Senior Vice President of Public Relations for Gabriel Marketing Group Michiko Morales has more than 20 years of PR, communications and marketing experience. Morales has managed successful media and analyst relations campaigns and secured coverage in numerous national and international media including The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Fortune and more.
Morales, who recently celebrated nine years with GMG, spent the last three years working from her home office in Tokyo, Japan, where she lived a few hours away from her parents. Born and raised in Japan, Morales cherished the experience in her home country, but it was also her biggest career challenge.
We caught up with Morales to get her thoughts on the future of the communications industry.
What book, podcast or other media do you recommend to other comms pros?
Morales: I frequently recommend: “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser and “Start with Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek. I believe “On Writing Well” is essential for all writers. I bought the book more than 25 years ago and still go back to it to remind myself of the essence of good writing. I am also a huge fan of Simon Sinek. His book teaches us WHY is the thing that moves, motivates and inspires people. This simple, yet fundamental notion made us rethink the way we develop our clients’ messaging and PR strategies, too.
What excites you most about the future of communications?
I am excited to see the rising respect for the communications profession. More senior executives, especially C-suites, are realizing the critical role the communications professionals play in building a successful, mission-driven and strong organization. I see that chief communications officers (CCOs) are increasingly invited to be critical members of the executive team. As PR agencies, we are more tightly connected to our clients’ C-suites, and thus can help make a more direct, tangible impact on our clients’ growth.
What’s your favorite tool you use regularly for work?
Slack – It is an essential internal communications/chat tool for our team to move projects forward and get things done. Also, since we have a virtual team spread across the country, Slack provides a casual gathering place for all to chit-chat and share a bit of our personal lives.
What communications challenge keeps you up at night?
I frequently worry about a recession causing CMOs to take a cautious approach to spend on PR and marketing. Market uncertainty can affect everyone’s nerves. We saw this happen in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as some of our clients began worrying about what might happen next. But in the end, most of those clients had a profitable year. We are not only closely monitoring current events, but also keenly listening to our clients about their respective market conditions.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
From the summer of 2019 to this past summer, I had the good fortune of living and working from my home office in Tokyo. I was born and raised in Japan and migrated to the U.S. in 1997, so being back in Japan, living a few hours away from my parents, was like a dream. My husband and our two sons really enjoyed our time there, too. But working in a completely different time zone from my clients and my team in the U.S. was challenging. During those three years, I worked from around 9:30 pm to 2 am, Japan time, every day. Though it was very tough, I felt extremely fortunate that I was able to continue to serve my clients, working side by side with my amazing team. All our clients were very understanding about my time schedule and continued to work with me. I am so grateful to all my clients and my team for their support!
What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
My late grandmother always told me to have “Omoiyari,” a Japanese word that means thoughtfulness or compassion. She also taught me to always put myself in their shoes with compassion. As comms pros, we exercise this often in situations like when we are asked to tackle a tough, urgent client request in a calm manner. Also, in media relations, we must always think from the journalists’ point of view when coming up with a perfect media pitch that compels the journalist to respond.
Isis Simpson-Mersha is a conference producer/ reporter for Ragan. Follow her on LinkedIn.