25062017

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Jan Simunek, Grayling: The pool of entrepreneurial PR people is limited in most CEE markets

Jan SimunekPR Romania has invited Jan Simunek, Chief Executive Officer, CEE, CIS & Russia, Grayling, to talk about how innovation can transform public relations. Jan believes that ‘the pool of talented, entrepreneurial people is limited in most CEE markets. This is a challenge for everyone, not just PR agencies. We are certainly not short of ‘doers with entrepreneurial skills’ in Romania but that is the result of a lot of hard work from the local management team to identify and attract high quality people. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of effort.’

How do you define innovation in the PR industry?


We are in the client servicing business so, to me, “innovation” means being ahead of the rest of the industry in recognising what clients need and then providing those services. This is changing all the time, but, recently, we have seen increasing demand for new approaches in two main areas: digital / social media, and how we evaluate the impact of our campaigns. The first, clearly, is being driven by technological innovation. The second has been accelerated by the economic crisis but an increased focus on measuring return on investment will remain even when our economies pick up again.

PR agencies create innovative products for clients, but their modes of operation are standard and somehow outdated.  So what’s holding agencies back from innovative and risk-taking structural decisions?

Traditionally, most agencies have been set up first around disciplines (Corporate Communications, Consumer PR, Public Affairs, Digital etc.) and then, within those disciplines, by sector-specific teams. I don’t think that approach is outdated – if anything, we are seeing increasing demand for sector specialists, for example – but the technological revolution has broken down the barriers between the traditional disciplines and clients now demand fully integrated campaigns. That’s a challenge for a lot of agencies but those that remain in silos internally will not survive.

Usual titles like ‘Senior Account Manager’ and ‘Director’ are becoming less and less adequate at defining someone’s true job. How do you see the agency of the future regarding these roles?  

It is true that the traditional PR agency job titles do not reflect the one service that clients are increasingly demanding:  real consultancy. This means the ability to provide high value strategic advice and create content from scratch – and then executing across multiple channels. Being able to manage an account reliably still matters, but it is not enough on its own.

In which areas are you seeing the most concrete industry innovation?

Most agencies are responding in some way to the digital revolution and, in particular, are setting themselves up to deliver social media campaigns. That has actually brought PR agencies into competition with a much broader range of agencies – as well as digital specialists, advertising and marketing firms are also now operating in this space and it’s very crowded. The big advantage for PR agencies is that we are, and have always been, storytellers and content-creators. As technology evolves, these skills continue to become more rather than less important.

Do you think that PR industry attract enough doers with entrepreneurial skills?

Yes, but we need to acknowledge that the pool of talented, entrepreneurial people is limited in most CEE markets. This is a challenge for everyone, not just PR agencies. We are certainly not short of ‘doers with entrepreneurial skills’ in Romania but that is the result of a lot of hard work from the local management team to identify and attract high quality people. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of effort.

The future is laden with more complex technology and big ideas. Are the agencies ready to take on the next big, unknown thing?

Time will tell, but it’s important to remember that agencies are businesses: they will follow the money, so whatever the “next big thing” is, agencies will adapt quickly as long as there are clients out there who are prepared to pay for it.  


Jan Simunek is Chief Executive Officer, CEE, CIS & Russia of Grayling


Interview by Dana Oancea. Copyright PR Romania

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