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PR Conferences in China

Blog: Alan VanderMolen

10/6/2016
— Alan VanderMolen 

I arrived back in Asia just under two weeks ago, having spent the last three months or so in the UK.

My first stop was the Praxis Global Summit (#praxis5). Hats off to my friend and former colleague, Amith Prabhu (@amithpr), for putting together the most impressive collection of Indian and global PR pros I have ever seen in one place.  India’s top executives from both client side and agency were out in force.  More than 500 participants. In addition, global and Asia executives from Publicis, MS&L (that pesky Glenn Osaki – more on him later), Ketchum, Text 100, Ruder Finn and, of course, WE Communications.

The conference was terrific and even included some entertainment: An adventurous car journey from Mumbai airport to our mountaintop retreat at Aamby Valley; the sign greeting us at the entrance:

 

and, the warning sign just inside my room:

 

The conference was anchored in Reputation and its value to modern Indian business. My presentation, arguing that measuring reputation actually has very little value, is embedded here.

More important to me, however, was one session with standout content:  The roundtable of top young Indian professionals. This session demonstrated an understanding of multi-channel content, the relationship between social and earned, the importance of peer-to-peer communication and transparency that I have rarely seen at conferences. That fact that it was delivered by four, under-30s in India was astonishing. Astonishing because India is a market still dominated by newspapers and national broadcast media; and, astonishing because most PR in India today (in particular Corporate PR) is still dominated by top-down, controlled message delivery from authority figures.

So, well done young colleagues in India. Come work for WE!  You can send me your CVs here.

My second stop was Hong Kong and the Holmes Report IN2 Summit. As always, my pals Paul and Arun pulled off a great Asia conference.  This one, dominated by agency attendees, was also well attended by regional agency supremos from MS&L (hello, again, Glenn Osaki), plus Weber, H&K, Allison Partners, Blue Focus, one of my former employers and, of course, WE Communications.  My presentation on modern communicators as F1 drivers is here.

The standout session of this conference, in my view, was the one anchored by Glenn “Mick Jagger” Osaki titled “The New Influencers”.  P&G China’s Nancy Liu was the star in this one talking in detail about P&G innovations in brand team design and content.  In particular, P&G’s experimentation with social commerce in China is a glimpse into the future. (And, a much better glimpse into the future than the predictable presentations on AI, AR and VR.)

The learning for me from both conferences:  We are seeing multi-platform content innovation in Asia at a pace faster than I see in other regions.  Further, we are seeing PR firms gain the permission to play in this space based upon insights, analytics and creative…something, that our colleagues outside of Asia struggle to do consistently.

And, that brings me to my final point:  Glenn “Mick Jagger” Osaki. 

 

 MS&L Asia, under the leadership of Glenn Osaki, has built the largest PR network in Asia (if we discount Blue Focus given its dominant position in China).  So, it is not surprising that Glenn gets more invites to PR conferences than Mick Jagger has received invites to…well, you get it.  What is surprising to me is why Publicis, with an asset like the MS&L brand and a great PR leader like Glenn would discount the MS&L brand and PR as a discipline to shoe horn it into a standalone swim lane and make it subservient to advertising.  I think the Stones lost some swagger when they left an independent label and went corporate…

I love being independent.

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