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The Asia-Pacific PR awards

May 7th, 2012 / 12:59 am

I was happy to see B-M back on the industry radar screen at this year’s Asia-Pacific PR awards. B-M China won “Product Brand Development Campaign of the Year” for its work on behalf of our client Wrigley, and I was honoured to receive the “PR Agency Head of the Year” award (which was truly a team trophy if there ever was one).

One of the highlights for me this year was being able to hand Brian Cronkhite of B-M Shanghai the “Corporate Communicator of the Year” award for the WPP X Team – in which our firm plays a leading role – for the Ford Motor Company.

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B-M confident of Southeast Asian expansion

December 29th, 2010 / 9:10 am

Burson-Marsteller is expanding its footprint in Southeast Asia as the region is among the most dynamic worldwide, says its Asia-Pacific president and CEO Bob Pickard.

While Singapore is Burson-Marsteller’s biggest market, Indonesia and Malaysia are quickly catching up, he said. Burson-Marsteller also has affiliate partnerships in Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. Pickard said the agency is currently looking at interesting opportunities in the Vietnam market, as well as strengthening its ties in Thailand.

Building a strong brand is vital in Southeast Asia as there is a tendency for the PR industry to become bland and commoditised, he said.

The agency believes it is well-positioned to target the Southeast Asian market through its focus on quality PR consulting, digital work and closer affiliate partnerships in the region.

Making Burson-Marsteller a premier brand in Southeast Asia is a priority because “that is what our clients want”, Pickard said in an interview last month.

He said Burson-Marsteller’s Malaysian office, which was launched in November, would be tapping into the demand for premium quality PR, evidenced in the “impatient restlessness of clients shifting from one agency to another”.

“Clients will try one PR firm and when they won’t deliver, they’ll switch. We see a lot of client money restlessly shifting from one agency to the next in this search for quality consulting that we’re trying to provide,” he said, adding that quality — not price — was where the opportunities lay.

Pickard explained that a Malaysian office was necessary due to heightened interest for multinational PR in the weeks following the announcement of its affiliate tie-up with Essence Communications in May.

He said that that the tie-up with Essence Communications would continue to focus on PR in the area of general publicity and consumer marketing communications. Burson-Marsteller Malaysia would then concentrate on servicing corporate accounts of Asian and international multinational corporations (MNCs) in the area of corporate communications, digital communications, financial communications.

He said affiliate partnerships were not an unusual arrangement, especially since both Burson-Marsteller and Essence Communications share the same parent company — WPP Group.

Recognising that “the most exciting digital work” is happening in Asia, Pickard said the company was sending Asian talent to around the world via transfers — “exporting Asian talent instead of the traditional imports of multinational money, ideas and people”.

“Asian customers who have a global story to tell want a face-to-face relationship in Asia but they want a team to push their agenda and ideas to a global network,” he said.

There is also “huge untapped potential” in digital PR consulting in Asia, said Pickard, citing figures from the Burson-Marsteller’s Asia-Pacific Social Media Study launched in October.

The study reviewed and analysed social media activity by 120 major companies across 12 markets in Asia-Pacific; Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

The companies surveyed comprise the top 10 companies per country as ranked in the 2009 Wall Street Journal Asia 200 Index.

“We found that less than half (40%) of Asian MNCs had a branded social media presence, compared to twice as many Western MNCs in a similar study. And 55% of that 40% were not using actively what they had established. Statistics show enormous consumption of video in Malaysia yet many companies were not sharing the life of their companies through digital means,” he said.

He said the agency was looking to make digital hires. Helmed by Burson-Marsteller director and market leader Joycelyn Lee, the Malaysian office currently has six staff, including  Fleishman-Hillard Kuala Lumpur’s former corporate and finance account director Jida Zainal Azman and  former digital strategist Kelvin Lim.

Pickard said from being based on “the artistry of face-to-face relationships”, the PR industry has evolved to include “the science of highly measurable evidence-based undertaking”.

“We have to know analytics, the content side of media in a way like never before. We need relationship connections not just between dozens of journalists but thousands of people.”

The agency practises talent transfers, where employees are posted overseas to be exposed to different cultures across different markets. Not only do employees benefit from the talent transfer experience but clients too appreciate the wider perspective, he said. Talent is about diversity, he said, adding that all the agency’s offices were interested in employing people of various nationalities.

“The PR firm that invests most massively into training and educating intellectual property will be the firm that bright young talents would want to work for.

And that’s the firm clients would wish to hire,” he said.

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