Monetary unit: ringgit (RM)
Capital city: Kuala Lumpur
Major languages: Malay
Major religions: Islam
Ethnic composition: Malay 50.9%; other indigenous 11.1%; Chinese 22.7%; Indian 6.9%; other citizen 1.2%; noncitizen 7.2%
Age breakdown: under 15, 30.2%; 15–29, 26.1%; 30–44, 21.7%; 45–59, 14.7%; 60–74, 5.8%; 75 and over, 1.5%
Life expectancy: male 70.6 years; female 76.2 years
Education: Percentage of population age 25–64 having: no formal schooling/unknown 8.4%; primary education 28.7%; lower secondary 20.7%; upper secondary 31.1%; higher 11.1%
Urban/Rural split: urban 71.3%; rural 28.7%
Income per household (USD): -
Broadband internet users (%): -
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica
Over the past 30 years Malaysia has transformed itself from an exporter of natural resources such as rubber, tin and palm oil, into a middle-income industrial economy. Its economy slowed a little during 2009 but has recovered well, and this, combined with liberalised foreign investment regulations, means that the country is increasingly attractive to multinationals.
Although its public relations market remains relatively underdeveloped compared to those elsewhere in Southeast Asia, it is developing fast. Ken Hong, global communications director of
LG Electronics, says: “Malaysia is a key market for us. Even though it is an Islamic country it is an open economy, and it has a dynamic, young population.”
He continues: “There is a lot of PR talent there. Often it’s people who have studied overseas and are returning home with their communications expertise and a professional approach to PR. Anyone who attends events in Malaysia always comes back surprised by what an advanced PR market it is.”
Mainstream media remain important in Malaysia. Broadcast is led by the semi-private Media Prima, which owns four terrestrial TV stations, including market leader TV3. Two government-owned channels are important for reaching rural and civil service audiences. Radio is a powerful voice in the country, reaching nine out of ten Malaysians. AMP Radio is the key player.
Newspaper readership has shown a slight decline. The Star is the most-read English title, while vernacular newspapers such as Utusan Malaysia and Sin Chew Daily are also popular. Business media is led by The Edge Weekly, alongside the Financial Daily.
Low-cost carrier AirAsia is often considered the country's biggest branding success story of recent years, under the leadership of high-profile CEO Tony Fernandes.
National flag carrier Malaysia Airlines has, however, responded through a series of thoughtful and effective comms campaigns. Industry insiders talk respectfully about how the national carrier continues to defy expectations in the face of the worst aviation industry crisis and the challenges from the world's largest low-cost carrier – AirAsia - in its own backyard.
Another important brand is Petronas, the national oil giant which contributes a remarkable 40%
of government revenue. In recent years it has worked hard to build an image based around social harmony and many believe it has succeeded.
CIMB Bank has been able to profile itself as a professionally run, dynamic and fast-growing brand, and mention should also be made of mobile operator DiGi, which observers say punches above its weight perception-wise.
Government spend on PR is rising, fuelled by such initiatives as the Government Transformation Programme, and various new economic zones. Even the country's police force has called in external PR counsel.