The majority of Hong Kong public relations firms saw an increase in revenues in 2011, due mainly to growth in regional work, notably in mainland China, according to a new industry survey by the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong.

The survey found that 68 percent of firms in Hong Kong saw revenues increase moderately or significantly in 2011, with 40 percent seeing growth in their regional business out of Hong Kong. China accounted for the lion’s share (60 percent) of the regional business, reflecting a growing awareness among Chinese companies of the need for effective communications, both in the home market and overseas.

The growing importance of social media was also evident, with social media work ranked third (56 percent) behind media publicity (84 percent) and mixed channels (64 percent), way ahead of all other ways for clients to communicate with consumers and other stakeholders. There was clearly far less appetite for more traditional forms of paid communication, such as print (16 percent) and broadcast (8 percent) advertising.

Social media tactics centred primarily on the distribution of news releases online, working with bloggers and other influencers to seed stories and shape opinions, and managing a social media platform, such as Facebook, Weibo or Twitter.

“Greater usage of social media channels reflects the growing awareness of their efficacy and penetration when disseminating news and other content, particularly in Greater China,” says Simeon Mellalieu, chairman of CPRFHK and general manager of Ketchum Hong Kong. “In Hong Kong and China and elsewhere, companies are recognizing the value and importance of having a clear social media strategy that’s aligned with other more traditional forms of media outreach. It’s where public relations firms in Hong Kong are able to demonstrate their expertise and value to clients.”

Over three-quarters of the respondent firms (78 percent) said their fees were mostly generated from three sectors: consumer goods (39 percent); financial and professional services (26 percent); and technology (13 percent). Other respondents cited healthcare, industrial and manufacturing, and other businesses as their main source of revenue.

Looking ahead to 2012, expectations about PR spending by clients were fairly evenly split, with 33 percent of respondents expecting to see an increase in spending, 38 percent thinking PR spending will remain little changed and 29 percent anticipating a slight fall.