The PR week: The good, the bad and the bizarre from the last seven days

Your rapid-fire review of the global goings-on in PR, as viewed by PRWeek Asia editor Gary Scattergood.

How do you solve a problem like the leaver?

With PR firms increasingly adhering to the idea that if content is king, then authenticity is queen, it was somewhat sad to see several refusing to practice what they preach by declining to disclose what their staff turnover level was for the last year.

This was in light of our first monthly Deep Dive feature, which assessed the widespread problem of up to one-third of agency employees heading for the exit each year, never to return. While every agency we spoke to acknowledged the scale of the problem and discussed in detail how they were hoping to rectify it, many of the bigger players were cagey when it came to the figures.

If they were advising clients in any other industry with the same problem, would they advocate openness or evasiveness? We know which approach we think looks best.

Seven heaven

It might still be posting the kind of economic growth figures most Western finance chiefs would willingly sell their grandmother for (in Greece you could get their whole family), but China’s GDP performance continues to pose cause for concern.

Most of the world’s media this week predicted figures for the last quarter to dip below 7 per cent, which is President Xi Jinping’s target for annual growth this year.

All of which provided a very nice PR boost when the actual figure announced by the National Bureau of Statistics was, naturally, 7 per cent.

From our conversations with many of the major PR agencies, attitudes around the potential for the industry in China – and the economic fortunes of the country itself – remain bullish.

Either way, from a journalism perspective, it would be nice to see a decent PR agency get its foot in the door at the National Bureau of Statistics.

This week’s press release began with the snappily constructed opening gambit: "In the first half year of 2015, faced with complicated external and domestic economic conditions and increasingly downward pressure, the Central Party Committee and the State Council have adhered to the general tone of "moving forward while maintaining stability", conducted scientific and accurate macro-regulation and unswervingly pushed forward the system reform and institutional innovation." Quite.

Sugar rush

This column never shies away from making or taking criticism (for the latter, see last week’s column), but first and foremost we love to champion PR successes, especially when it comes to getting one over the ad men. So this week, take a bow the team at Ketchum in China.

When the guys at Hershey wanted to launch Jolly Rancher in the country, they pitted the PR team against a better-funded TV ad campaign to see which had the better results. Needless to say, the ad men were left counting their losses as the Ketchum strategy led to greater ROI and a bigger market share. Such success is sweet!

Return on investment

Just in case you've ever being lying in bed at night wondering what Weber Shandwick's best $67 investment in Australia was, now we can tell you. According to VP Gareth Finch it was a bug suit for a short film contest promoting better use of antibiotics. We're inclined to agree, but we hope the poor chap who had to wear it at least earned three-figures...

Movers and shakers

The revolving doors at the world’s PR agencies were in full spin again this week as a deluge of people move emails popped into our inbox. In Asia, Hill+Knowlton signalled its intent to pursue the best "non-traditional" PR talent by hiring Pamela Teo from Zenith Optimedia as its new regional HR boss, with Zeno in Singapore already putting that ambition into practice by poaching Tony Ray Pereira from Dentsu to head-up creative in Singapore. In Shanghai The Hoffman Agency named ex-Edelman exec Esther Kuang Mei as its GM; Arc Worldwide tempted former FleishmanHillard VP Eswari Kalugasalam Lawson to take the reins in Malaysia; Benjamin Ou rejoined APCO in Beijing after a four year absence; and Avian Media in India unveiled its revamped leadership structure.

In the UK, Weber Shandwick has made three senior hires in its digital team including Al Berry from Bacardi, who joins as head of content; Westbourne Communications appointed Kate McFerran, former head of corporate at 3 Monkeys, as a partner to head up its reputation practice; and Joanna Mackie is joining Rain Communications as a fashion and lifestyle consultant.

Over in the States, meanwhile, APCO picked ex-Whitehouse staffer Gadi Dechter to lead its public affairs practice, while Golin promoted Dawn Langeland to New York MD after just three months in the deputy role.

There was little in the way of new business gains in Asia this week, but the UK can keep us on track after Trainline, the train ticket booking provider, appointed Bite to handle its corporate and consumer PR following a competitive pitch; Ireland's tourist board appointed Perowne Charles Communications as its corporate and consumer PR agency after a 10-way pitch; and Heineken UK added to its consumer PR roster with the appointment of Exposure.

Final Thought:

What's with the animal obsession? Last month we had Sir Martin Sorrell and his pals setting up Truffle Pig, and now we can add Mongoose to the stable of PR firms inspired by the animal world. "A Mongoose is nimble, agile, and tenacious, the perfect characteristics to describe our new agency and vision," said its CEO. Some types of Mongoose are also famed for their public health risk as carriers of Leptospirosis - the world's most common illness transmitted to humans by animals. Alas, we couldn’t find any mention of that in the press release.

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