everything one does.
- Every motivation is elicited by an emotion, and each emotion drives different kinds of behaviors.
- If you can understand the emotion, you can understand the root cause of the behavior, and if you can elicit the emotion, you can influence opinion and/or behavior. Effective PR and marketing is eliciting the right emotion at the right time in your target audience.
After completing my Master’s degree and working as a child and family therapist, my first entrepreneurial venture came in 2004 when I co-founded a publishing company. As CEO, I innovated new uses of social media for crowdsourced content creation. The following year I made the move to Asia to pursue opportunities there, running my company from abroad while working as an English communications consultant for the Korean military. I then took on another leadership role in 2008 as the communications director and spokesman for a professional association of expatriates in Korea.
In 2009, I reunited with my baccalaureate discipline when I was hired as CEO of a Manila-based management consulting firm that utilized anthropologists to study consumer behavior. A year later I poured my knowledge of ethnography, human motivation, and social media into my own consultancy, which I directed until it was acquired by one of the largest public relations firms in the country. While heading their digital services division, I handled Krispy Kreme and launched Jamba Juice in the Philippines. A year later I opened the doors on Tony Ahn & Co., the Philippines first digital public relations agency, providing marketing communications and PR for a number of national and international brands, including other PR and media corporations that needed help with digital: the Group M companies, Zenith Optimedia, Omnicom, and others. During that time I have advised presidential candidates, de-escalated national crises for banks and mining companies, judged the annual PR awards for the Public Relations Society of the Philippines, and served as interim CMO of a regional startup launching in the Philippines (I set their launch strategy, set up their marketing department, hired the marketing staff, and advised on my replacement over three very busy months). All told, I led Tony Ahn & Co. for seven years, until I decided to make the move back to the United States, after a total of 14 years abroad.
I am currently writing a book on the evolutionary psychology of PR and marketing. For more details on how I think and work, check out the PR and marketing case studies I’ve uploaded to this site. And thanks for reading. 😊