Communications Is Here To Stay, In Good & Bad Times

My friend Gabey recently wrote a helpful article in PR Week featuring the kind of validation every communications professional seeks after: No matter the economic outlook, there will always be a place for the communications function in an organisation.

This was according to Wendy Heng, associate director for sales & marketing at Robert Walters Singapore, a specialist recruitment firm. She said, “In good times or bad, you’re still going to need a communications practitioner in-house,” adding, “It is a necessary and stable function in most companies and I’ve never seen a huge rise or fall in the number of positions.”

She observed that comms staff tend to escape restructuring or cost-cutting measures because they are viewed as a necessity. She added that if a company does undergo cost-cutting measures, communications roles are typically shielded, as it is one of those functions recognised as a necessity rather than a luxury.

“There is always going to be need for it because how you could not have someone look after external outreach or crisis communications?” she said.

However, while the comms sector is quite stable, it is also a double-edged sword as in-house teams are not big to begin with. “They’re always stretched too thin with a limit to how much external agencies can do. So while its stable, it is also not seen as revenue-generating function so it’s hard to justify additions to the head count – In contrast, the sales function is easier to justify.”

In the same article, Robert Walters’ also shared the findings from their latest annual Global Salary Survey last week. Data published suggested that salaries are expected to remain relatively flat in 2016, though candidates with in-demand skills can anticipate an average salary increment of 10 to 20 percent when switching jobs.

The following are some excerpted salaries from around Asia, from the Robert Walters Global Salary Survey. Salaries are listed in USD per annum, converted from local currencies.

Position Industry sector Salary range (USD)
2015 2016
Sydney, Australia
Communications Manager Banking & Financial Services 77,000 – 91,000 84,000 – 98,000
Senior Brand Manager Sales, Marketing & Communications, Consumer goods 87,000 – 98,000 87,000 – 105,000
Brand Manager Sales, Marketing & Communications, Consumer Goods 66,000 – 84,000 66,000 – 91,000
Shanghai, China
PR manager Sales & Marketing, Cosmetics 30,000 – 76,000 45,000 – 76,000
PR manager Sales & Marketing, Professional Services 45,000 – 84,000 45,000 – 90,000
PR manager Sales & Marketing, Retail & Luxury – National/Regional 45,000 – 90,000 45,000 – 76,000
PR & Events Manager Sales & Marketing, Retail & Luxury – National/Regional 60,000 – 90,000 53,000 – 68,000
Hong Kong, Greater China
Head of Corporate Communications Sales & Marketing, Financial Services 193,000 – 257,000 193,000 – 282,000
Head of Internal Communications Sales & Marketing, Financial Services 167,000 – 205,000 167,000 – 218,000
Corporate Communications Manager Sales & Marketing, Financial Services 77,000 – 116,000 77,000 – 128,000
PR Manager Sales & Marketing, Retail 58,000 – 83,000 64,000 – 90,000
Jakarta, Indonesia
Marketing Communications Manager Sales & Marketing, Marketing 28,000 – 33,000+ 28,000 – 42,000+
PR Manager Sales & Marketing, Marketing 23,000 – 33,000+ 23,000 – 36,000+
Tokyo, Japan
Communications Manager / Director Sales & Marketing, Retail & Hospitality 59,000 – 110,000 59,000 – 110,000
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Communications Director Sales & Marketing, General Marketing (consumer) 42,000 – 62,000 42,000 – 65,000
Communications Manager Sales & Marketing, General Marketing (consumer) 25,000 – 37,000 25,000 – 37,000
Communications Director Sales & Marketing, General Marketing (IT&T / Industrial) 42,000 – 62,000 42,000 – 62,000
Communications Manager Sales & Marketing, General Marketing (IT&T / Industrial) 20,000 – 28,000 20,000 – 34,000
Singapore
Corporate Affairs Director Consumer & Technical Healthcare, PR & Communications 98,000 – 125,000+ 98,000 – 140,000+
Public Relations Director Consumer & Technical Healthcare, PR & Communications 84,000 – 125,000+ 84,000 – 125,000+
Corporate Communications Manager Consumer & Technical Healthcare, PR & Communications 56,000 – 84,000+ 56,000 – 84,000+
Public Relations Manager Consumer & Technical Healthcare, PR & Communications 49,000 – 84,000 49,000 – 84,000
Corporate Communications Director Sales & Marketing, B2B & Industrial 105,000 – 175,000 105,000 – 175,000
Public Relations Director Sales & Marketing, B2B & Industrial 84,000 – 140,000+ 84,000 – 140,000+
Corporate Communications Manager Sales & Marketing, B2B & Industrial 56,000 – 105,000 56,000 – 105,000
Public Relations Manager Sales & Marketing, B2B & Industrial 56,000 – 84,000 56,000 – 84,000
Bangkok, Thailand
Public Relations Director Sales & Marketing, Consumer & B2B 42,000 – 55,000 44,000 – 61,000
PR Manager Sales & Marketing, Consumer & B2B 24,000 – 42,000 27,000 – 44,000
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Corporate Affairs Director Sales & Marketing, Marketing 90,000 – 105,000 84,000 – 105,000

