COMPANIES sometimes spend huge sums of money on a public relations campaign, which eventually turns out to be unproductive.
“The primary reason communications campaigns fail is because they are not initiated with clearly stated definition or goals. Hence the desired result is not achieved,” said Anne Gabriel, managing director of Weber Shandwick, an international public relations company that claims to produce success with its Outcome Management (OM) programme.
Weber Shandwick is one of the world’s leading public relations agencies and has more than 80 offices in capitals around the world.
The Malaysian Weber Shandwick office practises OM strategic planning and campaign management methodology, which starts by focusing on being result-oriented.
“Through the practice of OM, both the agency and the client can benefit from a systematic and highly flexible strategic process that aligns communications campaigns with business priorities,” Gabriel explained.
“As a strategic tool, OM is a very critical method. In the past decade, it has transformed our paradigm in communicating to the target market.”
She said that OM provided powerful benefits like total clarity at the outset of any campaign, with client and agency needing first to agree on key objectives.
“With that, we both know what we’re trying to achieve. At the same time we must align the business goals. Knowing what matters to the client is absolutely essential to successful campaigns,” she said.
“Through OM, we provide integrated campaigns that pull messages together and focus them on key targets. This focus allows the messaging to break through the clutter of a noisy marketplace,” she added.
“Therefore campaigns are rooted in audience research, not guesswork. We look at the gaps between current and desired perceptions to develop campaign strategies and messages. For this reason, OM continuously tracks progress against desired outcomes.”
Gabriel is all out to convince that OM is about strategic positioning, campaign management and results.
Going by these guidelines, Malaysian companies no longer consider public relations a luxury, but an essential part of the business structure.
The importance of public relations, coupled with the global issues regarding transparency and disclosure, has meant that image and reputation management is critical to increase shareholder value and perception.
Weber Shandwick in Malaysia practised what it preached and doubled its revenue last year.
Now in its tenth successful year in Malaysia, the company has strongly developed its consumer marketing expertise for leading international brands. It has also expanded its portfolio into the corporate and healthcare sector.
Despite the pressures of SARS and associated issues that made many other companies exercise prudence in their investments, 2003 was a good year for Weber Shandwick. Clients such as Levi’s, Brand’s Essence of Chicken and Philips CE realised the importance of investing in public relations during the down times.
At the same time, Gabriel said, more and more Malaysian corporations are becoming aware of the increasing importance of corporate governance and transparency when communicating to their various stakeholders, employees, external shareholders, customers, government, and regulators/policy makers.
When it started here, Weber Shandwick initially focussed on international clients assigned by its regional offices.
In the past two years, business has grown rapidly and it has strengthened its local client portfolio with companies like Sapura Group of Companies, Celcom and E&O Property Berhad.
But it has not been rosy in the PR line, admitted Gabriel, who finds it challenging to find the right talent to work for them.
“Ultimately, our industry is about people. Clients need and want the best talent to counsel them and implement strategies. The PR industry has evolved to become very specialised and it has been difficult to get specialist talents in various related industries.”
As the Malaysian economy expands this year, she said, technology and healthcare will be growth areas for Weber Shandwick in Malaysia.
Whatever the odds, she said: “I am all for breaking through boundaries and challenging my team to achieve more than they think they can by focussing on OM.”
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