The Return of the Jeannie

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Even my wife remembers Jeannie Ong.

When our eldest daughter Nicole was born 19 years ago, the first baby hamper she received was from Jeannie’s team. My second daughter Kimberley doesn’t know who Jeannie is, but she will never forget the giant singing balloon she received during her third or fourth birthday (or maybe fifth).

I met Jeannie in the early 2000s, when she had just joined StarHub and I was still a rookie tech journalist with The Straits Times. I had joined ST as tech correspondent in my early 30s – the name title sounds big but in sooth, I was new to the game as a mid-career hire. I never forgot her exuberance, the lady who just could not stop talking at lunch. Over the years, Jeannie became a close work contact (I was the journalist, she led the PR at StarHub) and eventually someone I regard as a good friend.

When I left ST six years ago to start my own PR agency after 15 years of journalism, much of my understanding of what PR was all about was what I observed from what Jeannie and her team at StarHub practiced. The birthday gifts, came, year after year after year. There clearly were budget cuts along the way, but I knew that Jeannie understood what PR was all about – building real relationships with the media. Whenever there was a media query, the StarHub team took it seriously and would work hard to deliver good quotes, or sometimes offer background information that would not be attributable back to them.

There were times when we knocked heads – like when I said that telcos like StarHub were not trying to emancipate consumers with the arrival of Mobile Number Portability (meaning we could finally switch telcos and keep numbers) but really to continue to lock them in chains with two year contracts.

Jeannie was laid off in 2018 as part of a group retrenchment exercise. I had left the media by then, but was shocked by the news as Jeannie was always part of the telco’s inner circle. I always suspected it was office politics but I never had the chance to ask Jeannie about it.

So when the news arrived today, that Jeannie is now handling investor relations and communications for My Republic, I was simply overjoyed.

Jeannie, my friend, congratulations from the bottom of my heart. Glad to have you back, and I am sure you will be making huge tidal waves again.

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