Is corp comm in Asia lagging behind on digital hire?

A Weber Shandwick study says global corporate communications officers (CCO) are increasingly hiring digital experts but a dipstick check by PRWeek in Asia indicates their counterparts here may be ambivalent

According to the Spencer Stuart and Weber Shandwick study released in June 73 percent of global CCO’s said they were hiring more digital and social media experts in their departments as marketing and communications converge and the need to stay connected with stakeholders on social media becomes imperative.

But Asian sample size of the study, The Rising CCO, was very small (Weber Shandwick declined to reveal how small). So PRWeek asked a set of two dozen CCO’s based in India, China, Singapore and Indonesia if they had indeed hired more digital specialists this year. Only one respondent confirmed she had. "Yes, I am currently more hire digital specialist. I hired 2 more people and hired more as well freelancers," said Fardila Astari, director of communications at the Jakarta-based Center of Public Policy Transformation.

Surprisingly even Prospect, the communications specialist talent recruitment firm, which attempted to do a simple survey with a cross section of Asian CCOs on behalf of PRWeek met with no response. Some CCOs it approached even declined to comment. This despite the trend that is seeing PR and communications roles becoming far more integrated to include social media and digital.


So is the corporate communications function lagging behind in beefing up its digital expertise? PRWeek’s findings run contrary to the Weber study. "In Asia, we see a growing demand for social media skills to manage social networking platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Vine, especially for B2C industries like luxury, retail and FMCG," says Emma Dale managing director of Prospect. "Some companies have digital experts to focus specifically on this area of communications, while others expect their PR and communications manager to take care of digital platforms in addition to traditional channels." Could this tendency to rely on PR agencies explain the lack of interest by Asian CCOs to hire more digital specialists? Perhaps.

"We’re noticing that smaller PR agencies are recruiting staff to manage both traditional and social media in line with their leaner team structure," says Dale. Or does it come down to fact that finding good digital talent for a corporate communications role itself is difficult? "We see a growing trend of job-hopping as digital experts move for a new challenge or for monetary incentives," admits Dale.

The fact is that firms in Asia still do not give investing in corporate communications the same order of priority as their western counterparts. A good indicator is that despite the demand for digital experts, according to Dale, there is very little variation between the salary of a digital and a traditional communications expert. Even Australia, which has more in common with the West than the rest of Asia is behind US and Europe in the adoption of digital technology. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics last year showed that only 44.6% of Aussie businesses had a web presence.


The jury on firms in China, however, is still out. Although no China based CCO confirmed hiring more digital specialists Simon Lance, regional director of headhunting firm Hays told PRWeek he had observed increasing requirement of digital marketing specialists.

"In China’s digital marketing domain, skills in demand include integrated digital marketing, SEO/SEM, social media strategy and plan, strategic collaboration with other digital platforms, and E-Commerce promotion," he said. "We have observed that there is increasing requirements for digital marketing specialists which is placing strong demand on the limited talent pool," he told PRWeek. No data to support that claim, however, was given. 


According to the Weber Shandwick study social media is expected to have the "single greatest impact" on the CCO’s job over the next few years. An overwhelming 91 percentage of global CCOs expect social media to increase in importance more than other communications responsibilities. Although Weber Shandwick says this finding is consistent across every region PRWeek’s own survey (albeit less scientific) show CCOs in Asia may not necessarily recognise that need.

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