Chapter Chat: Wendy Hsiao

Wendy Hsiao is always prepared for the unexpected. That may sound like an oxymoron of sorts, but this seasoned PR pro knows how to make lemonade when life throws her lemons.

While colleagues are often amused that her purse is loaded down with extra items – being prepared comes in handy on her job as account director with iconic Atlanta PR firm Hope-Beckham, Inc. Witness a recent client video shoot when the videographer wanted to clear some debris from the velvet couch that was annoyingly in the shot. Guess who saved the day with a lint roller stashed in that overloaded purse? Preparation for any scenario that could possibly arise is one of Wendy’s hallmarks, and it seems to be something her team, joking aside, and her clients have come to appreciate.

A 2009 communications graduate of the University of Georgia with an emphasis in digital media, she made her mark on Atlanta’s PR and marcomm industry in the ensuing decade, serving as director of public relations and marketing events for a popular OTP (outside the Perimeter) restaurant, communications director for a leading private preschool, and marketing manager for the Atlanta Humane Society, before landing with Hope-Beckham in 2016.

This installment of Chapter Chat, a member-focused profile series offering industry insights intertwined with candid commentary, catches up with the woman who was chosen to be Atlanta baseball legend Hank Aaron’s personal media relations contact for his 83rd and his most recent (86th) birthday celebrations, securing more than 225 stories in one day, and racking up 372 million impressions surrounding this year’s event.

Talk about knocking it out of the park.

Let’s dig deeper into Wendy Hsiao’s game plan, shall we?

Question: Can you describe to our readers what you do in your “day job” at Hope-Beckham?
Answer: As anyone at a PR firm knows, each day can be totally different! As account director, I supervise all Hope-Beckham staff but also lead certain account teams to provide strategic counsel as the day-to-day contact. All of this is a fancy way to say that I do whatever I can to make sure both my team and our clients are happy. I like checking in with Bob (Hope, president and co-founder), Paul (Beckham, chairman and co-founder), and everyone on my team at least every few days to make sure all is fine.

Q: What advice do you have for recently out-of-work PR/communications professionals trying to find a new job during a pandemic?
A: This is the best time to network! Most people are working from home, so they’re in front of their computers a lot more than they used to be. I would suggest that people reach out via LinkedIn message and say hello and request an informational interview or even just a “get to know you” chat. I’ve done that with some professionals I’d like to know better, and it has been great. It makes the COVID quarantine seem less lonely.

Q: How do you spend your time away from work?
A: I love exercising! At the beginning of quarantine, I invested in an entire mini gym in my house since I did not think I would be going back to my actual gym any time soon. My dog Georgia and I have also taken this extra time spent together to explore – we’ve found new parks and playgrounds, so she has also gotten a lot more exercise than normal. This is good because I love to bake, and I have baked more desserts since I am home all the time to eat them.

Q: In a movie about your life, what actor would portray you, and why?
A: Awkwafina! I absolutely loved her in “Crazy Rich Asians.” She’s loud and quirky and funny, and I think she stole the show in “Crazy Rich Asians.” She’s awesome!

Q: When and why did you join PRSA Georgia?
 A: I joined PRSA Georgia after I moved back home from LA in 2010. I was a part of PRSSA in college and loved hearing the different speakers, and I felt like PRSA would provide great networking opportunities.

Q: You have many sports-related clients, but can you expound upon your experience of working with the Celebration Bowl, HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) national championship game played right here in Atlanta?
A: I love college football, so working with ESPN Events has been a dream. They are an amazing client, and I love how passionate everyone is about the Celebration Bowl. It’s not just a game – it is a lifestyle. The actual football game is less important to HBCUs; it is about the heritage, legacy and pageantry of HBCUs… for a Georgia grad, it took me some getting used to but I have genuinely enjoyed learning about the HBCU culture.

Q: You are fluent in Cantonese-Chinese? Does this give you any particular advantages in terms of being able to cultivate/attract more clients?
A: Fluent might be a bit of a stretch, but I do know Cantonese fairly well. It was my first language – not English. As my Dad reminds me often, I really need to learn Mandarin since that is what most people speak! There have not been any distinct advantages, but I’ve caught people by surprise when they start speaking in Cantonese – I always laugh and give my “accidental eavesdropping” away.

Q: What is the professional accomplishment that you’re most proud of?
A: Being named an honoree for Ragan Communications and PR Daily’s “Top Women in Communications” in the Leader category. My team secretly nominated me, and it was such a lovely surprise when they told me that I was a winner. I try to lead by example, and it’s nice to be appreciated for all the effort I have put into my job. I’m so proud of everything I’ve accomplished with my team!

Q: How has COVID-19 tested your crisis communications acumen?
A: We all know that PR is a 24/7 job, but it has become even more so during COVID-19. I think once everyone realized that COVID was not going anywhere, they relied more heavily on their PR firms. One of my clients is Ipsum Diagnostics, the medical facility in Sandy Springs that analyzes the COVID tests on behalf of the Georgia Department of Public Health. As you can imagine, they are being inundated with emails and phone calls – people want to know if their test results can be sent faster, media want to do interviews, etc. It has been a learning experience for all of us, but I am truly in awe of how quickly this 100-person lab has gone from analyzing 25,000 weekly test kits to 60,000 test kits. My team and I are trying to respond as quickly as possible to all the conversation on social media; it seems like it’s never-ending, but we have tried our best to keep up.

Q: You mentor staff at Hope-Beckham and also at your alma mater, UGA – what drives you to do this – and why is mentoring important to you?
A: I honestly do it because I’m so grateful to my mentor Kevin Sniffen, who was my boss at a summer internship, and how he helped me grow both as a person and a professional. Thanks to Kevin, I was able to hone my media relations skills – which later became my area of expertise during my career. I’d like to be that person to someone else which is why I’ve taken the time to get to know the younger professionals/students since Kevin made a real impact on my life. I think that if these younger professionals really want to better themselves, then I’m happy to help them however I can.

Q: Which Bob Hope is more famous – the legendary entertainer – or the co-founder of your firm?
A: I would say Bob Hope, the Atlanta PR legend! He’s been in Atlanta for many decades, and he’s made a lot of friends along the way… including some celebrities. A few years ago, I was in Athens for a career fair and I saw legendary UGA running back Herschel Walker at a restaurant. I asked him for a selfie, and we started chatting. He asked me why I was in town and then asked me which PR firm I worked for. I told him and his response was, “Say hi to Bob Hope for me!”