Maybe I’m naïve but I’ve always believed that good things would come from good work.

So when my boss come up to me one day and said: “Hey, we’ll most likely be winning a regional PR award for Maverick,” I was nonchalant.

Well, we deserve such an award, I thought. I had seen first-hand over the past couple of years how hard everyone in Maverick worked in coming up with creative ideas, developing communications plans for clients and took pains in providing our clients with the best advice they can muster.

But then my boss, Ong, sprang the surprise: “And you will be coming with me to Kuching to receive the award.”

I was taken aback. Wow! I never dreamed of representing all my colleagues and Maverick itself to receive an award. On top of that I get to rub shoulders with other PR professionals throughout the ASEAN region and I get to visit the Cat City, Kuching (its the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak in north Borneo). And it would be my first time ever at a regional awards event. Wow!

Receiving the award on behalf of Maverick at the 2nd ASEAN PR Excellence Awards

So on April 29th I found myself in Kuching, at the 2nd ASEAN PR Excellence Awards holding a trophy and certificate that proclaimed Maverick as the Best PR Agency in the ASEAN region.

The award was given out by the ASEAN PR Network (APRN).

I received the award by APRN Chair Prita Kemal Gani herself. I’ve known her since my days as a journalist. To meet her in person and receive an award from her organization that  represents over 160,000 PR professionals in the region was an honor.

Best PR Agencies Gold Award from the 2nd ASEAN PR Excellence Award

The event itself is part of The 2nd ASEAN International PR Conference (APRC), where the speakers addressed landmark issues and development in PR. They spoke about subjects like the importance of integrating paid, earned, shared, and owned channels; the best approach to crisis communications; and how PR could keep up in this disruptive era of information.

Among the speakers, the one who impressed me most was AirAsia Communications Group Head Audrey Progastama Petriny.  She shared with the audience the importance of team work when it came to crisis management. She spoke about how she had just delivered a baby when news about the crash reached her. Being in a hospital and then having a newborn to take care of she was able to handle the situation only because everyone in the AirAsia team pull together and helped out each other.

Audrey Progastama Petriny, Group Head of Communications AirAsia, shares the importance of team work when it came to crisis management

Ong Hock Chuan, Maverick Managing Partner, shares about Maverick culture

I also had ample opportunities to network with fellow professionals, string up conversations with Institute PR Malaysia Vice President Jaffri Amin Osman, Former President of Public Relations Institute of New Zealand Fiona Cassidy, and other PR professionals from the ASEAN region. We had a welcome dinner on the eve of the award and watched the awesome Kuching Waterfront Musical Fountain.

And Kuching. I loved the city with its many old buildings, the colonial Court House, the Astana (where a bule became the Rajah of Sarawak – he was the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would be King). It had a laid back atmosphere and the various cultures – Malay, Chinese, Kadazan, Dayak, Melanau and others blended together well.


Kuching Waterfront Musical Fountain has just begun (left). Beautiful Sarawak River (right)

Coming from Jakarta the city was also very soothing because there were no traffic jams and you could stroll along the Waterfront, where the Sarawak River flows through the town. Kuching itself mean cat in Malay and a great sounding name for a cat-lover like myself who, of course, could not resist doing the tourist thing an take photos in front of the Cats Monument. There did not seem to be many cats around the city though.

Cats Monument in Kuching, a soothing city with the various cultures

Before we flew back to Jakarta, we had one objective to fulfil that we did not have the chance to do in the past couple of days because of a tight schedule. We had to hunt own and taste the famous Sarawak Laksa. It consists of vermicelli and chicken pieces served in a broth made from chillies, spices, and coconut milk. The verdict? Delish!

With our stomachs filled we hurried back to our hotel and rushed to the airport to catch our plane, winning trophy in the bag and a trove of memories and experiences to take back to Jakarta.

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