The communication and preformance strategies of companies in Serbia is facing many challenges in 2016: small budgets, the reputation of the profession, the development of new technologies, the integration of communication channels and in terms of the client-agency-media-public dialogue. A large number of communication channels and the generational shift, as well as the revolution in the development of new technologies, require a carefully designed approach to the market. We wanted to find out what awaits us in 2016, how much global trends are followed in Serbia and how the overall communications scene will look this year. We asked public relations experts what they think about that.
- What are your thoughts on the trends, challenges, strategies and performance on the Serbian market in 2016?
- What will be the main focus when it comes to integrated communications, and how to balance the vicious rectangle of the client-agency-media-public?
The answers were the following:
Jasmina Stojanov, Managing Director at Nova PR Public Relations
I see 2016 as a make or break year in terms of serious reform measures, as a year that won’t be easy for our clients and businesspeople generally, but as a year that we have to get through in order for the following years to be better and easier for doing business.
Nova PR has a comparative advantage in terms of the possibility of overviewing a client in the context of the market, but also in the context of the political situation, which is very often an extremely vibrant category of influence on life. We are the people who ran the public relations of one state institution for eight years, ensuring its highest rating (translated into the language of consumer goods – we enabled it to have its biggest sales or “market share”), and all of that in conditions of hellish competition and complicated systems such as those of the government, political parties etc., which means that we dealt with PR crises 24/7/365 for eight consecutive years. Nothing has changed nowadays.
Gone are the days when certain companies could communicate what and how they wanted with the public. That is no more. Paid advertising is becoming an ever smaller part of the overall content with which companies interact with consumers, with the public. And that is because of the saturation of advertising space in traditional media, electronic or printed, but also because of the ease of relaying messages via social networks and the internet in general. Under such circumstances, there has been a disappearance of that former protective layer that hid what a company wanted to protect and showed what it wanted to show. It is now possible for undesirable content to “leak”, just as it is realistic that some will fine tune, invent and falsify information about a specific company in order to cause it harm. That is why it is imperative that manufacturers have a PR agency that is able to predict a possible problem and prevent it before it occurs, escalates and causes damage. Apart from that, it is also necessary to have a proactive position that contributes to brand building. That’s how Nova PR sees its role in what we call an integrated communication strategy, or content marketing and PR.
Milica Stojiljković, Director of The Content Studio, Represent Communications Agency
It is a fact that we live in a time of the rapid exchange of huge amounts of information, with which we are all oversaturated. In accordance with that, media is also changing and communications budgets are shrinking. All of this tells us that a change in our approach to communication is necessary. That’s why more and more companies in Serbia strive to create content that will stand out from the competition, to deliver it through targeted channels, instead of through mass channels, and for it to have measurable results, not only regarding communication, but also in terms of business results. If we consider the trends that come to us from the developed Western countries, I think that marketing content will soon also be the only direction in which we all move here. We are very proud that at The Content Studio we have clients who already see the benefits of such an approach.
The loyalty of the public will remain a key objective. It will be up to companies and agencies, as well as their advisors, to achieve this goal, creating content that the public will identify with and continue to share. The media is also changing the way content is created and marketed. All this will lead to more competition in a few years, but also to raising the overall quality of communication.
Maša Vučković, Media Relations Director at New Moment
When it comes to movements in communications in Serbia, we can say that it is not moving, but rather running towards digitisation. Nowadays social networks are the first to publish the news, not the standard media. However, traditional media in Serbia will not die out for a long time (98.2% of households own a TV, only a third – 31.6% – own a laptop), so they should not be neglected. It is precisely the monitoring of contemporary trends, including digitisation, that stands out as one of the challenges of the profession. I high position on the list of challenges is always occupied by the reputation of the profession. And, as reputation is built on education, advanced training and expert personnel, all of us who are dealing with communications also need to further educate ourselves in the digital sector. The academisation of the profession will eventually lead to a new perception of the PR profession, which is often mistakenly associated only with announcements in the media. The basic components of the PR profession also include planning, analysis, lobbying, public relations and media, strategic thinking and all other steps necessary to set up a communications plan. Another challenge, also prompted by the development of technology, is responding in a timely manner, especially in crisis situations. Clients must beat procedures, because, regardless of strategy, we are often confronted with the need for instant, real-time PR. Classic press releases are slowly dying out and the power of images ever increasing.
