With a population of around 230 million, Indonesia is the fourth most populated country in the world. It is also a functioning democracy with a free media, and so has a thriving PR industry. In the past five years it has grown exponentially, and corporates in Indonesia are now so keen on PR that even alcohol and cigarette brands are looking to gain editorial coverage in this Muslim country.
Yet, many of those running the agencies, and their clients, decry the lack of skills and talent available to them. Some are taking steps to address the problem. A group of agencies - Maverick, IndoPacific Edelman, Weber Shandwick, and R&R – recently joined forces with some clientside PR experts to form the Indonesian PR Practitioners Group, an informal grouping providing training for entry-level and junior PR professionals on PR basics.
Chris Kanter is the chairman & founder of logistics firm Sigma Sembada Group, as well as well as deputy chairman of the Indonesia Employers Association. He says: “Clients also need to be educated on the role PR can play. So, it's good to see many leading business schools in Indonesia such as Prasetya Mulya Business School, offering students courses in public relations alongside those in marketing and advertising.”
Perhaps the most significant recent development in Indonesia PR – in Indonesian life in general – has been the arrival of the Internet and social media. “Indonesians are social people,” says Hermawan Sutanto, director, Central Marketing Organization at Microsoft Indonesia. “ They are the world’s number one users of Twitter (20 per cent of the population use it) and number two users of Facebook. In Indonesia everyone is a spokesperson and everyone has his or her own media.”
He adds: “This allows us to distribute our messages widely, instantly and in the right context for the recipient. It’s a great opportunity for anyone involved in PR, but it also brings its own challenges. You have less control over the message, it is difficult to make your communication stand out, and it is difficult for people to distinguish between fact and opinion.”
Looking ahead, the 2014 presidential election will be a major event for the country. Already the political parties and leading figures have begun their media campaigns, and these will continue to intensify as the election itself draws ever closer.