Focus On... Czech Republic

Franz Kafka once said: 'Believing in progress does not mean believing that any progress has yet been made.'

This is a mantra that could well have been true for the progress of the PR industry in Kafka’s fatherland.

Last year saw the comms industry survive what was a difficult year for many global markets, managing to stay relatively buoyant while other countries didn’t fare quite so well.

To maintain the momentum, Czech PR professionals now need to continue to look forward at what is possible, rather than dwelling on the progress they have already made.

 

Lowdown

The Czech Republic has made good progress in terms of the development of its comms industry.

The national trade association for PR, the Association of Public Relations Agencies (APRA), estimated a modest fee income of €25 million for the 65 per cent of the industry represented by the organisation in 2009.

However, the ICCO estimated, in its World Report 2010, that this is set to increase by around 5 percent in the coming year. This is up two per cent on 2009.

Milan Hejl, managing partner, AMI Communications explaining: ‘Most of the agencies were not badly hurt by the economic downturn, which caused only stagnation not fall of revenues.

‘An industry survey made by the APRA confirmed optimism about future development – more than 80 per cent of member agencies expect growth revenues in the coming year.’

The ICCO expect that the key areas of growth in the Czech PR industry will sit around crisis & issues management, internal communications, digital/new media, media & spokesperson training and public affairs.

Energy & environment, healthcare, IT/technology and wellness are all industries that look poised for development.

 

Influence

Digital/new media is cited as being a key area set to develop in the coming year.

Around 20 million people, making up 30 per cent of the population, are registered on social media platform Facebook, which according to Vladimir Feldman, managing director, Weber Shandwick Czech Republic is the reason for PR professionals gravitating towards social media.

He said: ‘Some two million Czechs have a Facebook account – the reason why so many companies urge their communications agencies to extend their PR activities to this modern platform.

‘Media houses invest millions in internet presence, and competition between companies is keen.’

While Facebook makes great headway, Twitter has not been so successful in this climate, suggesting that there is still a way to go for digital awareness in this market.

However, Hejl explains that for the first time, digital did play a key role in politics during the recent preliminary elections in May.

This, along with the Greek fiscal crisis and the global recession, were key stories dominating the media in the past year.

Mladá Fronta DNES, Lidové noviny, Právo, Hospodárské noviny and E15 are the most important daily publications and Týden, Ekonom, Euro and Profit are the most read weeklies according to Lewis Communications SRO Vítezslav Horák.

Key broadcast channels include privately run network Nova (owned by CME) and the public network CT. 

Hejl added: 'The press media market was eavily hit by the economic recessionwhich cut their advertising revenues by 30 per cent and circulation by 20 per cent on average. All major publications have survived so far, but their future is not bright.'

 

Bellwether brands

Mobile operators and beer brands make up a major portion of the large companies operating out of the Czech Republic.

Vodafone, O2 and T-Mobile are the key mobile brands with Pilzner Urquell (SABMiller), Budweiser Budvar and Staropramen dominating the beer market.

In addition, drinks brands Coca-Cola and Czech rival Kofola and energy provider RWE also have a strong foothold.

 

Agencies

Horák believes that the big agencies are better trusted by the bigger brands in the Czech Republic.

This holds true as the likes of global agencies Ogilvy PR, Weber Shandwick Czech Republic and AMI Communications (affiliate of Edelman) dominate the agency sphere.

He added: ‘Global players better serve international clients that want to guarantee consistency of messaging and western standards of service.’

According to Horák there is a 50:50 split between local agencies and the major global players currently operating in the Czech Republic.

 

Public affairs

Lobbying is not regulated by law in the Czech Republic. A bill voted on in June of this year, which was presented by Social Democratic MPs, was passed by parliament but dismissed by the upper chamber of the Senate, according to Feldman, due to 'inadequate definitions and vague provisions.'

He added: 'PetrNecas, the new leader of the ODS Civic Democratic Party, said that those who seek to influence legisaltion ought to come forward and take political responsibility.'

There are currently no specialist shops operating in the arena but agencies do have teams devoted to public affairs.

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