When it comes to integrated communications, we should not forget that not every form of communication is made for each channel of communication. When we do a 360-degree campaign for any brand, we try to take an idea and, often forcibly, push it through all channels, expecting that with the same ease that works on TV, in print, and in PR, and via digital channels… We don’t need to see the main character from the TV commercial on billboards and in a press release, to hear him on the radio, and to make a cut-out from him for POSM… Each channel can talk about some other aspect of a core brand idea, in a completely different and unique, personalised way. When we gather all the pieces together, they will ultimately provide the full story of a brand.
It is best to balance the vicious client-agency-media-public rectangle with the magic formula of confidence-partnership-content-honesty. The client and agency should work with each other, not for each other. Transparency is also often the key to a good relationship, both privately and in business.
There is also an increasing focus on “content” experience and the personalisation of content. Millennials are more likely to opt for a product because of the experience they get with it, and not because of a discount. PR should also be built on the basis of this experience.
Olivera Perković, Managing Director at McCann Beograd
Developments in Serbia partly follow global happenings. What are similar are the needs and expectations of users or consumers to have a relevant benefit in everyday life from products and brands. Their interaction with the brand is also greater than it was in the pre-digital era, which enables to find out more about them, as well as their relationship with a specific brand. In this sense, the opportunity is created for brands to develop additional content and for products to thus enter into additional categories or co-marketing with other companies and brands. The difference is that this is present in our market to a far lesser extent. Cross usage content or cross category as a marketing trend implies that agencies are multidisciplinary. Thus, creative agencies are deeply into digital, and thus also in placements in the media, whether that is wanted by planning strategically or not. The media themselves have long since been more than advertising space – they are also the creators of content or sources of data.
Such trends are automatically transferred to business trends when it comes to agencies and that’s why you will see most systems enter into acquisitions or partnerships with IT or Digital firms, in order to ensure they have the appropriate talent and technical resources. Data acquisition and data marketing is another important trend, because knowledge about habits, behaviours and needs are key to a successful strategy and advertising. If we take for example Facebook and the amount of information is possesses, agencies – as content developers or marketing content consultants – must also deepen their knowledge of users or create their own tools to get to that data.
The advantage of agencies is that they are an ideal integrator of all knowledge (that which comes from the client, from consumers and the media with the help of technology) and that they can focus and use this knowledge in the right way. In this way, their role can and should be strategic in relation to the clients and their business needs.
When it comes to integrated communications, the focus will be on the integration of relevant elements and factors – data, technology, media, not only as a place – but rather as a partner or as a new product. At the moment things are very complex, because the role of each stakeholder is changing. The consumer is no longer just a recipient of the message or a buyer, they are the audience and the critic and the co-author. Agencies do not operate independently of the behaviour of consumers or the changing needs of clients and markets. We are inevitably moving towards redefined roles and I believe that in the future cooperation between the client and the agency, or the contribution of the agency, will be different. Agencies must do everything to be generators of knowledge, data, and integrating ideas and technology, creators not just of a campaign, but also additional content, services, products, and therefore revenue streams.
Milena Avramović-Bjelica, Co-Founder and Executive Director at agency Chapter 4 Communications Consulting
Chapter 4 Communications Consulting operates on 12 markets in Central and Southeast Europe and we have the ability to collaborate and share knowledge and experiences with colleagues from that region, so when it comes to the PR profession we can say that Serbia is moving in the same direction as any other country in the world, that PR professionals think strategically, applying all available tools and communication channels. We are facing perhaps slightly greater challenges when it comes to budgets compared to our colleagues from more economically developed countries, but that makes us more creative, more innovative and competitive on the world market.
Having dealt with this business for more than a decade, it seems to me that public relations has transformed the most in just the last few years. That transformation began with the rapid development of technology and the emergence of online communications, and year after year new channels appear and this trend will certainly also continue this year. Communication has become truly integrated and, in addition to text, communication also utilises photographic images and video content – from infographics to video tutorials. High quality content has always been and will be the most important link that enables balance in the rectangle that you mentioned.
Marina Grihović, Founder of PR agency Headline and Co-owner of digital communications agency D Kit
Communication is one of the few service industries that follows developments and trends both in the region and worldwide. We rely on constant education, broadening horizons, meeting and socialising – which I would also highlight as the main charm of this work. Those of us who are in constant motion question ourselves as whether or not we are good, do we respect codex, is our profession in crisis, or is a crisis situation all around us… And all of our challenges are actually closely linked to the market and the requirements it imposes. Unfortunately, it is usually without a plan and strategy. That’s why I normally point out to my colleagues in the Agency that our biggest challenge is to educate everyone around us and to open them up to some new perspectives. And we should always start with a good idea and a stable setting.
