Interview with Thang Ngo, Strategy and Planning Manager at SBS Australia

This week for my Interview Series, we have Thang Ngo, Strategy and Planning Manager, Audio and Language Content, at SBS Australia. Thang has had quite a diverse career path, starting out in the advertising industry before becoming a Councillor at the Fairfield City Council as well as several positions in SBS Australia. Thang talks about his career path, social media tips and his food blog Noodlies.

1. You’ve had quite a diverse career – from advertising to councillor to your current role at SBS — can you tell us a little about your career path?

I graduated with a commerce degree, majoring in econometrics, but really, I didn’t learn much about economics or statistics.

Uni did help me to work out meeting deadlines, a good writing style and being able to work in a team are all really important. That’s really helped me in all my jobs.

For me, my life and my work is the true resume, your colleagues, suppliers, clients use this to base their assessment of you – it’s really like being in an interview every day of my life.

My career is diverse, from graduate trainee, advertising suit, advertising manager, elected local government councillor to my current role at SBS – I reckon I got most of those jobs based on prior knowledge of the way I work as much as my resume and how I performed in the interview. In fact, I’ve sat through very few interviews in my career.

2. You’re currently the Strategy and Planning Manager of Audio and Language Content for SBS, which sounds like a really cool title, but I’m not sure I understand what you do, could you describe what a typical day would be like?

I reckon it’s a broad, ambitious and big picture role. In the division, I’m responsible for the business planning process, external communications including managing community and stakeholder relationships and somewhere in there, I’m charged with innovation, new ideas for the division.

My proudest innovation is SBS PopAsia, the division already had a 24hr digital radio and online streaming music channel that plays the best of Asian pop. The aha moment for me is that music is about image and image is built by video.

I was determined SBS would deliver Australia’s first free to air pop Asian music channel. Everyone thought it would be hard.

In reality, it only took one trip to Korea and lots of follow up phone call and emails. I conceived the idea in May and on Sunday, 4 September 2011 the first show was on air. It rated from day one, tripling the numbers for that timeslot, Facebook likes jumped from around 5,000 to almost 41,000 today.

3. You’re quite active across a range of online platforms, Google+, YouTube, Twitter, what’s your strategy? Do you try and be visible on all the sites?

There’s too many social media platforms and they’re growing every day. It try to keep across most major ones, but by no means all. In addition to the ones you’ve mentioned, I’m also on Pinterest and Tumblr. 

Google+ I’m less of a fan, it has better features than Facebook, especially Hangouts. But really we’re all too busy to migrate all our photos and friends from Facebook to Google+. While I acknowledge Hangouts is a neat feature, the whole Google+ package hasn’t been able to give me a compelling reason to choose it over facebook.

Just to prove I’m not a Google hater, I confess to loving YouTube, why read when you can watch a video? My Noodlies food blog channel started a few years ago and today, there’s over 300 videos and 350,000 views.

My strategy for social media is easy, it’s about supporting other people and socialising interesting content. Of course, it’s tempting to use it exclusively to promote my blog and my content – in the long run, that’s just boring for my followers. And besides, it’s good to support other bloggers, and to promote great content.

4. What would be your top advice to an organisation who wanted to increase their online presence and engagement more effectively?

Don’t use it to blast promo messages about your brand – that really is boring. Use it to research what your customers want – SBS PopAsia uses our Facebook and Twitter posts to understand our customers and what artists and songs they love.

Your brand personality should be reflected in your social media, if it’s fun, then that should come across. If you’re about giving great, responsive service, then make sure you demonstrate it by replying to tweets and Facebook messages.

5. You also have your own food blog — Noodlies — which I think features some really great reviews and articles, although I have to disagree with you when it comes to the best pork roll joint! Were there any particular reasons why you decided to create a blog?

I work in the North Shore and don’t get home to Cabramatta until late. And really there’s only two of us, seems a waste of time, effort and ingredients (how could we use a whole cabbage?!) to cook at home.

And because food there is such an amazing variety of fresh and cheap food in the area – Vietnamese, Chinese, Cambodian, Thai, Lao, Malaysian, Iraqi, Chilean, Lebanese etc we tend to eat out every night.

Friends started asking us for recommendations and it seemed easiest to start a blog and refer them to that.

6. Last question, what’s your favourite Sydney restaurant?

That’s such a hard question to answer. But living in Cabramatta where food is fresh, flavoursome and cheap, I find it hard to justify splurging on an over the top meal. See my recent op ed in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

If I’m forced to name one it has to be Hai Au, great authentic Vietnamese food in Canley Vale. It’s home style food, with so many authentic dishes that your mum would serve up. Their new charcoal chicken is over the top deliciousness and I never go without ordering the canh chua hot pot.

***To get in touch with Thang, say hi on Twitter @thangngo***

BONUS: For an inside look at what Noodlies is all about, check out the video below.

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