Asean integration provides green light for PR professionals (Business Mirror (Philippines))

In my earlier article, I wrote about how 2015 marks a milestone with the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in place. This will open more regional cooperation and will improve the scale efficiencies, dynamism and competitiveness of Asean members.

AEC will enable easier movement of goods, services (that include public relations and marketing communications), investments, capital and people (that includes you!). Ultimately, it will offer new ways of coordinating supply chains, or access to new markets for established products.

At the recent HR Summit organized by the Asian CEO Forum, I asked one of the summit panelists on what she thought could be opportunities and threats for communications professionals in the context of this development, Pinky Belizariois, the HR director for Asia Pacific of Oberthur Technologies, a leading electronic and supplies company, and, with a pulse reading on the movement of people in the region, here is what she has to say:

The year 2015 is the year of Asean integration.

What competitive opportunities do you see for Filipino professionals and companies in public relations, communications, marketing and related fields?

So much has been said about the Asean integration and the prospects look like a professional league with novices and amateurs competing with experts: it promotes an equal playing field. Having said that, any Asean nation can benefit from the technology transfer, integrating the local culture with a regional flair to make it palatable to the greater global arena. The Philippines is a resilient, flexible and adaptable nation with highly skilled professionals and citizens who cultivate their inherent talent to achieve growth potentials. Even educational background or the lack of it is not a hindrance to studying, learning and acquiring more competencies to compete and mash up with their regional and global counterparts.

Given the possession of excellent communication skills, an environment for overachievement and the wanton need to excel abroad, we can see more and more Filipinos getting noticed in writing, blogging and creating visual vehicles to support businesses. Thus, web development, graphic design and content editorials will be a great platform to be recognized.

What threats and difficulties do you foresee?

Government support will be crucial in providing the landscape for enhancing technical educational skills and encourage businesses to flourish with incentives for growth.

It will be inherently difficult to offer courses with a competitive edge over Korean subsidy for foreign education or over the Singaporean educational system, which is already among the top 3 in the world. We are fast losing our Filipino experts to the growth centers because of the gravy on the train, which of late has been influenced by the amount of skilled work force.

The best is reserved for those who can afford to pay for the elusive American dream. We lag far behind our compensation and our benefits look incredibly poor compared to the US and Europe and the Middle East. A days’ rate in Cupertino, for example, is equivalent to a month’s pay in Fort Bonifacio.

Any concrete tips for those seeking greener pastures or expansion in Asean?

The winner in the Asean integration race is the one who can mix culture with price. It is the name of the game. The prize goes to the company who can adapt easily, pay in a higher currency and retain the elusive talent for a good number of years. The organization must be led with homegrown talent, an Asian who has the tenacity to pursue the growth, perseverance to run after it and the anticipation to change the course of the business when it needs to and where it needs to.

Within a competitive environment for excellence, if you got the right talent in the right company, you will receive the right price. That is how this game is going to be won.

Any other observations and practical advice?

There is a major influx of foreign workers in Asia and this cuts our growth. Countries like Singapore and Indonesia have responded by forging stricter rules for foreigners so local talent are getting a foothold.

Asian workers, on the other hand, are usually relegated to low-end jobs, even if a limited few have conquered the global arena as executives or industry leaders. We need more of these people: highly educated, critically skilled and with the vision of an eagle seeking its prey- determined to win against all others, non-Asians or Asians alike.

We need visionaries, entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks. We must go out of our comfort zones and invest in honest to goodness RandD, create uniquely Asian products and leave it to the Chinese to copy and paste. The region would like to see excellence in cooperation between nations and to support partnerships among countries in terms of resource sharing, easing off taxation in collaborative productive work, less politics but more socio-cultural initiatives that foster strong relationships.