Dominique Backhouse, Managing Director of Companion Communications

Dominique Provides Strategic Communications and PR to Lifestyle Brands

What’s your story?
I am the Managing Director of Asian-based communication and PR consultancy, Companion Communications. I launched Companion last summer after seeing a gap in the market for a more high-end and strategic approach to comms in the region. I should know! I spent 10 years on the agency side followed by almost 4 years in-house, so I understand where the issues lie on both sides of the client/agency spectrum.

What excites you most about your industry?
Communications is effectively a people-centric industry. We endeavor to understand what makes people tick, what their needs are, how they like to be spoken to, what sort of angles they want to write about, what makes them excited. I’ve loved the entire journey that has taken me to where I am today and all of the truly incredible people I’ve worked with along the way.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am a third-generation Hong Konger born and bred. Beginning with my grandparents, who arrived here in the 1940s, our family has always lived in Hong Kong. I have an English accent so people think I’ve worked in Europe, but Hong Kong – and as an extension, Asia – is my home, it’s where I grew up and it’s where I’ve always worked.

Favorite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong has given me so many opportunities to grow throughout my career. The exciting thing about this place is that if you have gumption – even if you’re young and relatively green – upward mobility is attainable here. Hongkongers love dynamism and they love growth. I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather have spent most of my career.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
It’s PR, not ER!

Who inspires you?
Working mothers, particularly the earnest ones who come into the office with breakfast cereal on their lapel, shrug it off, and then lead an amazing meeting. We need to adapt and be more supportive and welcoming to women coming back into the workforce, post-baby. They form such a huge part of our city’s economy and we don’t want to lose out on the significant “brain drain” contributions these mid-30s senior management creatives can offer.

What have you just learned recently that blew you away?
Cantonese is, in many ways, pure poetry in the streets, and its ability to adapt slang terms blows me away all the time. Some of the expressions really make me laugh. For example, “cooking telephone congee” or “bou1 din6 waa2 zuk1 (煲電話粥)” describes how young lovers talk to each other. Another one is “saang1 gau6 caa1 siu1 hou2 gwo3 saang1 nei5 (生舊叉燒好過生你)” which literally means “I’d rather have given birth to a piece of BBQed pork than you” – and might be said to disobedient children when they are being particularly precocious.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have launched Companion earlier. I tell all budding entrepreneurs to take the leap and give it a chance. If you have a good idea and you know how to work hard, usually good things will happen for you. There’s no point – particularly in the industry I’m in – to bridle and wait your turn. Comms is a young person’s game as it requires long hours and you need to have your pulse on the zeitgeist. If you feel you have what it takes, go for it!

How do you unwind?
I practice Ashtanga yoga – and on the other side of the spectrum – I love a bottle of good Chablis.

Favorite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I am in the midst of a torrid love affair with Sri Lanka. Every time I go – which is often – I discover another amazing side to that country. The people, the mountains, the beaches, the food, the kindness. I should pitch the Sri Lankan Tourism Board for their business, I love it that much.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“The Book of the Courtier,” by Baldassare Castiglione. A lot of it isn’t applicable in today’s boardrooms, but it is the very first book of its kind sort of philosophical “paint by numbers” about how to get ahead in court life – and I think is a great introduction to why our culture has evolved to where it is today.

Shameless plug for your business:
Companion Communications is a senior strategic communications and PR consultancy that connects lifestyle brands to Asian and Greater China-based consumers. We employ no junior staff and function as an extension of a brand’s marketing and communications team. We are one of a kind in the region.

How can people connect with you?

Twitter handle?
Who does Twitter anymore? You can follow me [and Companion!] on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and WeChat

To hear how entrepreneurs around the world overcome their challenges, search your favorite podcast platform for ‘CallumConnects’ to hear a 5-minute daily breakdown.

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built, and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’, and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.

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