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Articles / interview / PR-agencies: factors of choice, customer service
1 July 2010
PR-agencies: factors of choice, customer service

According to a survey conducted during the rating Agency Image Survey, 2009, when choosing the agency customers first pay attention to the 5 main factors. For 77% of respondents agency’s experience is important – for the campaigns and projects for other trademarks and brands. 70% of surveyed companies' representatives noted level of presentations of agencies and linkages with partners as an important criterion. For 61% of respondents’ reputation of professionals working in the agency is important, while 58% of respondents are interested in opinions of professionals working in the industry about the agency. Finally, 50% of respondents consider it important quantity and quality of media-presence of agency, namely news and other media publications.
Whether similar factors are important for customers when choosing a PR-agency? About this tells CEO of Publicity Creating Valery Kureyko.

Since Publicity Creating works on the Ukrainian market for more than 12 years, apparently, your potential customers do not have any questions about the your expertise, do they?

12 years on the market, of course, removes a number of questions about experience and portfolio. Today there are few areas of business, where would we have had no experience. And, moreover, there is no such direction of PR, because our company is engaged in a comprehensive communications program, including various tools and techniques. However, potential customers will still ask about the completed projects – primarily they are interested in companies, operating in similar industries, as well as cases to solve similar problems.
In general, the presence of large experience is clearly an advantage in the eyes of the customer. For instance, Publicity Creating worked for international brands (3M, Samsung, HP, Toshiba, Daikin, Skoda, Boehringer Ingelheim), and Russian (TechnoNIKOL, INGO Ukraine), and of course – for Ukrainian (Bogdan, Monarch, ROSHEN, Mivina, UPP, BRAVO, and many others). It so happened that among the customers were a lot of German brands (e.g., Hansa, ebmpapst), although there was work experience with Polish (KAN), and Czech (Koryna) ones as well...

Are you often asked the question ‘What is your favorite project or customer’?

You know, all the projects and customers are great in their own way, if you work for them well, with the return. In our practice, there were different projects: from programs of participation in exhibitions (stands of 200-300 square meters, 4-5 days, costume show, press conference), to media campaigns, international conferences and media tours in all key regions of Ukraine... A small event can be no less responsible than the scale one, and a separate action – not less creative than the annual program. Therefore, it is difficult to answer such a question briefly.
Perhaps, though, most "favorite" are long-term comprehensive programs to address not only reputational but also marketing objectives. From a professional point of view it is very interesting – to begin to work with the average, an unknown outside of the segment company, which in a few years becomes one of the market leaders. In such a ‘miraculous transformation’ there is actually a lot of routine of everyday work – especially, for the company itself. We are very proud of these customers, because there is our contribution to their success, and it is usually quite significant.
By the way, in such long-term programs, you can find effective "sub-programs", which deserve attention. For example, "Gold Dealer", "Partner’s green card", "Quality First", competition "Fresh thinking" and many others ...

When people talk about ‘the level of presentation’, what do they usually have in mind?

What is meant here is "presentability" in the broadest sense of the word. It's all play a role – quality of the paper, on which presentation of the company is directly printed, and pictures that are used in it, design and content of cases, the appearance of staff, who come to meet a customer... It is very important today to have "Internet person" of the agency – what does its corporate website look like, how often is it updated, what is represented in social networks, what information will give search engine when typing the name of the agency. From all the above you can make a lot of conclusions about the overall level of the agency, its modernity, openness.

What is meant by "connections" of an agency?

Many people treat them merely as "friends-journalists." But this is a very simplistic approach. The question is not in journalists and in the point does the agency have any partnerships to provide effective customer service or not. Partners must be reliable, proven. Among our partners, for example, the organizing committee of exhibitions and festivals, media groups, news-agencies, industry non-governmental organizations, as well as legal and research companies, travel agencies, training centers and many other organizations. Because of this, we can cover a wide range of issues and resolve them to the customer in the most optimal way.
Traditionally, the promotion of a customer cover marketing and reputational PR, i.e. we have parallel effect on the increase in sales and at the same time build the image and gradually make changes into the reputation of the customer in the right target audience (TA).

