The majority of public relations firms in Hong Kong saw an increase in revenues in 2011 from a year earlier, due mainly to growth in regional work notably in mainland China, according to a new industry survey.
Results of the latest Benchmark Study by the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong (CPRFHK) show that 68% of firms in Hong Kong saw revenues increase moderately or significantly in 2011, with 40% seeing growth in their regional business out of Hong Kong.
China accounted for the largest share (60%) of the regional business, reflecting a growing awareness among Chinese companies of the need for effective communications, both in the home market and overseas.
The growing importance of social media was also evident in the survey results, where it ranked third (56%) behind media publicity (84%) and mixed channels (64%), but was way ahead of all other ways for clients to communicate with consumers and other stakeholders.
There was clearly far less appetite for more traditional forms of paid communication, such as print (16%) and broadcast (8%) advertising.
The latter perhaps reflecting the changing demographic of television viewers to an older one that is less appealing to advertisers.
Meanwhile, social media tactics centred primarily on the distribution of news releases online, working with bloggers and other influencers to seed stories and shape opinions, and managing a social media platform, such as Facebook, Weibo or Twitter.
The Study showed that Hong Kong’s depth of talent in digital media is prompting a growing number of companies to use it as a base and springboard for China-related social media programmes.
Simeon Mellalieu, chairman of CPRFHK and general manager of Ketchum Hong Kong, said: “Greater usage of social media channels reflects the growing awareness of their efficacy and penetration when disseminating news and other content, particularly in Greater China.”
He added that in both Hong Kong and China companies are recognizing “the value and importance of having a clear social media strategy that’s aligned with other more traditional forms of media outreach”.
Over three-quarters of the respondent firms (78%) said their fees were mostly generated from three sectors: consumer goods (39%); financial and professional services (26%); and technology (13%). Other respondents cited healthcare, industrial and manufacturing, and other businesses as their main source of revenue.
Looking ahead to 2012, expectations about PR spending by clients were fairly evenly split, with 33% of respondents expecting to see an increase in spending, 38% thinking PR spending will remain little changed and 29% anticipating a slight fall.
The study, conducted among 25 CPRFHK member and non-member firms, offers a detailed snapshot of industry practices and trends in the utilisation of public relations firms.
The detailed confidential results report helps the firms participating in the study to benchmark their performance against industry standards, and helps CPRFHK to fulfil its mission of promoting best practice for public relations consultancies and other key stakeholders, such as clients, government and the media.
Mellalieu added: “The study shows that even in times of economic uncertainty and downturn, companies see a need for the skills, insights and experiences that Hong Kong’s PR firms can offer. There’s also recognition the Hong Kong works very well as a regional hub for PR activities, not least because of the high levels of professionalism to be found here.”