Business As Usual

The business of other people’s business: PR executive bullish on industry growth

Ralph Fajardo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - For veteran public relations executive Michael de Kretser, who has spent practically his entire professional life creating winning strategies and building up other people’s businesses, these are truly exciting times for the industry.

De Kretser is currently the chief executive officer of his own firm, Go Communications, a successful regional practice based in Malaysia which boasts of group offices in Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Indonesia.

So what does public relations mean today, and how does it compare to what people knew of PR maybe one or two decades ago? “Owing to the Internet, social media and other advancements in technology, the field of public relations has changed drastically in the past decades. About 20 years ago, people skills were basic at best and core activities were organizing cocktail parties with a good band and a few balloons,” he jokingly says.

Clients were ignorant of the benefits and value of PR, and needed educating. Only a few companies used PR internally or externally. In terms of professionalism, fees were exceptionally low so few good people were attracted to the industry.

“The phenomenal growth of digital media has catapulted the PR industry into a new realm of importance,” says De Kretser. It is with this dynamism that the PR industry, especially in the region, is on an uptrend. He points to recent studies indicating that the PR industry in Asia is now worth over $2 billion, and is seen to be growing at about 25 percent annually.

“From a client point of view, they are better educated about the benefits of PR and the value that it can bring to the bottom line,” he says. He also notes gladly that clients are starting to recognize and respect the profession of PR, opening up purse strings more freely. This has led to an overall encouraging milieu, with skilled and professional people looking at PR as a long-term career and not just as a stop-gap job. Practically every university in the region now also has a PR or mass communications offering.

De Kretser reiterates that the excitement and opportunity for PR now lies in the digital world. “Today is all about change and the PR practitioner must be ready to keep at the forefront of this change,” he says.

However, with such power of digital media comes a delicate balance as well. “Through the digital world, PR can light a fire that will spread like a tornado – the results can be both good and bad – so the strategy must be spot on,” he notes.

“PR campaigns have to be faster, more targeted and transparent.  But there is also the traditional media that will continue to play an important role – so PR has to walk the tightrope between the two.”

He notes changes in the behavior and lifestyle of audiences, particularly the youth.

“The online impact means people will dress and behave differently than their parents and travel a lot more. Their inquiring, educated minds will make them more adventurous, more sympathetic to environmental causes,” he says.

As for PR practitioners, they will be held in high regard more than ever. “Top gun PR people will earn salaries like lawyers and investment bankers,” he forecasts with a smile. De Kretser envisions an industry where publicity managers are sought after and respected for their expertise. He relates an anecdote where a client finds himself in a bind, and instructs his lawyer to get him out of jail at all costs. “But when your reputation is at stake, you approach your PR and ask, ‘How much?’” All that is hopefully going to change, he says.

“The future will be a wonderful opportunity for the PR industry as there will be no limit to the ways they can communicate to people and the consumers,” he adds.

In a moment reminiscent of communication theorist Marshall McLuhan, De Kretser concludes: “PR practitioners will provide the message and no longer be the messenger.”

Go Communications counts among its clients renowned brands, companies and organizations such as Singapore Airlines, Raffles Hotel, Mattel, Pantene, Olay, Hewlett Packard, and many others. It has also pioneered publicity and integrated marketing campaigns for events such as the Miss Universe competition in Malaysia.

Go Communications also has strategic partner agencies in Australia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Brunei, Hong Kong, China and more recently, the Philippines through NGP Integrated Marketing Communications. De Kretser was in Manila recently to meet the local press and to scope the business landscape in what he considers one of the key areas of growth for the PR industry in Asia.











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