Telum Talks To: Ken Reed, Managing Partner, Naarden + Hawthorne

Telum Talks To: Ken Reed, Managing Partner, Naarden + Hawthorne

Ken Reed, Naarden + Hawthorne

As part of its continuing Q&A series with senior PR practitioners, Telum sat down for a chat with Ken Reed, Managing Partner of U.S. based communications firm, Naarden + Hawthorne to discuss the opportunities and challenges Asia Pacific based companies and brands may have when looking to do business in the United States.

What opportunities do you see for Asia Pacific companies looking to do business in America?
From a U.S. perspective, the Asia Pacific region has long been seen as a vibrant hub of economic activity, driving global growth and innovation, so I think the U.S. presents a wealth of opportunities for APAC companies to expand their visibility here. As with anything, however, venturing into an American business landscape can come with its own set of challenges.

First, Covid accelerated digital transformation across Asia Pacific, driving the adoption of remote work, new platforms, and digital payment systems. This puts APAC companies, if not at a unique, then at least a somewhat advantageous position when entering the United States market.

While there are opportunities abound, I think there are several hurdles. Cultural and regulatory differences come to mind. Non-U.S. companies have to navigate complex legal frameworks, varying business practices, and local dynamics to establish a good foothold. So understanding local laws, regulations, and business practices is crucial to navigate these barriers effectively.

Second, competition is intense. While this is true everywhere because of well-established American companies and global players vying for market share, differentiation is critical. Offer a unique value prop, understand local consumer preferences, and adapt models to meet American demands.

Protecting IP rights is crucial for Asia Pacific companies entering the U.S. market, too. Understanding U.S. patent, copyright, and trademark laws, as well as implementing effective IP protection strategies, can safeguard their innovations and assets.

Lastly, adapting products, services, and marketing strategies to cater to the specific needs and preferences of U.S. consumers is important. Localization efforts, including language, branding, packaging, and customer support, can enhance customer satisfaction and market penetration.

What about brand building?
Building brand recognition and trust among American consumers can be a hurdle, though not insurmountable. I’m probably painting with a broad brush here, but some overseas companies could face some skepticism - however unfounded - and unfamiliarity from American consumers, who may perceive them as foreign entities. So effective marketing and comms strategies are crucial for overcoming this hurdle and establishing a positive brand image.

So where are the opportunities for Asia Pacific brands?
I think it goes back to the region’s expertise in technology and innovation. By leveraging strengths in sectors like 5G, AI, and advanced manufacturing, APAC companies can bring solutions to American businesses and end-users. There’s also Asia’s advantage of a strong supply chain network. By integrating supply chain capabilities with America-based partners, companies in Asia can enhance efficiency and capitalize on the global demand for seamless logistics and distribution services.

What are the main differences or variations in comms and media relations practices between the U.S. and Asia Pacific?
My first reaction is the distinct approach between the two. Both are positive in their own right. In APAC, relationships and personal connections play a vital role. I’ve spent some time in Hong Kong and I’ve seen that success is built on long-term partnerships, trust, and hierarchical structures. Asia Pacific companies prioritize face-to-face meetings and formal interactions to establish credibility and maintain harmonious relationships.

I think U.S. media relations emphasize a dynamic and fast-paced environment. We value directness - especially in New York! - concise communication, and rapid decision-making. We’re expected to adapt to an ever-evolving landscape, embrace digital platforms, social media, and influencer marketing to reach our target audience effectively. As I say this, I concede that this can apply across the U.S. and the Asia Pacific region, but this is what sticks out to me.

After having worked in corporate communication in the U.S, and specifically New York, I will say that companies here are encouraged to promptly address any issues, provide accurate information, and engage in proactive crisis management. It’s almost not enough to “get in front of the problem.” Your strategies need to be built-in and embedded in your comms team’s culture. 

With the highly competitive landscape and a multitude of outlets and platforms vying for attention, Asia Pacific companies expanding into the United States should be prepared for increased scrutiny and/or find local comms teams to help communicate their messages clearly.

Asia-Pacific companies that successfully navigate the above intricacies can position themselves for growth and capitalize on the vast opportunities available in what is a dynamic business landscape.

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