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Bob Pickard: PR in Asia

After ten years in Asia, Bob Pickard gives precious information about public relations in Asia. via

1.  Communication should start with humble listening, not boastful talking

Especially at a time when communication is becoming more and more about conversation on social networks, succeeding in this new Asian age demands listening and thinking with an open mind attuned to modern Asian sensibilities, not just talking and bulldozing ahead with traditional Western approaches.

2.  What works in America or Europe doesn’t necessarily work in Asia

It’s a common sense point, isn’t it? But time after time, I see public relations effectiveness in Asia needlessly compromised by presuming that the way PR is done in New York or London will be effective in Tokyo or Hong Kong. Whether it’s how media relations is conducted or the way that communities form on social networks or even how people use language to communicate, the Asian experience can be markedly different than Western ways.

3.  Asia is not a country

Indeed, as far as PR campaigns are concerned, there really is no such thing as a market called ‘Asia.’ It’s amazing to me the cookie-cutter assumptions I sometimes encounter about doing PR here; as if what works in China will work in India even though within each, there is an incredible degree of demographic, cultural, and linguistic variation.

4.  Asian PR merits serious investment

Communicating with such diverse constituencies can command considerable PR resources, because operating in multiple languages takes much more staff time, which costs more money. When you consider the economic pressures of rising salary expectations in countries where the GDP is growing (not to mention high inflation levels in many markets), then higher prices than one has historically expected of Asia can be anticipated.

Stereotypes should not set PR budgets; Asian PR can already seem expensive compared to what many have assumed in the past. I’ve seen no shortage of situations where someone thinks that if PR costs a certain level in the West, then it should surely cost much less in the East, where ‘there’s much more cheap labour to go around.’ The problem is, in many Asian countries, PR is a relatively new or emerging field of endeavour, meaning that there’s a large demand for a much smaller supply of experienced PR people, driving prices up. Then there’s the expectation that all PR staff must be fluently bilingual in an international firm, in markets where often huge majorities of the population do not speak English, meaning all the recruitment demand fishes in a tiny bilingual talent pond that further steepens the cost spiral.

5.  Quality is the thing

There is a lot of restless multinational PR money roaming around Asia, switching from one agency to the next, fed-up with mediocrity and looking for certainty of positive outcome across borders. In some Asian markets, there are few or not enough post-secondary institutions offering PR education, so the smart firms are taking matters into their own hands and building their own training capability. Education must be at the heart of building a premium PR brand in Asia. As especially friends in North Asia will remember, setting the PR standard for quality is my #1 priority. I often remind myself of what one of my Korean clients once told me: “Aim for the money, and quality suffers; aim for the quality, and the money will always come.”

6.  English fluency is no guarantee of success

In many Asian PR offices, the best writer in the language that matters in the market may not communicate in English so well. When I ran offices in Seoul and Tokyo, some of our best media relations people couldn’t speak much English but the clients sure loved the publicity results. English fluency is no guarantee of a great strategic mind, and there can be these apple-polishing bilingual poseurs who manage overseas audiences well in the language of convenience for head office.

7.  Forget the cultural condescension

Partly because English is a second language in Asia (meaning many PR people may not be so keen to challenge and engage in fast-moving debate in English at meetings and on conference calls), there is still this widespread sense that Western PR is somehow superior to or more advanced than Asian PR, but in my experience that’s not objectively valid nor relevant in most circumstances. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen loquacious foreigners come to Asia with the attitude that the Asian PR people are a relatively ignorant audience whereas they are like oracles. A more peer-to-peer approach always earns the most goodwill. Let’s also note that Asia is now teaching PR lessons of its own, as we see with the worldwide rise of ‘apology communications.’

8.  Asian PR citizens of the world

A few years ago when I was running the Korean operation of another agency, I attended one of its meetings in Washington, DC when I made what I regarded as a statement of the obvious: “The global PR firm that attracts and champions the Asian talent will be the PR firm that wins in Asia.” I was challenged on that point by someone there, and was told that “the Asians look to the expatriate for leadership.” It was ironic to hear that kind of outdated talk, because my Korean successor was sitting in the room with me, and I think a key reason our office was the fastest-growing at that time in our company was the fact that the Korean staff knew he would be taking over after my two-year term and felt highly motivated by that eventuality (he and they went on to grow the business bigger than it was during my tenure).

