PublicAffairsAsia’s Executive Director, Craig Hoy, offers a brief review of this year’s main State of the Industry Report findings
Across APAC practitioners recorded an average salary increase of 5% last year – a slight reduction on 2015 and also down on the 7% reported in 2014. Average in-house salaries remain higher than average agency salaries. Sectorally, Public Affairs and Government Relations roles salaries are higher, outstripping Coporate Affairs, Communications and PR.
Average bonuses were up in 2016 compared to the previous year. Australia continues to top the average earnings league, with Singapore, China, Hong Kong, SE Asia and India next in descending order. Predictions for 2017 salary increases remain optimistic despite economic uncertainty.
The Communications and Corporate Affairs industry in APAC has matured significantly in the last five years. To succeed, practitioners need to show a combination of resilience, empathy, decisiveness and diplomacy. But first, they must be able to communicate, and they need to be able to write.
Understanding the business, and the macro-economic environment in which it operates, is essential if the function is to continue to evolve and secure its seat at the top table. Talent issues remain a critical concern for many managers. Companies need staff with new skills, such as digital and content curation, but insist this cannot be at the expense of fundamentals such as good writing and story-telling capabilities.
While management’s understanding of the function is advancing, the need to prioritise budget towards revenue-generating areas means many communications and Corporate Affairs departments are facing real-terms budget freezes or reductions. Internal communications is far more important today, and employees have become one of the most influential, if sometimes overlooked, stakeholder groups.
A more demanding and complex stakeholder environment means corporations need to engage with far more points of contact than ever before. Communicators are at the front line, attempting to build and defend their company’s social licence to operate. This process requires localisation, and a refocussed effort among Public Affairs and government practitioners, who must also manage increased regulatory scrutiny.
The growth in digital is by far the biggest industry shift seen in recent years. It allows communications profes- sionals to engage a wide range of new groups, from civil society to consumers. It has not, however, supplanted traditional media, which remains vitally important for all but a few practitioners interviewed.
Despite pressure on in-house budgets, many agencies report significant growth. Digital is forcing them to reconfigure their offering and search out new talent. Client relationships can be stressful, with less sophisti- cated clients lacking awareness of the modern communications environment and what can be achieved by working in partnership with their agencies. Retained business is under pressure and competition is causing margin worries among some agency leaders.
Changes in client needs and the wider operating environment are resulting in internal restructuring towards offering increasingly integrated specialised services. Hiring for these emerging areas is challenging. Digital, employee engagement, video and content curation are all growth areas, although some consultancies view these as low margin compared to strategic services such as Public Affairs and Issues Management. Healthcare, Tourism and the Food Industry are among the fastest growing client sectors.