Novosti SMI (# 1 (382) January ‘14): John Saunders, FleishmanHillard Vanguard’s Board Member, FleishmanHillard EMEA Regional President: "There are More Opportunities on the Market than Barriers"

It’s not a secret, that the international PR-Agency FleishmanHillard Vanguard is actively developing the markets of Eastern Europe and CIS countries for a long time. It means only one thing: it positively evaluates their perspectives. John Saunders, FleishmanHillard Vanguard’s Board Member, FleishmanHillard EMEA Regional President told us about other reasons forcing global agencies to explore the Russian market with interest.

— John, what do you think of today’s global PR industry?

— To begin with, I would like to point out that it enjoys a consistent market position among other sectors. The total PR market now amounts to $ 11 billion with the 8 % annual increase (the 2012 evaluation). For instance, the revenues raised by Omnicom Publicis (which incorporates FleishmanHillard Vanguard), WPP, and Havas have increased by 6 % over the past year. Communications agencies have more than 75 thousand people globally.

— How would you describe key trends in communications industry in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and in the world?

— First, I would like to highlight the changes that are under way in the global industry. Perhaps, these are the biggest changes in the entire history of the industry. These have different causes but are mostly attributed to digital revolution that has broken down all barriers between various area, such as advertizing and PR, direct marketing and public relations. Thus, we are witnessing an emerging mix of various areas whatever they are called. Perhaps, this is the most crucial global trend in the communications market today. However, whenever I come to Moscow, based on my experience and all that I have seen, I always notice that the Russian communications market is better prepared for new challenges than the West and the fundamental reason for that is that the market is young.

I first visited Russia 33 years ago when as a journalist I covered the Olympic Games hosted in the USSR. Then I witnessed I believe a fantastic thing – Russia had neither ads nor such a notion as PR. This was evident for me, a western man who looked at PR and ads careers. And what happens now? Now, Russia has a whole constellation of experts who have every chance to avoid the mistakes and problems that their Western counterparts had to address, and to more promptly develop their industry.  And the industry response to new markets needs will be more flexible. But we should also understand the actual difficulties existing in modern communications, which are vastly linked to the fact that consumers now collect information in multiple ways, including mobile devices; this was not the case earlier.

Another trend I would like to note concerns creativity – our profession increasingly requires creative component. For instance, International Advertising Festival Cannes Lions was initially intended purely for the admen just 5-6 years ago, now it integrates all communications segments including PR. PR agencies win this prize in the relevant nominations, and it is very prestigious and shows that PR areas are expanding. Whatever the professional activity of the winner, Big Idea always wins that includes research- and analytics-oriented approaches. In this case, research is as critical as a good creative concept.

— What are the main opportunities and barriers for Russia’s developing PR industry?

— I believe, that both opportunities and barriers are shaped by the changes that are under way in Russia and other CIS countries. These are developing digital mass media, digital content, and social media. And both our office here, FleishmanHillard Vanguard, and our Kiev office, FleishmanHillard Vanguard Ukraine, have all capabilities to use the benefits of the new environment.

However, the rapidly increasing digital industry may also serve as a barrier to further growth of the industry, if we won’t be able to efficiently operate in this segment. We must invest in relevant analytics and research to overcome this barrier; we must be able to measure what we do in terms of quality, and if we won’t do that the barriers will definitely remain.

However, when I see as our business grows in Russia or talk to our clients here, I understand that there are much more possibilities in this market than barriers, which may be divided in two areas.  One area is related to the support for international corporations, which look for reliable partners, who comply with ethic standards in their operations, the second one is linked to Russian clients, who want to go beyond their market and establish global relations, for instance, to enter London Stock Exchange, etc.

— John, what are key indicators of success in PR?

— If we talk about personal success indicators, for instance, our company is open for people who are curious, want to implement their professional potential, are goal-oriented, responsible, follow trends in social media. And we have employees from absolutely different professional areas and having various strengths: those who may and is capable of planning, analyzing, being an expert in various activities, have a broad view of reputation, marketing. Such diversity is required to maintain our success in the market, and FleishmanHillard takes every effort to engage and develop key talents by offering plentiful possibilities for their professional potential.

In terms of success in the market in general, and this is not just my opinion but also the point of view shared by my market peers, I believe that the future belongs to the companies able to offer their clients integrated solutions, able to use various communications channels, benefit from international networks resources, and consider local market specifics.

— John, I know that your company has recently broken into the Ukrainian market and opened an office in Kiev. Why was the decision made?

— Ukraine is a well developing and attractive market. Besides, we are well aware of its specifics because we have ten-year expertise in implementing projects in this country. Earlier, we combined resources of local partners with capabilities of our special team in the Moscow office headed by leaders having long-term Ukrainian experiences. We made a decision to establish our business unit in Ukraine, which is incorporated in FleishmanHillard Vanguard – a FleishmanHillard regional center in CIS countries – in response to increasing challenges from our clients.

The new entity, FleishmanHillard Vanguard Ukraine, will support the companies operating in Ukraine as well as support Ukrainian companies in international projects. Last ten years have seen active deployment of our network in Europe, we have established offices in Prague, Warsaw, and a joint venture in Moscow, as well as developed a wide affiliate network in many countries, from Bulgaria to Hungary and from Latvia to Serbia. And our new office established in Kiev is designed to consolidate our presence in Eastern Europe.


John Saunders

Field: PR

Place of employment: FleishmanHillard Vanguard

Position: Board Member, FleishmanHillard EMEA Regional President

Work experience:

1982 — founded Pembroke Public Relations in Dublin

1990 — established FleishmanHillard Saunders

2005–2007 — president of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO). A member of the Europe and Central Asia Committee at the World Economic Forum. A member of the Europe Circle of Communicators, he was a jury member for the New York-based 2013 Clio Awards.

Progress: was awarded Honorary Life Membership of the Public Relations Institute of Ireland.
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