The South East Asian PR landscape continues to be a bit of an enigma to even those hardened practitioners who have been in Hong Kong since it was a colony! Despite the fact that there are more IPOs coming out of China than the rest of the world put together, including AIA’s mega $17bn listing, it seems that it is still not easy to make money out of corporate and financial PR in the Far East.
Clearly in many ways the boom does not help as, with property at extraordinary levels in Hong Kong and a lack of trained or experienced PR professionals, running a PR function can be both costly and frustrating. With banks and other organisations desperately looking to hire professionals and agencies doing the same there is a scramble for good people that seems to be never ending. The larger organisations now require PR support not just in Hong Kong but also in other Asian and Pacific countries from Sydney to India and the problem is there simply are not enough people.
Pr agencies are finding it just as tough and no one will admit it but making money is not easy. The Chinese do not see paying for consultancy as an added value service so those that do make money make it on mark ups from other services.
A local agency might charge $10,000 for an IPO but make ten or twenty times that on mark ups from advertising and so on – and this is accepted. The problem is the UK and international agencies are not used to doing this. Things are changing though with international agencies currently advising on a number of IPOs.
The other big issue with the landscape is the lack of knowledgeable business journalists, with the FT the only respected financial daily. The leading financial publications have been around for a while but the number of them has not grown and outside the Hong Kong market it is even more disparate and difficult to penetrate.
Many journalists would like to make the move into PR but those wanting staff do not feel they have time to train them as a PR’s job in the Far East is all consuming, dealing with different culture and processes. In a world that has changed so much in the last five years – and indeed a country that has altered beyond recognition – it is surprising that the public relations and business media landscape has seemed to have remained in a time capsule. One wonders how it will progress.