Elena Fadeeva, General Director of Fleishman-Hillard Vanguard, chairwoman of The Russian Communications Consultancies Association spoke to ‘Media News’ magazine about how the PR industry is developing and its prospects for 2020.
The theme of PR and Communications development across the world over the next ten years became crucial after a dispute occurred during the recent regular ICCO summit – the International Communications Consultancies Association. Elena Fadeeva, General Director of Fleishman-Hillard Vanguard, told ‘Media News’ about the conclusions of more than 150 experts from 35 countries after a two-day conference on a splendid golf resort in the city of Sintra, Portugal.
Focus on the Southeast
The development of communications is connected with the general direction of development in social and economic spheres. Today the total communication society looks to the Southeast. India, China and other countries of BRICK are one of the highest priority markets and they set the direction of development. An indicator of expertise in today’s field of communications is knowledge and practical experience obtained in these countries and ability to both work on these markets and to use the new technologies they are producing.
The largest network agencies actively develop the markets of China and India and even create specialized divisions to work with companies from these countries. For example, the Fleishman-Hillard network not only has offices in all the key Southeast Asian countries but also, starting this autumn, set up a separate China Practice Group solely for work with Chinese companies.
Russia’s time is coming
According to recognized international experts, when the situation arises that the Western countries look east to further their communications, Russia has a great chance to take a special place. We can take the best from Western expertise and from the experience of China and India, and we expect that a combination of technologies from the West and the East will play a crucial role in forming the future of communications in the next decade. Also, unlike the Western countries where the market rules have been established for decades, we have got used to working in a changeable situation and are able to adapt to it and achieve success in such conditions. That creates challenges for experts from America or Europe and can become our important advantage. There was a large Russian delegation at the forum, a tenth of all the participants who came from 35 countries, which has once again confirmed our role in the global system.
Road to 2020: The Basic Trends
Globalization – American, European or Russian trends do not exist anymore. In all countries there are the same changes, though with different speed.
Internationalization – More languages, less companies. In the field of communication services active join-ups, mergers and takeovers will continue to occur and success will follow the large networks that are most actively represented in the BRICK countries. Thus the main task of PR agencies is to act as initiators of innovation in corporate communications and in the formation and management of corporate reputation.
Democratization of mass-media – Everyone today can be a journalist. Thus experts see an increase in Europe of state financing of traditional (not social or online) mass-media as social state projects. Social network and mass-media content continues to play a major role.
Personalization of communications – In the field of social mass-media the basic trend is to personalize content. What is important now is not only creation and advancement of the content, but also the ability to search content created by third parties, transfer necessary messages and the further promotion of such content. Such personalized content can consist, for example, of ratings. When promoting consumer goods and services, attracting attention to user-given ratings will be one of the most popular and efficient instruments. In the majority of social networks there will be special options provided for people to block unwanted advertizing.
Managing digital communications – International experts speak about growth, considering digital not as a separate kind of communication, but as a tool within their general strategy. Experts foresee the absorption and full integration of digital communications and less use of digital boutiques and specialized agencies. The largest market share will be taken by the largest full service agencies. For any PR expert the ability to work with social mass-media is not a separate narrow specialization, but an obligatory skill. Ideally, highly competent PR experts should be able to create bright visual content, as well as text.
The future of the PR industry
By the estimates of ICCO experts, with constant improvement in the quality of service, demand on PR consultancies will grow in the next 15 years, and by 2020 PR has every chance to become the leading discipline in the field of marketing and communications. The Russian PR industry is currently developing incredibly quickly and, at the ICCO summit, has been noted as one of the most dynamic. The main task for PR experts now is to achieve new standards of work in time, giving particular attention to language and the cultural features of each country. Capitalizing on social change is an indispensable condition of this success. However, there is currently a lack of highly professional employees in the industry. Technology develops before the requirements for competent experts are satisfied. High schools simply haven’t time to adapt their programs to reflect modern needs and as all these activities are new in the market, it turns out that there is often no place to get practical experience. It is necessary for the PR industry to give particular attention to support educational programs.
According to general economic conditions, most likely budgets will be reduced. Clients will expect integrated solutions from agencies, giving them more for less money. However it should not be forgotten that the aims of the PR industry differ from the advertizing industry, and factors such as integration with advertizing in PR for brands, marketing PR, imaging campaigns on the Internet and “offline”, do not decrease PR’s independent role. The mission of ‘public relations’ is much wider and it should, and will, provide much more than simply communications.
Nowadays there are more and more cases in the USA and Europe where customers invite specialized agencies to help them create strategies. PR agencies successfully struggle for projects with creative agencies and often win such tenders. For example, according to Paul Holmes in ‘The Holmes Report’, PR agencies need to position themselves as more than just strategic consultants and to aspire to competition with traditional consultants, such as Baker & McKenzie. Holmes believes that today’s largest PR agency networks do not possess less experience in strategic planning and should give more attention to work in this area.