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PR opportunities in digital disruption

News, 29 April 2015

HONG KONG: The distinction between advertising and PR is becoming increasingly blurred, according to a new report which highlights the new terminology of "integrated communications" being used by business leaders in Asia.

PRWeek noted that "the rules are no longer cut and dried about what constitutes advertising and what passes for PR".

Brands now need to present a consistent image across all channels, "and as digital technology disrupts, pulling separate channels closer together, opportunity arises for PR agencies".

FleishmanHillard in Asia, for example, won PRWeek's Asia-Pacific Network of the Year in 2014 and Lynne-Anne Davis, president and senior partner Asia-Pacific, emphasised how the firm had more than doubled revenue from advertising.

Scott Kronick, CEO at Ogilvy APAC, described the convergence trend as a "mash-up" and argued that PR was becoming more attractive from a business standpoint.

In particular, he referred to the way in which briefs were now coming from the chief marketing officer rather than the communications director, a development he attributed in part to the impact of social media.

Another trend observed by Davis was that of local brands developing into regional players and beyond. "Huawei started out as just a project in 2005 and has continued to expand," she said. Today the Chinese telecoms equipment giant is among the agency's top-10 Asia-based clients.

China is clearly a major market – the top-billing agency in the region is BlueFocus, based in Beijing – but Davis was bullish on the prospects for India.

"We saw a big boost in confidence after Narendra Modi took office," she said. "Suddenly India is back on the table for global brands; we could grow revenue as much as 50% in India [in 2015]."

But achieving that level of increase may be constrained by the difficulties agencies face in recruiting suitably skilled people – PRWeek reported this issue came up in nearly every interview it had done with PR leaders in the region.

FleishmanHillard has started to address this by establishing partnerships with universities to nurture talent.

Data sourced from PRWeek; additional content by Warc staff