She has more than 18 years’ worth of experience in the communication area, with a knowledge that spans multiple categories, including FMCG, telecommunications, consumer electronics, pharmaceutical industry, banking and energy sectors. BR talked with Sorina Mihai, managing partner Porter Novelli Romania, about the agency’s performance last year and plans for 2020, how she sees the PR industry at the moment and the blurring lines between PR and advertising.
By Romanita Oprea
How was 2019 for the agency in terms of turnover /revenues?
Porter Novelli Romania ranks on the 4th position in terms of turnover in 2018 – EUR 3,724,831.
What are the most important changes in the agency in 2019?
We have been driven to broaden our areas of practice, being motivated by purpose. Porter Novelli sees the art of communication as a means of advancing society. We were fortunate to collaborate with clients with the ambition to make a positive impact—and in doing so, achieved better business results than they thought possible. A compelling example is the Happy ending stories communication campaign.
We believe that organizations must find, live, and tell their purpose in order to thrive. Those that do will motivate action, secure loyalty and encourage advocacy—all in service to a healthier bottom line.
What trends did you notice on the local market/and how do you intend to represent them in your agency?
We resonate with campaigns that build movements. This wholesome approach reminds all stakeholders that they are aligning with something greater than the company itself. It’s time to be inclusive: educate and empower stakeholders, as they are a foundational part of your marketing strategy. Our goal for 2020 is creating lasting change and influencing the social norms around products and services. This is especially important if your goal is to reduce the stigma around a particular product or behavior.
What do you hope for in the Romanian PR industry in 2020?
The PR industry has become an interdisciplinary organism, but the local PR landscape has still to find a balance between cohesion and diversity. Just like any other community, we must find a healthy balance between these two: without cohesion, there is no common purpose, but without diversity, groupthink will set in and eventually that purpose will lose relevance. Nothing can grow and remain the same. It has to change and evolve.
What are the changes you intend to bring in the agency in 2020 and why?
We are a culture of passion and fierce collaboration, driven by Purpose. Purpose is more than just a mission statement or a commitment of values: it defines our organization’s authentic role and value in society and allows us to simultaneously grow our business and positively impact the world.
Throughout the world, Porter Novelli network is inspiring brands to make a difference.
On a local level, we aim to create a movement that makes a positive impact on the world and we are working hard to earn this mission.
We are fortunate for the role models that keep inspiring us; a good example that comes into my mind is Saul Kaplan, who was intensely interested in how to catalyze transformation in industries and communities. After trial and error, his legacy has become a cult favorite in the innovation world.
Where do you see the Romanian PR industry compared to the European one?
It all breaks down to a different mindset and consequently approach. Whereas in more mature markets we see the long-term thinking, which is “paradoxically” also the best short-term strategy, we still find it hard to resist short-term pressures.
Is the migration of seniors influencing the local industry?
Migration is a defining trait of the Romanian workforce. Almost half of the young people -between 16 and 34 years old- have already made plans, or are already pursuing leaving Romania. This grim trend extends to the marcomm and advertising industry. Some decades ago we had experts and consultants coming to Romania and training us, now local senior executives are taking up leadership positions abroad.
For most companies, senior executives are definitely an asset. Encouraging senior executives to remain in the local workforce is critical for two things: agency’s growth and stability. We need to take into consideration a series of structural reforms that will ensure that the senior workforce pool is not drained, discouraged and worst, taken for granted.
In a world of mobility, a market that is intrinsically dynamic and individuals becoming more competitive, companies should prepare for the future by being proactive about this workforce migration issue. But workforce migration is also strongly influenced by a constant desire to enhance our cultural experiences and diversity. Both contributing not only to professional, but also personal growth.
At Porter Novelli, we are being proactive and constantly invest in our talent pool. This means educational programs and in-house trainings, which allows executives of all levels to have access to senior expertise they can later tap into.
Where do you believe to be our industry’s problems and how can they be changed?
I will start by placing more emphasis on education. Even if as an industry, PR is mainly focused on creating awareness, I think the education aspect is crucial and has to be included in all communication endeavors.
Another issue is diversity. We still need to bring together people of different cultural backgrounds, with diverse points of view. The Porter Novelli team consists of departments that contribute to an interdisciplinary approach and results are fantastic: more compelling information which leads to deeper cultural insights that finally translate into more inspiring and behavior-changing communication campaigns.
How do you see the lines blending between PR, social media and advertising?
While we place a great deal on the interdisciplinary approach, above the line and below the line are more executional, whereas public relations are more purpose-driven, more fluid and organic even. As a company, we believe that what really matter is finding innovative and relevant solutions that motivate people to reconsider deeply ingrained behaviors and beliefs that drive our clients’ businesses forward.
How of an important role are still having the consultancy and the strategy?
One of the most complex and difficult things is how we communicate PR’s value to clients. I think conventional ways in which we use payment models where clients pay per press clipping or mentions have to be improved. This is a very linear approach that devalues our work and also perpetuates a false notion of how PR really works.
Our work is the product of both consultancy and strategy, as communication campaigns are really strategic and based on deep cultural insights. This entire process is not only about coverage, but also about: how the message gets across, how it was created, the narrative and how it manages to influence or change behaviors.