Burson-Marsteller re-enters Malaysia with Essence tie-up

June 15, 2010 |

(The Edge Financial Daily, Tuesday, 15 June 2010 – Media & Advertising – Page, 25)

BURSON-Marsteller has appointed public relations firm Essence Communications as its affiliate partner in Malaysia as of mid-May.

The partnership marks the return of the former to Malaysia, following the cessation of RII Burson-Marsteller Sdn Bhd in 2002. Prior to that, the PR, agency had had a business presence in the country since the 1970s.

In 1997, Burson-Marsteller Sdn Bhd, the Malaysian subsidiary of Burson-Marsteller, was sold to the local management and renamed RII Burson-Marsteller Sdn Bhd – an affiliate licensed to use the Burson-Marsteller trade name.

Burson-Marsteller Asia-Pacific president and CEO Bob Pickard said the partnership, which would create a larger regional footprint for the agency, was a “logical approach” as both agencies were owned by WPP Group.

“There’s trust and corporate chemistry in being owned by the same corporate parent. Why create a new PR firm from scratch when with Essence, we have a decade of experience?” said Pickard in an interview last month.

Under the partnership, Essence will not only service Burson-Marsteller’s local clients, but also tap into the latter’s international network and expertise for relevant client engagements.

Pickard said the affiliate partnership would allow Burson- Marsteller to export Asian case studies to its global network.

For its client Cyberview Sdn Bhd, Essence worked with Burson- Marsteller’s Germany office to promote SME (small and medium enterprises) exhibitors at an outreach event in Germany.

Essence group managing director Felix Heinimann said the partnership, which involves knowledge sharing opportunities, would enable it to benchmark against higher standards and provide strong motivation for its staff.

Formerly the head of Edelman’s North Asia practice, Pickard joined Burson-Marsteller in January this year amidst a string of’top management hires that reflected the agency’s current focus on digital research, healthcare client business and geographical expansion.

Among the agency’s recent recruits are Asia-Pacific managing director Christine Jones – formerly Roche Pharmaceuticals head of global oncology communications – and Korea market.leader Margaret Key, ex-Edelman Japan MD.

“All of the CEOs of top PR firms have looked at the numbers from Europe and the US. And there may be incremental gains, but Asia is the key battleground for the future of our business. If PR is going to continue its worldwide advancement, it has to contend in Asia;” he said.

Burson-Marsteller recently started operations in Jakarta and is looking at Vietnam and Taiwan markets too, he added. Talent continues to be the most pressing challenge of the PR industry, he said.

Besides good writing skills, there is a demand among clients for digital experts who see possibilities in new technology applications, coupled with “analogue skills” – being able to focus and provide sound business advice.

“Like a brain with two hemispheres, the firms that have both attract the premium clients and money in the marketplace,” he said.

He added that PR firms should compete on quality – not price – to contribute to the professionalism of the PR industry, as well as talent development.

“Clients will finance a higher degree of quality if they can be confident with the quality they’re getting. This provides budgets to finance the career growth of promising young talent,” he explained.

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