In-depth knowledge of country specifics key to grasping SEE communications market

Tomislav Tsolov,
Founder and General Manager APRA Porter Novelli

APRA Porter Novelli is a private communications company founded in 1994 in Bulgaria. In 2012 the company expanded by entering Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. In order to further develop the synergy between all regional offices in the network, in 2015 they were all incorporated in APRA Porter Novelli Balkans Communication Group. The agency is among the founders of the Bulgarian Association of PR Agencies, the Institute for Risk Management and Crisis Communications (IRMCC) and APRA PN Academy – the educational centre of the agency, certified by the Ministry of Education and Science.

How did the PR market in Southeast Europe (SEE) evolve over the past decade and what key trends are shaping up its development at present?

For more than 20 years we have had the chance to observe, analyse, and to some extent drive the communications market evolution in Bulgaria and the region. Back then there was neither a clear definition, nor a clear understanding of our business. There was little competition and fewer and mostly traditional media. We offered fewer services in our portfolio, had fewer communication channels available and more time to react. Everything is quite different now.

Everything is shorter, faster and more visual. Research shows that humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfish. Our work as PR professionals nowadays is pretty much dominated by the need to grab this attention and keep it for as long as possible in the context of different markets, platforms, cultures and languages.

In 2015 we united our offices in the region into APRA Porter Novelli Balkans Communication Group in order to provide professional consultancy and solutions across markets by a multinational team of local experts familiar with the specifics of each country in the network. In 2017 we are already looking towards the successful completion of numerous trans-border projects of the group and have many more planned ahead.

Which industries are most generous in spending on PR and advertising in See and has there been a change in this department over the past decade?

In our region these would traditionally be the banking and finance, telecom and FMCG industries. In the last years we are witnessing a growing interest in our services on the part of companies operating in the areas of outsourcing, construction and defence.

What country-specific challenges do you see on the SEE markets on which APRA operates?

The network operates on different markets within and outside the EU. These countries are relatively small and have significant differences in terms of legislation, media landscape, political and economic environment. Probably the greatest challenge in our work is the in-depth knowledge of these differences, keeping up with their dynamic alterations and the ability to adapt our communication and content in the most effective way. The key to this knowledge are the strong local teams and the synergy between the offices. I strongly believe that this is what gives us the competence and expertise that make us the preferred regional partner to companies and brands such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, Microsoft, Telenor, Beiersdorf, Bridgestone, GlaxoSmithKline, YTONG, Samsung and many more, with some of which we have a long-term partnerships over the years.

On which SEE markets do you see untapped growth potential?

Naturally, we consider economic growth as the basis for growth potential in our business. At present, the regional leaders in terms of economic growth are Slovenia, Croatia and Romania, which I believe hold a lot of opportunities. From our point of view, the Balkans are a huge market in which we expect consolidation and growth. Therefore, we are constantly following the trends and transformation processes in the region. As every market has a different level and pace of development, we are focused on both targeting local clients and offering our regional expertise to international brands.