Andrea Cornelli, CEO Ketchum Italy: Highly innovative or disruptive ideas are viewed with suspicion by the clients

Andrea Cornelli‘PR agencies are able to create great ideas; the issue is that clients, often, prefer to be reassured and have already proven solutions leading to safe results. Highly innovative or disruptive ideas are viewed with suspicion, if this is not into the DNA brand’ told us Andrea Cornelli, CEO Ketchum Italy, in an interview with PR Romania on how innovation could take PR to the next level. 

How do you define innovation in the PR industry?

Innovation rhymes with simplicity and accessibility. This is the true innovation, confirmed by recent international studies carried out by our network which showed that consumers express a huge need for simplification; people really want to understand how technology can make the experiences they want more easily accessible. But it’s not only this. Today consumers want to live an integrated experience and companies need to connect with them by increasing customer loyalty and, consequently, sales. Multi-channel is rapidly changing the buying process, thanks to new technologies; consumer behaviors evolve quickly and rapid access to information means that they are becoming more aware and experimenters. In this context, it becomes crucial for companies to fully understand the new trends and find out into their own DNA fast, effective and measurable answers. PR Professionals must take into account these changes, knowing how to re-orient a new cultural approaches that must be translated into a new way of redesigning the communication strategy.

PR agencies create innovative products for clients, but their modes of operation are standard and somehow outdated.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?

PR companies have to face and manage a rapidly changing scenario, which means the need to involve all the staff into the leap. Our sector is accounted for the majority by small and medium-sized firms, and even though a small part of the company breaks the change, this slows negatively the whole process and impacts hindering the raising of internal working standards. Added to this, our Italian communication system is suffering from a serious illness, particularism, and this do not help to improve the overall capacity of the agencies to self-marketing and selling consultancy.

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?  

The job titles define a structure in a vertical and hierarchical perspective; our structures need to be rather flexible and evolving in horizontal dimension, in which different roles are functionally defined, on results and needs expressed by clients. Maybe in future there will be KPI accounts with different level of responsibility, rather than traditional type of titles.

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

Undoubtedly, the technological industry is the one with the greater rate of innovation: the progressive affirmation of the mobile devices (eg tablets) is one of the most important changes taking place actually.

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

It was like this in the past, when Italy had the boom of communication. Today, the connective tissue of our PR sector is made for the most part by entrepreneurs of small and medium-sized companies; the crisis has put a strain especially on smaller companies, heavily hit by reductions and cuts of communication budget. Moreover, bureaucracy and high cost of work in Italy discourage entrepreneurship.

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

PR agencies are able to create great ideas; the issue is that clients, often, prefer to be reassured and have already proven solutions leading to safe results. Highly innovative or disruptive ideas are viewed with suspicion, if this is not into the DNA brand.

Andrea Cornelli
is CEO of Ketchum Italy

Born in 1962, Andrea began his professional career in 1981 and founded C&T, one of the first Italian ICT, of which he is still President. In 1994, he gained control over Telemacus, a ISP company, with a strategic position both in web and digital market, realizing the communicative potential of the digital world. He was appointed CEO in 1998, a position still held, and accelerated the process of analysis and development of innovative communication strategies, digital and beyond. He gained specialist expertise that led him to become President in 2003 and shortly thereafter CEO of Ketchum Italy. Under his leadership, Ketchum Italy has achieved the highest level of performance, maintaining a trend of a double-digit growth over the years, reaching important goals and winning prestigious awards.

Interview by Dana Oancea, PR Romania. Copyright PR Romania