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Advertising Interviews

Jonathan Hughes

President, International | 13 Aug 2015

I think Asia is beginning to understand the dividends that can be had when you treat your brand or company reputation like any other commercial asset. A good reputation pays off in terms of consumer preference, customer loyalty, talent attraction and retention and faster recovery when issues inevitably occur.

Jonathan Hughes, International President of PR and brand management agency, Golin shifted from the London office to Hong Kong in 2003 in order to manage the Asia business and strengthen the agency’s presence and capabilities across the region.

Following up with his recent visit to Mumbai, he converses with exchange4media about the current PR scene in Asia and why the company’s G4 model trumps the generalist model in creating a smoother work interface.

Q. What are the strongest points of difference between the PR industry in UK and that of Asia?

Very difficult to compare a single market like the UK with the 40 or so very distinct markets that make up Asia, but in general terms I think Asia is beginning to understand the dividends that can be had when you treat your brand or company reputation like any other commercial asset. A good reputation pays off in terms of consumer preference, customer loyalty, talent attraction and retention and faster recovery when issues inevitably occur.

Q. Has there been significant change in the way PR agencies in India do business?

I think that change is occurring now and it's around seeing the benefits from taking a more integrated approach across traditional and digital, and earned, owned and paid media. It's also about the need to be relevant and you can only do that if you are monitoring and engaging in near real time, which is what we do with The Bridge. As I said this change is transition is ongoing but our clients are seeing real value when we go beyond just media relations.

Q. In India, there continues to be a gap between PR agencies and journalists when it comes to working together. How can a PR house improve or help bridge this gap?

That's not unique to India. The key is specialism and that's what our G4 model is all about. One of the biggest reasons for this disconnect is when you have a generalist agency person trying to have a specialist conversation with a journalist. So in our model we have a community of media specialists, called Connectors, who can engage on more of a peer to peer basis as they better understand their brief, the market and the needs of the journalist or blogger. So if, as an industry, we want to bridge this gap we have to up our game.

Q. In regards to the G4 specialist centric model, does the problem of being in sync with different departments come up?

Not really. We believe teams of specialist will always do a better job for clients than a group of generalists. The question of being in synch doesn't arise as the teams don't work in isolation. The best way to think of G4 is like a road trip. Imagine there are four of you in a car, each one representing one of the four G4 communities. Only one personal at a time can actually drive but the others are still there in the car and they still have an input on which way to go. So to begin with our Explorers are driving the strategy and insight discussion but the others have input. Then the Creators will get behind the wheel and lead the creative ideation process but the explorers are still in the car. They too can have input on the creative idea just as the connectors and catalysts can. In this way everyone is in sync and the outcome is more insightful, robust and creative campaigns for our clients.

Q. What is the most innovative work Golin has done in Asia recently?

We are really innovating in the content creation space integrating earned, paid and owned media. It is a natural and logical fit for us but we find ourselves competing less with PR agencies and more with creative, digital and media agencies. This is really making us up our game but we feel we have something unique and interesting to offer. This is very much in line with our ethos to ‘Go All In’ and push ourselves to do creatively brave work worthy of awe and action.

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