Full article here.

Winning Gold At The Microsoft Worldwide Communications Summit 2014!

DSC_0514_edited

Thrilling news – I recently got back from Seattle, Washington from the company’s Worldwide Communications Summit 2014 with a Gold Newshound Award – my second one in a row! I am truly touched and flattered by this recognition, which builds on the momentum of having won a Gold Newshound Award the previous year as well as being a multiple-award winner at last year’s Malaysia PR Awards.

Me&MyNewsHoundJust me and my hound dog!

Every year, the global community of Communications professionals at Microsoft gather from around the world for our annual Worldwide Communications Summit. This year’s summit was held in Seattle, Washington. This year, we were also joined by the highly-talented team of consumer/devices Communications experts from Nokia (now known as Microsoft Devices), which provided a great opportunity for us to welcome them to the Microsoft family.

At the Summit, we also take the opportunity to showcase and celebrate best-practices, via our annual Microsoft Newshound Awards (held at the very lovely Chiluly Garden and Glass in Seattle), which recognize excellence in Communications from our global community of passionate and committed PR & Communications professionals. Each Newshound Award category recognizes three winners: Gold, Silver and Bronze.

LeighNewsHoundWin2014_editedWith Microsoft’s top Communications Leadership (L-R): Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications, Microsoft Corp.; Yunsun Wee, Director, Worldwide Field Communications, Microsoft Corp.; and Doug Dawson, Vice President of Media Relations for Nokia (now Microsoft Devices).  

My award recognized a year-long effort throughout the fiscal year where we competed aggressively in the education sector. I partnered with my leadership team, along with our education, legal and area headquarters communication teams, in a year-long campaign that communicated our local value-proposition in Education. The campaign showcased Microsoft’s long history of contribution to education in Malaysia, as well as independent research, 3rd-party op-ed pieces, executive media engagements.

Here’s what was said about the work that I did:

This is a best practice of good programmatic execution with business impact. The team did an excellent job with this year-long integrated PR campaign that includes activities that supports and aligns to the National Plan.  Congratulations on delivering a strategic, matrixed campaign that began with the end in mind – showcasing Microsoft as a trusted advisor and partner to Government, and a thought leader for educators and students.

Me And The APAC TeamWith friends and colleagues from across Asia!

Needless to say I couldn’t have done this alone. I’d like to specifically call out and thank:

  • My team from Priority Communications: Elaine, Ashley, Kenny, Calvin, Atiqah and Sylvia for all their hardwork and partnership throughout the year.
  • My media friends: There are *SO MANY* of you have been very kind and supportive, always being open to our story pitches and engaging with me regularly. I’m blessed to count many of you as friends today.
  • My colleagues in Microsoft Malaysia: Much of what has been achieved is a result of intense partnership and collaboration – building upon each other’s initiatives and achievements towards a larger goal of success in this area!
  • My colleagues in the Microsoft Asia Communications team: Especially Andy, Verdayne, Jesse and Darryn. Your support and partnership throughout the year has also been invaluable, leveraging upon the greater network of expertise and investment for us to drive truly impactful initiatives to competitively position us in the education space.
  • My family: Without their support, I would not be free to do great things at work.

A huge congratulations also to the rest of the Gold, Silver and Bronze Newshound winners from Asia! In fact, the Asia Pacific region won the most Gold Newshound awards of any worldwide area (tied with our Central & Eastern Europe area. This is a tremendously creative, professional, committed team – and I’m proud to be a part of it. Go team Asia!

DSC_0514_editedThe Asia Communications Team, with our four Gold Newshound Winners – two from the area headquarters, another one from Australia… and me.

