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Garena PR Siwei Tan moves on following ‘media shy’ boss comments

Singaporean gaming platform Garena has parted ways with its head of public relations Siwei Tan two weeks after her public comments about finding “non-provocative” journalists to interview the company’s chief executive.

The former senior manager of corporate affairs was thought to be taking on a new role at Convergence Ventures, an Indonesian venture capital firm that is partnered with Garena. However, Mumbrella Asia has been told by Garena that she will not be moving to the Jakarta-based company after all.

Garena has refused to comment further on the issue. However, hours after Tan’s comments were published on this website, a senior company executive came to Mumbrella Asia’s office and said that she would “probably be fired over this” in an attempt to get Mumbrella Asia to “soften” the story.

Tan, who first joined the start-up in 2014, has been contacted for further comment, but has not responded as yet. The furore broke out following Tan’s talk at the recent Tech In Asia conference in Singapore. Speaking on the ‘Start-Up Stage’, she candidly described the process of arranging interviews between journalists and the Garena CEO.

“Forrest Li is very soft-spoken and very reserved. He is typically very media shy and does not like to be in the limelight. Many in our organisation are introverts so we do not usually like speaking to a big audience,” she said.

“He typically does one media interview a year. That’s what we recommend to him. So in 2015, he did an interview with Forbes and in 2016, one with Bloomberg. It was a lot of work. We had to find a journalist from one key publication; one who is approachable and friendly and doesn’t ask questions that are too aggressive and not too provocative.

“And we will ask that journalist over to our office so they can understand our culture and management, so they can get a feel of what our company is like.”

“So they have all the facts required for the interview. That’s when you send [Forrest] into the battlefield; when you have prepared the journalist and set the stage so they will approach [the interview] with the right tone. Not too aggressive.”

She also said: “PR is about understanding the management’s preferences and tailoring it to suit their needs and comfort.” Her comments sparked a backlash on social media.

Founded as an online gaming company, Garena in 2009, the Singaporean firm has diversified into digital content, social, payments, and ecommerce. At a US$3.75 billion valuation, Garena remains South East Asia’s most valuable start-up and was recently reported to be changing its name to ‘Sea’ following a major round of funding.

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