Focus On... Iceland

In December 2006, marcomms group WPP published a report looking at the PR opportunity in Iceland.

At the time, the author talked about the demand for more cultivated PR, and the vast possibilities the country, a relative newcomer to PR, presented. Four years later and an entirely different picture emerges, driven by the collapse of the country’s largest banks in 2008. It seems the PR industry either never captialised on the perceived opportunities offered by the country, or was driven back to square one by the financial crisis and the resulting state of flux within the country’s media, as those offering expertise on the Icelandic PR sector appear to be few and far between.



Following the banking collapse in 2008, protestors marched on the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, forcing the Government to step down in January 2009.

Despite a new Government being formed, there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the country, which, among other things, appears to have had a huge affect on how the PR industry operates.

Trust is at an all time low, according to Guðjón Pálsson, country manager, Cohn & Wolfe Iceland and author of the 2006 WPP report ‘The PR Opportunity in Iceland’.

He says: ‘The Icelandic PR industry is marred by cronyism, as is the governance system. There is little professionalism in Icelandic governance structure and that affects business directly.

‘Just as in politics in Iceland, the majority of the PR industry works by manipulation instead of by building trust. Without trust, there will be no way forward.’

As reported in PRWeek on 22 July, 2009, financial comms firm FD was drafted in to launch an international campaign with the aim of restoring global confidence in the country’s economy while it overhauled the internal banking sector. At the time, FD UK CEO Geoffrey Pelham-Lane described the brief as ‘hugely interesting and exciting’, adding that the agency would be supporting ‘the re-establishment of an entire banking system in the country, involving a vast range of stakeholders’.



As has been the case in many of the global markets, digital has been one of the major influencers in Iceland over the past year.

Around 60% of the nation are known to be Facebook users according to Palsson, and many use local community site Eyjan to post opinion on Icelandic news and analysis pieces.

The rise in popularity of digital media was fuelled, in part, by the ‘kitchenware revolution’, which took place after the banking collapse in 2008.  Sites such as Facebook and Eyjan provided another channel for protestors to communicate what they wanted.

In terms of the media landscape in general, Palsson believes that publishing and broadcasting are in a state of flux due to lack of funds.

He says: ‘At this point there have been extreme changes in the media landscape.

‘Cutbacks have hurt the state media and the largest media company, 365 Media, is also suffering from layoffs and reorganisation.’

Key media outfits include state owned RÚV, which is highly influential in the broadcast industry. 365 Media holds high rank in the print sector.


Bellwether brands

Following in the wake of the financial collapse in the country, brands operating in Iceland, according to Palsson, have found problems with a lack of consumer trust. This has also had an effect on how the PR industry operates and transparency in the sector has become a problem.

Palsson says: ‘The PR industry lacks knowledge of formal communication and generally has problems with building trust. There is little strategy, even less tactical sense and the operational level works on appearances rather than results.

He adds: ‘The financial crisis in Iceland also undermined the trust many responsible businesses had earned over decades.’

Iceland has a strong balance of both global and local brands in operation.

Major technology brands play a solid role in the market, with global giants Apple and Dell leading the field.

Automotive brands also have a strong hold. Ford, Toyota and Volkswagon are the key brands in this market.

The local market sees telecommunication brands such as Síminn fighting for space with the international brands Nokia and Vodafone, while flight companies Iceland Express and Icelandair go head to head against each other in the travel sector.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in