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Worldwide communication for Asian multinationals


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Almost 200 companies on the Fortune 500 list are now from Asia, but most of these rising multinationals - notably the nearly 100 based in China - remain relatively unknown outside their home regions. This next generation of worldwide titans are now wondering whether and how to use public relations to help build global brands, representing one of the industry’s biggest commercial opportunities. This new wave of companies will become world famous for the very first time in a social media age, but their embrace of PR as a critical corporate function is by no means a foregone conclusion. With Asia the world’s emerging centre of economic gravity, the region will be a critical battleground for the future of international public relations.

Published in: Marketing

Worldwide communication for Asian multinationals

  1. 1. Worldwide communication for Asian multinationals: PR’s next big thing? The 2014 Bob Pickard ICCO Global Summit @ New Delhi
  2. 2. By modern new realities
  3. 3. There is no country called ‘Asia’ § It is not a ‘country of regions’ like the US § It is also not really a region of countries § It’s more like a division of diverse regions § ‘Asia-Pacific’ as a reporting convenience for multinationals, a waning regional umbrella concept § The way quite a few Chinese marketers seem to think, China = Asia (similar to some US attitudes about the Americas)
  4. 4. Consider the sheer scale of Asia’s rise 200 150 100 50 0 USA China Japan Germany UK Brazil India Russia Indonesia 2010 2015 2020 2030 2040 2050 (trillion current USD) Source: Citibank Global Economic Review
  5. 5. Composition of nominal GDP 26% 8% 25% 29% 6% 6% 16% 8% 13% 7% 11% 45% 10% 8% 8% 6% 19% 49% North America Latin America Western Europe Eastern Europe ME / Africa Asia Pacific 2010 2030 2050 Source: Citibank Global Economic Review
  6. 6. Map of the global economy
  7. 7. Map of the global PR industry
  8. 8. Why Asia now? “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” - Wayne Gretzky
  9. 9. Is it as big as the factories in China ?
  10. 10. Is it as fast as the bullet train?
  11. 11. It’s all about ‘face’
  12. 12. 42% 39% 37% 36% 53% 52% 47% 55% 83% Trading Technology Equipment Capital Goods Transportation Consumer Durables Banking Constuction Materials Chemical of the world’s top 2000 companies are now headquartered in Asia Source: Forbes Global 2000 list
  13. 13. 188 of the FORTUNE 500 list are now companies from Asia-Pacific § PR clients of the future § Now 95 from China § Japan still has 57 § India has 8
  14. 14. Key PR questions being asked § What is corporate communication? § Where does it ‘fit’ in the marketing mix? § How much money should we spend on it? § Do we communicate differently globally compared to domestically? § Who should be in charge of it internally? § Who else is doing it and what can we follow or imitate from their ‘case study’ experience? § How do we tangibly measure its effectiveness?
  15. 15. How many of China’s 95 are famous?
  16. 16. What about Huawei?
  17. 17. Famous from fears
  18. 18. What about Alibaba?
  19. 19. Famous from fortune
  20. 20. Getting started with going global § Many Asian companies are completely unknown outside of the region and will find it challenging to compete in countries where ‘mind share’ will help them achieve market share § In many cases, their corporate communications efforts have been so ‘local’ in orientation, they are simply not yet equipped with the tools they will need to build an image – or the defences required to defend their reputation § As these companies gain traction internationally, they can count on being attacked by entrenched competitors, who in many cases may enjoy commanding positions supported by the most advanced communications capabilities available today § Meanwhile, in many Asian companies, corporate communication is an underdeveloped and poorly understood low-status function § Even before then, Asia companies will be up against generic negative stereotypes that are commonplace in many markets…
  21. 21. The ‘national’ challenges for Chinese multinationals § Unfairly exploitative; interested in ‘extracting’ from host markets rather than ‘contributing’ benefits to communities § Commoditized ‘quantity’ players who compete on price rather than on quality § Hierarchical ‘machines’ with top-down command and communications § Nationalistic and conquering in mentality towards other countries § Unsophisticated when it comes to corporate social responsibility § Agents of PRC state power and potentially a security risk § Environmentally ‘toxic’ with pollution problems likely § Untrustworthy in keeping commercial agreements § Flagrant abusers of intellectual property § Culturally and ethnically homogenous § Harsh employers with HR problems § Lacking in transparency § Ethically suspect
  22. 22. The opportunities for Asian companies § Those are all kinds of characteristics that may be unfairly assumed to be true of an Asian company overseas before it even gets started with its communications § While such may seem to be daunting obstacles, fundamentally they represent tremendous opportunities for Asian companies who have the ‘power to surprise’ with positive behaviour that will directly contradict these negative preconceptions
  23. 23. Get famous for good stuff first § Indeed, it is the contrast between the negative perceptions in theory about Asian companies and their positive performance in reality that will build the best image § The key test outside of Asia is making sure that when people hear about a new Asian company for the first time, they do and think things favourable to the company in direct consequence § It is critically important that Asian companies become well known internationally for the positive things they stand for in the first place, rather than become famous first through negative mistakes…
  24. 24. …like what happened to Foxconn
  25. 25. Social media is all over Asia
  26. 26. 40% 80% Global Asia Source: Global data from Burson-Marsteller Global Fortune 100 Social Media Checkup 2010 Asia data from Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific Social Media Study 2010
  27. 27. Global Source: Global data from Burson-Marsteller Global Fortune 100 Social Media Checkup 2011 Asia data from Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific Social Media Study 2011 84% 80% 40% 81% Asia 2010 2011
  28. 28. Asian corporates playing catch-up on owned media platforms
  29. 29. Asian apology PR prowess?
  30. 30. The digital opportunity for Asia 1800s 1900s 1980s 2000s The rise of Britain The rise of America The rise of Japan The rise of the ‘Four Tigers’ 2010s The rise of China 2020s The rise of ?
  31. 31. Communicate ‘the golden circle’
  32. 32. How some Western companies failed to communicate in Asia § Being seen to ‘take’ and not ‘give’ § Engaging the wrong people to communicate § Lack of respect for local culture and language § Failure to listen to their stakeholder communities § Misreading the tastes and preferences of the market § Lack of effort to build relationships through earning trust § ‘Bulldozing’ of ‘global’ marketing from the home country § Double-standards in how they treat customers and employees § Thinking they can get away with putting boundaries around markets in a digital world where ‘local’ can become ‘global’ Asian companies should avoid making the same mistakes!
  33. 33. The 2014 Bob Pickard ICCO Global Summit @ New Delhi