The Founder and Managing Director of Links Associates, Corina Vintan is one of the Romanian pioneers in the field of Strategic Communications. Over the years, Corina advised many companies and clients with projects of national interest in many sectors of the Romanian Economy which range from mining, oil and gas, tobacco, real estate, pharmaceutical industry, mass media as well as public diplomacy and charitable organizations. Moreover, Vintan is one of the founding members of the Romanian Lobby Registry and holds the position of general secretary. She is also one of the founding members of the Romanian Association of Public Relations Professionals (ARRP).
By Romanita Oprea // Photo credits: Dana & Stefan Maitec
Links Associates is a key player on the Romanian market of Public Affairs, Crisis Communication and Public Relations, working for projects with high stakes for society and economy. Since 2007, the agency’s mission was to push the boundaries of the conventional thinking and bring the change within the business sector. Its teams challenge is to connect the brands and companies with the society and make them relevant for the local communities.
How was 2018 for the agency?
It was an excellent 10th anniversary year for our agency, Links. The year that brought new accounts, new challenges for our clients, new expertise for our employees. It was in every sense an anniversary year.
What was the situation like in terms of pitches?
Sometimes it makes you laugh, sometimes it makes you cry. We had moments when we realized we are invited in a pitch just to justify the pitch, with no intention of the client to select another agency, we saw also small accounts inviting for a project 6 agencies, we also saw clients never giving a feedback to the agency after a pitch, or sending an e-mail after 7 months with an empty words explanation for selecting another agency. We like pitches because we like to compete, but at a certain moment we draw a line thinking that it takes away too much time from working for existing clients. We select our battles and we prefer clients that know why they come to Links. Somehow, the companies asking for our services have to prove a certain conduct in the relationship with the agency. We prefer to be a partner rather than a supplier.
How would you characterize the local communication industry in 2018 in terms of budgets, campaigns, creativity, etc?
We are an agency that works with serious issues and as a general observation we see that in times of crisis, companies understand better why they need permanent assistance and the necessity of allocating budgets. Generally, the market is confused by new players that work with very small budgets, not effective in terms of long term results, or agencies that put above the client their ego to win some awards but in reality, the result of the campaign is far from what the client expected.
Creativity plays a critical role, but not only in bringing a prize for the agency.
In terms of messaging and ways to connect to the consumer, I think the local communications industry followed the global path. 2018 marks on the local market an important moment with global and local brands standing alongside their consumers on public topics and taking a step forward towards activism. All the campaigns we are seeing lately go in the direction of connecting the consumers, online and offline, to the brands principles and values.
What were the most important changes & novelties in the agency in 2018 and how did they come to happen?
In the last two years, the agency specialized in a very strategic and hot sector, the defense industry. We have international clients that need us to translate for the stakeholders and public their presence and objectives in Romania. We made a two way communications effort, build their narrative in relation with the decision makers and inform the general public through mass media about their plans and experience. It was and still is an extensive effort to educate multiple publics in relation to a sensitive and very specialized sector.
What were your most wanted services by clients in 2018?
Links is first of all a strategic communications agency, with an original mix of public affairs, crisis and reputation management and corporate communications. These were and still are our most wanted services. In the same time, our affiliation to Edelman, the largest independent agency in the world, brought us many global and local clients, especially in hi-tech field.
How is Links Associates positioning itself on the Romanian PR market?
We continue to go for the high stakes projects that enable the client a better communication with the Romanian business, political, social environment; also we are true to what our name Links means. We continue to link humans for a business purpose and to develop networks that support our clients. Our mission is to create broad networks where different interests enter into a democratic dialogue. We are helping business to connect to general public interests and represent them before the policy makers. We are trusted advisors to our clients and dedicated to projects and causes that bring changes in society and economy. Our key role is to generate enthusiastic content that sparks meaningful conversations between brands, business, ordinary people and regulators.
You celebrated 10 years on the market. What were the most important moments and why?
The most important and memorable moments: the moment of defining the business concept, the first battles in the public space, finding the right people (none of them with a background in communications except me and Diana), the affiliation with Edelman. Our credentials are very reach, not only through the names of the clients, but for the issues we managed for them.
In 2013 you opened an office in Serbia and in 2014 you got affiliated to the Edelman network. How has this decision impacted your agency so far and what changes did it bring?
Our decision to work in Serbia helped us to manage since then a global client for Edelman in 5 countries. Serbia was only the beginning, but it was a good introduction in Balkans. Our affiliation to Edelman changed our portfolio. We developed more in consumer PR due to Edelman. As part of a network we have to build capacity in the area for existing clients but also for pitches.
What trends did you notice on the local market?
More and more video content, clients will need their own newsrooms, more and more social media, the rising stars are the influencers, traditional media will contract more. As I said before, the local market replicates the global trends.
What types of clients are you looking for in 2019?
We will continue to consolidate the defense sector, real estate, we will continue to work for our global clients and to add new projects in hi-tech.
Besides that we will do our pro bono share of work for the projects that we believe it makes Romania a better place. We work for Hospice Casa Sperantei, one of the most admirable projects in Romania.
What do you wish for 2019 from this point of view?
I would like to increase the competitiveness of the agency, to add more talent, to develop maybe another area of business.
What do you wish for the local industry this year?
I would like to see more meaningful campaigns. Campaigns, agencies and clients that are struggling to produce real social change, that contribute through their work to shaping better messages in the public space.
Do you believe a second economic crisis will come?
No, I don’t believe a major economic crisis will come. I believe that Romania is not threatened by a crisis more than it is by a very turbulent political environment. Maybe there will be recessions, but not a major crisis. However, I believe we are living a new revolution that is destructuring the old centers of power, ways of being and working. All this together will highly impact our societies.
If so, how will it impact the Romanian PR industry?
It is hard to say in this moment, but I strongly believe that without a good reputation and genuine ways to connect with consumers, the business will struggle.
What have you learned from the last crisis and how prepared are you for a new one?
The last crisis unfortunately had an effect on the budgets but this time, if there will be a recession, not a crisis, I hope clients will understand that they should not cut exactly what keeps them alive, the communication. On the other hand, we are prepared for whatever comes because we are adaptable, we have best global practices, we are ethical and we understand best the drives of our society.