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Viet N’Guyen of Issa PR: “Understanding the audience will help to hone your narrative”

Understanding the audience will help to hone your narrative. Are you presenting at a business conference, to women-only or at a TEDx Talk. These audiences will be interested in different things. Preparing key messages is also paramount — know the themes of what you want to cover. Presenting style is also key — being strong yet empathetic, being adaptable […]

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Understanding the audience will help to hone your narrative. Are you presenting at a business conference, to women-only or at a TEDx Talk. These audiences will be interested in different things. Preparing key messages is also paramount — know the themes of what you want to cover. Presenting style is also key — being strong yet empathetic, being adaptable and open to questions at the end. People relate to leaders who inspire them, so this is fundamental as a foundation for success.


As a part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Viet N’Guyen.

Viet N’Guyen, the founder & CEO of Issa PR is a dynamic leader and strategist with over 15 years experience, which includes working at Edelman, #1 agency in the world building their luxury & lifestyle division. Vanity Fair named her on the “Downtown 100” list of most inspirational people in NYC. New York Business Journal voted her a “Woman of Influence” in 2018. She has lectured at New York University’s School of Business, Stern on “The Intersection of Luxury & Philanthropy”, and the future of the industry. PR Week selected Viet for their Power Book of most powerful people in PR in 2020 and 2021.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in Hong Kong but grew up in the UK, where I moved to at a young age. Being educated in England was a great experience both from an academic perspective but also having opportunities to explore artistic pursuits like learning to play musical instruments (such as classical piano and violin in my case) and artistic endeavors, like acting and dancing helped to build an early appreciation for art and culture, and creative expression.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I initially wanted to be a journalist. After working in newspapers at school, as the founder and editor of the paper, then joining King’s College London (an Ivy League college in the UK) as the Fashion & Style Editor, I decided to work at a publishing house for further experience during university. I joined EMAP Publishing, a prestigious publisher that runs magazines, such as EMPIRE, Sky (a men’s and women’s lifestyle magazine) and Heat, a weekly entertainment magazine. I fell into PR following the recommendation of a friend to try something more creative. Marketing and PR was so much more diverse and interesting. Every single day was different — one day, you could be assisting on a fashion shoot for a magazine, another day planning a business lunch with the Financial Times. On another day, you could be helping to organize a press conference or launch of a new product or campaign. The range and diversity of work was both exciting and inspiring as a young professional, in addition to having an opportunity to help shape the world through communications.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There are many memorable moments in my career. Pre-Issa PR, my current agency, which I founded six years ago — working on the Empire State Building’s sustainability campaign with former President Clinton and Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a remarkable experience. President Obama lauded the campaign as a pioneer in sustainability, and The United Nations recognized it as a blueprint for buildings around the world to follow suit to help reduce global warming. It was very special to be a part of something that will truly make a difference around the world today.

Founding and creating an award-winning luxury brand marketing agency, Issa PR, is also a true achievement and highlight. We work with brands from Absolut, Vogue Italia, Def Jam Records, Warner Music, and The United Nations’ World Food Programme, who were just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020. We also do significant philanthropy work for NGOs around the world helping to rescue orphans and children in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, the UAE and Kenya.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of my first public speaking opportunities was in front of 50 senior executives at a summit in Hamburg. I was 25 and incredibly nervous. There was a moment where I froze just as I was speaking but settled quickly after that. Preparing your speech or narrative is fundamental to public speaking during any forum, and practicing as much as possible within your company, at annual meetings, etc., will also help to find your natural style.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are three strategists in New York nicknamed “The Wolfpack” who are creative consultants and business counselors to various brands and organizations. Entrepreneur Magazine did a cover story on them in recent years. Jey Van-Sharp, Kwasi Gyasi and Winston Peters are formidable wolves in business — they all helped during the first year of Issa PR from advice on legal contracts to introductions to a couple of key contacts. Their counsel and strategy was always insightful.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

The key to success is perseverance. Everyone is bound to make mistakes but what separates the successful from everyone else is their endurance and commitment. Learning from mistakes is essential to becoming an expert at anything. Failure is often our most distinguished teacher, and that is why full control over one’s perspective is vital. Once one begins to view failure as an opportunity to learn and a stepping stone to accomplishment is when the journey to greatness begins.

What drives you to get up every day and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

I am passionate about my work, and in my career, I want to move and inspire. At Issa PR, we deliver unparalleled creativity and captivating campaigns for clients. We aim to create and tell narratives that transcend geography, history, and time. We also consider ourselves one of the most selfless and compassionate agencies in the world. As such, we do pro bono work for NGOs and non-profits every year to give back, so extending impact beyond the work that we do is another reason that drives me to speak. Making a positive impact, a difference on a global spectrum can be achieved by many people — I wish more people realized the power they have to make a difference. Always think about the bigger picture. While every individual campaign or project is important, the larger goal of changing a narrative or shifting a societal paradigm or construct is even more powerful.

