Many companies are putting their public image in the hands of independent PR agencies.
This is pretty much how Americans see the prospects of outsourcing PR and communication services. Do Slovak firms share the US view on this growing trend in the outsourcing business?
Communication experts say that Slovak clients who outsource PR services are mostly interested in corporate and product communication and media relations.
PR agencies operating on the Slovak market said that interest in their services increased last year with Slovakia following the world's growing demand for PR and communication services - from complex external and strategic communication to partial communication services.
A few years ago, the majority of the Seesame Communication Experts agency's clients were big international concerns, but today the situation is changing and smaller Slovak companies are seeking their services as well, said the agency's director Michaela Benedigová.
The advantage of having an in-house PR staff is that they have a decent knowledge of the company's internal environment, which helps them target the communication more effectively and accurately, said Eva Sagálová from SK-media, a PR and advertising company.
On the other hand, she continued, PR and communication companies are perfectly orientated towards the media and advertising market and have professional experience and contacts. An external communication and PR services provider is more unbiased and open-minded compared to
an in-house communication department, Sagálová said.
Benedigová agreed that outsourcing PR services has its distinct advantages.
"An internal and external communication team are not mutually exclusive," Benedigová said. "The teams can complement each other."
Benedigová said the best working model is when an external PR company cooperates with a smaller internal team. Henkel, a home and beauty brand family, uses this model, employing the services of a PR company at the same time as working on many ideas and solutions in-house.
"Good PR companies know the market well and can advise us as to what kind of information is interesting for the media," Jana Bagínová, a corporate communication manager for Henkel, told The Slovak Spectator.
A consulting company helps prepare the communication strategy and implement the global strategy of the brand locally, said Bagínová. They also help organise various internal and external events, manage daily communication with the media and help in the case of a critical situation.
Another service provided by their external PR consultant is critical and media communication training, she said. The internal team cooperates with the external PR agency on almost every project, for example a press conference. The PR agency's task is to communicate with the media and prepare the press materials. They also give suggestions about the content of the presentation, Bagínová added.
"We participate in choosing the speakers and the form of presentation so that everything follows 'the Henkel line'," said Bagínová.
Revamping a city's public image
Companies trying to sell products are not the only ones trying to improve their communication with the public. Public relations and communication is also an important factor for NGOs, charity organisations and public institutions. One non-commercial organisation that has taken on a PR team is City of Bratislava.
"Cooperation with PR companies is advantageous - and almost necessary - for projects requiring time and logistics, or focused on addressing a specific target group," said Milan Vajda, the head of the City of Bratislava's communication and marketing department. "These are projects where strategic planning and choosing an appropriate means of communication is crucial."
According to Vajda, the City of Bratislava currently has a strong in-house PR team, the Department of Communication and Marketing, with five employees. They work on almost all the forms of communication, including media relations, events, the internet, corporate design and sales promotion. They used to cooperate with PR companies on projects, such as Zelené Mesto (The Green City), strategic planning and participation at the MIPIM world real-estate fair and communication trainings for employees.
Communication between the municipality and its inhabitants is a key condition for the development of the city, Vajda said.
"Nowadays, branding is more important for Bratislava than the communication," he said. Branding aims to unify the identity (the desired picture of the city) with the image (the city as its residents see it).
"Bratislava has to work on its brand now, if it wants to be successful when competing with other European cities," Vajda said.
28. May 2007 at 0:00 | Michaela Stanková