SINGAPORE: Changing demographics and behaviours influenced by digital technologies are reshaping PR practices in Southeast Asia, where, anecdotal evidence suggests, PR practices can be markedly different from those in western countries.

“Journalists and PR professionals in the region are getting younger,” observed Chris Pash, Director at Relate Media Asia Pacific and author of a new report published by Burton-Taylor International Consulting.

Based on in-depth interviews with some 20 PR practitioners doing business across Southeast Asia, he reported that “younger PR players are less likely to put time into building relationships via face-to-face meetings,” while “younger journalists are more likely to connect online, staying in the office rather than attending a media event”.

At the same time, the region has seen the rise of bloggers and other “key opinion leaders” who may be using video content, with PR practitioners having to adapt accordingly.

But while brands have more ways to reach consumers than ever before, many are falling short in their PR executions, according to one communications specialist.

“In Asia and the Middle East, the way advertising and publishing industries have evolved has led to the perception and expectation that everything should read like an advertorial,” claimed Adam Pitt, formerly an Asia-based communications specialist, now a senior content manager in Dubai.

Writing in Mumbrella recently, he reported that this approach was being driven from the top down.

“My experience with account directors at global public relations agencies has shown a complete inability to distinguish between the tone, language and content of a speech and a feature,” he said.

The founder of a Mynamar PR agency meanwhile claimed that in some quarters there was a misunderstanding of the role of public relations.

“A lot of companies – especially those from China and Vietnam – believe you can pay for coverage,” said Anthony Larmon, head of Echo Myanmar.

He added that some creative agencies in the country had started offering PR services despite having little understanding of them and had been alienating journalists by almost “bullying” them for coverage.

Sourced from Burton-Taylor, Mumbrella; additional content by WARC staff