One of the most acclaimed PR personalities in Romania, Sorana Savu, has been running her own agency alongside her husband – Andrei Savu – since 2001. She talked with BR about the Romanian PR industry, its main problems, but also successes, clients and opportunities and what she foresees for 2019.
By Romanita Oprea
How was 2018 for the agency?
From the beginning to the end, it was a year of renewal. We made changes to the client portfolio, we welcomed new colleagues, we changed address. As it happens with all changes, we were not sure what they would bring, as it turned out, they brought some really exciting projects, awesome people and a new home that we really love. We did not change anything from our list of principles and values though, and we did not change the neighborhood. We are still in Cotroceni.
What was the situation like for pitches?
We are careful with the pitches we decide to participate in. Those we won last year were quick, with clear briefs that included business objectives and real communication topics. The good chemistry we had with those companies during the briefing and debriefing sessions proved real after we won and we started working together.
In our (almost two decade) experience, the more convoluted and bureaucratic the pitches, the less appealing. It is not a question of the quantity of work involved in a multi-stage pitch, although that is also a very important factor… a pitch cluttered with red tape is rather a clear indication of the position and status of the communication function within the company. When it takes months of preparing and studying irrelevant excel sheets for various other departments in the company or case studies of things that happened in other times, other circumstances, with other people and based on other briefs, instead of focusing on testing the actual knowledge, competence and dedication of the actual team to be assigned on the account, then you know something is off.
Bottom line, we are happy with the pitches we won, we continue to work for both clients we acquired last year and we are also happy we let go those we decided to let go.
How would you characterize the local communication industry in 2018 in terms of budgets, campaigns, creativity, etc?
There are many things that are eerily similar to the mid ‘90s now, although I must confess I would not have expected this. There is a lot of. .. innocence… on both sides – client and agencies – and while this was understandable in the 90s, when we were all learning, it is hardly ok 20 years later. The outbreak of burnout that plagued us the past decade, depriving the communication community of valuable senior professionals in all fields is showing its effects now and it is not a pretty picture.
We are very happy when we still find people who are competent, engaged and passionate about the work they do. We usually try our best to work with them and most of the time we succeed together.
Make no mistake, there is nothing wrong with the profession – it is as challenging and as beautiful as ever, it can be as moral as you make it, as meaningful and satisfying as you allow it to be. But yes, pursuing creativity has never been easy, particularly in an era when everyone expects extraordinary things but then makes purchase decisions based on price or discounts or without a clear indication as to what “extraordinary” really means.
Companies announce budget cuts in essential parts of communication only to redirect their expenses in fun, but untested areas that obviously bring back very little. Paradoxically, the more tools we have to measure effectiveness and plan our communication efforts, the more we seem to overlook them when they get in our way… Or conversely, we focus all our efforts on measurement forgetting what we were supposed to measure in the first place – the quality, engaging content. Written in proper Romanian preferably…
2018 was another year of fake – fake news, fake trends, fake influencers, fake patriotism, fake models, fake writers, fake authenticity… We allowed all these to flourish and gain ground and now we stare in disbelief… and yes, it is going to be difficult to go back to an age of reason, balance and relevance. People take less time to be convinced of a lie than to be convinced that what they had believed to be true was in fact not.
What were the most important changes & novelties in the agency in 2018 and how did they come to happen?
We are usually responding to the client’s needs and requirements with the best tools of the trade. Last year it so happened that those were related to video. We had several video based projects for several our clients and we developed partnerships with experts in video production. We stand by our strategic decision to be the best at what we do best – and that is communication strategy and coordination of implementation. For external services, we choose to work with partners.
Another change has been the huge extent of social media involvement in all the campaigns we developed for all our clients. With social media, one of the defining characteristics of our profession has changed – in this day and age, PR sells. It is not a classic sales process and it works differently from one industry to another, but it works unexpectedly well. In social media we sell, we manage clients, we learn from them and integrate their feedback in our clients’ business processes… it is quite a wild ride.
What were your most wanted services by clients in 2018?
All social media related services were in hot demand. It helped that we always considered social media as part of the bigger picture, integrating the messages we are sending via Facebook or LinkedIn on behalf of our clients with their objectives or communication priorities. Social media plays an increasingly important part in the communication of the B2B companies, as now a critical mass of users of all generations and education levels has been achieved and people find it easy to contact companies via the messaging platforms, sometimes more than via the good old telephone.
Recruitment, retention and internal communication have also been high on the agenda, but this has been true for several years now already, so nothing new there.
How is Premium PR positioning itself on the Romanian PR market?
We’ve always been a bit different. We place a very strong emphasis on two things: the strategic value of communication and on ethics. This has helped us find meaning in our jobs for almost two decades and to look back proudly at what we achieved. Not through the perspective of industry competitions, but from the perspective of relevance to our clients’ businesses.
In the age of fake, integrity and strategy could be excellent guides for companies who want to find their footing and their connection with clients and consumers.
What were the biggest campaigns you worked on?
We prefer to talk about communication efforts as a continuous process, so we don’t usually highlight campaigns.
What do you wish for 2019 from this point of view?
Something utopian – but since you asked, I’Il answer. I want things, all things all over the world, to go back to a stage where they are governed by reason. Where people express informed opinions, where knowledge and experience are duly credited. I am still optimistic.
What do you wish for the local industry this year?
I wish we could go back to doing things with a plan – at least a one-year plan. I wish we would learn to distinguish fads from bona fide trends and learn to let go of the fads even though they are glitzy at times. I wish we would return to using Romanian in our conversations and professional messages… with proper grammar, spelling, punctuation and logic.
Do you believe a second economic crisis will come?
Yes. On top of that, we are undergoing a profound moral and social crisis we are yet to acknowledge. Either this or I am growing old and I tend to see things in a darker shade… I wish the latter were true.
More about Premium Communication
Premium Communication was established back in 2001, as a public relations consultancy focusing on multinational companies. 100 percent Romanian, Premium Communication started as a team of consultants with solid professional and academic background in PR, journalism, advertising and marketing. A mature company by Romanian standards, with first hand expertise in privatizations, change management support, mergers and acquisitions support, complex crisis communication situations, Premium Communication is now a leading PR company in Romania, with a strong portfolio of retained clients.
Upholding the highest ethical standards and keeping close ties with US professional environment, Premium Communication was the first Romanian PR agency to become member of the Public Relations Society of America. As of 2004, Premium is also one of the founding members of the Romanian Public Relations Companies Club, an industry organization promoting the professional values and codes of ethics for public relations in Romania. Fostering a longstanding relationship with the world of PR academia, Premium Communication contributes to the professional training and formal education of future PR practitioners. Agency representatives teach specialized PR classes at the College of Journalism and Communications Sciences, University of Bucharest, both at graduate and undergraduate levels.