Social media expert Pat Law opens up about dark past

As part of International Women’s Day, Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore celebrates the fighting spirit of three outstanding female individuals from various industries. They are, stand-up comedian Sharul Channa, film director and actress Michelle Chong and social media expert Pat Law.

Photo: Creative All Stars
Photo: Creative All Stars

Seven years ago, digital marketing expert Pat Law was experiencing the “darkest period” of her life.

Her father was diagnosed with brain tumour, and he didn’t own health insurance. In order to pay off the medical expenses, Law did something not a lot of people would consider doing – she quit her job as a digital strategist at Ogilvy Public Relations, took a loan, and set up social influence marketing agency GOODSTUPH.

GOODSTUPH was born out of practicality; tumours cost money and I couldn’t possibly ask my employer to triple my pay because dad didn’t have health insurance,” she shared.

“But then again, it is only in your darkest moments you know where the light is shining from. I’m extremely thankful for the people who came to my aid when I was barely able of keeping myself alive.”

Her dad’s illness hit her hard, and made her reconsider her life philosophy. “My dad’s tumour has taught me a new meaning to living. Death is a little overrated. We should focus on how we choose to live before our expiry dates, than to fear dying,” she divulged.

Thankfully, the tumour was benign. In fact, her father, a hawker, went back to work three days after his surgery, a fact that still astounds her. “It was seriously ridiculous. But if my dad’s doing that, I lost all rights to whine, right?” she laughs.

It’s no surprise then, that the charismatic straight-talker says her parents are her biggest inspiration. “They have the greatest work ethic I have ever seen. In the past three decades, they worked 12-hour days, six days a week, without a whisper of a complaint,” she said.

This admirable trait, as well as their sense of responsibility, is something she carries with her into her agency.

“When you have more than your mouth to feed, you make decisions differently. I don’t necessarily like every decision I make, but I make them anyway because it is the right thing to do,” she mused.

“It is my duty to think three steps ahead, if not 10, for the company. It can be hard because God knows this is my first time I’m doing so and mistakes are bound to happen. I just have to make sure I pick myself up twice as fast as compared to when I was an employee, because this time, when I bleed, my people bleed with me too.”

She added, “I do enjoy the responsibility though. It’s great to be serving more than myself.”

GOODSTUPH is doing well, establishing itself as a formidable creative agency which counts major brands such as Nike (their first client, incidentally), Carlsberg, Bobbi Brown, Ascott and Lexus as clients.

Photo: Campaign Asia 2016
Photo: Campaign Asia 2016

It nabbed Social Media Agency of the Year 2013, and its HP Buildism Movement campaign was featured on American business magazine Fast Company.

Law says the company takes pride in “thoughtful creativity”. “Our ideas must meet business objectives, otherwise, we’re just masturbating,” she quipped.

Helping those in need is also one of their objectives. “A masochist perhaps, but we’ll always prefer marketing brands that really need help, than brands that already sell on their own, with or without us,” she said.

“Someone said this about us recently and it’s quite true – We don’t do cool things for cool brands. We do cool things for boring brands. I do sincerely take a lot of pride in that.”

Despite the prolific work the agency already does, the multi-hyphenate is not content to sit still.

She has since set up The Damn Good Shop, an emporium of vintage wares, curious knick-knacks and local labels to recreate child nostalgia, Another Good Thing, a social laboratory to develop creative solutions and Good Chi, an experience marketing agency.

Asked if she feels she has been an inspiration to women, and Law balks at the idea.

“I have met a lot of great women and I don’t come close. At all. Take Dr Sudha Nair (social worker and founder of Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence (Pave), the first family violence specialist centre in Singapore), for example. My goodness, the sacrifices she has made for women in Singapore is phenomenal. How am I to even think I am inspiring to women when I have done nothing compared to her?”

Her personal inspiration is Linda Locke, whom she describes as the “Godmother of Advertising”. A legend in the world of advertising with more than 30 years of experience, she set up her own consultancy, Godmother, in 2007.

“I was very fortunate to be working for her. She taught me the power of homework, the respect one should always have for self and others, and the importance of being fierce but just, always,” Law recalled.

But Law, who is open about her homosexuality, still hopes to inspire women through the work that she does.

I think I am living proof you can have less-privileged background, be a female, be a female who is gay, be a female who is gay without a degree, and have a life your parents would be proud of, if you put your heart and soul into it,” she said.

She continued, “If there’s anything I hope I can inspire younger girls on, it is that one should never apologise for who they are. Self-pity is an utter waste of time, too.”

Related stories:

Sharul Channa on being a female ‘Pottymouth’ in a man’s man’s comedy world

How Michelle Chong finds strength in herself and in others to be funny

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