Vero Meets #6: Catherine (Napalai) Faulder, Storytelling Director

Vero Meets is a new series where we talk to people who are doing exciting things in branding, communications, or marketing – even if they’re not marketers themselves. Following Vero’s two new hires, we had a very interesting conversation with Catherine (Napalai) Faulder, Storytelling Director at Vero, on her new role and some industry insights.  

Hi Catherine. Can you share a bit about yourself?  

Hi, my name is Catherine. I was born and raised in Bangkok but went to the UK for higher education. I spent eight years there, got my Bachelor’s in History and Politics and Master’s in Human Resources Management, and then I decided to move back to Bangkok.  

What brought you back?  

Everything, the weather, the food, the people, my family, and friends. Bangkok is always home to me; it is the place that I love deeply. I was still working remotely for my company in London when I came back and started helping my grandad digitize his jazz music collection. Then I got a call from the Bangkok Post one day saying they wanted to interview me, and the rest was history!  

Did you find it hard to adapt back to life in Bangkok?  

I saw a huge change when I was back in Bangkok at first, but it was a change that I welcomed. My language skills never went away, but I did not get to practice it much in London, so it took me a while to readjust. I was unsure initially, but everything worked out well since it was meant to be. Looking back now, I am happy that I have made the decision. 

What is your proudest achievement throughout your career?  

It is hard for me to pick one thing. I pride myself on many moments. Those moments usually happen when something I publish had an impact and had people talking, whether it is past articles, interviews, or editorials. I have had opportunities to meet and interview very interesting people throughout my career, some with extraordinary characters and ideas. From the lady who spent her childhood in Mao’s China as a sign of goodwill from her Thai politician father, to Thailand’s top female cyclers and female sailors, who qualified for the 2016 Olympics, tech start-up owners, hoteliers, architects of hotels, and many more. People make the world go around, and people play a crucial role in storytelling.  

If I must choose, my book’s launch back in 2017 was a special moment to me, as I managed to do it differently and turned it into a musical with my piano.  

Do you think being a poet and a bilingual speaker/translator helps your career in communications?   

I started drafting poems when I was 14, but it was not until the age of 25 that I learned about spoken word poetry and the power of speaking and performing poetry. By winning (or coming second place) a few poetry slams in Bangkok and Seattle, I have built my confidence around communication. Communication is not just about the words, but the way we say them, the cadence of our voice, the emphasis, eye contact, and everything. 

It is a privilege to be born as a bilingual speaker, as it has given me access to two worlds where I can relate and understand two very different cultures. Career-wise and life-wise, it has helped me to be an effective communicator every step of the way. The idea of a “successful communicator” is never static to me; the communication made today may not be so relevant tomorrow. So staying updated on how people receive messages and stories is crucial.  

And as a bilingual speaker, I have been working on translating Thai to English and vice versa my whole life. I also had the chance to do a lot of freelance translation and I really enjoyed it.  

I started drafting poems when I was 14, but it was not until the age of 25 that I learned about spoken word poetry and the power of speaking and performing poetry. By winning (or coming second place) a few poetry slams in Bangkok and Seattle, I have built my confidence around communication. Communication is not just about the words, but the way we say them, the cadence of our voice, the emphasis, eye contact, and everything. 

Congratulations on joining Vero ASEAN as Storytelling Director! Can you tell us a little more about this role?  

Thank you, I am excited about this role. The title “Storytelling” may sound new, but in fact, it has been around far longer than “Branding” and “Communications.” When applied to the modern business world, storytelling is a more natural and well-adapted term for referring to how brands now communicate with audiences. Because brands who care about the message provided to audiences realize that it is not just one message or one ad or email; it is a whole story, a whole journey. Beyond all, storytelling is the most effective way to engage audiences. Brands that focus on storytelling are the ones who believe they have a story to share with people whose lives they want to enrich. Even if there is a long journey ahead, and they might not know what story to tell yet, it is still very powerful.  

When it comes to my new responsibilities as a Storytelling Director, I will oversee unlocking, planning, and developing worded content from brands that Vero works with.  How my team and I bring their stories to the world, whether that’s through video, in-person interactions, or events, will always be aligned with the core story that brands are trying to tell.  

This role requires not just your expertise but also leadership. What makes a good leader, in your opinion? 

A good leader listens and understands the talents and values of every person working with them. Being a good leader is about truly knowing the people they are leading, considering their potential, skills, and their gifts inside-out; so that the leader knows whom to talk to when a particular vision needs to be executed.  

Have you heard about Vero before? What values from Vero reflect your career goals? And what will you do to help shape a new vision and strategy for Vero’s clients?  

 From what I have seen in my interactions with the agency over time, Vero is good-natured, kind, humane, and vision-focused, which are all values that I am aligned with personally and professionally. The fact that I not only work with Vero Bangkok but with other teams across the region, in four other countries is immensely powerful to me. I support the approach of working together, professionally yet thoughtfully, in a way where everyone is winning. Career-wise, I see myself working in Southeast Asia. Though it is hard to predict what the future holds, I know this is where I will always want to be.  

