Over three quarters of Chile’s population access the internet on a regular basis and over half of the country’s households have internet connections. Despite this, Chile’s PR industry has been slow in adopting digital media. However, with a rapid smart phone uptake, brands are beginning to realise the importance of having an effective digital media strategy.
Weber Shandwick affiliate agency, Extend Comunicaciones, executive vice president Marilu Velasco explains: ‘People in Chile are well connected. In light of this, most companies are considering social media in their marketing and PR campaigns as they start to realise that all their campaigns should have a social media component.’
Lansons Communications affiliate agency, Feedback Communications, strategic planning director, Renato Munoz Osses agrees: ‘Social networks have gained new significance among PR firms. Recently, a major power plant was shut down due to the strong opposition to the project using social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to amplify their voices.’
Chile also has a democratised broadcast media and buoyant print industry, digital is not the only way for PR professionals in Chile.
The state owned television network, Television Nacional de Chile (TVN), is self-financed by commercial advertising revenue streams, so not under government control – making for a relatively democratised media.
There are also a great number of privately owned television stations, including; TV, Canal 13, Chilevision and Mega.
Chile also hosts around 250 radio stations.
Press, El Mercurio, La Tercera and Diario Financiero are the key print titles on the market.
Traditional print media is still buoyant as digital is slower to catch on in terms of news.
Ketchum affiliate, ASK Comunicaciones, executive director, Andres Saiz Kafack believes that this is due to the key news websites being linked directly with the print publications.
He explains: ‘They only replicate the main stories of the printed version and focus on giving headlines throughout the day.’
Social media is also slow to take off despite over three quarters of the population using the internet, although it has become more relevant recently.
Facebook is the main social networking platform, with Fotolog and Twitter trailing behind.
However, according to CR Comunicaciones CEO, Claudio Ramirez, there is a ‘booming growth’ in the use of Twitter, ‘especially by teenagers and young people'.
Telecommunications companies play a vital role in the market in Chile. Telefonica, Nokia and Entel are all key players in this sector.
Global brand Coca-Cola is one of the country’s leading consumer firms and Banco Chile and Banco Santander are market leaders in the Chilean financial sector.
One of the key problems faced by big brands in Chile is approach to CSR, according to Kafack.
He says: ‘At the current time, big brands have CSR programmes in place but they are too basic and therefore have little impact on customers’ perceptions of the companies.’
Velasco adds: ‘The industry needs to continue to "professionalise" and remain focused on ethical business practices.’
Osses believes that growth problems stem from integration issues around the communications mix.
He says: ‘One of the challenges for PR professionals in Chile comes in finding the right communications mix, whilst addressing the digital platforms required for each of the brands an agency is working with.’
Chile offers an even mix between global agencies and local-based ones, according to Kafack.
At the end of 2009, PODER magazine carried out a study to rank the most influential PR firms in Chile. The survey found Hill & Knowlton to be of the most influential global agencies, alongside Burson-Marsteller, with Tironi y Asociados, Immaginaccion, Extend and Feedback Counicaciones leading the way locally.
Elections held in Chile this year produced a new leader and switched the country from a centre left coalition to a centre right government after twenty years.
This has not only led the news agenda but has also had a dramatic effect on the perception of public affairs and its value.
Currently there is a push towards greater transparency in lobbying, initiated by the new government. The lobby is unregulated but there are expectations that this will change come 2011.
Ramirez says: ‘Nowadays, the lobby in Chile is not regulated and, in fact, the government expects a Lobby Law for 2011, as a result of the Transparency agenda being executed by President Sebastián Piñera's administration.’
Osses adds: ‘A lobbying law is currently being debated in Chile, focusing on providing its practice with greater transparency: a necessary step.’