HK PR firms expect strong growth

Benchmark survey finds most PR companies predict higher annual fees, with digital media a key driver of business

The PR industry in Hong Kong performed well in 2013/14, with the majority of firms continuing to indicate an increase in annual spending next year, according to a survey conducted by Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong (CPRFHK).

The survey showed that while industry growth remained robust, with 53 percent of firms citing an increase in annual fees, the pace and strength of this growth slowed as compared to the previous year (2013), when 79 percent of firms indicated an increase.

Digital and social
 
Digital communications and social-media services continue to dominate as key drivers of business. The number of clients engaging with agencies for digital communications rose from 23 percent to 44 percent. For clients with social-media strategies, developing a blogger/influencer strategy was a focus, comprising 85 percent of social media tactics implemented, up from 62 percent from 2012/13. Interest in developing company-owned blogs was also seen as critical, with an increase from 53 percent to 74 percent year over year.

Billing

In the field of billing practices, the survey results show that there was an industry increase in planning and goal setting. In 2013/14, well over half of the responding firms (72 percent) indicated that they compared billing targets against actual staff, which was significantly higher than in 2012/13 (44 percent). An overwhelming 73 percent of firms practiced price cutting this year in an effort to win a new client, suggesting that firms are finding it increasingly difficult to articulate their value propositions.

Talent

Employees remain a key area of focus in the public relations industry, with more companies reporting higher turnover rates this year. Family or personal reasons came out as the top driver for employee turnover, toppling typical reasons such as compensation and type of work.
 
Rachel Catanach, chairperson of CPRFHK and senior partner, SVP and managing director at FleishmanHillard said, "The survey has showed us that digital communications, social media and blogger engagements are very much top of mind for clients, and we must compete head-to-head with our digital counterparts to remain relevant."

"Like many PR companies in Hong Kong, FleishmanHillard has experienced good growth in 2014, and our outlook for 2015 is also positive," she told PRWeek. "There is more demand from clients for quality content and creative integrated campaigns that resonate not only with consumers but also other stakeholders such as NGOs, regulators and industry. In addition, more companies are looking to shared value partnerships as a way to deepen relationships, identify new markets and redefine products rather than just through corporate giving. This is presenting opportunities for PR companies to go beyond media relations and diversify their services to include such areas as public affairs and employee communications. All in all, the industry is looking healthy and is continuing to build wider recognition for the value it provides."

The Council of PR Firms in Hong Kong has conducted its survey annually since 2008. This year, a total of 35 members and non-members were surveyed. The full results of this survey are confidential and shared only with survey participants; aggregated analysis at the industry level is made available to the public.

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