Romanian PR’s top accolade, the Romanian PR Award, celebrated 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.
After a period spent in the press and five years in a multinational advertising agency, in 2005 Ioana Manoiu founded GMP PR. Influenced by the time spent around advertising creatives, Ioana came up with a new vision of communication, the agency soon becoming a regular on national and international catwalks. The agency’s activity was recognized at competitions such as Saber Awards, European Excellence Awards or Romanian PR Award. Among the awards received are “Best use of PR Evaluation”, “PR Innovator of the Year”, “Newcomer European Agency of the Year” or “Romanian PR Agency of the year”.
By Romanita Oprea
How would you characterize the evolution of the Romanian PR industry?
The industry grew one year to another, diversified, became more specialized, niche agencies came. I think it grew healthy and can well cover today the needs of the clients.
How was it when you started?
I started my career in PR in 1999. Back then, PR meant organizing events and sending press releases. The technology at the time was primitive. I stayed for a whole day, fax after fax, to send a statement. I spent the first 2-3 hours of the day monitoring the media, that is, I read all the newspapers, cut out the articles about our clients and scan them. It was a lot of work, you left the office around 10 in the evening, you were paid little, but it was fun, because the office atmosphere was cool, the projects interesting and the clients inspirational. I was working for Pepsi, going to international launches, doing great events, you didn’t feel like you were working. It was the dream job for a young person at the beginning of his career. We went in caravans, organized concerts, launched many new brands with significant budgets.
Everyone was happy, the girls were nicely dressed, we worked with zest for life, we laughed a lot and had a lot of fun. I don’t know what happened that at some point, we people who worked in advertising/PR, became serious and stressed.
What determined you to choose PR as a career?
The job chose me, I was a student at the Faculty of Journalism and dreamed of working in television. One day I saw an ad about an internship at Graffiti BBDO, I went, they chose me and after a few weeks spent in the Traffic department, I was moved to the PR department, because the girls there needed help. And then I instantly fell in love with the field, it seemed like the coolest job in the world. I couldn’t believe that there was a job where all my talents were in the job description. I have to write, speak, convince people. To come up with ideas. It was very easy for me to do all these things.
This was also the reason why I grew quickly, in 6 years I was leading the department. Later I had to learn people and business management, that is another discussion, but it always seemed to me that it is a job that suits me exceptionally well and that it is easy for me to practice it.
What were its most interesting years, in your opinion and why?
The early years were interesting, because we were building the market, learning to build agencies and teams. We have fun developing creative campaigns. Both we and our clients experience a lot. Later, there was the growing up period, in which we realized that we must have procedures, systems and business plans, otherwise we are only building castles from playing cards. And now we continue to learn how to be a sustainable business, how to keep our people in the long term, how to be relevant for our customers.
What were the main changes in the last few years?
Attracting and retaining talent from the industry has become a challenge. If a few years ago, students dreamed of the mirage of advertising, today they consider that in the agencies there is a lot of work and it is not worth it.
How would you characterize the industry right now (creativity, budgets, strategy, etc)?
It is a settled industry, with players of all kinds, for all the needs of a customer. Unfortunately, creativity has decreased in recent years, but budgets have increased, as has the focus on relevance and results.
What would you change in the industry and why?
I would like the industry to be more united and do more for its reputation.
What were and still are your main goals for your agency?
Let’s be a good workplace for the new generation. A workplace where you can grow, develop, but at the same time enjoy life, beyond the job. I don’t want stressed, burnout, exhausted people, but inspired people, who work with joy.
To be a reliable partner for our clients, to understand their needs and to offer them relevant solutions. I don’t want us to be the kind of ego-driven agency, in love with its own ideas. I want us to listen to our clients, to spend time with them, to feel the challenges they face, to be able to really help them.
What changed through the years for you and your perspective on PR? Why?
For years I looked at the agency as a playground. I met some lovely people every day and created together. Next, there is the idea of a playground, from the perspective of joy, fun, enthusiasm. But as I matured, I learned to look at the agency as a business. A professional employer that offers top benefits, with a balanced work rhythm and where you can even retire. We are in permanent contact with the needs of the generations under our roof and we try to surprise them.
What are the main challenges right now in your opinion, in the industry?
Attracting and retaining talents.
How are you surpassing them at GMP PR?
We talk a lot with colleagues and are constantly in contact with their needs. Heads of departments are concerned with management. We have a top benefits package, we offer, among other things, therapy or a gym, as an employment benefit. We have a loyalty program that brings you a lot of good things over time. We have just launched the GMP PR Employee KIT. We have a culture oriented towards the retention of people and it shows.
What still inspires you and gives you drive and joy in PR and why?
I like people. Colleagues, clients, our road partners. I like the diversity of projects and clients and the freedom that an entrepreneurial business offers you. We can innovate, we can experiment, there are so many opportunities. It’s fun. It’s a playground.
Her best year in PR so far and why
There have been many fantastic years in PR, from the years in which we won all kinds of unexpected awards to the years in which we doubled our team or the years in which we were very profitable. I think that every year has its charm, its lessons and its stories. Even 2020 I consider it a good year, although I went through many difficult moments with going home overnight and canceling events. It was a school year, with many lessons.
Best year for the Romanian PR industry
I think that the period 2005-2008 was a very interesting period for the industry, then many agencies were launched that today occupy the first places in the market. Until then, the market consisted only of a few agencies and many PR departments of advertising agencies. In those years there was an effervescence of launches, we launched ourselves, The Practice was launched, Lowe PR, Graffiti separated its department and became Pleon. In practice, the foundations of today’s industry were laid then.