Can you share with our readers a few of your most important tips about how to be an effective and empowering speaker? Can you please share some examples or stories?

Understanding the audience will help to hone your narrative. Are you presenting at a business conference, to women-only or at a TEDx Talk. These audiences will be interested in different things. Preparing key messages is also paramount — know the themes of what you want to cover. Presenting style is also key — being strong yet empathetic, being adaptable and open to questions at the end. People relate to leaders who inspire them, so this is fundamental as a foundation for success.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

Thoughts have more power than people often realize. It takes practice and experience. However, learning to relax the mind and the body is important. Taking the time to eliminate thoughts that foster self-doubt and practicing mindfulness is necessary to be an excellent public speaker. The ability to calm yourself goes a long way.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Follow your passions — many people talk about following your dreams, and this is critical to ensure you are inspired by the work you do. But also be realistic about what you can and are willing to learn. This will drive greater success than idealism. After many years working for corporate companies, I did this, and the results paid off.

Be prepared — it’s so important to prepare and plan for the future. Whether it’s in business, for a campaign or personal project. When we launch new brands or products, we conduct a wealth of research, competitive analyses, social listening, even focus groups to understand customer sentiment and current trends.

Learn from mistakes — there will be many life and business lessons we can learn and grow from. Every day, we discover new things and utilizing this can make a difference of how far you go. Being humble as a journalist, strategist or creative allows people to develop and shine.

Be opportunistic — the world is changing every day, so adapting to new challenges is critical for longevity. 2020, in particular, was unprecedented but businesses needed to adapt — whether it was changing philanthropic endeavors through to helping world issues (like The WHO or Warner Music, who organized a replay of their best festival concerts from Coachella to Lollapalooza to raise funds for the pandemic). An altruistic attitude and can help foster greater hope and loyalty across the globe.

Surround yourself with a strong team — having a team of experts and creatives will always help you think literally and laterally. This is important for growth and facing challenges. At Issa PR, our creatives help to push ideas and brainstorm new, cutting edge concepts that may never be considered if you are unable to articulate results and actions.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

We have been working on the “Future of Luxury” symposium, our first annual symposium that will launch in London and New York City in late March 2021. “Future of Luxury” will highlight new trends and insights, the evolution of the industry, and impact of 2020 on business. At Issa PR, we are passionate about driving change through new and progressive ways of thinking to inspire brands and leaders to connect with consumers in a powerful, authentic way. Anchored in purpose, science and heart, we are excited to launch the symposium with the world’s leading innovators and changemakers. We hope to harness thoughtful dialogue and create impactful change through our discussions and blueprint for the future.

Our panel of speakers consists of global leaders, including award-winning fashion designer Alice Temperley, CEO of Quintessentially Annastasia Seebohm, Bob Workman — SVP, WMX, Warner Music Group, Edward Barsamian — former Style Editor Vogue US and Head of Editorial for Victoria Beckham, Emerson Barth, MD of Quantum Projects (formerly Senior Manager at IMG Models), Shelley Bishton, Head of Creative Diversity at News UK — a new role created to drive greater representation at The Times, The Sunday Times, Style Magazine and others, and Pranav Yadav, CEO and Tyler Lewis, Director of Neuro-Insight who are leaders in neuromarketing working with organizations, such as Google, Facebook and Diageo. We’ll be organizing a thought leadership symposium every year with world leaders and innovators.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

Power vinyasa yoga, music and meditation. Work / life balance is so important and having a self-care routine that is anchored in health and wellness helps to still the mind. It can be truly exhilarating to do power vinyasa, which is a more rigorous and strength based yoga. Reading, where (and when) possible. Consuming literature or business / entrepreneurial books can serve as inspiration for your day-to-day. I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell and existential philosophers, such as Jean-Paul Satre, Camus and Kafka.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Carpe diem — seize the day. Don’t wait for tomorrow — make a difference today.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I am very passionate about philanthropy. I would love to see more luxury brands and businesses, in general, get more involved in CSR and philanthropic initiatives. It should be a pillar of every organization. At Issa PR, we always aim to give back. With over 20 years of experience traversing the luxury, lifestyle, and philanthropy industry, the Issa team comprises a global network of experts, influencers, and leading-edge creatives. I would love to inspire more people to give back. There are so many ways to do that.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Former President Obama would be a dream. Malcolm Gladwell would also provide fascinating and thought provoking conversations.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Yes. They can follow me on Instagram at @theofficialviet or on LinkedIn at Viet N’Guyen. To find out more about “Future of Luxury”, visit http://issa-pr.com/future-of-luxury-symposium/.

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


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