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3 Key Takeaways from the PRovoke APAC Summit 2021

Missed the event? Don't fret, here's what you need to know...

22 September 2021 by

The annual PRovoke APAC Summit returned this year in a hybrid format, with the theme of ‘Reset’, discussing the fundamental changes happening across society, business and government, and what these changes mean for corporate and brand communicators.

And, gathering PR professionals from across the region in-person and welcoming PR & comms colleagues from the comfort of their homes, this Hong Kong event demonstrated that an orchestration of technology and in-person interaction is here to stay.

CARMA had the pleasure of joining the conversation, exploring the areas which have been under the spotlight over the course of the last 18 months. So, here are our three key takeaways.

Think like an activist

Corporates are being called on to take a stand on sensitive issues, often in complex, ethical-driven, activist-led contexts. The consensus was that staying silent all the time can never benefit an organisation, but how are communication strategies are evolving in light of this?

For Penny Davis, Brand, Customer and Corporate Affairs Director at BUPA, it comes down to the purpose of the organisation. Use that purpose to define what you take a position on and how you choose to engage with a situation, and authenticity will shine through. “Bring it back to the commercial: if you’re not taking a stand on an issue that matters to your staff and your customers, then one of your competitors is. It’s not just about what can go wrong, but what can go right.”

The panel agreed that it is about constantly having dialogues with your stakeholders and understanding what issues are important and relevant, how they are impacting your staff, your stakeholders and your industry.

At CARMA, we agree that you need to understand what matters to your audiences, uncover what resonates, and remain relentlessly authentic. And the way to do that is through sound listening and measurement programs.

Charles Lankester, EVP, Global Reputation & Risk at Ruder Finn, encouraged corporates to think like an activist. Do the homework, have the playbook written in advance for these scenarios that you need or want to take a stand on such that when the issues come up in public consciousness, you are ready with your position.

Navigating Asia’s rise requires a global attitude adjustment

Douglas Dew, Head of Corporate & Public Affairs, BCW Asia Pacific, shared an overview on the rise of Asia and the global reactions to it. One of the core dynamics, he said, will be rising confidence in Asia and rising concern in the West. For in-house communicators, there is a need to balance potential conflicting stakeholder expectations when it comes to these trends playing out. Understanding of Asia will be increasingly important among global leadership teams, and it is the responsibility of corporate communicators to support them in that, to bridge the disconnect between Western HQs and local operations in Asia.

“There’s an education process in terms of championing the region and how diverse it is internally, getting in people’s faces so they understand at HQ and everywhere else. It’s a process that needs to be undertaken to open up the ears of the people,” Amy Chang, Head of Communications and CSR for Asia-Pacific at Deutsche Bank, said.

At Diageo, Azmar Sukandar, Head of Communications and Society, shared that they are making a concerted effort to have more Asian representation in its communications, such as having the necessary Asian translations in townhalls, and ensuring Asia-Pacific’s presence on global collaterals.

Making measurement better

The Summit ended with a fireside chat between CARMA Asia’s Managing Director, Andrew Nicholls, and PRovoke Media’s Arun Sudhaman, addressing one of the key revelations from the 2021 Asia-Pacific Communications Index. The survey which polled more than 120 senior in-house communications executives across the region indicated that media clippings came out top as  a measure of effectiveness of PR expenditure – certainly not the most encouraging picture.

When asked why this is happening despite the increasing emphasis on PR to demonstrate real business impact, Andrew attributed the inertia to move away from counting clips to 3 main reasons – the mindset of not ‘rocking-the-boat’, perceived lack of resources and the anxiety of knowing the results.

He pointed to the free resources by AMEC, the global industry trade body for communications measurement and evaluation. Among them is the Integrated Evaluation Frame (IEF), designed to guide PR professionals through the process from aligning PR and business objectives, creating a plan, all the way through to measuring outcomes and impact of their work. Another tool is the Measurement Maturity Mapper (M3) (led by CARMA’s Paul Hender) which benchmarks your current methodology against other organisations and provides recommendations for improvements.

The key to measuring PR, Andrew said, is about the process you go through to understand how your activity supports the organisational objectives, rather than to narrow it down to a single universal metric, as there will never be one single way of measuring PR.

His final advice to getting started on proper measurement – start with small changes and point to best practices. “Introduce new methods of measurement alongside legacy ones, instead of trying to turn the tanker all of a sudden, and that will help to bridge the gap.”

In short, Andrew urges PR and Comms professionals to begin simply, but simply begin. And, with such solid takeaways from this year’s PRovoke APAC Summit, there’s plenty to get started on…

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