PR is Korea has got Seoul

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I didn’t know what to expect when visiting a foreign public relations agency. It was exciting to think about the opportunity to question Korean executives and draw conclusions on the differences about how business and brand management is conducted. Pre-conceived notions based on graduate studies in public relations were the only thing leading me into the meeting. Do agencies actually place their focus on clients’ needs and expectations? Is there such thing as genuine representation? Is it possible to build meaningful relationships between consumers and brands?

Extensive introductions about agency initiatives were given, and as a global company, South Korea’s initiatives and overall philosophy stood out based on previous research. As I do not have a public relations background, learning about the industry has made it seem like a necessary evil of business and branding. Fleishman Hillard Korea (FH) presented their
function in the country along with initiatives and strategies used for clients. The authenticity gap is a concept that is indoctrinated into every facet of client relations and company functions at the agency. The approach aims to bridge the gap between brand identity and brand image, while simultaneously considering organizational purpose of products and profiles both online and offline. The overall intention of the ideology is to couple the expectations of consumers and their experience with a company or brand. The idea comprehensively evaluates research to determine the “drivers of authenticity” specific for each client.They include:
*doing right
*onsistent performance
*better value
*customer care
*innovation
*employee care
*community impact
*care of the environment

Based on these characteristics, the agency holistically evaluates client needs, while genuinely considering what those needs actually are. As a result, they are able to blend momentum and static reporting into a comprehensive report that breaks down every aspect of a company, essentially providing an integrated approach to identifying a shared approach to communication.

While the agency in South Korea works with many industries, the main focus is on government and public affairs. While few specific examples were given, there was a strong focus on the Nuclear Safety Summit in 2012 (NSS). The characteristics of the authenticity gap were more than evident in the way that the agency approached the event as a way to synthesize the summit with the reputation of its purpose. The agency was very concerned with promoting a sensitive issue in a way that satisfied the community and maintained a common theme that was easily recognizable and adaptable. Consequently, the conference was pitched as a peace summit. Peace as the summit concept was chosen due to the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and it was a emotional branding. The agency used the concept of peace to frame a sensitive issue, but in a manageable way. Peace is something the majority of people around the world want and therefore the peace summit was marketed towards the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Volunteers were made to advocates for the summit in the community, major partnerships such as UNICEF were developed to market the cause, and several media campaigns were launched to promote the event. Post event media monitoring showed overwhelmingly positive feedback.

Overall, I was very impressed by the agency’s philosophy. This is global agency spanning 28 countries with 80 offices and they still focus on quality over quantity of clients. The answers to all of my questions were yes. The FH Korea office presented itself as a sincere, emotionally connected, and genuine part of blending the line between brand and reputation. Companies and brands face a number of pressures and it’s integral to consider the expectations of clients beyond a profitability stand point. The standards for the drivers of authenticity: management behaviors, customer benefits, and society outcomes, speak to the commitment of the agency to adhere to the comprehensive approach to brand relationships. The Korean office of Fleishman Hillard exuded passion for their work and their clients. One can only hope that international PR firms put as much genuine thought and detail into strategic brand management as this office does.

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