20 Years of Romanian PR: Interview with Hortensia Năstase (Lowe Group)

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 09/12/2022 | 17:21

Romanian PR’s top accolade, the Romanian PR Award, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year as a daring and stubborn project that has managed to bring together under the same rooftop communicators, valuable competitors, enthusiasts, and hundreds of PR professionals. Business Review started a series of interviews with top PR personalities that have been working in the industry for more than 20 years and that made a big impact on it. How it was and what is expected from the next chapters, you are about to find out.

 

Hortensia Năstase, vice-president Creative Services Lowe Group, has more than 22 years of experience in the Romanian communication industry, all gathered in the group she is still part of, making her one of the most loyal persons in the local industry. She is a creatively driven communications specialist with a proven record in agency environment, with demonstrated expertise in integrated communications, spanning PR, advertising, digital and events across brand, corporate, financial, and crisis management.

 

Make sure to read our previous interviews of the “20 Years of Romanian PR” series:

 

 

How would you characterize the evolution of the Romanian PR industry?

Hyper-accelerated. Versus global PR, the Romanian PR industry had a lot to catch-up for, so our generation had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to kick-start this industry and watch it grow in 20 years like others in 50. We have built an industry from scratch and pushed it forward with speed and force. Especially with the proliferation of social media, communication became an endless exercise of democracy, with the good and the bad. No roller coaster here, just an ever-climbing mountain.

 

How was it when you started?

No man’s land. I stared at the turn of the century, on January 1st, 2000. We each had a computer and an email address in the agency, but not all journalists did have one in the editorial houses. We did the press clipping albums with scissors and glue, sent hundreds of faxes with each press release and then enflamed the (land) lines doing the follow-up for journalists. Could you just imagine that we didn’t have internet on our mobiles? Nonetheless, regardless the technological evolution, PR people have always been at the core of all things happening, always exposed to news, information, crises, progress, dynamic changes. I loved it. I still do.

 

What determined you to choose PR as a career?

You see, nothing went as planned in my case: all my school years, I prepared for ASE, did Maths and Astronomy for my Bac, but then totally out of the blue I decided I was in love with Shakespeare. Big mistake about the guy – it was just a fling, but a momentous one, as I am sure that studying linguistics robustly prepared me for my career. My first encounter with PR was in the summer holiday before my 12th grade, when I did an internship for Libertatea newspaper – that’s when I did my first interviews, my ABC about selling print ads and stood one meter away from The King Hagi who signed a fabulous sponsorship with Coca-Cola after the 1994 World Cup. It wasn’t even called PR at the time. When I got my first job as a PR Assistant in Lowe Group, I thought Motorola was about car oils, buy boy! this was my first client and my first love. It was sheer chance that got me into PR, but it was passion and excitement and accelerated growth that made me stay.

 

What were its most interesting years, in your opinion and why? What were the main changes in the last few years?

Undeniably the decade after 2010, with the proliferation of all things digital – we are extremely lucky to be living the fourth revolution, the so-called cyber-physical, when we talk about Internet of Things, Big Data, 3D printing, AI, Immersive, Phygital as if it were a walk in the park. After 2010, PR changed dramatically because it has come to mean multi-directional unobstructed communication from countless stakeholders, which all have a strong voice and can make or break your brand within seconds. As a brand, today you are exposed full monthly, 24/7, and it is the power of PR that keeps you constantly in direct and honest relation with your audiences. Moreover, one thing that we at Golin strongly believe in is the power of earned-first: if an idea is powerful enough to be viewed on YouTube, shared on IG and written about by journalists, it will always work in paid media. The opposite is not true.

 

What changed through the years for you and your perspective on PR? How would you characterize the industry right now (creativity, budgets, strategy, etc.)?

In the last 20 years, we’ve seen the PR industry evolving in ways that we could hardly imagine. The social media surge has changed not only the way we communicate, but also the way we do business:

  • The PR industry is addressing not only media or influencers, but also consumers. Under these circumstances, the importance of data – mining, understanding, processing, and especially extracting insights from data – has become crucial. This means that PR today must be good not only with words, but with numbers too.
  • Using data in a relevant and creative way is also essential, because consumers are attacked with hundreds of pieces of information every day and grasping their attention requires a lot of creativity. This means that PR today must be more creative every step of the consumer journey.
  • PR has become a major discipline in the communication ecosystem and an increasingly critical advisor to the C-level. This means that PR today must be brilliant at business understanding, strategic reasoning, and lateral thinking.

 

What would you change in the industry and why?

I would change the practice of organizing 8 agency-pitches. It is a waste of everybody’s time.

I would change the habit of inviting large agencies to pitch against boutique ones and even against freelancers. It is irrelevant.

I would change the lack of transparency when organizing a pitch in which clients refuse to disclose budgets or contenders. It is disrespectful.

 

What were and still are your main goals for your agency?

Golin has always been at the top – the best place to work in PR in Romania and the best partner to have as a brand. And I am confident it will continue to be so, as it is an amazingly inspiring place.

For employees, is a fantastic school of PR in Romania, teaching young people not only the skills and secrets of the job, but also about the values of ethics in business and in life in general. Proof of concept are the dozens of Golin alumni working for top-notch clients in various industries.

For clients, Golin is a wanted PR partner, where they find professionals equally skilled in all areas of the game: consumer, digital, capital markets, data, creative, strategic business.

Our goal is to remain best place for our people, best partner for our clients and a feared contender for the market.

 

What are the main challenges right now in your opinion, in the industry?

By far the main challenge in the PR industry right now is talent scarcity. PR as a job burns you in and out, pushes your limits, wants you 24/7, you cannot do it as a career unless you are passionate and love the dynamics. So, the first challenge is about finding these passionate people across all generations, and particularly within Gen Z. The next challenge is about retaining them – Gen Z is a generation that has experienced nothing but abundance, a lavishness of everything. They hop jobs because they want to experiment; they leave jobs because they get bored easily; they change industries altogether because they love change and because they can. Finding and keeping the best people in our team is our main daily job right now.

 

How are you surpassing them at Golin?

At Golin, since day one, retention and reputation have been the starting point of our business planning. We have reinvented ourselves in the Work-from-Anywhere paradigm, our group’s business model assumed for the long run, in which we ensure flexibility and all resources needed for performance. We have been the first in the industry to set this standard, which includes employee benefits such as: short and exclusively remote Fridays, under the Light Friday Forever program, which we were happy to see other agencies embraced as well; Remote Weeks, which combines vacations with remote work, anywhere in the world; Graduation Days, which means extra days off to match the years spent in our team; extra-salary benefits including monthly allowances for work from home, lunch vouchers and transportation allowances. At Golin, we have always tried to be one step ahead of the market in maintaining our best place to work positioning by creating work experiences that made our people the best version of themselves.

 

What still inspires you and gives you drive and joy in PR and why?

You see, I have been so inexplicably lucky as to work with brilliant minds in my life. Locally, Veronica & Paul are two of the innovators who had the vision to create the communication industry in Romania. Working with them every day has been not only an inspiration, but an accelerated growth opportunity. Globally, there are three giant men who have built modern PR; Al Golin is one of them. Having his name on our door is a huge legacy, an inspiration but also a responsibility. I met him personally and learned greatness, modesty, love of people. And, equally important, every day in the office, I am inspired and learn from the people in my team, from their energy, skills, and, of course, mistakes. PR for sure is the place where you never get bored, you always get tired, you always meet new people, you never lose pace, you always evolve.

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Mihai-Alexandru Cristea | 19/12/2022 | 18:45

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