Strategic PR embarks on overseas growth as competition heats up

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2008, 12:00am

Strategic Public Relations Group, Hong Kong's largest financial public relations agency, wants to double revenue from its overseas offices this year.

The company is adopting a 'go out' strategy to expand its regional network to compete with international giants such as WPP Group and Omnicom Group.

Strategic, founded by chairman Richard Tsang Lap-ki in 1995, has moved aggressively into the mainland, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia in the past few years, building on the group's local financial and marketing communications practice.

The firm now has more than 100 staff in overseas offices.

'Our client base in Hong Kong is much bigger as we have about 140 retainers,' Mr Tsang said.

'We need to establish a regional marketing network to fuel growth.'

Strategic generated an estimated HK$100 million in fee income for the year to March, up from HK$70 million in 2006.

Mr Tsang said the firm wanted to increase that by 20 per cent to 30 per cent this year.

'Our Shanghai and Beijing offices should be our growth engine this year, and we aim to double our fee income from HK$20 million last year,' Mr Tsang said.

Strategic plans to invest more than HK$10 million a year to expand regional coverage in Asia. The latest market is Malaysia, where the company has secured its first customer from the telecommunications sector.

'We are diversifying into other industries besides financial,' Mr Tsang said.

'For example, our Beijing office's strength is in the technology sector, while the Shanghai office focuses on lifestyle, airlines and hospitality industry marketing.'

Mr Tsang said he preferred to open regional offices by establishing a team led by local experts. He does not favour acquisitions.

'I don't think a public relations firm can do well if it merges with other companies, as people are the most important assets. We prefer to recruit a suitable executive to set up the new business,' Mr Tsang said.

Meanwhile, the 'go out' strategy is strengthening Strategic's position despite attempts by international public relations firms to grab a bigger slice of the market.

WPP Group of Britain acquired financial public relations firm iPR in 2005 while Financial Dynamics, another British public relations house, bought Occasions Corporate & Financial Communications in September last year.

Mr Tsang said he would not sell his company. 'Our scale is too big to integrate into big houses and our independence is a selling point to our clients as well.'

Dow Jones chief flies in

Les Hinton, the newly appointed chief executive of Dow Jones, will be in Hong Kong today to meet staff who are no doubt eager to learn what Rupert Murdoch has planned for the company.

Mr Murdoch's News Corp completed the acquisition of Dow Jones in December last year.

Mr Hinton was previously chief executive of News International, News Corp's flagship in Britain that publishes The Times and The Sun.

'Mr Hinton will take questions from staff and he will elaborate on how Dow Jones works under News Corp,' a Dow insider told Media Eye.

There are already signs of change. Last month, The Wall Street Journal Asia put 'a News Corp company' banner on its front page.

CNBC, a business news television channel that had been in partnership with Dow Jones before News Corp's deal, moved out of its Wan Chai office a month ago.

Dow Jones and CNBC's long-term partnership ended after the News Corp purchase.

Mr Murdoch would like his Fox Business News Channel to leverage on The Wall Street Journal to expand its business news coverage.