There is much talk about the booming Chinese public relations sector. Some say that by 2010 there will be one million (!) Chinese professionals with a college degree. Here is an article from yesterday’s South China Morning Post heralding Hong Kong as the ideal ‘hub’ for this bursting expansion. True or not, it is beyond doubt that most international pr agencies are doing well in China and that public relations is seen as an essential ingredient of any success. Ipra is organizing it’s world congress in Bejing in 2008. Senior practitioners are moving back and forth and establishing contacts…. My question then is: when will the Global Alliance decide it’s time to abandon the balking approach it’s had sofar over the issue and overtly invite the Chinese PR association to become an active member? And.. by the way…are we still waiting for Castro to pop off before we include our cuban colleagues? Your opinions please??South China Morning Post
November 4, 2006 Saturday
SECTION: SUPPLEMENT; Pg. 7
LENGTH: 852 words
HEADLINE: At your service;
Demand for PR professionals is growing, especially in the booming mainland economy, writes Tim Metcalfe Public Relations key playersjargon
THE ICONIC Absolutely Fabulous television sitcom that parodies public relations through the champagne lifestyles of Eddy and Patsy bears only a passing resemblance to the reality of the industry in Hong Kong. Commonly known as “PR”, the business is dominated by women, with a survey by the Hong Kong Public Relations Professionals’ Association finding that women outnumber men by four to one. Public relations involves a fair level of entertaining, but life is not one long party.
“I wish there was more champagne, but the reality is that business growth does not come from party planning, but very established and serious issues – such as ensuring that firms meet corporate governance standards, report financial results transparently or engage government regulators, customers and various special interest groups on environmental issues,” said David Ketchum, chairman of the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong. Every sizeable local company has at least one staff member dealing with public relations, with duties ranging from dealing with the media and sending out press releases to organising brochures and websites. Bigger firms and corporations have entire PR departments. Many others are represented by specialist firms. The principal objective of all is to promote the corporate brand, image and product. According to Fortune magazine, public relations will be one of the world’s fastest-growing professions over the next 10 years and, as one of Asia’s most sophisticated economies, Hong Kong is not surprisingly brimming with PRs. Demand is growing especially fast for PR services in booming mainland China, which traditionally regards overseas consultants as more worldly and effective than its domestic talent. David Croasdale, business director of Newell Public Relations, said: “We are seeing a very strong demand for Hong Kong PR expertise in China both from multinationals and Chinese companies wanting to reach the rest of the region.” “We have doubled our staff in Beijing and Shanghai from 10 to 20 over the past two years, and the number of retainer clients has grown threefold.” Mr Ketchum, who founded his own company, Upstream Asia, six years ago, is also expanding. He has 60 staff in offices in Taiwan, Singapore, Sydney, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo. In October the firm was listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM) with a view to funding growth. “We want to keep building in Asia,” he said. The industry is not only profiting from multinationals converging on China and setting up headquarters in Hong Kong. Mr Ketchum said: “The retail sector is healthy so we see a lot of production launches and branding campaigns. More visitors from the mainland are driving the tourism sector. The financial sector is seeing more Chinese firms listing on the local stock market than it has in many years.” As chairman of the PR council, which represents 35 leading consultancies, Mr Ketchum is pushing Hong Kong as a “regional leader” for the industry. Grebstad Hicks Communications (GHC) is a leading “home-grown” independent Hong Kong PR consultancy specialising in travel, hospitality and lifestyle-related brands. Co-founder Lynn Grebstad said: “The past two years have been great.” Turnover has grown by at least 50 per cent a year and with profitability also up, the company has “reinvested substantially in building up the company”. “We have grown from a team of just 11 two years ago to 20 now and we are still expanding,” Ms Grebstad said. “We have also established satellite presences in both Singapore and Shanghai this year. “After some rather difficult years for Hong Kong, the business is now really beginning to fulfil its potential. In the past year or so we have successfully expanded our initial travel and tourism niche to encompass a much wider consumer and lifestyle area.” The latest boom has seen the company retained by two major new Hong Kong tourism attractions, the Ngong Ping 360 cable car on Lantau and The Peak Tower, as well as launching Hong Kong’s first boutique hotel, JIA in Causeway Bay, and several top restaurants including Aqua at One Peking Road. But, Carole Klein, director of PR and communications at the InterContinental Hong Kong said it was not only during booming economies that the industry came into its own. “All companies need public relations in some form, both in good times and bad,” she said. “A company should not use PR just to deal with a crisis or launch a product. They should consistently have someone representing their product to the media and public whether business is flourishing or in times of crisis. “It is important to have a consistent and recurring message to build relationships with the media and sustain coverage needed to create a successful brand. You have to keep getting your message and name out there.” The industry is therefore more resilient to downsizing than most, while in a strong position to enjoy the fruits of economic upturns. Mr Ketchum said: “It is a very good time for the public relations industry, with a strong demand for staff at all levels, from the experienced to fresh graduates.”