In this Q&A, Albert Shu, managing director, Hong Kong, at Weber Shandwick, gives his thoughts on the challenge of finding and nurturing talented young PR professionals, and gives advice to those seeking a career in the industry.
1. How do you see the current state of the PR industry in Hong Kong?
The public relations industry in Hong Kong and Asia is growing very quickly, faster than most professional services and most industries. This growth is driven by the recognition of corporations and government organisations that they need to pro-actively manage their reputations and engage their stakeholders in order to sustain success. The challenge is that demand for PR talent far exceeds supply.
2. Are companies competing for talent in the PR industry?
Yes, most definitely. During periods of economic prosperity, one of the key challenges facing PR practitioners is always how they capture such opportunity and develop their careers. A common mistake is to “job hop”, a move driven simply by attractive short term gains such as a significant salary increase or title upgrade. These opportunities arise because employers cannot find qualified PR staff fast enough from a limited pool of candidates. As a result, many PR practitioners move in-house or to competitors without considering two important career questions: Which platform (or work environment) will give me the best opportunities to become a true business consultant and leader? And is the corporate culture the best fit for my needs?
It is always to easier to get ahead – at least superficially – in terms of short term KPIs such as salary or title by job-hopping. But PR practitioners who can demonstrate and build on a track record of sustained success are always the most impressive and savvy in the longer term.
3. Compared to 10 years ago, what kind of skills and qualities should PR professionals possess?
Many of the core skills and qualities required by PR consultants remain the same: the ability to acquire and apply knowledge; the ability to analyse and solve problems; and the ability to build relationships and collaborate with clients and colleagues. Such talents can still differentiate PR professionals. The biggest change over the last 10 years has been the emergence of digital media. This communications platform has made the world and local marketplace much more dynamic and highlighted the importance of engaging stakeholders rather than just marketing to them. As such, PR professionals need to understand the implications and applications of new technologies and digital communications channels.
4. How creative are the young PR professionals that you come across?
Young PR professionals bring a fresh and different perspective to any discussion. They are inherently more familiar and comfortable with new digital and social media platforms, having grown up with such communications channels. The key for them is learning how to connect such creativity with achieving business results.
5. What kind of talents do you think the PR industry will need most over the next five years?
The PR industry will continue to need communications professionals who understand how to consult to clients with good problem solving skills and specialist knowledge. The PR industry in Hong Kong has developed and matured from one focused on event management and simply generating news coverage to a professional service which can help achieve and support tangible business results and outcomes.
6. What are your recommendations for young people interested in joining the PR industry?
Be sure to nurture your mind daily with knowledge by getting news and information from multiple sources, including from at least one high quality newspaper. The world is changing every day. No matter whether you want a career in a PR agency or as an in-house consultant, you need to have a good understanding of your community and the business world in order to be able to provide counsel which will be valued by your constituents. Reading daily will also help you improve your own written communication and story-telling skills. These are all basic qualities that all PR practitioners need in order to be successful.
This article first appeared in the Hong Kong publication Job Market