Asia is not a flight of fancy

Asia presents exciting opportunities for clued-up comms professionals, says VMA Group's executive director/head of Asia-Pacific, Katrina Andrews.

Over the past few years, the ailing European economy has had an impact on the high volume of UK-based PR and comms professionals wishing to relocate to Asia. Even as the European markets rally, many UK comms professionals are still keen to relocate east.

In VMA Group Asia's latest research study, The Pulse, we investigated whether this demand matches the expectations of hiring managers in Asia. What are the skills most in demand, and what are the opportunities available?

Media relations

This is the most mature corporate comms function in Asia and is most valued at board level. This is reflected in reporting lines, with a quarter of respondents reporting directly to the CEO or MD, while only six per cent of respondents working in internal comms have this direct reporting line. Media relations also came out top when asked how the senior leadership team viewed their role, with 68 per cent describing them as "key advocates" of their function. The catch is that 70 per cent of these roles in Hong Kong or Singapore require Chinese language skills.

Digital comms

A standalone digital comms function is still a fairly novel concept in Asia, but 67 per cent of respondents predicted that social media would become the main platform used to communicate with their stakeholders. Experience in this area is a highly sought-after skill.

Permanent, interim or fixed-term contracts

There has been a move away from permanent-only positions over the past two years. As late as 2011, VMA Group was sourcing only for permanent roles in Asia. However, there are now ample opportunities for those looking for interim or contract roles. Returning confidence in the economy but continued pressure on headcount has meant there are many opportunities for interims, particularly covering maternity and paternity leave. There are also more senior interim opportunities in Asia's emerging markets - 51 per cent of The Pulse's respondents predict that their businesses plan to expand their comms teams in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia this year.

Language barriers

Even if you speak only English, you can work in Asia. But as there are a lot of ex-pats seeking to enter the market, just sending in your CV won't provide you with an edge. Personal connections count for a lot, so consider flying out for interviews, and to network and meet us here at VMA Group.

If you don't have the language skills, what skill defines you as a specialist? Be specific in your search criteria, so that prospective employers can assess why they should they hire you over someone who is already in the Asia market. What unique skillset do you offer? One that I often suggest is in internal comms, as international organisations in Asia tend to want their internal comms to be conducted in the language of international business - English.

You should also be prepared to fund your move. Big relocation packages are a thing of the past, and although flights out and interim accommodation (usually for a month) may be provided, housing and schooling support is negligible. Even with Asia's tax benefits, Hong Kong and Singapore are expensive cities.

For talented and committed comms professionals, there are huge opportunities in Asia. For more information, please contact us, or peruse a copy of The Pulse.

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