What Happens In An Internet Minute, The Internet Of Things, And What Marketers Must Do

I’ve highlighted this before, but today, I saw this featured again on my LinkedIn timeline in the format of a new infographic by Intel.

WhatHappensInAnInternetMinute

My favorite bit of Intel’s observation:

Today, the number of networked devices equals the world’s population. By 2015, the number of networked devices is expected to be double the world’s population. And by the time we reach 2015, it would take five years to view all the video content crossing IP networks each second.

Thinking about this and having grown up during the ascendancy of the internet, I continue to be marveled by how fundamentally the web and technology have revolutionized the way we live. Even as I follow the stories coming out of CES2014, one of the themes that have really called out to me has been “The Internet of Things” (IoT).

How then can marketers and communicators make the most of this? Well, I can think of a few:

  1. Data-driven insights – Today, there is so much data available to marketers along with the tools to access, understand and leverage this data into insights. Some of the conversation here lends itself to a larger discussion on Big Data, but the core assertion I’m making here is that marketing must be fueled by better insights – and sometimes, that comes more from slogging through data rather than pretty pictures.
  2. Dramatic disruption – With everything that happens in an internet minute, attention today is at a premium. We have more data and information – but we also have a lot more noise. To break through the clutter, one must truly be dramatic enough to warrant attention – in fact, I hearken back to my old hero, Seth Godin’s definition of “Remarkable” = Worth making a remark about. Is your brand, marketing proposition, story worth people making a remark about and be willing enough to share it with others? However, there is a flip side to this, which is my next point…
  3. Creative contextualization – Being dramatic is often misunderstood and has led to many a faux pas (which, today, one’s mistake is amplified many times over via social media). On the contrary, I do not subscribe to the maxim “any publicity is good publicity” (a lesson learned from having managed a few crises and issues in the past). What’s important thus is to ensure that your “dramatic disruption” is creatively contextualized to your audience – what they want, the way they’re thinking, what they may not know they need just yet… I’m a firm believe in audience-led marketing and believe that, given the data we have access to today, it would be extremely lazy not to figure out how to reach out to your audiences in a creatively contextual manner.
  4. Cultivated community – Finally, one of the best ways to consider how all this comes together is to consider how we might cultivate and embrace our community. The marketplace has and always will be about people – and people do gather into groups/tribes/communities. It’s our natural tendency. An astute marketer would be able to combine the data-driven insights to create and/or embrace an already established community and engage them with your brand, marketing proposition or story. It’s in this context that you can be dramatically disruptive in a way that is appreciated as creative and contextual. This has been made a lot easier on the internet, given the myriad social networks that we have and are a part of (*Cough* I’m on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook*Cough*).

 

Here’s to the internet. 😉

Public Relations is important and helps make the world a better place – Howard Daniels

This came to my attention by way of my Facebook timeline. The Public Relations Society of America Hawaii Chapter awarded its Gregg W. Perry Public Relations Professional of the Year Award to Mr. Howard Daniel, vice president of editorial services at Communications Pacific Inc.

What really caught my attention was his acceptance speech, which reaffirmed the work of communications professionals everywhere as “important, honest work”.

[…]

I’d like to take a few more minutes now to talk briefly about why I think the work we all do – the work of public relations professionals – is important and helps make the world a better place.

I’ll start by telling you that when I went off to college, thinking about a future career, PR couldn’t have been farther from my mind. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my father, who was an innovator. He was a pioneer in the field of designing and manufacturing electric guitars and musical instrument amplifiers, but the essence of what he did was to create things that brought people pleasure. So as I entered college, I thought I should study science or engineering so I could do something like that too – or perhaps create things that would help make life easier for people. I felt that this was the highest calling a person could aspire to.

Then, in my freshmen year, I came within a whisker of flunking both calculus and chemistry. The next year, after flirting with disaster again in physics, I realized I wasn’t smart enough to make a career in science or engineering.  So I majored in the humanities – Russian area studies, to be specific … but to say anything more about that would set me off on way too long a tangent.

I had my next epiphany several years after graduation while I was a Peace Corps volunteer in India, where I lived in a village and worked with farmers. Perhaps the most important thing I learned there was that all honest work is honorable and worthwhile … that the most important thing a person can do is to provide for his or her family … and that the illiterate Third World farmer who can plow a straight furrow behind a pair of oxen is a professional worthy of respect.

