Racheal Lee
Apr 30, 2012

PR industry on restoring confidence in post-flood Thailand

BANGKOK - Communication is vital in restoring the confidence of investors and businesses after the massive flooding crisis in Thailand last year, industry experts said.

PR industry on restoring confidence in post-flood Thailand

Garry Walsh, managing director for Southeast Asia at APCO Worldwide, said the role of communication is important to promote stability in the country for businesses to stay.

“Thailand is an important part of the supply chain in the region and the government needs to let businesses know of any flood-resilient plans as well as where and how they can get support and grants from," he told Campaign Asia-Pacific. "There are tremendous opportunities for the government as the Prime Minister (Yingluck Shinawatra) was in the corporate world before.”

Investors need to be informed of the government’s support level, new building designs as well as any backup plans, he added.

Carolyn Camoens, deputy general manager & Studio D lead of Waggener Edstrom Singapore, noted that communication needs to be consistent.

"Authentic and open communication is the order of the day, and moreso when confidence has been shaken and needs to be rebuilt," she told Campaign Asia-Pacific. "For this the Thai government should also look to the full communications arsenal including social channels which promote dialogue and therefore make the messages more credible."

Bob Grove, managing director, Southeast Asia of Edelman, meanwhile said, "Thailand has a lot to offer for business and a consumer base of 70 million, not to mention the obvious tourist attractions. As stability and predictability to the environment as a whole returns to Thailand, so will business investment and travelers."

Thailand recently announced that it is ready to spend US$1.6 million on PR campaigns to promote the country as the host of the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2012.

To be held in Bangkok on 31 May and 1 June, the forum is aimed to restore confidence in Thailand among international investors and travellers. More than 600 international business operators are expected to attend.

The national carrier, Thai Airways International, has reportedly agreed to join forces with the government in the PR campaign, which will involve all types of media channels, locally and globally.

Camoens added, “It goes beyond a public relations campaign; whatever the Thai government chooses to communicate needs to be rooted in real action and therefore be authentic. Certainly hosting an event at the level of the World Economic Forum goes a long way to restoring confidence."

The worst flood in the country’s history had a tremendous impact on millions of lives and businesses. At the peak of the disaster in November, volume sales of products, including audio home systems, televisions, washing machines, air conditioners and laptops, nosedived by at least 25 per cent compared to the previous month.

Gfk Thailand recently revealed findings on the performance of the consumer durable goods industry during and after the flood. The findings for Q1 revealed demand for tablets and TVs jumped, while other major electronic products declined.

Tablets saw a sales volume growth of 75 per cent in the first quarter to reach over US$50 million, compared to a year ago.  “It is a testament that the Thais are truly avid technology enthusiasts," said Wichit Purepong, general manager of GfK Thailand. "TV is another popular device which thrived in the first three months of the year, garnering around US$244 million."

The findings for Q1 revealed double digit negative growth in at least five product categories tracked by GfK Thailand, with washing machines, DVD players and recorders, and audio home systems being the worst hit, underperforming by 20, 18 and 18 per cent compared to the previous year, respectively.

On a monthly basis, the findings showed a great improvement in consumer spending behaviour in Thailand, where items like audio home systems and digital cameras saw demand increase twofold, while others such as televisions and washing machines also registered a considerable spike in sales.

“The market’s strong performance was mainly due to the promotional efforts of manufacturers and retailers in a bid to drive sales especially during the upcoming festive period and the pent-up consumer demand as a result of the months of flooding,” Purepong added.

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