I’ve enjoyed being a PRCA Southeast Asia member since it launched in the region last year, and I was pleased to be asked to provide comments for its new regional Census, which is a hugely valuable source of data and analysis on the public relations profession in the region.
Having had a look through the report, here’s a few more of my thoughts on what it all means.
1 – Diversity means creativity
I’m not surprised to see data on PR’s diverse mix of ethnicities, nationalities and languages. I certainly find most APAC PR practitioners speak both their mother-tongue and English and I think the more languages they know, the better – this is a globalized industry after all. Having this diverse workforce is so important – it can not only increase our creativity but also help PR agencies to understand a more diverse client base, and cater our campaigns for more people.
In general, this is an industry which I think is more accepting and welcoming of diversity than other industries, and I believe no matter what background, education level, demographics or disadvantage a person has, as long as he or she has the right attitude and determination to learn, they can excel in PR.
2 – Client satisfaction is king
I definitely believe it is important that PR considers itself a profession, rather than just an industry – what else is it, if not? PR should consider itself a profession to create a positive self-image and encourage practitioners to work in a responsible and strategic way.
Evaluation is definitely important to this, but I think that all evaluation methods are relative. The best evaluation is clients’ satisfaction, and each client has different evaluation criteria. It’s hard to say which method/framework means most until you work with them.
3 – Back to what we should be doing
Looking at which tasks are getting more and less important for PR people, I predict that in future editions of the Census, digital/social media will continue to increase in importance and be selected as the main function of more than 50% of respondents. But I don’t think this should be thought of as meaning we need to fight against digital or ad agencies – we should be working hand-in-hand with each other.
As for the things getting less important, I agree that sales promotion is now less relevant. PR, in its very essence, is about building and maintaining reputation, not about directly increasing sales – this is a part of marketing. That misunderstanding has gone a long way, but it now seems like we’re back to doing what PR should be doing.
4 – We need to talk about wellbeing
I’m surprised and sad to see some of the findings around wellbeing and the lack of benefits on offer to PR professionals. Employers should be offering things like regular health checks, stress management, and opportunities to relax and socialise.
But it is a complex issue – we all accept that some level of stress and pressure is natural in a job where you are often expected to be available to clients outside of working hours, and react quickly to difficult situations. This can be very unhealthy, and PR leaders absolutely need to work on policies and solutions to overcome this issue.
5 – Reward and develop staff equally
I’m curious about the indications that there is a gender pay gap in PR. This could be due to men being more likely to be in senior or management positions, but if you’re looking at two people in the same position, and there is a pay gap, then we have a serious problem.
As a manager, I like to give bonuses and opportunities to invest in training and development rather than just a straightforward percentage pay rise to my staff. I find this is a good way to invest in them and keep them happy – if it’s just a question of how much percent rise you get, it’s easier for people to get dissatisfied and leave.