There have been some stories lately about how because of ailing Western economies, job-seekers are heading East to Asia looking for opportunities. I don’t doubt it, but actually there have always been plenty of people heading to Asia; in the PR world, the flow in the other direction has been more like a trickle.

The Asian going West in an international PR firm — more so than vice-versa in my experience — can face many obstacles: stereotypes about whether people from their country can do well in the target country, assumptions about their ‘quality level’ (see above), questions about their language capability, whether they will find ample client business to fund their relocation, how adaptable they will be to a new cultural context, etc.

The priority must be on achieving diversity, not conforming to be the same. That’s why cross-border transfers in our consultancy aren’t rare; they are routine – and sincere (i.e. not primarily designed to prevent people being poached by a rival firm).

9.  Asia as a global platform

For many years, the dominant trend in Asian PR for multinationals was the import of Western money, ideas and people into the region, but now we we’re starting to see significant export of all these things from Asia by all kinds of exciting emerging multinationals (who will become globally famous from Asia for the first time on a digital marketing platform).

Just about every other week we see major Western multinationals anchoring important international headquarters and global functions into Asian centres like Singapore, Hong Kong or Shanghai. Some PR firms are seizing this opportunity and putting global functions into the region – such as the leadership of our energy practice based in Beijing – but alas others still have the attitude that anything ‘worldwide’ must of course be based in a Western centre like New York or London.

10.  ‘Face’ is just as important as Facebook

Probably the most important perspective you gain by actually living in Asia over several years is an innate feeling for the all-important ‘face‘ dynamic. Time and again, I’ve seen Westerners make costly mistakes in Asian commercial situations because they just don’t get it. In my opinion, grasping and mastering ‘face communications’ is the most important thing to know about doing PR in Asia.

I can’t write any blog on this topic without mentioning the value of relationships, which I think tend to have a different and often a more durable dynamic in Asia. During an era when a world with a shrinking attention span is embracing the transactional ways of fast-moving cool ‘digital’ technology, there is a special significance to the warmth of  face-to-face ‘analogue’ relationships that stand the test of time.

Generally when doing business in Asia, I think the feeling is more ‘relationship first, contract second’ rather than ‘contract first, then relationship.’

Compared to what I knew working on the other side of the Pacific where needlessly aggressive and often angry e-mail communication is certainly not uncommon, here I find relatively friendly – if often spirited – face-to-face encounters are more the norm when it comes to solving disputes and finding common ground.

Better tomorrow,

PR Pret-a-Porter.

Sarah Wenger has shared this interesting infographic with me an email. The graphic has been created by Psychologydegree.net. and talks about the big-impact Facebook has been making in our lives.

Take a look at it…

Psychology of Social Networking

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How To Get Your Company More Press Coverage

Steve Farnsworth's Old Blog

PR Press Public Relations How To Pitch Better

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If you are a midsized or B2B company you probably are deeply aware that getting “ink” these days is next to impossible. There are fewer publications, fewer reporters, fewer editors, and the publications that are left produce a lot less story content. Yet, editors are desperate to find interesting content. What gives?

Click to Tweet ★   How To Get Your Company More Press Coverage   ★

Rick Merritt is one of the few technology editors that has survived the “Great Editorial Constriction.” In fact, he’s doing very well. I asked him, “in this new reality, how can a business get his attention and garner a few of those highly prized column inches?”

Rick* noted that there are several things to keep in mind that can give you an edge when trying to get an influential reporter’s attention.

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New here? Get more useful social media news and insight…

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Coca-Cola: World’s Largest Stop-Motion Video With Post-It Notes

Coca-ColaFor the Coca-Cola Conference of Happiness’ Wall of Happiness, Italian artist Eduardo Zamarro was commissioned to create the world’s largest stop-motion video using only post-it notes. The 1 million post-it notes (roughly 27,000 for each mural) feature messages of happiness from people in European cities. The mural was put together by 20 students and artists to create 135 artworks in only 15 days. Locals passing by the mural were invited to scribble their own ideas and messages of happiness as part of the mural experience.

via PSFK

Better tomorrow,

PR Pret-a-Porter.

Lavazza introduces edible coffee cup

Edible Cookie Cup Enrique Luis Sardi Lavazza Lavazza and designer Enrique Luis Sardi have created a coffee cup made of pastry lined with a sugar layer acts as a sweetener for your drink.

Created by renowned Venezuelan designer Enrique Luis Sardi for Italian coffee company Lavazza, the idea is basically “sip the coffee then eat the cup.” Brilliant and simple enough to have won numerous awards.

