Top Nine Highlights from PR Newswire’s Annual Communications Forum 2019

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Asia-Pacific Communications Trends, Challenges and the Evolving Role of PR

PR Newswire’s Communications Forum 2019 was held on December 18 in Shenzhen, China. As the premier global provider of news distribution and media monitoring services, PR Newswire has compiled a list of highlights from this event so that PR and communications professionals can stay updated with the latest communications trends and understand how Asia-Pacific practitioners are evolving in response to these communication challenges.

Below are the top nine highlights from our stellar line-up of speakers and panelists from The Wall Street Journal, Holmes Report, Bloomberg, Microsoft, ZTE Corporation, Trip.com Group, Tencent, and Ogilvy:

Highlight #1 “Earned media will grow in relevance.”

In the opening speech, Yujie Chen, President, Asia-Pacific, PR Newswire, noted that due to the rise in fake or invalid traffic, paid media started to reach a bottleneck in 2019. Therefore, earned media is set to rise again as a better channel for communication despite the fact it has long been ignored. In 2019, earned media accounted for just 0.5% of total PR spend, compared to 95% for paid and 4.5% for owned.

Highlight #2 “Fake news has been weaponised.”

Arun Sudhaman, CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Holmes Report, spoke on the cluttered media environment and the growing need for PR pros to be more proactive in being a force for good by providing real creativity to media and audiences. He added, it is incumbent on the public relations industry to reject the temptation of using social platforms to deploy false narratives and to combat it by providing unique, authentic content with value.

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Highlight #3 “The secret to building a premium brand is awareness.”

Presenting the APAC Comms Report, Lynn Liu, Head of Audience Development, PR Newswire, mentioned that 59% of businesses prioritise enhancing their branding over sales conversion metrics. He believes conversion is not a stream without a source. The source is your brand. To establish a premium brand is to deliver higher product value, not just in terms of product, but brand image as well. Raising individual awareness and enticing audiences to change their behaviour is a long process. However, its influence on sales and long-term growth cannot be ignored.

 Highlight #4 “Never forget, the internet is a visual place.”

During her speech, Alyssa McDonald, Managing Editor, Asia Digital, Bloomberg, emphasised that the internet is a visual place, and that includes images, video, and recorded interviews. Even audio is more important than ever. She suggests thinking about how your company fits into a bigger narrative. For example, what does your pitch have to say about climate change or technology? And don’t forget to tailor your pitches.

One of the critical media themes that emerged during the event was a topic on most people’s minds: “Who will be the next China?” This is a question is being asked by the media as Asia-Pacific countries continue to develop at a rapid pace. Other topics on the media’s minds include US-China trade, Chinese prosperity and global aspirations, climate change, global economy; U.S Recession, emerging technologies, U.S elections and the Olympics.

Highlight #5 “Video, narrative and storytelling matters.”

Rong Shang, Communications & Public Affairs Vice President, Microsoft, revealed that in the digital era, 82% of content consumed now is video. But this is the 4G era, and with 5G coming soon, this may change. Yet, while we do not know what content will be most popular in the 2020s, we know that whatever form the content takes, narrative and storytelling will remain relevant.

Highlight #6 “Influencing through peers is critical to winning trust.”

Influencing through peers is critical to winning trust in international markets, said Dai Shu, VP & GM of Branding, ZTE Corporation. In many international markets, local media are perceived as peers. Therefore, the role of earned media is critical for businesses that are seeking to go global.

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Highlight #7 “Gaining international exposure remains a challenge.”

Leah Wang, Head of International Affairs, shared Trip.com’s experience of going global and how they gained international exposure. Engaging local partners, Trip.com grew organic exposure through customised and localised content that raised awareness of their brand across digital, traditional and industry media. These channels helped Trip.com to extend their reach and grow their audience.

Highlight #8 “An open relationship with audiences is key to going global.”

OnePlus was born global, with international team members right from the beginning, said Lyndon Cao, Senior Director of Marketing, OnePlus. Businesses seeking to go global need to get the big things right before going into detail. He mentioned two other tips: 1) Act with integrity and honesty to deliver your brand promise. 2) Create an open relationship with users and co-create new, better products.

Highlight #9 “Software consolidation is a growing trend.”

Content is still king – but the industry tool stack isn’t – Ulrik Larsen, President, Cision Social, remarked on the growing need and trend towards software consolidation to improve communications across the entire lifecycle. He believes that as these services become more consolidated, so too will job roles.

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