'Staggering' rise in crisis work amid global uncertainty: Porter Novelli CEO

Brad MacAfee said that while campaigns and integration are key to the PR business, reputation management is top-of-mind in the uncertain geopolitical climate.

SINGAPORE: Communications agencies are facing greater crisis and reputation demands than during any recent time because of rising uncertainty across the world’s political and economic landscape, said Brad MacAfee, CEO of Porter Novelli.

Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific in Singapore, MacAfee said a client has contacted his agency virtually every day for months for help on an area of reputation management.

"The amount of growth we’ve seen in reputation management in the last year is staggering," he said. "It’s obvious that it would be fast-growing, but the rate is really surprising. However, it can also offer great rewards for an agency like ours, as good reputation management drives client loyalty."

From the new U.S. administration to the South China Sea dispute, and from Brexit to Korea’s historic presidential scandal, MacAfee said that although many brands are not actually in any sort of reputational difficulty, "everything seems a bit heightened right now."

"In this era of uncertainty and potential political tensions coming at your business, everyone is looking for any insight and guidance about these global geopolitical issues," he said. "With clients, it’s not about being either alarmist or opportunist. You want to be a good counselor."

MacAfee raised the highly contentious issue of fake news, which he said most brands are unprepared for because they see it as a political issue, but not yet a business one.

"But then you get an incorrect tweet from a government official over your pricing around a procurement, and then you see your stock slide," he hypothesized. "There are some businesses at greater risk from fake news than others; that’s fair. But as with any good communications risk assessment, you have to figure out that likelihood. We’re finding some brands are really ill-prepared for this right now."

In Asia-Pacific, Macafee said the agency has seen the largest growth in China, where it is exploring opportunities with small and medium-sized enterprises looking to expand their footprints internationally.

"A lot of SMEs are going global out of China, and we’re helping them into Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America," he said. "A lot of brands are doing risk evaluation around their expansion into Southeast Asia, and bringing in communications firms to help to see around potential issues."

This story first appeared on campaignasia.com.

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