For much of the past 15 years the Greek PR industry grew rapidly. For many Greek businesspeople it was a radical new concept, often imported by those who had spent time working in the more developed PR markets of Western Europe or North America, and it was a concept which many Greeks were keen to embrace.
This rapid and largely unchecked growth has had both positive and negative results. “The Greek PR industry has entered new areas over the past 15 years and it has brought in best practices from overseas,” says Despoina Tzimea, head of corporate communications at telecoms provider OTE Group. “On the other hand, this has allowed non-professionals, who claim to be PR experts, to enter the industry at very low prices. The economic recession may prove an opportunity here.”
It is unusual to find someone with something positive to say about Greece's recession. Since early 2010, when the full extent of Greek government debt was revealed, the country has lurched from one crisis to the next, as successive EU bailouts and savage austerity packages failed to stave off the threat of default, and Greeks took to the streets in ever more violent protest.
This acute economic crisis has severely affected PR budgets. According to a survey, by adbusiness magazine, of the 28 top Greek PR firms, the PR market shrank from 76.75 million euros in 2009 to 54.3 million euros in 2010, a decline of almost 30%. Tzimea looks on the positive side when she says this has flushed out some of the less professional operators. There have been plenty of less positive effects.
Coping with the crisis
One industry insider reports that budgets have plummeted, with falls in monthly
retainers from 3000 euros to 1500 or 1800 euros not unusual. He adds that it could have been much worse if Greece was not such an important regional hub, with many multinationals running their Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria campaigns from the country.
The impact has not been uniform. Event marketing and brand PR has ground almost to a halt, with few companies launching new products or services into this troubled market. Yet, there has been increased demand for crisis PR and CSR communications.
Anastasia Sideri, public affairs and communications director at The Coca- Cola Company, Greece, Cyprus & Malta, says: “Without doubt the economic crisis has forced us all to think about the messages we convey. Whatever we say needs to be appropriate and delivered with caution. So, we maintain an optimistic and positive tone, but also talk about value for money.”
She continues: “Furthermore as an international brand, it is important that we recognise what is happening in Greece and are seen to do so. This involves showing we care for those in need by introducing charity aspects into most of our milestone projects, and talking about them. It involves stressing the facts about local production, about our socio-economic footprint, and about our increased CSR investments.”
Finally, the crisis has forced Coca Cola, and many others, to rein in the more extravagant aspects of their PR activity. “We are trying to keep a profile of humble confidence,” says Sideri. “We’re avoiding flamboyant events and expensive tokens of appreciation such as meals and gifts, whilst at the same time re-focusing on traditional values of human engagement and interpersonal relationships.”