Eight years ago, Jen Su moved from Hong Kong to South Africa. Her husband had been transferred and suddenly the life she had built for herself was falling apart. A prime time news anchor on Star News Asia, she landed in a foreign country, knew no one and had to make it work.
Today, she is on just about everybody’s invitation list, a high-profile media mogul relishing her time in the spotlight. But things didn’t come easy. Thinking back, she recalls immigration consultants telling her that her chances of making it in this country were slim to none.
“They said there was no way that a Chinese American would ever be able to make it in the local broadcasting industry. It just hadn’t been done,” she says.
So how did she do it? All is revealed in her new book, From Z to A-Lister, a part-autobiographical handbook on personal branding. She explains: “It’s basically a book on personal branding from all angles. How to use the social scene to your advantage, how to network at parties, how to use social media in a smart way, how to deal with negative criticism, reputation management, reinvention, with a sprinkling of my own life experiences.”
Not normally one to put her personal life out there, Su made the decision to include her own trials and tribulations in order to show people that she is also human and if she can, so can you.
“I had some offers about five years ago and I started writing but then I put it down. I was scared of failure, I was scared of opening myself up to people and even now I’m terrified.
“My life is complicated,” she says. “It’s been up and down, but it’s not the stuff of legends. I can’t say I’m a major legend here, but I felt that I could use this book to help others to build their personal brands.”
Having dealt with endless criticism and the constant disapproval of haters, Su takes a “turn the other cheek” approach.
“Everybody gets it but what matters is how you respond. I accept any kind of constructive feedback and I’ve learnt a lot from constructive feedback. It’s just when it’s this blatant hate stuff and I get it every day. I even got a hate mail from someone who said: ‘You should just stop what you’re doing and go back to China’.
“Am I going to tweet that guy and with every expletive? If it’s a silly comment then I’m not going to. And I’m not going to get into something that’s going to be perceived as racist or offensive. I’m of the school of thought, if you really have something to gripe about, put it in a word document, write it out but don’t tweet it. You can say anything you want and then go back to it a day later. The more time passes, you actually realise you don’t need to tweet this.”
Crediting her Asian roots for this calm and Zen approach, she concludes: “My upbringing was about always being gracious, pulling back, keeping calm, forgiving and Asian gifting. It’s a matter of combining new technology with old-school etiquette.”