Edible Cookie Cup by Enrique Luis Sardi

Better tomorrow,

PR Pret-a-Porter.

 

American Airlines Social Media’s Approach

American Airlines has just one Twitter account for customer service and promotional messaging, says Stephanie Scott, who handles proactive messaging strategy, as part of the effort to be totally up front with customers. With nearly 400,000 followers, customers seem to appreciate the approach. (more…)

IKEA: The 2013 Interactive Catalogue App

When it comes to marketing, IKEA is scoring at creativity by devising unique ways to capture customer attention. Today they present the 2013 IKEA Catalog App. The app builds on IKEA’s previous apps, but this one, refreshed by McCann-Erickson, provides customers with an unprecedented interactive experience.

(more…)

Volkswagen Street View Quest: Pin It to Win It

Volkswagen provokes South Africa with the Volkswagen ‘Street Quest’ advergame… It’s a Facebook challenge to find and ‘Pin’ as many Volkswagens on South African roads as possible, using a gamified, custom version of Google Street View.

The campaign is running over a 4 week period, where the people who can pin the most Volkswagen’s, will earn a seat at the grand final, which will be a real-life version of the Street Quest. Very cool work from the guys at Ogilvy Cape Town.

(more…)

[infographic] Churches using social media

Did you imagine that churches are using social media to get to their followers ? Well, according to mashable.com, it is happening.

Communication between religious organizations and their followers has blossomed on social media. Many churches have turned to social networks to increase their outreach to spread their teachings.

Buzzplant, a Christian-based digital advertising agency, surveyed churches to see how they’re using social media within their organization. More than 30% of churches surveyed said they update Facebook each day, while close to 15% said they never use the network.

More about this phenomenon, bellow: (more…)

[infographic] How to improve your personal Google rank

Almost everyone googled himself/herself quite a few times. But were you happy with where your name appeared in your Google search results?

Each day, one billion names are Googled. Unfortunately for many, half of all people don’t find themselves in the first page of results when they Google their own name. Only 2% of individuals own the entire first page of their results.

How you can improve this ? Take a look at this infographic. (more…)

Growth of the countries on Facebook

Facebook is still number one social media channel in the world. Why ? Take a look at the graphic.

In 2012, the growth is moving from West to East as Asia gradually makes it´s way to the continent with the biggest Facebook population.

(more…)

[infographic] Social media for Maslow’s pyramid

According to Wikipedia, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity. His theories parallel many other theories of human developmental psychology, all of which focus on describing the stages of growth in humans. Maslow use the terms Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, and Self-Actualization needs to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through.

How can this pyramid translated in social media usage ? Look at the infographic bellow: (more…)

Facebook timeline for brands. Tips and tricks from Ogilvy agency

On February 29, 2012, Facebook announced updates to Pages at their first ever Facebook Marketers Conference in New York City. The big story, as expected, was the roll out of Timeline for brands. And the corresponding big headline, as expected, was, “Brands are multimedia storytellers!”

But, there’s much more to it. The brand world will soon be divided into those who fully “adopt” Timeline, and those who simply “migrate” their old strategy and ways of working to the new feature set. Brands looking to adopt must consider and prepare for the hidden implications of Timeline – reallocation of resources, increased creative involvement, a reset of content process, the new profile of community managers and more.

Check out this presentation for a summary of the Pages changes and the hidden implications of Facebook Timeline for brands. (more…)

Burson-Marsteller’s Social Media Check-Up study

Businesses from the Global Fortune 100 are mentioned 10.4 million times a month on social media, mostly on Twitter, according to Burson-Marsteller’s third-annual Social Media Check-Up

This is one of the reasons why Twitter is the most popular social network among these companies, with 82 percent having a Twitter account. And the vast majority aren’t just broadcasting messages—they’re engaging with consumers: 79 percent of corporate accounts attempt to engage on Twitter with retweets and mentions.

YouTube, which is the next most-popular platform, have branded YouTube channels with a percentage of 79%. These YouTube channels average more than 2 million views and about 1,600 subscribers.

Nearly three-quarters of the companies have Facebook pages. The average number of “likes” per page is 152,646. And 93 percent of the Facebook pages are updated weekly. 70 percent of corporate Facebook pages are responding to comments on their walls and timelines.
Meanwhile, 48 percent of the Global Fortune 100 have a Google+ presence, while 25 percent are active on Pinterest. (more…)

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