8 August 2011 By Northern Lights
by Kulbir Sandhu, Intern at Northern Lights PR
The first generation of Asian entrepreneurs were a unique bunch.
By and large, they were successful, worked incredibly hard and achieved the aims they had set out to achieve – namely to be self-sufficient and provide financial security for their families.
Many went on to achieve great wealth. Even though many of these early entrepreneurs had a head for business, many were pushed into self-employment, not necessarily out of choice, but as a result of a discriminatory labour market.
Despite their great success, PR has not been at the forefront of their minds because of:
1) Cultural factors: For first generation Asian entrepreneurs, PR is not in their psyche – it is still largely an alien concept. As long as the first generation is in charge, PR will not be taken seriously – at best it will be paid lip service.
2) Lack of awareness of PR: This applies to all businesses – not just Asian ones. Firms may manufacture goods, price them appropriately, and advertise them with great success– it is hard to see where public relations activity fits in with all this. Perhaps PR companies haven’t reached out to them as well as they would have liked. A case of the PR industry being bad at its own PR perhaps?
3) Prudence: Asian entrepreneurs have historically saved a big chunk of their income – most of it for their children’s’ education. Generally speaking they have been risk averse – with any expansion projects being funded by pooling family funds.
4) Over reliance on family networks: The first port of call for any business expertise has always been from the extended family network. Whether legal, advertising or HR there will almost certainly be a contact in the family who can help. The quality of the advice is often of secondary importance.
5) Hierarchy: Often it is the eldest male who has the final say in all business decisions. It is largely an accident of birth as opposed to ability which forms the basis of important decisions. Younger members are overlooked and the business suffers – decision making at its worse!
It is clear then that the PR industry and Asian firms haven’t been natural bedfellows.
But as they mature and pass onto the next generation, PR will clearly have a bigger role to play in Asian businesses. The younger generation have been brought up in this country and have embraced western business methods, whilst retaining the best of the old ways – namely unwavering hard work and commitment to family.
We see it before our eyes – whereas for the first generation, important decisions were made by the oldest male (or son) in the family, the newer generation works more democratically. There are countless examples of Asian food manufacturers or retailers who have matured (and grown) with the new generation playing a larger role. They are more strategic in their outlook.
It is against this backdrop that the opportunities for PR firms to work with Asian businesses will increase. Do you agree?