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Today we have announced some changes to our regional business alignment. Effective July 1st next year, Edelman Middle East & Africa will be combined with our Asia Pacific rather than our European business. The release is here. As Matt Harrington notes, this has been driven by changes in the way in which global trade and Edelman clients now look at the world as well as operational considerations.

It has become apparent in recent years that the rise of Africa will be more determined by China, India and the Middle East than Europe. That is where the investment is coming from, initially in commodities and infrastructure, but increasingly in wider trade and development areas too. We are experiencing this with our own client base.  Also, the old Silk Routes seem to have become the new Silk Routes and the Middle East is again umbilically linked to India and South Asia. You only have to look at the make-up of the workforce in Dubai or Abu Dhabi or some of the biggest foreign investors in Indian business to see this. Proximity and historical ties count.

We are seeing increasing numbers of our clients organizing this way too. RFPs and client titles and responsibilities now routinely combine these regions. Certainly our offices in the Middle East have been working more with those in Asia Pacific and staff swaps between Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong and India and Dubai are routine these days.

Operationally this new structure brings significant benefits for both our staff and our clients. I have always maintained that in PR (as in many things) size counts. Scale in a PR operation allows you to specialize. A bigger office can have a wider variety of deeply specialist skills than a smaller office where everyone is forced to work across everything. Clients increasingly look for industry knowledge and experience and deep technical capabilities. Generalists cannot deliver this.

Our individual offices in AP are getting bigger fast I am happy to say (we are now 27% bigger than we were this time last year). And in many of our offices we now have much deeper practice specialization. To make that really work though, we need to deliver training and mentoring of the highest level. To do that we need to have regional practice specialists who are genuinely world class in health or tech or crisis for example and who can work with teams in individual markets to raise their skills and be easily available for specific high level client needs. But every regional PR network struggles to make this work out side of the UK and the U.S. which have the benefit of scale and one currency, law, and (mainly) one language and culture. A region of countries needs a different approach to a country of regions.

Distance and time-zones also play a part in this. And so does funding and the ability to organize quickly and locally. That is why we have created three sub-regions through which we will now be able to deliver (and fund as we are now a bigger business) this practice infrastructure. Iain Twine, who will run Southeast Asia and Australia; Robert Holdheim, who will run India, Middle East & Africa and Bob Grove who will run North Asia will be tasked with delivering a sub-regional practice structure that will mean more training, mentoring and insights for our increasingly specialized workforce that will take their skills to the next level and hopefully result in even better client service. It is difficult to achieve this with a practice structure built purely on a regional basis especially in a region so geographically and culturally diverse as Asia-Pacific. So by breaking this down into three sub-regions with better proximity and, sometimes, cultural similarity we believe we can significantly increase the delivery of training and high level specialist consultancy.

And in Robert, Iain and Bob we have three brilliant leaders who have all built and grown businesses with astonishing success. Four years ago Edelman India was at $3 million and failing. Rob Holdheim took it by the scruff of the neck and it is now at $14 million and the acknowledged leader in that market. Under Bob Grove, Southeast Asia (which we have long treated as a sub-region) has tripled in size in four years to be a $20 million business and market leader in each of our four markets there. And Iain and I together set up our Middle East operations in Abu Dhabi in 2008 from a rented one office space where famously visiting Edelman colleagues had to sit on an upturned paper basket as we had no extra chairs. From that humble beginning Iain has driven that start-up into a thriving business of more than 70 people between Abu Dhabi (where we are by far the number one player) and Dubai and an established network of 23 affiliates and partners across ME and Africa. One of the great things about Edelman is our ability to be entrepreneurial and set-up, start-up, acquire or partner to get a business going to serve our clients. And partly that is also why we are doing this too….so these great entrepreneurs can drive us into new markets and bring new capabilities. I have worked at both WPP and IPG and nowhere else is this possible.

For our teams across the region I hope this new approach will mean more of the training you value and more sub-regional career opportunities and for our clients I hope our people will be even better trained and equipped to service your needs.

Onwards!

David Brain is the president and CEO of Edelman Asia Pacific.

Edelman.com republishes David Brain’s SixtySecondView posts from his curated blog.

Photo credit: Dave Proffer

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