How important the team is? Or reputation of the agency is based only on the management?

Professional standards and reputation of management are very important of course, but without a team of professionals there will not be the reputation of the agency. Therefore, we carefully construct a team; have some fairly stringent requirements for staff. We have formed a corporate culture – the company employs people who are hardworking, passionate, and responsible. We never rest on our laurels, and for us there is nothing "impossible." It is a constant "work on oneself", the improvement of approaches, expanding of horizons. All employees of the company are involved in this process today – from CEO to office manager.
The company has introduced a clear specialization, consolidation of the private customers. Cross-cutting programs of planning and reporting are implemented. Brainstorm, training, all the important issues are discussed in group working. The average seniority in the agency is 3-4 years. Specialists are selected on the experience, knowledge of the market. At the same time, we have young professionals as well. This provides an opportunity to use traditional forms of promotion, and offer new approaches with new trends.
In general, when we talk about the work of the staff, I would have spent an analogy with football, where the team play and individual skill players are equally important, as well as strategy and leadership style coach. Only a synthesis of all these components allows us to speak about a successful company.

Has the company's staff decreased during the crisis?

The fact that we have never had a "bloated" state and extra people. Therefore, no one had to reduce the number of employees, and it even increased. Simply, we have introduced new forms of work, more mobile and flexible. For example, there are employees working remotely in other cities and even countries. We’ve got more work on a project basis. We have also kept up the practice of students of capital’s universities – not for "beautiful eyes", but for performing various functions, mostly supportive.

How important for PR-agency is what its rivals and colleagues say about? Indeed, for companies, as researches show, that is still important...

If we were in a developed civilized PR-market, the factor "the opinion of the competitors" could be taken as a demonstration. But in Ukraine civilized competition is only beginning to emerge. Therefore, I would treat the negative reviews of agencies about each other with great skepticism. Market is not so large yet, there is crisis around, and the struggle for the customer's attention many are ready to go at all, even stepping through the elementary norms of ethics and culture. Some are driven by envy, some – by unsatisfied ambitions, but it seems that most just engaged in self-PR and believe that the best way – is to discuss and condemn someone... I do not stop to wonder why there is so little consolidation and understanding of common interests on the market, and so much complacency and arrogance...
As for an opinion on the agency of PR-professionals working in companies, everything is very simple: the quality of work and level of agency can be objectively judged by the only one who has worked with this agency directly. For this, in general, there are customer references.
More objective will be an opinion of managers of industry associations of communication market, editors of publications, exhibitions organizing committees. For example, Publicity Creating is known almost by everyone; moreover, we jointly organize events, speaking at conferences. We initiated the market research industry support ratings, polls and other forms that allow you to assess trends and develop the market.

How can your company constantly be at the top rankings of quoting, references?

First of all – work is a must. And then – to report regularly on progress: using the releases, news, articles, reports, analytical information, market surveys, organization of industry events, timely responses to requests from journalists. In this direction, I always say that Publicity Creating - is "a cobbler with shoes." For example, we have a communications program for a year; have a plan of news and releases, other activities are planned too. We make our customers popular, so how cannot we be popular as well?

What is the program "Concrete result at a fair price," that Publicity Creating adopted in 2010?

This is a marketing program aimed at customers – existing and potential. Of course, we have always worked with customers on a result. But today decision of customer’s problems with a specific outcome, and thus carried at fair value – Is especially important. Therefore, for 2010 was adopted a program that involves number of steps in two areas: information and services.
In 2010, there is an important aspect for many companies: saving of client, customer, partner, dealer, keeping its market share, the message with verified information to different target groups: employees, professionals, media ... It is necessary to react to market challenges, which in the past year or two have changed dramatically and continue to change. Our work and new products are dedicated to them. We help new and regular customers, develop and implement special programs. And companies are already achieving results, and they are confidently planning their development and psychological stability, and some even believe that "crisis – is pretty good”...

What would you wish for PR-specialist in companies and agencies today?

Direct yourself and your client in a positive manner. Positive – that is not just mental attitude, that’s ultimately the company's earnings.