Reputation management and crisis communication are key trends that have been particularly prominent this year
What sets the Chapter 4 PR team apart is their extensive experience in corporate communications, financial PR, crisis management… Their clients especially value their business and market knowledge, analytical approach, proactive approach and focus on measurable results. We talked with the agency’s co-founders Tamara Bekčić and Milena Avramović-Bjelić about upcoming tendencies in communications.
What is the state of the media market in Serbia and where is it positioned in relation to the world? Are there (many) big advertisers on the market?
Milena Avramović-Bjelica: The media market in Serbia is very complex. On the one hand, we have a large number of media, and on the other, a significant political and economic influence on those media. In discussions with clients, peers and media buying agencies, we concluded that television remains the most influential medium. Digital online media are becoming more prevalent when it comes to media investments. There is also a brand new segment that I would not classify as a medium, but rather a channel in conveying messages to target audiences – influencers. I think there is a lot of work to be done to legislate our media market in terms of regulations and laws. Various studies show that we are at the bottom of the world in terms of media freedom, and we are also far from the global average in terms of budgets spent in the media. Regarding the size of our market, I think there are a few big advertisers and these are mostly companies which services or products are intended for end-users.
What would you single out as key market changes over the last ten years, and what lies ahead?
Tamara Bekčić: Change is an integral part of life and work. The aim of activities that we, as communicators, do are about change – through news and information, innovation, call to action, change in perception or people’s habits. These changes are both visible and measurable, with technology greatly contributing to this. Public relations agencies are agents of change. This has been particularly pronounced in recent years through the high degree of flexibility and various support models we provide to companies and brands. We live in a dynamic and interesting time. Technology has changed the way we do business and, in general, the way we live. Consequently, we have changed ourselves as well as the way we communicate. The key changes from my professional perspective are the ways we create, broadcast and receive content. As far as the future is concerned, we strive to anticipate changes in content consumption and information reception, as well as to address these findings with target groups. On the other hand, strategic communication planning and codes of ethics have not changed; they are the backbone of all our activities and I firmly believe that it will be so in the future.
What trends do you think are most noticeable in PR today?
Milena Avramović-Bjelica: Reputation management and crisis communication are key trends that were particularly highlighted this year, and will be increasingly prevalent due to the nature of social media and the fact that news is spreading at an incredible speed and that negative information can be broadcast worldwide in just a few minutes. The integration of communications, marketing and advertising is also something that is becoming more commonplace; influencer marketing and the collaboration of PR profession als with influencers is also becoming increasingly frequent. PR professionals will continue to be the most valuable partner media to the media to provide them with a foundation for quality stories, analytics and creativity in the sense that PR understands consumers. How consumers live, work and what they consume is extremely important today for brands to be represented in the right way. Ethics, not just in PR, but in all segments of society, is something that we are constantly talking about in Chapter 4.
What are the current advertising trends?
Tamara Bekčić: Budgets for advertising in our country and the rest of the world are now facing strong competition which is not showing any tendency of slowing down. Although we are all aware of the shortcomings of certain aspects of influencer communication, research has clearly shown that the credibility they enjoy has an upward trend, if they are wellmatched to the needs of a brand and the content is creatively designed and marketed. We expect numerous changes, from development and profiling through the regulation of this advertising content intended for placement through endorsers and their channels.
What is the most important thing for an agency? The people who work there, the clients the agency works for, the trust between the client and the agency, the market…?
Milena Avramović-Bjelica: Agency is people, company is people. There is no dilemma that people are the most important resource of any business. If you are fortunate, like us in Chapter 4, to have young, educated, good people who are perfecting their skills daily and keep up with all the changes and trends, then you have no reason to worry. But all the other factors you mentioned are also relevant. What is also extremely important for an agency is transparent business operations and that employees adhere to a code of ethics. These are prerequisites for creating trust between the agency and the client and it is something that clients value. Agencies are here to help clients communicate their messages to their target audiences and achieve their business goals.
How much responsibility do communications expert need to have? Tamara Bekčić: Our responsibility is big and multifaceted – we have a responsibility to our colleagues, clients and associates, the market and the recipients of the messages that result from the communication we engage in. Therefore, the goal of Chapter 4 and the work of my teammates is to have a reputation as a fair and trusted partner both internally and externally. That is the essence of everything. Without reliability and responsibility, there is no success. Next year marks the 10 years of Chapter 4 Group operations across Central and Eastern Europe and we are entering our 11th year. There are many reasons for celebration and being proud, but at the same time, our responsibility is compounded by the growth of individual agencies in the group and the number of markets we cover. That is the challenge we are prepared for.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far in your career in communications?
Milena Avramović-Bjelica: Our work is incredibly dynamic and every day is different from the previous. What sets us apart from others is that when we work with clients from different industries, we are constantly learning. And that’s the beauty of our business. What is less beautiful and challenging are the budgets, which are reduced year-on-year and the deadlines are often almost impossible to meet. There are a lot of challenges daily, but in recent years, it seems to me the biggest challenge is the non-transparency of the tender procedures. A few years ago, the Court of Honour at DSOJ launched an initiative about a code of ethics in the industry, and all of us involved in communications gave their suggestions and proposals. As a result, a really good document was drafted, but the challenge for all communicators is to adhere to the guidelines contained in that document in their daily work.
FLOWER OF SUCCESS FOR A FEARLESS WOMAN
How much does the nomination for the “Flower of Success for a Fearless Woman” (“Cvet Uspeha za Ženu Zmaja”) annual award given by the Association of Business Women of Serbia (UPZ) mean to you?
Tamara Bekčić: We are extremely grateful for the nomination for the 2019 Flower of Success for a Fearless Woman Award as it speaks to the credibility and success of Chapter 4. Milena and I are just the nominees, and every member of the team, as well as teams of client companies, also deserves credit for giving us their trust and working with us for 10 years. Considering the reputation of the Association of Business Women and the award itself, we see the nomination as a kind of recognition of the success of the partnerships we have built and validation that we are on the right track, and that the quality and positive business values in our market are well-recognized.
Milena Avramović-Bjelica: We take it as a compliment when someone else follows your work and recognizes the quality and energy you invest in developing your business, but also when you are contributing to the profession. It is an added pleasure when these people are women who are already established and successful in their companies and have made a significant contribution to the development of entrepreneurship in Serbia. We are fortunate that the Association of Business Women nominated us this year and that we are the finalists for this prestigious award. As Tamara said, this nomination should be credited to the whole team and everyone who has contributed to Chapter 4’s growth and development over the past 10 years.