As I mentioned previously, my first task is to understand Vero’s clients thoroughly to figure out what they want and make potential suggestions to steer them in the right direction. With any strategy we must target the right audience group while collecting data. No vision or strategy is the same; neither is the story. But understanding the audience of each brand allows Vero to determine what strategy and vision to take. Also, understanding the brand inside-out is vital to unlock and nurture their stories. As a Storytelling Director, I will work closely with clients to uncover their stories and give the best possible service that Vero can deliver.  

Can you share a storytelling PR campaign that inspired you, and why? 

One that stands out to me is the She’s campaign from Mercedes. The brand chose women from different countries in key industries and effectively gave them a platform to share their stories and network with others. It was a brilliant idea that expanded globally, building networks, and connecting women; while educating and empowering those who wish to carve out a career in those select industries. It did not just involve videos; it combined dialogue, as well as word of mouth, proving it to be the best type of campaign. It took on its own life to the extent that it transcended being a campaign. It was its whole animal and so interactive with its audience.  

Does a good story mean you are painting a positive picture and hiding all that darkness?  

No, it does not. A good story is a story that people can relate to. It is a story that shares common humanity, touches on emotions, and talks about obstacles just as much as it highlights successes. Real brands can tell real stories, too; it doesn’t always have to be positive. Now, more than ever, brands get more respect for being real. But they must be real in a way that speaks to who they really are. That is where we come in — to support clients telling their stories the most effectively and authentically. 

How do storytellers discover and unearth the stories that they want to be told?  

A lot of digging, understanding, research, and talking to key decision-makers and founders; therefore, listening is the key.  

Considering the digital landscape, we are living in, as a storyteller, do you think it is important to ensure that the data tells the story you think it does?  

 In a time when opinions have been turned into facts and things are not always fact-checked, it can get a bit chaotic. A storyteller should be able to ensure that their clients are getting as close and as exact to the data as possible, and if necessary, use that data to permeate the stories that are told. Accurate data talks, numbers speak. It is important to make sure those numbers are correct. Meanwhile, stories are also stories; they may not be exact, but they are symbolic and crafted to serve a purpose and connect with the audience. There is a fine line between using data to create a character to portray a point in a story to lying about something completely. The latter should never be done. One more thing to keep in mind is what one person thinks the data says about the story may not be what another person thinks. That is why there must be feedback, collaboration, and team spirit. As a storyteller, I think it is important to ensure that incorrect or harmful messaging is not relayed.  

What is the connection between data and storytelling, in your opinion? How is the industry adopting this approach?   

Data gives rise to storytelling, and it is a part of storytelling. Thanks to data intelligence, brands and businesses have a particularly good view of consumer insights, which helps them tailor the approach for their messaging; or they can use data to activate customers and improve business performance. With data, businesses have a better understanding of where to communicate stories. For example, 5-minute screen time on a 5-minute video is determined as success, and the business is heading in the right direction. Data speaks, so brands and marketers need to use it wisely and fairly while respecting digital and data privacy.  

How can you measure the success of a storytelling strategy?   

There are diverse types of measurement from data analytics, feedback, sales, client satisfaction, and the audience’s reaction. It always comes down to the strategy and the channel being used to communicate.  

 A good story is a story that people can relate to. It is a story that shares common humanity, touches on emotions, and talks about obstacles just as much as it highlights successes

You have been working from home for over a year now. Do you enjoy it? And can you share more about your socially distanced routine? 

I do enjoy going into the office, and it is vital to stay connected in a way that is not on a screen. But with the pandemic, I got used to being at home. I feel calmer and much more productive, which is great. Every day, I go for walks, watch some dancing videos on Youtube, start practicing those movements, and cook healthier food! I visit my family outside of Bangkok at least once a month. It’s a good chance to be close to family and nature, especially during this strange time.  

Can you share more about your poetry work?  

It is a hobby that I have put on hold lately. I guess after the launch of my book and a few slams, I put it to rest for a bit. Who knows what the future holds though!  

What are your sources of inspiration and positivity?  

Youtube is my go-to for TED talks. Also, I love the Daily Meditation podcast led by Mary Meckley; she has such an incredibly soothing voice. Meditation is especially important to me. It keeps me grounded and positive.  

What is your next travel destination once the borders open again?  

I want to say London but also somewhere I have never been! One of my good friends wants to make a trip to Spain, Chicago and Ecuador which sounds fun, but I am also looking forward to traveling across Southeast Asia to meet my Vero colleagues. Myanmar is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go; I hope, for everyone, that things will get better there soon.  

Thank you, Catherine, for this interesting conversation. We hope you enjoy your new journey at Vero ASEAN and trust that we will reach new heights together.  

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