Fast forward to my work as a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Information Agency – my first exposure to public relations, although I was unaware of it at the time. Let me tell you how I came to work for USIA. It had, in part, to do with my interest in foreign affairs and current events. And it was also related to my background in Russian studies. I spent most of the summer of 1967 – between my first and second year of graduate school – in the Soviet Union, working to build fluency in Russian. I was enrolled in a program at Leningrad State University, and one of the things you couldn’t help noticing that summer in Leningrad was that every second or third person you’d see on the street was wearing a lapel pin indicating they’d been to see the USIA exhibit about life in the United States, which was there in Leningrad that summer thanks to the U.S.-Soviet Cultural Exchange Agreement. My conversations with the many Russians I met made it clear that people in that tightly closed society were hungry for knowledge about the outside world, and particularly about the United States.

So when I took the Foreign Service exam that fall and had to respond to the question of whether, if I passed, I would prefer to work in the State Department or USIA, the answer was obvious. Moreover, this was just a few years after JFK’s presidency, and I remembered that he had named the distinguished journalist, Edward R. Murrow, as USIA director. So for me, USIA was a no-brainer.

Now, the work that USIA does is encapsulated on a plaque that used to hang on its former headquarters building in Washington, D.C.: “Telling America’s Story to the World.” Years later, USIA people started referring to the work we did as “public diplomacy.”

In any case, I found that telling America’s story to the world – engaging with foreign audiences about what makes our country tick and explaining the roots of American foreign policy – was a very worthwhile and satisfying calling.

I remember once having lunch with a senior colleague and asking how he happened to come to work for USIA. He told me he’d been in advertising for years, and one day spoke with a USIA acquaintance who urged him to make a career change. “Do you want to keep selling hot dogs for the rest of your life?” his friend asked.

Well, I’m no longer in the Foreign Service, and I am now in the private sector, working in PR. And while I’ve never been called upon to sell hot dogs, my company, Communications Pacific, does count McDonald’s as a valued client. So I suppose it can be argued that I’ve helped sell hamburgers. And salads, I should add.

But putting my experiences together, I understand that the essence of what I’m doing – what we ALL do in this business – is presenting information to people who, like the residents of Leningrad in the Cold War era, need to be better informed.

Public relations is important, honest work. And, to put in a plug for the particular PR niche that, with Kitty’s help, I’ve carved out as my own – clear, strong, effective writing with which to tell our clients’ stories – I find it as worthwhile as creating innovations that make life easier or more enjoyable for people … telling America’s story to the world … or plowing a straight furrow behind a pair of oxen.

I’m proud to be in this profession, I’m grateful to all of you for this great honor, and I tip my hat to all my colleagues who work as hard and creatively as I try to do in telling our clients’ stories to the world, but who have yet to be honored as tonight you have honored me. Thank you all so very much.

Congratulations, Howard, for your win – and thank you very much for your encouraging words!

Winning At The Microsoft Worldwide Communications Summit 2013!

Leigh - Gold Newhound Award WW Comms Summit 2013_edited2

Wining Gold, with Microsoft’s top Communications Leadership (L-R): Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications, Microsoft Corp. and Yunsun Wee, Director, Worldwide Field Communications, Microsoft Corp

I’m presently in London for Microsoft’s Worldwide Communications Summit 2013, the annual global gathering of Communications professionals at Microsoft.

At the Summit, we also take the opportunity to showcase and celebrate best-practices, via our annual Microsoft Newshound Awards which recognize excellence in Communications worldwide. Each Newshound Award category recognizes three winners: Gold, Silver and Bronze. This year’s award was held on The Silver Sturgeon, a 21st century, luxury river yacht cruising down the Thames River in London!

This fiscal year, I’m thrilled to have walked away with one Gold Newshound and three Bronze Newshounds for my work!

I won the Gold Newshound for my work leveraging Microsoft’s cyberbullying survey findings, which showed how 1-in-3 Malaysian children say they have been subjected to a range of online activities that some may consider to be online bullying. The findings and the story we landed touched a raw nerve in Malaysian society because of the rising trend of online abuse. I managed to land highly positive and extensive coverage – with additional third-party endorsements coming from additional NGOs and Cybersecurity Malaysia. The highlight was a cover story in the lifestyle features section of The Star – Malaysia’s most widely read English newspaper.

CyberPunks