Platform: Grabbing the tiger economies by the tail - With the international spotlight turned on Asia, now is not the time for PR agencies to jump ship, says Shoba Purushothaman

The international media has had a field day this year portraying Asia as a region in real economic difficulty and under a permanent haze. However, the reality is somewhat different and PR professionals targeting the region must realise this if they are to be successful.

The international media has had a field day this year portraying

Asia as a region in real economic difficulty and under a permanent haze.

However, the reality is somewhat different and PR professionals

targeting the region must realise this if they are to be successful.



The economic situation is certainly bleak. But it varies vastly from

country to country, and governments are reacting differently. Some of

the larger PR consultancies have dashed for the door, cutting staff and

even closing offices, but to write off Asia is a mistake for the PR

industry.



Having the spotlight turned so brightly on the region has made Asia sit

up and pay attention to how it is being portrayed around the world. The

reality is that the opportunity for the PR industry in Asia today -

especially PR practitioners who can offer counsel and execute programmes

globally - could well turn out to be the best yet.



There are many corporations and indeed governments that are desperately

seeking ways to restore damaged or even destroyed reputations. Not only

are there some willing and able customers, but in many respects the

Asian media has never presented as many opportunities as now for PR

practitioners.



Unlike its western counterparts, the Asian media has never shied away

from reporting good news. The need to offer a negative for every

positive has not been a dominant feature of reporting in the region. In

the current environment where there is a natural abundance of negative

stories and events, the Asian media is more eager than ever to receive

anything offering a positive spin.



As far as television is concerned, advertising revenue is down almost

everywhere and some countries cannot afford to continue to pay for the

high level of American programmes they had relied on previously. In

Malaysia for instance, budgets for foreign-sourced programming have been

slashed by up to 40 per cent. The result is that they have to produce

more local programming, albeit with reduced budgets. Many networks have

cut their subscriptions to the international news agencies such as

Reuters and APTV that provided news gathering services for them.



In other quarters, some broadcasters are carrying on with plans to

launch new programmes and services. China’s CCTV and Shanghai TV are

both still on track with plans to launch a global satellite service

catering to the expatriate Chinese community.



What is needed from PR professionals is inventive story creation and an

understanding of what broadcasters want. But practitioners need to

consider the subjects they wish to promote carefully. Pushing Prada when

there is rioting for rice won’t fly.



Most countries are publicly predicting they will be out of difficulties

in six to nine months. But more cynical pundits believe it will take

three years before the tiger economies are back to their annual eight to

ten per cent growth rates.



The unpredictability of the recovery makes it difficult for companies to

gauge the correct level of spend to protect their market share now and

to position themselves to take full advantage of the recovery when it

happens. There are therefore positive opportunities for consultancies to

provide creative solutions that are more cost-effective than traditional

marketing methods.



Some major companies are already beginning to increase their

communications spend simply because the risk of holding back and losing

out in the recovery is too great. My advice to the PR industry is to

reap the opportunities in Asia now.



Shoba Purushothaman is group director international at Bulletin

International.



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