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Focus on Greece

VitalStatistics

Population: 11,329,000.
Monetary unit: euro
Capital city: Athens
Major languages: Greek
Major religions: Orthodox c. 90%; Sunni Muslim c. 5%; Roman Catholic c. 2%; other c. 3%.
Ethnic composition: Greek 90.4%; Macedonian 1.8%; Albanian 1.5%; Turkish 1.4%; Pomak 0.9%; Rom (Gypsy) 0.9%; other 3.1%..
Age breakdown: under 15, 14.3%; 15–29, 19.3%; 30–44, 22.9%; 45–59, 19.7%; 60–74, 15.8%; 75–84, 6.6%; 85 and over, 1.4%.
Life expectancy: male 77.2 years; female 82.2 years
Education: Percentage of population age 25 and over having: no formal schooling 12.7%; primary education 34.3%; lower secondary 8.5%; upper secondary 25.7%; higher 18.8%.
Urban/Rural split: urban 60.4%; rural 39.6%
Income per household (USD): -
Broadband internet users (%): -

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Introduction

 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.”

Media

Many well-established media titles have halted production, while some others have responded to dwindling circulation by shifting to weekly distribution.

The most striking example of a pruned printing schedule is that of Eleftherotypia, one of Greece's leading newspapers, which stopped publishing its print edition at the end of 2011.

PR professionals complain that this has not only reduced the number of opportunities available, but has also made it almost impossible to plan ahead

and set quantitative annual targets. This in turn has made it harder to persuade clients of the value of PR.

A small media market does have some benefits. Nikos Katraouras, channel sales manager at NEC Unified Solutions, says: “My personal opinion is that, compared to other markets of which I have experience such as the UK and the Netherlands, PR professionals in Greece have more of a human touch. Due to the size of the market the PROs do know most of the journalists in person. Often this produces better results in less time and at a lower

cost.”

Greeks joke that they tend to be late for everything and Greek business leaders point out that this has certainly been the case with social media. “Unfortunately Greece usually lags behind the trends somewhat,” says Argyris Argitakos, chief executive officer at Triad Real Estate. “We were still building the stadium the night before the 2004 Olympics commenced. It is only the absence of a stable traditional media and the severe cuts to PR budgets that have finally forced PROs to start looking at social media.”

Major Brands

Across the board, clients are reluctant to spend and all are looking for short-term results. Many brands have significantly reduced, or even entirely cut their communications budgets. Government spending has without doubt been the worst hit, but some others have remained relatively resilient. Notably telcomms providers such as OTE, and consumer electronics such as LG and Samsung, have continued to invest in PR and achieve good results.

Many smaller Greek companies remain unconvinced of the case for PR. Katraouras at NEC Unified Solutions says: “The greatest weakness in the Greek PR market is that small to medium sized businesses tend to be highly conservative, and while before the crisis it was difficult to persuade them that PR could help them, now it has become all but impossible.”

Agencies

The country's economic crisis has had an uneven effect on PR agencies, and in the past few years the Greek PR agency landscape has evolved significantly, with many smaller agencies falling by the wayside, but others establishing a strong regional presence.

Barbara Pappa, brand communication & PR manager at Sony Hellas, says: “Some Greek PR agencies have established their brand name locally and in some cases have even gone on to

make a name for themselves in the Balkan region. However, the international groups still hold the biggest part of the pie.”

Those global groups are primarily Ogilvy, Hill & Knowlton, Civitas (owned by Ketchum), Advocate (part of Burson-Marsteller), and IKON which is part of Porter Novelli. Connective is a Text 100 affiliate.

Important local agencies include V&O and Politics.

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