After 32 years in MSL, Glenn Osaki is returning to the US for the first job of his career outside the global PR firm, MSL.
Even as he prepares to take on the role of senior vice president and chief communications officer at the University of Southern California this week, Glenn Osaki met PRmoment India's Paarul Chand for a freewheeling interview on life at MSL, his assessment on the growth of PR in India and what his priorities will be in his new role at the University of South California. Osaki has strong connections to USC, having earned his master’s degree in public relations from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
It's a homecoming for Glenn Osaki as he spent 18 years in Los Angeles where he managed the MSL office in the city. He then moved to Shanghai in 2005 and looked after MSL's APAC operations over the last 14 years.
Osaki was there in Asia at a time where PR services were just beginning to grow quickly in markets such as China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore along with the well-established PR markets of Australia and Japan.
Growth of PR in Asia
Growth in the Asia market, including India, has been moving at a fast pace. Osaki says that "We are seeing 14 to 15% PR growth rates in markets such as India, Greater China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines and Thailand. Clients are actually spending more on earned media, content and how to amplify that content."
Osaki says companies in Asia see the value of PR as a business consultancy arm and not just in a commoditised media publicity role. They are investing in content and influencers, especially when data is being used to customise micro-influencers engagement and amplification of content.
When asked how long will the double-digit growth rates sustain, Osaki said, " I am very optimistic about MSL in Asia and believe that these growth rates will sustain for 5 to 10 years.
PR fees in India will continue to rise
Glenn Osaki said that PR fees have been on the rise for the last 3 years in India. Comparing it to where China was over a decade ago, he said, " It took 10 years for the PR fees in China to rise. And when it did, it was very fast. The average retainer fees tripled from 5,000 USD a month to 15,000 USD a month in a decade."
Agreeing that historically India has been a low-cost market, Osaki says, "Fees are absolutely rising both in terms of revenue and margin in India. Clients are spending more on digital, content, video and public affairs. We have 100 people in India on the digital team alone and also have the unique post of a chief video officer for India's MSL team. Fees are no longer low in India and profitability is rising too."
Osali adds, "In fact, MSL India’s performance in the last three years has been exemplary. From a people and culture first strategy to winning marquee clients and sweeping industry awards, to clocking double-digit growth with very healthy margins consistently, India has set the benchmark for MSL – not just in Asia but even across our global network.”
PR and business learnings from the India and China market
Based in Shanghai since 2005, Glenn Osaki has had the chance to see China and the India markets close up.
He says, "The biggest difference between the two markets is the presence of a free press in India. The digital environment in China and India are also very different. In China, the digital environment has a high degree of inter-dependency. As China has developed its own ecosystem of digital and social platforms, the closed system allows businesses to develop strong interdependencies very fast. So you could conduct all of your daily activities from banking to commerce, from complex business deals to the simplest errands via WeChat anywhere in China. That will happen in India as well."
These kinds of interdependencies would present India's communicators with fresh opportunities for customer engagement.
Favourite India and China PR campaigns
Discussing the campaigns that presented great learnings for MSL and himself personally, Glenn Osaki said in India his favourite campaign is the Vicks " Touch of Care", created by Publicis Singapore with 20 20 MSL India that shows the expansion of the idea of a gentle #TouchOfCare by a mother. The campaign featured abandoned children with disabilities who were adopted by loving couples and transgender mother Gauri, upturning the conventional idea of what a parent and mother should be like.
MSLGROUP swept awards for these campaigns. The PR impact?
The film went viral within 24 hours of launch. Within 48 hours, with no paid media support, or promoted views, PR alone generated over 4 million views for the #TouchOfCare film.
Osaki commented that the campaign took a new approach because of its sheer positivity, "The PR was around initiating conversations that were appreciative and respectful towards unconventional relationships nurtured by care. It is a very optimistic campaign."
Volkswagen: 40 years in China
In 2018, Volkswagen designed a campaign to celebrate 40 years of economic liberalisation in China. The country remains the most significant market for Volkswagen – and Volkswagen the most important partner of the Chinese automotive industry right from the time China opened up.
To mark the occasion Volkswagen aired a campaign that showcased China's growth as a nation over 40 years while featuring Volkswagen cars.
According to Osaki, " Millennials in China were excited about this campaign as it went beyond the government celebration to showcases people from China who were part of the Volkswagen story 40 years ago, and for the next 40 years."
Priorities at USC
This week, Glenn Osaki also takes over as chief communications officer at the University of Southern California (USC). He takes over at a time when the USC along with 11 other leading US universities such as Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, Georgetown and Stanford are among the institutions named in an admissions scandal.
Glenn Osaki says his focus will be on integrity and ethical policies and communicating with transparency and openness to establish a culture of accountability at the university in the wake of the admissions crisis. Osaki said he must first listen to and engage with key stakeholders, including students, faculty, alumni and the overall USC community.