When it comes to integrated communications, the focus will be on integrated communications itself, and the continued use of mobile technology as a channel for conveying key messages. Thanks to social networks, prompt exchanges of information and viral messages, we are witnessing that communication is now more dynamic than ever. That’s why we must learn to respect each other and understand that without truth there is no more communication. In that way we will form a rectangle in which we all work together in order to create proper, planned and well-conceived communication.
Radinka Danilov, Executive Director at Ruskin & Hunt
We see integrated communication that has been established carefully and strategically, and implemented professionally, as a communicational contribution to advancing the operations of a company. Apart from implying the synchronisation of channels of communication with the aim of enhancing the effects, an integrated approach is also the optimal communication step that helps a company progress. The effects of an integrated approach in the process of two-way communications are that key message are sent efficiently and accurately, which ensures the expected feedback.
A strategically positioned, integrated approach includes synchronisation when it comes to communicating strong key messages, alongside continuous monitoring of the process and its directing in the desired direction. In a complex business environment, communication offers support in coping with the growing challenges companies face.
All participants in the communication process impact on the success and quality of an integrated approach, while the largest share of responsibility belongs to those who created the strategy. This is why we are focused equally on both a high-level strategy and its careful execution.
Danijela Popović Jurić, CEO and Owner at Red Communications
- The communications and creative industries in Serbia faced many challenges during 2015, such as low budgets, lack of expertise and marketing content; 2016 has been very dynamic right from the start, because new forms of communication, advertising, new technological solutions and many more interesting possibilities are waiting for us to take advantage of their full potential. What is essential for us to stay in the game is to constantly inform and further educate ourselves in the challenging field of marketing.
- Long-term integrated strategies, instead of ad hoc decision-making, are already, and will continue to be, of great importance in 2016. Nowadays everyone is talking about integrated communications, because that is what quality communications today is all about, but it will be interesting to see who will really be able to make it work, to create a high quality and creative long-term strategy that is attractive enough for a client, and then to execute it in a manner interesting for the media and, consequently, for the public. A creative approach to integrated communications can be a great compensator in the era of budget shortages and that is one more reason to be creative.
Sanja Milaković Kolundžija, Principal Executive Group
- It seems that the communications industry in Serbia has entered 2016 with high hopes and low expectations. One might say that we are looking for a miracle. As the saying goes, money does not appear to be a problem, as there’s no money, while the market appears ever more claustrophobic, with shrinking budgets. Then again, our proverbial ingenuity may be precisely that beacon of hope. At Executive Group we believe in ourselves and our clients, and we view the challenges presented to us by the market as a bar set just slightly higher, to inspire innovative and creative solutions that aim to achieve results, but also to move the market forward. We do hope the industry will avoid the trap of cheap solutions done cheaper and that professional ethics and conduct will remain high and strong.
- Serbia will spend 2016 continuing to discuss which media trumps the other, TV or digital, or something entirely different. Simultaneously, smartphones are becoming the extended hand of our audiences, who have less and less patience for ads intruding in their lives. Therefore, in order for media, brands and agencies to remain relevant, everything will come down to several simple imperatives: brands must find ways to bring value and not just products to their customers; agencies need to realise there are no one-size-fits-all campaigns and ideas; and, ultimately, the content we all create will have to excite and genuinely engage the audiences, or it simply won’t work.
Aleksandra Radujko, Managing Director at New Media Team
- We are our own biggest challenges, our creativity, ideas, reaction speed, organisation. Continuous development and improvement, adjusting to the techniques of the new time, which has multiplied the methods and channels of communication, reduced people’s attention span, saturated them with information, but also allowed you to build your own channels and not to depend on anybody else. The strategic decisions of our agency relate to new projects that we have initiated in order to create new content for our customers and improve their communications. The more creative the work of all our colleagues, the more of a challenge it will be to come up with new solutions and better campaigns.
2. I would not consider this relationship as being vicious. We are a partner to our clients and we build success together. Our clients are predominantly international companies and, in the personal PR sector, top athletes and artists, and our work is made easier due to the fact that we understood each other well, that we understand the time in which we live, the habits of the people we are addressing and that we have left behind us some tools that are really now obsolete . The media is one of the important roads to the public and their needs should really be understood, primarily in terms of a need for attractive, exclusive and high-quality information. The goal remains ideas and, more importantly, their good performance. Guy Kawasaki says “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard”, and I agree with tha