No wonder social media is one of the hot topics in the local PR market and companies such as Heineken beer and Pampers picked an agency with a strong social media reputation for campaigns such as The World of Mommy on Facebook (see part 1 of the interview).Learn more about regional differences in PR in part 2 of the interview with PR expert Gergana Vassileva.*
* The series is based on phone or face-to-face interviews and written input, therefore please excuse language mistakes which might reflect foreign language influences.
1. Are there PR practices in which you think your region differs from PR in other part of the world?
Gergana Vassileva: With the Social Media and e-communications you’ll find similar trends and tendencies in Bulgarian PR as in many other countries. Although the use of the new channels causes problems other countries do not experience. The Bulgarian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Many new communication channels such as texting from a mobile phone don’t offer the Cyrillic letters. So we have to use the Latin alphabet and try to find alternative spellings for Cyrillic letters that don’t have an equivalent in the Latin alphabet.
This causes some problems as there often is no “correct” spelling form for this transit. This is not only a challenge for PR texts – due to the popularity of social media school teachers have already complained they find it harder an harder to teach correct spelling in Bulgarian to the younger generation.
Back to PR – the use of celebrities for PR is very common in our market. Every celebrity has a PR person and topics such a fashion and beauty are very popular. At the moment you’ll find billboards advertising plastic surgery everywhere in the larger cities in Bulgaria. Except for L.A. where I have once spotted a sign advertising “Botox on the beach” I haven’t seen this in any other market so far.
2. Can you describe common mistakes foreign companies make?
Gergana Vassileva: To consider that the media are working the same everywhere. Bulgaria is a small country and people know each other. The approach when organizing campaigns should be localized.
Recently an English PR lady, who is a friend of mine, was in Bulgaria to promote a music festival. She asked me why Bulgarian journalists think PR pros in entertainment business are just “pretty faces” and accordingly not taken seriously. She had the feeling her approach that had worked perfectly well in the UK didn’t create any interest in Bulgaria.
Another common mistake many companies make is to think if they do PR in a relatively small country their communication material can be used in English. But while Bulgarian media accepts and welcomes company speakers giving presentations and interviews in English they expect the press material to be translated into Bulgarian. This way they also make sure to avoid misinterpretations and mistakes caused by the language gap.
3. What do clients from other markets need to keep in mind when they plan to do PR in your region?
Gergana Vassileva: Companies can save lots of efforts and hardship by working with an established local partner. It’s very important to find an agency with the right market knowledge and established contacts. While this might true for most countries there are regions where it is even more essential like in a small county such as ours with very established networks and a historical background that still influences communication needs today.
Just one of many examples demonstrating this is the behavior of journalists at press conferences. Many companies are disappointed because nobody will ask a questions in meetings where several media representatives are present. So it’s very important to offer the editors an opportunity to ask questions in 1-2-1 meetings. They will be looking for an individual and unique news angle for their coverage. The fact that this need is stronger in our market than in some others might be related to the communism history when people have not been allowed to have or express an individual opinion.
From a small nation to the biggest market worldwide: Read about the challenges for international PR in China next Thursday and learn more about a nation where PR is only a decade old but the number of internet users has exceeded 400 Millions.
Gergana Vassileva is Managing Partner of United Partners in Sofia – GlobalCom PR Network Partner Bulgaria. Gergana has worked in the PR industry for 14 years and has a background in Marketing, Management, Communications and International economy.
United Partners was founded in 1996 and belongs to the best established PR specialist in the market which is verified by PR awards including Agency of the Year 2003, 2004 and 2006.
The agency works for clients such as Procter & Gamble, ING, Western Union, BASF, Philips, Coty, IBM, Heineken, Autodesk among many others. United Partners provides a strong expertise in social media, corporate and brand communications, public affairs, crisis communications, events management and BTL campaigns