Asia PR pros have a "licence to lead" how brands expand in region and should not be afraid of being a "driving voice", according to Robin Kim, vice president and managing director of Global Technology & Innovation at Ruder Finn.
With Asia having more online users than anywhere else in the world, three of the top ten internet companies by market capitalization, and three of the top ten global apps according to usage and session, PR professionals in the region should be on the front foot, Kim said.
She told PRWeek Asia during a recent visit to Singapore: "Asian companies are expanding their footprint in different ways than in North America and Europe. My advice would be to seize the opportunity to be a driving voice in shaping how communications can shape and navigate this landscape."
Kim, who has previously held senior roles with Edelman and the WPP group of PR companies, said she views tech space and start-up environment in Asia as being "dynamic and ascending".
"I just got back from meetings with Startupbootcamp and Vertex Venture Management, both with impressive portfolios and approaches to nurturing growth," she said. "They are great examples of Singapore’s ascent as a hub for start-ups, in addition to what’s coming out of China, Indonesia, Taiwan, India and other markets."
"Asian powerhouses such as Alibaba, Tencent, Huawei and others are making their impact felt around the world, as are Chinese universities such as Tsinghua given their recent tech program in Seattle. Finally, U.S. companies such as Google, Microsoft and others continue their expansion in Asia. It’s a great time for tech in Asia."
That said, the communications challenges around these brands remain plentiful, not least because she believes the classic hub and spoke model of communication is no longer suitable.
"One of the biggest challenges will continue to be anticipating as well as responding to issues and opportunities in real time," she said. "The classic hub and spoke model of communications doesn’t work. Companies who do this well ensure there are strong strategic centers of excellence within region in addition to the center. "
"Asia’s diversity and dynamism is both an opportunity and a challenge when it comes to engaging stakeholders in the region. Localization is everything… so companies need to understand how to engage these audiences differently than they might do in other regions."
Kim acknowledges that analytical tools have made it easier to understand diverse audiences, but that doesn’t necessarily help with delivery in the region, especially when there are gulfs in technology capabilities between countries.
"Finding the right balance between consistency and localization has always been a challenge, but I agree that this landscape has become more complicated given speed disparities," she added.
"4G has caught on in a big way particularly in New Zealand and China, but smartphone users in Vietnam are still staring at blank white pages. It’s similar picture with broadband when comparing Singapore with the Philippines. And yet users across all of these markets still expect a seamless, meaningful experience.
"It’s another reason we see so many companies are moving away from traditional hub and spoke models for content production and distribution. The future is really being driven by an ensemble model that is much more sharing- and conversation-centric, and where messaging and content can be digested on the go in multiple formats, in smaller doses as attention spans evolve.
"What hasn’t changed is the fundamentals of crafting a narrative that conveys the brand’s vision and story well. This skill has never been more important than now."