After a short break, CARMA’s Measurement Month continues and we return with a superb session focused on how tech companies are portrayed in the media in Southeast Asia – a timely topic as the dynamic between governments and the tech industry is under so much scrutiny in the news today.
Our expert panel featured Khali Sakkas, Head of Insights at CARMA Asia, Jeremy Seow, Managing Director of Growth and Innovation at Allison+Partners Asia Pacific, and Alfred Siew, Editor and Co-founder of Techgoondu. Hosting and moderating was Tim Williamson, Managing Director of APAC at Telum Media. Today’s session is also in conjunction with CARMA and Allison+Partner’s report, ‘Big Tech: Media Perspective and Trends’.
Jumping straight into the big questions, Tim kicked off by asking our panel what makes SE Asia such a unique place to look at the impact of big tech.
What makes southeast Asia so unique?
With a 20-year-career in tech journalism, Alfred was perfectly poised to dive into this one, agreeing with Tim that politics does indeed play a large part, with the spotlight on big tech being brighter than ever before. A once niche industry driven by individual products has now become an all-encompassing arena in which services such as cloud computing make it easier to break down the compartmentalised way of thinking. As these individual technologies come to fruition, journalists and the media no longer write about just one thing.
But as this broader approach becomes the norm and technology as a sector is something that consumers welcome into their lives and homes, we are faced with new concerns such as sustainability, surveillance and privacy.
Jeremy added that increased investment by other Asian countries, including the Tiger Nations, compounded by government support for emerging technologies, makes it a great time for tech in the region.
Understanding key themes from the report
“It’s interesting to look for differences and similarities in how American tech and Asian tech brands are reported in the region”, said Khali. What are the key messages? Who is doing it really well? What’s their story? What are their sources of not only positive news, but negative too?
Khali took three key findings from the report:
- Workplace culture is big news and it is here to stay, ESPECIALLY for technology companies. Major (or seemingly minor) HR issues have the ability to damage corporate reputation, so the risks are now from within the company too.
- ESG (environment, social, governance) is more meaningful than ever. At least when approached sincerely. Audiences are looking for brands who talk the talk and walk the walk – an action which has greater resonance than ever before and is now linked directly to attracting and retaining great talent.
- And lastly, product launches. They still work and are a hallmark of innovation. Sony and Samsung are amongst some of the most favourably positive brands according to the research, leading with the message that tech can improve and change lives.
How can brands manage the negative impact of stories?
Increased consumption of online news in the region means that decision makers are (and must be) more knowledgeable about these multiple internal and external aspects of their business, and should be involved in all major business decisions. In an age where audiences want to know brands inside and out, the media are not afraid to play to this and wait for someone to drop the ball.
The negative stories we’ve seen emerging from the likes of Meta and Activision (in the US) demonstrate that brands must have a long-term point of view on areas big or small that can impact your sector. Described by our panel as ‘speed bumps along the way’, these can quickly become big, bad mountains of PR panic.
What’s key here is to implement the right kind of intelligence platform to help you look ahead and mitigate these bumps in the road, which in-turn gives brands a greater opportunity to adjust, plan and ultimately, engage. (Speaking of which, you should check out CARMA’s RFP Hub which hosts a suite of great resources for PR teams sourcing for the right intelligence partner.)
Let’s get down to the data. What are the most useful metrics when measuring reputation?
For Khali, it’s simple and meaningful measurement that resonates internally and is of value to all teams and stakeholders. When done well, this can act as a brilliant catalyst for breaking down silos, creating an environment where more teams can come to the table and stay at the table – making measurement part of the company’s culture.
Khali is clearly an advocate of powerful metrics, and believes that when it comes to reputation, it runs through businesses top to bottom. From the way that CEOs and leadership carry themselves as individuals not only in the public eye, but on social media too. All the way down to snippet quotes in even the smallest of media coverage.
Look beyond the outputs; plan for the outcomes
In such an exciting market, brands can easily find tactical and strategic insight simply by looking at who does it well. By one brand setting a standard, others can not only do better at the time, but make steps to improve long-term.
Looking at key trends in general
Two things emerged from the report that also reflect wider trends in APAC PR and communications. Khali brought two new and exciting factors to our attention:
- Her clients are interested in how other clients are communicating policies so they can have a better understanding of what good looks like. Areas such as ESG which were once buried in websites and annual reports are now front and centre due to the corporate reputation at stake.
- Internal metrics are louder than ever, with workplace culture fundamental to a brand’s reputation. It suddenly becomes pivotal to know your employees’ satisfaction, and this is partly why we have been seeing external and internal affairs teams work more closely together for some time now.
Across the board, we are seeing c-suite leaders calling for their PR people to be business people first, thinking more directly about their impact on the bottom line and a business’s overall performance. And rightly so! Khali welcomes this movement of PR professionals coming up a level or two in the way that they are perceived within corporations.
To conclude, should we see southeast Asia as a monolith? Or are there nuances to take away from this research?
This brilliant question came from the audience and is a fantastic point to close off this blog. As we all know, marketing and comms is not one size fits all, and that is particularly relevant to the region when we look at wider factors such as politics, economy and even geographical differences (a great example given: thinking about logistical changes from mainland to island).
Mainstream media coverage shows us what regional populations are interested in, so it’s down to Chief Comms and Chief Marketing Officers to come together to form a more holistic view to influence and change perceptions and drive new behaviours in their clients and customers.
With more access to the ‘future customer’ than ever before, it’s easier to take this data back to the c-suites and help them understand how things are different in this region and its subregions.
Finally, are there any strategies that help companies build their reputation where PR is not well recognised?
Jeremy boils it all down to communication, and knowing how to do it. Talk about the impact of tech and its positive effect on the ecosystem and its customers. But talk about the details too. Stakeholders, buyers and prospects all care about the nuts and bolts, and what’s under the hood. Get that balance right and you have the perfect impact story.
Once again, we can draw a familiar conclusion from this session. Even as tech continues to evolve at breakneck speed, we must remember three fundamentals of measurement: pull down barriers, report succinctly and frequently, and above all, tell a story.
If you missed this engaging discussion, you can now watch the replay and hear directly from this brilliant panel.
Read our report “Big Tech: Media Perspectives and Trends” at carma.com/bigtech.