Burson-Marsteller needs 'nimble, passionate, gung-ho' pros in Asia

New APAC CEO Margaret Key vows to retain the "DNA of the Burson person", but will also look to non-traditional sectors for new hires

Key was named APAC CEO last month
Key was named APAC CEO last month

New Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific CEO Margaret Key has said new hires and staff training will be vital for the agency to grow in Asia, while vowing to change the perception of what the industry believes is the "typical Burson person".

She told PRWeek Asia China was a particular focus for recruitment, adding the firm was keen to consider candidates from non-traditional PR backgrounds.

Key was appointed Asia-Pacific CEO last month and had served as chief operating officer for Asia-Pacific for the past year. She was also acting Hong Kong market leader until early 2015. She joined Burson-Marsteller in 2010 as Korea market leader, having previously served in senior roles at Edelman in Japan, Korea and Hong Kong.

She said the agency had to do more to emphasize its points of difference to clients, prospects, staff and the wider industry.

"When we talk about a Burson person, to those outside I think there is a perception it is someone who is buttoned-up and serious," she said. "But for us, it someone who is committed to client service, committed to doing the right thing and being committed to collaboration.

"I want to retain that DNA of the Burson person, but Asia is very different and the professionals who are coming in to the industry will need to be different. I want to use the words nimble, I want to use the word aggressive, I want to use the words passionate, gung-ho, eager beavers—that’s the other level we need to add to the professionals we have, either by training or hiring."

Key succeeded Terri-Helen Gaynor, who resigned from the company for personal and family reasons. Gaynor, who was appointed as the regional network head in January 2015, previously spent 12 years as a managing director and founding partner at Reputation, an Australian consultancy, working with clients Nike, IBM, Bupa, Manulife, Deutsche Bank, Marriott International, Qantas, KPMG and Optus.

Despite being the firm’s third regional CEO in seven months, Key said the leadership changes had not had a negative impact.

"Change is never easy, but because [Terri’s] stay was shorter rather than longer, I think it has made it a little easier. Plus, I have been in Hong Kong pretty much for the last year and a half as COO so it hasn’t been so much of a challenge."

A full Big Interview feature with Key will appear online later this week

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