Worldcom’s annual meeting some pretty good PR for Korea
Established in 1988, Worldcom has about 110 PR firms worldwide and holds its annual meeting in different places each year. This year’s meeting continues through Friday at the Plaza Hotel in Sogong-dong, central Seoul.
Chair-elect Stephanie Paul, managing director of Australia’s leading communication company, Philips Group, and outgoing chair Corinna Voss of Germany talked about the PR industry’s role in the wake of political risks and changing business environments in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily.
Q. Despite the current issues in Korea such as concerns over North Korea, what made you decide to hold your annual meeting in Seoul?
Paul: It was the Asia-Pacific region’s turn to host it, and we thought that in view of the excellent economy and growth in Korea that it was very appropriate for the global partnership to be here to actually better understand the country, its culture and the driving force behind its success. This is our way of showcasing Korea to our global partners
Voss: We would be lying if we said there were not concerns prior to the meeting, but I think we also wanted to send a sign that there were very few cancellations due to the North Korea issue, that everyone has complete trust in the Korean government and this would be a peaceful and safe meeting for us. We have absolutely no worries at the moment.
Having said that Korea is a safe place, how would you advise your foreign clients if they wanted to expand their businesses into Korea but were concerned about the political situation here?
Voss: It is true that the concerns are more outside Korea. Inside it seems natural because Koreans have lived with the situation for quite some time, while for many other countries it is quite unusual.
But if I had a client looking to invest in Korea, I would not so much have political concerns but rather spend more time to learn more about the market, culture and background, and how to run a global business in Korea. These times are fast-changing times and in the next month it could be much safer place, so I think understanding the culture and how business is done in the country is more important.
Economic democratization is pressuring large corporations in Korea. There have been many regulations imposed on large companies by the government recently. What would be the role of PR companies be under such circumstances?
Voss: There are such regulations in quite a lot of countries as well, where they want to grow solid small and medium enterprises, or SMEs, and diversify business segments, which I think is very important. You can’t grow and just rely on Samsung. So I think it is maybe a wise step to do that.
Paul: And certainly in Australia, there is a very strong support for SMEs and there are a lot of government programs to ensure that those particular industries are encouraged to expand and continue to employ people.
Voss: If you look at successful economies, for example Germany, the backbone of the economy is the small- to medium-sized businesses.
For large corporations or conglomerates, I think risk management is important. But there are many small and medium businesses that want to tap into the global market. Do you have any PR advice for them?
Paul: For any business, whether large or small, reputation is so important. Their reputation with customers, clients, employees, the industry and government is important as they are all major stakeholders. Therefore, irrespective of the size of the company, there is certainly no doubt that the way they conduct their own business is such a crucial factor and one that transcends size.
Korea has its first woman president. What are the leadership roles of women in the PR industry?
Voss: We have a lot of men in communications, too, especially political communications.
Paul: I think that communication has always been a strength of women. However, having said that, I think we should never generalize that since my view is that diversity is very important in our industry, as it is in all walks of life. From that perspective, both men and women bring exceptional capabilities to the mix in the communications business.
What is the benefit of the annual meeting for your clients and partners (local PR companies)?
Voss: The scalability of Worldcom is very important, because I can promise my clients that I can perform the same service in Hungary, Poland and maybe another week in Russia, because I know that I can rely on my partners in those countries. That is why the annual general meeting is important, as we do a lot of interacting with each other in sharing knowledge and networking.
Paul: Another benefit from the annual meeting is that we do a lot of knowledge transfer, not only about current best practices but also about the next trends that we have to be ready for.
By Kim Jung-yoon [email@example.com]